The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck is a very creative and original story. Laurie Madison has just begun middle school at Tuckernuck Hall and is desperate to get out. The halls of Tuckernuck are packed with odd art, old librarians, and Tuckernuck Clucker spirit. Laurie’s best friend, Kimmy, attends another middle school, and Laurie is determined to join her there. Unfortunately, before anything can begin, she is assigned gerbil duty with Bud Wallace, the most unappreciated sixth-grader (after Bud’s elementary school science project that focused on the dangers of sweets, the school board banned them district-wide).
Reluctant to deal with the rodents, or Bud, Laurie is not expecting to have any fun, but when one of the gerbils escapes and she must chase it down with Bud, Laurie stumbles on the first clue to the famed Tucernuck treasure. Hidden eighty years before by Principal Tutweiler, a somewhat legendary eccentric, neither of the sixth-graders thought that they had a chance at finding the treasure, but working together, this unlikely team is able to uncover clue after clue.
Meanwhile, the school board is planning to destroy Tuckernuck Hall and sell the land to a developer, and Bud is battling his dad who believes that academics are all-important. When Laurie and Bud see the bulldozers rushing in, they must race against the clock (and rival, Calliope Judkin who is hot on their trail) in order to try to find the treasure and save the school.
This book is clever and unique. There are pictures of memos, journal entries, and notes throughout the chapters which may be a bit harder for developing readers to understand. The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck is worth a read, though!
This is one of my standby dinners – it only takes minutes to whip all the ingredients into a pot and scoop the Sloppy Joe mixture onto a bun. Although it is a bit different than the Sloppy Joe’s many of us remember from childhood, it is just as tasty! Because there are veggies hidden in the Sloppy Joe mixture, this is a great recipe for picky kids. Also, while the recipe calls for the veggies to be minced, if you want to save time, throw them in the food processor with the shredder attachment and you will have similar results in half the time.
Mushroom & Veggie Sloppy Joes
1 Tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, finely minced
2 Tablespoons crushed garlic
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, finely minced
1 large carrot, finely minced
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 12 ounce package veggie beef crumbles
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 Tablespoons fresh salsa (not chunky)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 package hamburger buns
1. In a medium skillet, heat oil and add onion and garlic, cooking for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add bell pepper and cook for 3 more minutes.
2. In a food processor, pulse mushrooms and carrots until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms. Add this and the veggie beef crumbles to the pan and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.
3. In a small bowl add tomato paste, mustard, soy sauce, ketchup, and salsa. Mix together so that a thick sauce forms. When the vegetables in the skillet are cooked, pour the sauce on top and mix in. Add vegetable broth a little at a time to think out the sauce and finish off the Sloppy Joe mix. Spoon Sloppy Joe mix onto hamburger buns and serve.
Going into reading The Rent Collector, I expected a very different story, but I was delighted by the end and yearned for more time with the characters. Set in the Stung Meanchey dump in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, The Rent Collector follows Sang Li, a young mother, and her husband Ki Lim as they battle each day to survive by digging through the waste to earn money for food and rent. With little more than a shack and a handful of possessions, the couple must work each day to protect their young son, Nisay, who has been ill since birth, and deal with the likes of Sopeap, the vile rent collector who is perpetually drunk, and refuses to show compassion. It is not until a fateful encounter with Sopeap that Sang Li begins to see a different side of the terrible old woman, and that Sang Li comes to understand that Sopeap knows how to read.
Desperate to make a better life for her young son, and determined that literacy will open up a world of opportunities, Sang Li begs the rent collector to teach her to read. Although Sopeap is reluctant at first, the two women begin to cherish their lessons, discussing more than just reading, and over time, the two grow to rely on each other in unexpected ways. Just as Sang Li begins to feel that she is comfortable with the world of literature, Sopeap delivers crushing news, and Sang Li must fight to defend the new world that she has come to know through literacy.
The Rent Collector is a truly beautiful story. It is packed with fables, poems, short stories, and beautiful gems that add to the novel. The story is packed with layered life lessons, and readers come away with a wonderful sense of hope and a realization of the power of literature. The one part that was a bit confusing was that Camron Wright based his novel on a documentary filmed by his son, so while the characters are real people in Cambodia, the story-line is a fictionalized version of true events. Though I was a bit uncomfortable with this at first, I enjoyed the story so much that I came to hope that the fictional events mirror those in the life of the real Sang Li. This is a must read and a great choice for a book club because it has so many great moments for discussion!
Sweet Potato Curry-Lentil Stew
3 cups fresh or frozen sweet potatoes, peeled, and cubed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 Tablespoons crushed garlic
1/2 cup orange lentils
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen or pre-cooked rice
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Pour all ingredients into into your slow cooker and stir thoroughly to mix together. Turn slow cooker on low and cook for 5 – 6 hours, or turn it on high and cook for 3 – 4 hours. This is really good topped with a bit of vegan sour cream or chopped roasted cashews.
Harvest Vegetables and Vegan Sausage with Polenta
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small bulb fennel, cored, fronds removed, and thinly sliced
1 medium sized sweet onion
2 medium carrots, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 vegan Italian sausage-style links, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to season
1. Cook polenta according to directions.
2. Drizzle olive oil into a medium skillet. Sautee onions for 3 minutes. Add fennel, carrots, and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender.
3. Add crumbled sausage to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, or until sausage is warmed. Spoon vegetables and sausage over cooked polenta. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to season.