And Now for the Exciting News: A Free Book!

April 24th, 2012 · 15 Comments · Children's Books, Gifts, Culture, Dinner: A Love Story, the Book, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Uncategorized

And by free we mean, um, sort of free. Here’s the deal: We like dinner. We also like books. And while Jenny’s upcoming book, on its every (“masterful,” says her husband) page, honors the meals we’ve made together for the past fifteen years, there is not a single word in it devoted to books — our love for them, or they way they inform our daily lives. What better way to fix that than to produce another book, devoted solely to the things we read and write about so frequently on this site. In some ways, we’ve spent the past two weeks months years pulling this project together*, and it was only a matter of time. We finally decided to turn it into a proper book of its own because we realized not long ago that (a) we’d already written more than 20,000 words’ worth of reviews since DALS was born, and (b) a big list of great, enduring books (for kids ages 0 to 10) might be something parents — as well as aunts, uncles, friends of pregnant people, husbands looking for point-scoring Mother’s Day presents, and good readers everywhere — could really use.

And now, for the fine print: If you pre-order Dinner: A Love Story, we’ll send you our new book of kid books FOR FREE. It only exists for now as a pdf, which means it’s easily forwarded and shared and copied, but we know you guys are decent, upstanding people and we trust you so deeply and know you would never send this around, all indiscriminately, since we spent so much time and effort putting it together FOR FREE.  If you want one, all you have to do is email thebook@dinneralovestory.com, tell us you ordered a copy of Dinner: A Love Story, and we’ll send you all 25 pages of our book, in beautiful color, FOR FREE. Jenny’s whizbangy technical consultant has figured out a way to prompt every fifth email with a one-step request for proof of purchase. And yes, we know this means there’s an 80% chance you can lie and get this book without pre-ordering, but, well…see above re: decent, upstanding people.

One last thing: This offer is only good through Thursday, April 26 at midnight. So let’s do this thing. – Andy

*A huge, huge thank you to the supremely talented Chelsea Cardinal – magazine genius, illustrator, book cover designer, clothing designer (for real), seriously solid person — who turned our pile of disjointed text into something that makes us so happy to look at. We are convinced Chelsea will be famous one day, and we are grateful to have worked with her. 

UPDATE: This offer has now expired. Thank you to everyone for the nice response and the even nicer notes that came along with the pre-orders. There’s a chance the offer might resurface on Facebook in the next few weeks, so if you missed it, be sure to follow DALS there.

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Summer Reading List: Daniel Handler

July 18th, 2011 · 15 Comments · Cameos, Children's Books, Gifts, Culture, Kitchenlightenment, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Uncategorized

You should have seen the look on Phoebe’s face when I told her that Daniel Handler was going to contribute a Summer Reading List for DALS. It’s how I imagine my own face would have looked if, back in 1981, my dad had walked through the door and said, “Hi everyone, yeah, long day at work. I’m just gonna go upstairs and put my bathrobe on. Oh, and Andy: the Rolling Stones are going to play at your birthday party this year.” Daniel Handler — and how many people, other than close relatives, can you say this about — has had a genuine, rock star-like impact on our oldest daughter’s life. The thirteen mind-blowing books he wrote, under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, are the books Phoebe might well remember most when she’s old and forty. First of all, she read them all in about two weeks, curled up on the corner of our family room couch, and we basically didn’t see or hear from her until she was done. We’re talking serious, deep transportation. Second of all, these books give you faith in the human imagination. They’re so beautifully, joyously done. In some ways, they’re the books that opened her up to the value of darkness in a story, and of the way good and evil, and life and death, can coexist. “Imagine lemonade,” Phoebe said, when I asked her to describe what the books are like. “Only with barely any sugar.” Which is exactly how I would have put it, happy as I was to discover these books, too, after so many years of unrelenting cheeriness and pointless plot-iness and overweening cutesiness and, as Phoebe suggests, way too much sugar. (I’m not naming names.) You can never accuse Daniel Handler of ever using too much sugar. That goes for his adult books as well, and, we presume, for Why We Broke Up, the young adult book he is publishing this fall with the illustrator, Maira Kalman, with whom he has partnered before, to gorgeous results. (This is a go-to gift book for us.) We are huge Daniel Handler fans here at DALS, and we’re honored to have him tell us about his favorite picture books. (Plus one not-so-picture book that he couldn’t resist throwing in. See: Darkness, above.) Without further ado, Daniel Handler on what your kids should be reading this summer…

Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parry Heide

This one was written a long time ago, and Edward Gorey was supposed to illustrate it, but he pulled a jerk move and died. It’s really remarkable, the story of a young man with terrible parents who evntually finds ways to deal with them — through monstrous acts of witchraft and menace. It was finally illustrated by the amazing Carson Ellis, who’s probably best known for the album covers she does for her husband’s band, The Decemberists. The art has this kind of abstract, Rothko-y, wet quality to it. It’s old-fashioned Victorian meets the dark unplummable depths of the human soul. For kids!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (note: this is coming out in September, but you can pre-order now) (more…)

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The Promise of the Unexpected

May 6th, 2011 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

I once read an Q&A with Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) where the interviewer asked something to the effect of “What’s your secret? How do you know how to relate to kids so well?” This was a while ago – probably 2006ish – so I may not remember his answer word for word, but I remember the gist of it. He said he had just come from the grocery store where he was bored in line at the register so he started making gum packages talk to each other while a five-year-old standing in line in front of him looked on – utterly captivated. “Kids love it when they are in on something that doesn’t seem quite right,” Handler said in the interview. “They love the promise of the unexpected.”

I was thinking of this the other night when Andy and I decided to make Hawaiian Pizzas for the girls. Is Lemony Snicket’s theory the reason why they didn’t instantly turn up their nose at the idea of ham and pineapple on their beloved cheese pizza? Was it that ham and pineapple is an unexpected combination (and kinda wacky if you really think about it) whereas, say, mushroom and onion is just too straightforwardly gross for them to handle? Is Lemony Snicket’s theory why iCarly’s silly spaghetti tacos took the world by storm a few months ago? Is it why Abby, who won’t touch an avocado, seems so intrigued by those cooked grasshoppers that her friend Ellie ate in Mexico? Why she shoveled David Chang’s Rice Krispie-flecked brussels sprouts in her mouth like popcorn? I’m willing to believe it, especially if it means we might have luck taking the kids to Momofuku.

PS: By the way, how excited are we about Lemony Snicket’s next series, which, if you are to believe Google, is due out one of these days…

PPS: If you have a sec, head over to the always hilarious relationship blog Spousonomics today — I guest-posted about family dinner incentives.

Hawaiian Pizza

Preheat oven to 500°F. Using your fingers stretch and push out one ball of pizza dough (homemade or storebought) on an olive-oiled cookie sheet. Top with pizza sauce (homemade or storebought), 1 ball of fresh mozzarella (in thin slices), 4 slices Canadian bacon (minced finely as shown) and about 2 cups pineapple chunks. Brush the exposed crust with a little more olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust looks golden and crisp.

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