Out for the younger set is a quirky new series called “Goth Girl” by UK Children’s Laureate author/illustrator Chris Riddell. This charming series contains four short novels perfect for summer reading fun.
The heroine of the tales is the ultimate Goth girl, Ada Goth, only child of Lord Goth, England’s foremost cycling poet and master of Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Fans of classic fantasy fiction will recognize the nod to Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast” series, the most famous of which is “Titus Groan.” The references to literature, pop culture, and everything in between don’t stop there, however, but continue on in dizzying wordplay after wordplay, all making for academic, brain-tickling fun. Young readers may need an adult on hand to translate some of the references.
The books in order are “Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse,” “Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death,” “Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen,” and my favorite, “Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright.” Set in the late 1700s, Ada prepares to compete in the Literary Dog Show hosted by her father at the estate. With her best friend visiting on Christmas break, Ada has high hopes for the visit and the competition. Tomfoolery is afoot, however, when one of the entrants conspires to cheat. Part Steam Punk, part Goth, and part the England of Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and the Bronte sisters, these little books complete with footnotes will delight children whose humor tends toward puns and riddles. Riddell’s enchanting illustrations highlight the atmosphere of the books and their eccentric characters.
Artichokes Constantinople is one of the dishes served at a banquet before the Literary Dog Show. I thought at first it was another play on words of Jerusalem artichokes, but found that it is indeed a very popular dish. The flavor of this elegant artichoke soup is deepened by olive oil as the primary base. The children may not savor it, but the adults will.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 medium yellow fleshed potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into chunks
1 can whole artichoke hearts, drained
1 small can artichoke halves, drained
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
1/4 cup fresh dill, rinsed (divided)
Add olive oil to a large pot and bring to medium heat. Add onions, carrots, pinch of salt and cover. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Add artichokes, potatoes, lemon juice and enough chicken broth to just cover. Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are fork-tender. Add the peas, half the dill chopped and more chicken broth, if needed. Cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Uncover, add the remaining dill, more salt and pepper to taste.