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Chris Higgins

"Breakfast on Mars," the Book Your Middle-Schooler Needs

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Chris Higgins

There's a new book by Ransom Riggs, Chris Higgins (me), and dozens of other terrific writers. It's called Breakfast on Mars, and it features essays written for students by writers who can actually make "the dreaded essay assignment" interesting. If you know a middle schooler slogging through boring essays and looking for inspiration, you need this book.

I'm particularly proud of this book because I wrote what became the title essay, "Breakfast on Mars." I was handed this assignment: write a persuasive essay (boo!) on whether we should establish a human settlement on Mars (yay!). Being a big space nerd, I called up some Mars experts, read some of the best work on that question, and wrote up the essay, arguing that we should establish a human colony. And then I went ahead and wrote the counter-argument, arguing that we should instead keep sending robots -- because, let's face it, we're really good at sending robots to Mars these days. (This second essay is also included in the book; it's called "Robots Only" and is based largely on "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.") At the end of the day, I think we should do both. But my hope was that, given the right topic, I could make a persuasive argument on either side. Want to find out how I did? Please buy the book. (Also be aware that the essays are about all kinds of topics; Mars is only my little corner of the subject area.)

Who Else is In It?

Here's the complete list of authors, in order of appearance. There are 38 essays in the volume:

Ransom Riggs, Kirsten Miller, Scott Westerfeld, Alan Gratz, Steve Almond, Jennifer Lou, Chris Higgins, Rita Williams-Garcia, Elizabeth Winthrop, Chris Epting, Sloane Crosley, April Sinclair, Maile Meloy, Daisy Whitney, Khalid Birdson, Sarah Prineas, Ned Vizzini, Alane Ferguson, Lise Clavel, Mary-Ann Ochota, Steve Brezenoff, Casey Scieszka, Steven Weinberg, Michael Hearst, Clay McLeod Chapman, Gigi Amateau, Laurel Snyder, Wendy Mass, Marie Rutkoski, Sarah Darer Littman, Nick Abadzis, Michael David Lukas, Léna Roy, Craig Kielburger, Joshua Mohr, Cecil Castellucci, Joe Craig, Ellen Sussman

You'll note Ransom Riggs up there at the top. Since wrapping up his daily blogging gig here at mental_floss, he's been doing pretty well for himself. His first novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has sold over a million copies, and the movie adaptation is slated for release in July, 2015 -- directed by Tim Burton. (!) The sequel (Hollow City) arrives in early 2014.

I should note that Breakfast on Mars received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. I am told that this is a big deal. It also seems important to tell you that this is a charity project for the authors -- we don't get a cut of sales and received only a one-time token payment for the essays themselves. Instead of paying 37 authors piddly royalty checks, the proceeds go to Free the Children. What's not to like?

How Can I Buy It?

I'm so glad you asked. You can find it at your local book store via IndieBound. If you're more of an Amazon buyer, grab it for Kindle (under $9) or in hardcover (under $13). Dig in, everybody!

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Hamilton Broadway
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Food
A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook
Amazon

Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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fun
New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth
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While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge. Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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