In April 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted a kitchen garden on the White House’s South Lawn.  As fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs sprouted from the ground, this White House Kitchen Garden inspired a new conversation all across the country about the food we feed our families and the impact it has on the health and well-being of our children.

Now, in American Grown, Mrs. Obama invites you inside the White House Kitchen Garden and shares its inspiring story, from the first planting to the latest harvest.  Hear about her worries as a novice gardener – would the new plants even grow? Learn about her struggles and her joys as lettuce, corn, tomatoes, collards and kale, sweet potatoes and rhubarb flourished in the freshly tilled soil.  Get an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at every season of the garden’s growth, with striking original photographs that bring its story to life.  Try the unique recipes created by White House chefs and made with ingredients just picked from the White House garden.  And learn from the White House Garden team about how you can help plant your own backyard, school or community garden.

Mrs. Obama’s journey continues across the nation as she shares the stories of other gardens that have moved and inspired her: Houston office workers who make the sidewalk bloom; a New York City School that created a scented garden for the visually impaired; a North Carolina garden that devotes its entire harvest to those in need;Davenport Iowa as “Playful City USA” using a decommissioned firetruck to visit parks throughout the city to encourage outdoor play as well as other stories of communities that are transforming the lives and health of their citizens.

In American Grown, Mrs. Obama tells the story of the White House Kitchen Garden, celebrates the bounty of gardens across our nation, and reminds us all of what we can grow together. (description from publisher)

Recently, I met best-selling author Brad Meltzer in a Chicago book store.  Naturally, I picked up an autographed copy of his newest novel, The Inner Circle.  (He had a large following — I had to wait in line a long time!)

The book revolves around Beecher White, a young archivist who loves his job at the National Archives.  When his childhood crush, Clementime, shows up seeking help in tracking down the father she never knew, he takes her on a private tour, and even shows her the secret vault used only by the  President.  Within moments ( is it by accident or plan?) they discover a priceless artifact hidden under the President’s chair.  Minutes later, the security guard who admitted them to the vault is found dead.  In hours,  Beecher is on the run, unsure who he can trust,  yet frantically trying to stay one-step ahead of his pursuers by successfully decoding concealed messages.

This is a fast-paced read and those interested in political conspiracies or action-packed thrillers will be entertained with all the unexpected twists and turns.  Initially, I wasn’t certain about the ending, but then it made more sense when I read that  Meltzer has a sequel planned, using  Beecher again as the primary character.  He is a rather lovable archivist, after all.

For those who may be further intrigued by the mysteries of symbols and codes, check out the author’s show on the History Channel, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.