October 18 – It’s National Cookbook Month

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About the Holiday

The way people access recipes has changed dramatically with the establishment of cooking blogs that give step-by-step directions and images along with some chatty discussion about what the dish means to the chef or home cook. And yet, physical cookbooks are still a favorite way for people to interact with food and the meals they make. There’s still something magical about leafing through the pages of a cookbook and taking in the gorgeous photography that makes each recipe enticing. Today’s holiday invites people to grab their favorite cookbook—or a new one—and get cookin’. Making meals at home is healthy and a wonderful way to involve the whole family in the planning and learning process.

The Silver Spoon for Children, New Edition: Favorite Italian Recipes

Edited by Amanda Grant | Illustrated by Harriet Russell

 

Why should adults have all the fun? With the proliferation of cooking shows on television—quite a few aimed at children—kids are more meal savvy than ever. When the Silver Spoon, the most influential Italian cookbook of the last fifty years, was released in English in 2005, it created a sensation. Four years later, a children’s version was released, introducing kids to delicious recipes formulated just for them.

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Image copyright Harriet Russell, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Silver Spoon for Children has been reissued in a beautiful edition that young foodies will eagerly devour. All the recipes presented have been tested with children for taste and ease of preparation by those aged nine and ten and older. The volume opens with discussions on cooking the Italian way, cooking safety, utensils and equipment, and techniques. These two-page spreads are delightfully illustrated with helpful tips and a bit of humor thrown in.

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Photograph copyright Angela Moore, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The recipes begin with Lunches & Snacks. Again, two-page spreads introduce each recipe with a discussion of ingredients on the left and a full-page, beautifully photographed image of the dish on the right. The text is an easy-to-read size; no squinting at tiny instructions here. First up is Prosciutto and Melon, a no-cook snack or appetizer. There’s even a hint on how to choose a ripe melon at the market. Turn the page and easily called out steps tell children exactly how to proceed. The numbered steps correspond to illustrated images that show each action required. Tomato bruschetta, pizzaiola toasts, summer cannellini bean salad, Tuscan minestrone soup, and tuna frittata and green beans are just a few of the ten recipes in this section.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-silver-spoon-recipes-for-children-spaghetti

Image copyright Harriet Russell, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Moving on to Pasta & Pizza—yum!—kids learn how to make pizza dough and then how to top it to make favorites like Margherita, Napoletana, and sausage. Pasta is always a crowd pleaser! Here, kids learn how to cook dry pasta and also how to make fresh pasta dough for ravioli napoletana, tagliatelle with cream, peas and ham, baked maccheroni with parmesan, linguine with pesto, lasagna, rigatoni with meatballs, and two kinds of spaghetti.

Hearty main dishes come next, and children will be proud to offer their family and friends such heartwarming fare. Creamy risotto, two kinds of gnocchi: potato and polenta, baked cod with vegetables, fish kabobs, chicken stew, stuffed chicken fillets, beef stew, and two recipes for lamb will make kids dinnertime stars.

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Photograph copyright Angela Moore, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Those who love to bake will want to try their hand at making focaccia, and the scrumptious desserts will finish each meal in style. Three cake recipes vie for attention alongside warm and cool fruit offerings and a delicious berry ice-cream that is made without a machine.

A well-designed index that makes it easy for young cooks to find what they’re looking for wraps up this  cookbook that is sure to be a favorite.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-silver-spoon-recipes-for-children-peaches-recipe

Image copyright Harriet Russell, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Amanda Grant is a food writer and specialist in children’s nutrition. She writes the Junior Cooks pages for Delicious magazine and has published several books on healthy eating for kids. Her engaging style—casual, informative, and kid-friendly—makes it easy for children to follow the recipes and create a sophisticated dish that everyone will enjoy.

Harriet Russell’s charming illustrations are a highlight, presenting information and tips in a way that speaks directly to younger cooks with stylish drawings and easy-to-understand actions that will make kids feel like professional cooks. Russell’s lovely color palette showcases the ingredients, and her use of space creates a fresh, inviting look. Children will enjoy the touches of humor here and there, because cooking should be, at its core, fun to do.

For any child interested in learning to cook or expanding their repertoire, The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes is a must. Adults will love it too for its ideas on broadening their child’s menu.

Ages 9 – 12 and up

Phaidon Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1838660192

Discover more about Amanda Grant, her books, cook school, and more on her website.

You can learn more about Harriet Russell and her art on her website.

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The Silver Spoon Classic

For all of you adult foodies out there, The Silver Spoon Classic was also recently released. Featuring 170 of the best-of-the-best recipes from Italy’s diverse regions, this incredible resource includes fascinating information on the origins of The Silver Spoon, organizing the kitchen and prep time, cooking methods, equipment, and an extensive glossary. Symbols throughout the book indicate which recipes are gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, take 5 ingredients or less, cook in one pot, and require only 30 minutes or less to prepare.

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Copyright Phaidon Press, 2019

A chapter of basic recipes leads into the chapter on appetizers with recipes for croquettes, focaccia, salads, and many more. Starters include succulent seafood pastas, spaghetti with a wide variety of sauces, penne, tortellini, ravioli, and other pasta recipes join those for creamy risottos, soups and more. Then come the main attractions! The two-page spreads present the written recipe on the left with a crisp, gorgeous photograph of the dish on the right.

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Copyright Phaidon Press, 2019

You’ll want to savor each of the ten recipes for fish and seafood. The meat section offers up a wide diversity of tastes from wild boar to braised beef to lamb, pork, and veal. Chicken and turkey recipes round it out. Rustic takes on zucchini, eggplant, and chard are delights, and, of course, we can’t forget pizza and all of the favorite toppings. These main dishes need sophisticated vegetable and potato sides, and those are here too.

After dinner, would you like to see a dessert menu? No question about it! But it’s so hard to decide! Cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, fritters, trifle, tiramisu, fruit, ice-creams, and sorbet all await. A clear index and recipe notes follow the main text.

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Copyright Phaidon Press, 2019

A delectable cookbook to add to your collection, The Silver Spoon Classic is one you’ll find yourself turning to again and again.

Phaidon Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-0714879345

You can find The Silver Spoon Classic at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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You can find The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

October 17 – Get Ready for Halloween

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About the Holiday

Halloween is almost here! Enjoy the thrills and chills all month long with fun Halloween-themed books like this one. Yu may even want to keep them on the shelf to celebrate all YEAR long – just like the boy in today’s book! 

Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween

By Mike Petrik

 

On Halloween night all the kids looked forward to visiting the Loomis’s barn, where “the biggest, creepiest, jump-scariest haunted house in the neighborhood” took place. Everyone in the family helped out as witches, spirits, and vampires and in making lots of thunder, fog, and eerie sounds. Sammy, especially, wanted to make “sure to give the trick-or-treaters a fang-tastically fun time.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

On the morning after Halloween, the whole family gathered for pumpkin pancakes to relive the thrill of the night before. This year, Sammy could hardly concentrate on his pancakes because he already had so many ideas for the haunted house next year. Sammy’s older siblings, Luke and Molly, thought Sammy was too young to think of cool ideas, but his dad told Sammy to “give it a whirl.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

After a couple of weeks, Sammy began testing his ideas on the family. There were a few missteps – especially the jack-o’-lantern turkey and spiders and bats décor at Thanksgiving. And a Zombie Christmas really wasn’t what the rest of the family had in mind. As the winter wore on, Sammy perfected his scares. Molly’s sleepover was bone-chilling when Sammy made a skeleton skateboard through the living room.

Instead of a marshmallow egg Easter, Sammy conjured up a Happy Hallow-Easter egg hunt. But when the family’s Fourth of July barbecue was “rained out” by the sprinkler hiding in the tree, Sammy’s dad put his foot down. “‘Your ideas are wonderfully creepy,’ said Dad, ‘but Halloween has taken over everything.” He put the kibosh on all further haunting until everyone was onboard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-haunted-house

Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Sammy was feeling pretty down until Molly and Luke told him they thought his tricks were real treats and offered to help him create more. Under Sammy’s direction, they came up with amazing new hauntings. When the barn was finally decorated,  “Mom and Dad were spellbound.” Dad said, “‘We admire how you’ve stuck with it all year long,’” and Mom added, “‘So we’re naming you Halloween Spirit this year.’”

On Halloween night, Sammy welcomed all the neighbors with a spooky “‘HAPPY HALLOWEEN!’” and a “‘beware what lurks in the dark. Muah ha ha!’” The trick-or-treaters were shivering as they passed a skateboarding skeleton, an electrified Frankenstein, roiling fog, bubbling cauldrons, and bats, spiders, and ghosts galore. For Sammy, it was the best Halloween ever—and he was already planning for next year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-haunted-barn

Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Young Halloween lovers—i.e. all kids—will find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween frightfully funny and, no doubt, inspirational too. From the list of Sammy’s haunted house elements titled “Scares! Spooks!” on the front cover to the experimental tricks to the other holiday mash-ups, Sammy’s imaginative ideas will enthrall kids. Engineers-in-the-making will eagerly await each page turn as they mull over the possible ways to recreate Sammy’s devices. While Sammy learns that a bit of moderation in his year-long quest for the best Halloween ever may be in order, Mike Petrik’s inclusion of helpful siblings and supportive parents is heartening and will please readers—especially youngest family members.

Petrik’s pages are electrified with bold, vibrant colors and Sammy’s thrilling Halloween haunts that move, shiver, and shake. A house full of fog, ghosts that rappel into Dad’s cereal, a turkey carved like a jack-o’-lantern, and a crew of zombie snowmen are just some of the delights awaiting readers. Images of Luke and Molly assisting Sammy and Mom and Dad’s happy faces as they reward Sammy for his hard work will bring a smile. The final two-page spread of the family’s haunted barn is a showstopper that kids will want to explore.

A terrific book to inspire Halloween fun and sibling harmony, Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween would be a super (natural) selection for home and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901797

To learn more about Mike Petrik, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Spooky Haunted Graveyard

 

With a few items found in a backyard or park and a few from home, kids can make a spooky haunted graveyard to decorate their room or add to the family’s Halloween décor.

Supplies

  • Ten to twelve small to medium stones that have a triangular or rounded shape and can stand on their own (or close enough to be glued down)
  • Shallow cardboard box or plastic container
  • Small sticks or branches for the tree
  • A small amount of dirt, small dry leaves, moss, etc.
  • Poly fill for the fog (optional)
  • White craft paint
  • Small bit of clay
  • Paint brush
  • Black marker
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

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Directions

To Make the Ghosts

  1. Paint 5 or 6 stones with the white paint, let dry
  2. Add eyes and mouth with the black marker

To Make the Tombstones

  1. Add RIP, names, and dates to 5 or 6 stones with the black marker

To Make the Tree

  1. Use one or two small branches or twigs to make the tree
  2. Stick them into the clay for stability

To Make the Graveyard

  1. Draw a fence inside and outside on the rim of the box (optional)
  2. Scatter the tombstones around the box and glue in place
  3. Scatter the ghosts near the tombstones and around the graveyard, and glue them in place
  4. Stick the small branches or twigs in the clay

To Make the Ground

  1. Scatter dirt, leaves, moss, around the tombstones and ghosts
  2. Add wispy bits of poly fill around the ghosts and tombstones and in the tree (optional)

Display your haunted graveyard!

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You can find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

October 16 – National Fossil Day

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About the Holiday

Welcome to the 10th anniversary of National Fossil Day! Today’s holiday puts a spotlight on paleontology and its value in the scientific community and for education. The day raises awareness of the importance of preserving fossils for future generations. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park, a treasure for scientists and nature-loving visitors alike. To celebrate today and Earth Science Week all this week, visit a natural history museum, learn more about the prehistory of your area, or read up on fossils and prehistoric creatures. You can learn more about today’s holiday and find resources, including Junior Paleontology Activity Books to download, on the National Park Service Website.

Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts!

By Mike Lowery

 

If there’s one thing kids can’t get enough of, it’s dinosaurs. And if there’s one thing Mike Lowery knows, it’s how to wow kids. The mash-up of the two has resulted in a wild and wacky book “that’s totally loaded with info, weird facts, and jokes that you will dig!” There are even dinos at the ready to point out these awesome puns. And these facts aren’t just presented like some old, dried-up report, the whole book—every page—is full of eye-popping illustrations and cool typography that will keep kids reading and reading and learning (and, oh yeah, having T-rex size fun).

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

What kinds of things will kids learn? First, there’s a completely captivating prehistoric timeline that lays out the different eras and depicts some of the creatures and vegetation that existed in each. Like jellyfish during the Paleozoic Era, horsetails plants and dicynodonts during the Triassic, stegosaurus and cycads in the Jurassic; bees, birds, and flowering plants along with velociraptors in the Cretaceous; and finally, woolly mammoths and us during the Age of Mammals. Along the way there were also several extinction events. And this all comes even before the Table of Contents!

While kids chew on the fact that “some giant dinos ate up to 12,000 pounds a day,” they can dip into Part One—What Is a Dinosaur? Here, they’ll learn stuff like where the word “dinosaur” came, who coined it, what “prehistoric” means, and who “were some of the first people to keep written records.” They’ll also get to know some animals that weren’t dinosaurs and how dinosaurs are defined. Of course, there are some dino jokes to keep kids chuckling while they read.

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Part Two reveals a short history of the earth as well as lots and lots about each era and representative creatures. After learning just how old Earth is, kids will be interested in a Quick Fact about one Jeremy Harper who counted to one million live on the internet. How long did it take him? Longer than you might think. Have you ever tried smooshing the whole history of the earth into just 24 hours? Mike Lowery did and it’s fascinating! Kids will also discover how Earth formed and about early signs of life.

What was going on in the Paleozoic Era? The haikouichthys (one of the first animals to have a skull), tiktaalik (a land and sea creature), and the meganeura (a giant dragonfly) can tell them. It was also the time of the Permian Period, when some pretty weird reptiles roamed the earth and some way-unusual marine life swam the seas. Then came “the Great Permian Extinction” that led into the Mesozoic Era, “aka the age of reptiles.”

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Here, kids learn about the development of dinosaurs, non-dino animals, and bugs. If you think a few stormy days are bad, imagine living during the Triassic Period, when “it once rained for two million years.” What do you wear in weather like that? A “Jurassic parka,” of course. Next up is the Jurassic and then the Cretaceous periods and their gigantic creatures of the land, ocean, and sky.

In Part Three readers get to meet the dinosaurs up close and personal (well, not too close). They’ll learn what dinos really ate, how they really sounded, and this delectable fact: “More time passed between stegosaurus and T. rex than the time between velociraptor and microwavable pizza!” And while kids are digesting that, they’ll want to watch out for the gigantic sauropods (who grew that big partly because “they didn’t chew their food…. Mammals don’t get as big as the sauropods, in part, because chewing requires a lot of energy.” Kids will see who won the “smartest dino award” and who was unfortunate enough to win “the, um, not-so-smartest dinosaur award.” They’ll also learn about horned dinos, armored dinos, fast dinos, and “the weirdest lookin’ dino.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everything-awesome-about-dinosaurs-troodon

Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Part Four talks about the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event and various theories that have been floated throughout the years. Part Five takes kids on a hunt for bones and other fossils and reveals how paleontologists study them. Part Six offers a tour of post-dinosaur beasts, and Part Seven invites kids to learn how to draw dinosaurs. That’s followed up by a Dino Field Guide, an illustrated list of dinos organized by time periods, and to round it all up, Lowery includes a few more irresistible dinosaur jokes.

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Mike Lowery’s free-wheeling sense of humor, on exhibit in both his text and illustrations, will have kids laughing and learning billions of years’ worth of scientific facts. Funny asides by dinosaurs who just want in on the action put a spotlight on major events and conditions on Earth. Boxed and highlighted facts reveal the science of paleontology and provide explanations of dinosaur and prehistoric animal behavior and comparisons on size that will resonate with kids. Lowery imbues each of his creatures with personality while staying true to their nature and body type. Simply said, if there’s something you want to know about prehistoric creatures, dinosaurs, and the times they lived in, it’s in this book.

A must for home, classroom, and public library collections, you’ll want to put Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! on your shopping list for kids, teachers, and anyone who loves science, dinosaurs, and entertaining ways to learn or teach.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338359725

Discover more about Mike Lowery, his books, and his art on his website.

National Fossil Day Activity

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Hatch Your Own Dinosaur Eggs

 

Think there are no more dinosaur eggs to be found? Think again! You can make your own with this easy craft that will have you hatching some T.-rex-size fun! All you need are a few simple ingredients!

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Supplies

  • Old clothes or apron
  • Large box of baking soda (makes between 6 and 8 eggs)
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Plastic dinosaur toys
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Wax paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Foil
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Plastic or metal spoon, stick, popsicle stick, or other implement to chisel with
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Spray the egg with vinegar to hatch your dinosaur

Directions

  1. Wear old clothes or an apron
  2. Cover work surface with wax paper, parchment paper, newspaper, or other protection. Food coloring can stain some surfaces
  3. Pour baking soda into the bowl
  4. Add drops of food coloring in whatever color you’d like your eggs to be. The eggs will darken when baked.
  5. Mix in the food coloring with the fork. You may want to use your hands, too
  6. When the baking soda is the color you want it, begin adding water a little at a time
  7. Add water until the baking soda holds together when you squeeze it in your hand
  8. When the baking soda is the right consistency, spoon some out into your hand or onto wax paper
  9. Push one plastic dinosaur into the middle
  10. Cover the dinosaur with more of the baking soda mixture
  11. Carefully form it into an egg shape
  12. Repeat with other dinosaurs
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Chisel the egg open to hatch your dinosaur

To Bake the Eggs

  1. Set the oven or toaster oven to 200 to 225 degrees
  2. Set the eggs on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, check
  4. Turn the eggs over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes
  5. Remove from oven and let cool

To Hatch the Eggs

  1. Eggs can be hatched by chiseling them with a spoon, stick, or other implement
  2. Eggs can also be hatched by spraying or sprinkling them with vinegar

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You can find Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 15 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

For readers every month is Book Month, but October is especially set aside to highlight books and the love of reading. Fall is a book bonanza as publishers release new books in all categories and the holiday gift-giving season beckons. Books, of course, make superb gifts for all ages! So whether you’re looking for a new or new-to-you book to read right now, or new titles to give to all the family and friends who will be on your list, this month is a perfect time to check out your local bookstore to see what wonderful books are on the shelves!

I received a copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in an amazing book and toy prize pack. See details below.

Good Night, Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle | Illustrated in the style of Jill McElmurry by John Joseph

 

Toad, driving Little Blue Truck, bumpity-bumped down the road. “Thunder crashing! / Lightening flashing! / Two good friends / were homeward dashing.” They drove into their warm garage and closed the door. Soon, Goat and Hen came knocking, wanting a dry place to hide. Then “‘Honk!’ said Goose. ‘Don’t care for lightning! / Stormy nights are a little bit frightening!’” Cow agreed and asked to come in too.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Duck and Pig wanted in too but wondered if there was enough room for them. “‘Beep-beep-beep!’” Little Blue Truck invited them in. He said that inside they were “‘warm and dry’” while the “‘plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!’” The animals huddled on and around Blue and listened as it rained and thundered. Feeling safe and comfortable, “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’” Then Goat and Pig joined in to say that they weren’t afraid of a little thunder…well, “‘not very.’”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

When the storm had blown itself out and the moon shone in the sky, all the animals were ready to head home to get some sleep. “‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’” With Goat and Hen, Goose and Cow, and Pig and Chicken in the back and Duck on the hood, Toad drove them home. They stopped at Pig’s pen, Duck’s tranquil pond, and Hen’s cozy coop. Goat put on his pajamas in the barn, Goose took to her nest, and Cow stood under a tree in the grassy field.

Then Toad and Blue drove home again. Back in the garage, warm and snug, “Toad lay down on his own small bed. / ‘Croak! Good night, Little Blue,’ he said. / Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

A new Little Blue Truck book always gives readers and the adults who share these adventures with them a reason to cheer. With her enchanting rhymes that are a delight to read aloud, Alice Schertle once again creates a story of friendship and comfort that’s just right for bedtime. As lightning and thunder crackle in the sky, Blue and Toad make it into the warm garage just as the rain begins pelting down. The other animals aren’t so lucky and come in search of a dry place and friendship. Little Blue and Toad invite them in with reassurance that there’s room for all. As the animals bravely wait out the storm, little readers will also feel snug and part of the group. When the storm is over and Little Blue and Toad deliver Cow, Duck, Goose, Pig, Hen, and Goat to their comfy beds, kids will also feel their eyes closing as they drift off to sleep in their own cozy bed.

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2019, text copyright Alice Schertle, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Readers will love reuniting with Jill McElmurry’s familiar blue truck and his good friend Toad in this nighttime adventure. As the wind whips the trees and large raindrops and jagged lightning fill the dark sky, Little Blue’s eyes shine and his garage glows with welcome. Kids will be happy to see their favorite friends gathered together for this impromptu party. The muted colors brighten as the storm passes and a “smiling” moon lights up the starry sky once more. Readers will enjoy pointing out the family of rabbits that hop into the scene from page to page and seeing which of Little Blue’s cozy comforts Pig, Duck, and Hen take home with them.

A perfect way to snuggle into bed for fans of Little Blue and his friends as well as for those just getting to know him, Good Night, Little Blue Truck will be a beloved and often-asked-for addition to home bookshelves. The book is a must for school and public libraries to include with the rest of the series.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328852137

Visit HMHBooks.com to learn more about Good Night, Little Blue Truck.

Check out the rest of the Little Blue Truck series!

You can connect with HMH Kids on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Good Night, Little Blue Truck Giveaway

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Pack up your toys, it’s bedtime!

 

I’m thrilled to be teaming with HMH Books for Young Readers in this fabulous giveaway prize pack!

One (1) winner receives:

  • A copy of Good Night, Little Blue Truck,
  • Plus a racing tire toy chest! (toys not included)

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

This giveaway is open from October 15 through October 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 22.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing and samples provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.

National Book Month Activity

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Little Blue Truck Pajama Party!

 

Whether your child invites friends or just has fun with siblings or on their own, this Little Blue Truck Pajama Party Kit has everything you need to throw a blast of a party! 

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Inside the downloadable booklet you’ll find:

  • Decorating Ideas
  • Circle Time Activity Ideas
  • Two Coloring Pages
  • A Connect-the-Dots Coloring Page
  • A Full-color Little Blue Truck Mask

You’ll find the printable booklet here: Pajama Party Event Kit

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You can find Good Night, Little Blue Truck at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

 

 

October 14 – It’s Black Cat Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

If you look at an annual calendar of pet holidays, you’ll see that cats reign supreme. This month, though, we celebrate one particular kind of feline: the black cat. While black cats are just as cuddly and sweet as any other cat, the superstition that they bring bad luck make them the least adopted of all cats. If you’re considering adopting a cat or kitten, think about giving a black cat a forever home.

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P. I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P. I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580892735 (Paperback)

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

Black Cat Awareness Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

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You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 11 – Eunice and Kate Cover Reveal

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Eunice and Kate 

Written by Mariana Llanos | Illustrated by Elena Napoli

 

Eunice and Kate are best friends, but can their friendship weather a storm? 

The girls live with their moms next door to each other in the heart of the city and have a lot in common—even though they have different dreams for the future.

Kate wants to be an astronaut and Eunice wants to be a ballet dancer. But when they draw portraits of each other in art class, things get mixed up. Eunice draws Kate as a ballet dancer and Kate draws Eunice as an astronaut, and they both get more than a little annoyed.

Can their friendship survive? With a little help from their moms, the girls come to learn the value of respecting each other’s different dreams. Eunice and Kate is a heartfelt new book by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Elena Napoli, about how honoring our differences can strengthen our bonds. 

This story about what it really means to be best friends will be released on National Make a Friend Day, February 11, 2020!

Ages 5 – 9

Penny Candy Books, 2020ISBN 9780999658475 | $16.95

Discover more about Mariana Llanos and her books on her website.

To learn more about Elena Napoli and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website. 

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You can preorder Eunice and Kate at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

October 10 – National Cake Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

You’ve seen them on TV and in bakery shop windows—cakes that tower three, four, five, and even more tiers high, cakes shaped like animated characters, cars, clothing, even unicorns. Today’s holiday honors all of those creative professional and amateur bakers who keep decorating in new and amazing ways and pushing the boundaries of what a cake can be. Using six different types of icing to produce those stunning results, bakers are always searching for innovative methods for jazzing up these favorite desserts. To celebrate today, stop by a bakery and pick up a creative cake, or why not try personalizing your own homemade cake with colors, candies, and other decorations. No matter how it comes out, you know that it will taste delicious! There’s even a recipe at the end of this post! To add to the fun, get your kids involved in the baking and decorating process—just like the grandmother in today’s book! 

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy runs to his grandma, excited that it’s “Cake Day!” “That’s right,” his grandma agrees, “Today we’re going to bake a cake!” The boy, hardly able to see over the counter, wants to be picked up and see what’s in the cabinet. His grandma happily obliges, and the pair carefully pick the ingredients for their cake together.

“‘Hmmm…we need flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to make a cake,’ says Grandma.” With all the ingredients set on the table, the two start measuring. The little chef is eager and curious: “‘Cake Day! How much, Grandma?’” he asks. As Grandma pours the flour into the cup and a soft, powdery cloud envelops them, the delighted boy laughs, “‘Too much, Grandma!’” The two work happily side by side, with Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

As the ingredients start to mesh, Grandma exclaims, “‘Look! What’s happening to the batter?’” The little boy wants to help it along and takes up the wooden spoon. Round and round he stirs, creating swirls in the yellow batter until it’s ready for the oven. “‘Bake day! Your turn, Grandma!” the boy says and stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven. 

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Image copyright Estelle Corker, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of Star Bright Books, 2016

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With keen expectation the boy asks, “‘Cake day! Ready, Grandma?” Grandma encourages her grandson’s inquisitiveness and explains the process: “‘We have to wait until the cake rises. The heat makes it rise. When you hear the timer go BEEP BEEP it will be ready.’” At last the cake comes out of the oven, but it’s not ready to be decorated yet. First, they must wait for it to cool.

In a short time the high, golden cake can be iced and decorated. The little boy vigorously shakes a jar of sprinkles over the top, scattering a rainbow of colors across the white frosting. The cake is beautiful and just the right complement to the little boy’s Cake Day, Bake Day, Shake Day—Birthday!

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

Ellen Mayer’s language-rich and playful story of a small child and his grandmother baking together is a wonderful introduction not only to reading but to the type of full-sentence conversational modeling that improves and increases literacy. The steps to baking the birthday cake flow organically and lyrically through the loving relationship between the little boy and his grandma, enticing young readers to learn more about the world around them and how it works. The repeated phrases “Cake day! Bake day!,” and “Ready, Grandma?” as well as the boy’s short statements offer opportunities for kids to read along and learn new vocabulary as they develop important language skills.

Estelle Corke’s cheery illustrations glow with enthusiasm and the close bond between grandmother and grandson. The grandmother lifts, steadies, and holds the boy while still allowing him to perform all the tasks he can. The little boy, in his green apron, delights in every aspect of the baking process, his eagerness expressed in his animated smile and lively participation. The homey kitchen is awash in inviting colors and objects that children will recognize. The clearly drawn boxes and jars of ingredients, kitchen tools, and furnishings offer readers a chance to practice their vocabulary and learn new words.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1595727473 (Paperback)

To see more books by Ellen Mayer as well as language development and reading strategies for young children, visit her website!

Visit Estelle Corke’s website to view a gallery of her artwork!

National Cake Decorating Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Invite your child or children to help, and make a cake decorated just the way they’d like! Here’s the full recipe that Grandma uses. Recipe courtesy of Ellen Mayer.

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus a little to grease cake pan.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • You will need: 3 mixing bowls:
  1. 1 to cream butter and sugar
  2. 1 to mix flour, baking powder and salt
  3. 1 in which to beat the eggs
  • A 7-inch diameter, deep cake pan

Directions

  1. Butter pan and dust with flour.
  2. Set the rack at the middle of the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In the third bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then alternate with the egg and milk mixture. Continue to alternate ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often.
  7. Add vanilla and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  9. Bake cake about 45 minutes. Insert knife or wooden skewer into the center. If it emerges clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove cake from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes.
  11. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and leave to cool.

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth
  2. Spread on the top and sides of cake
  3. Decorate with sprinkles or your favorite topping

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You can find Cake Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review