July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chow-mein-and-potstickers-cover

About the Holiday

During the month of July we honor those professional chefs who provide us with tantalizing dishes at our favorite restaurants. In addition to cooking old favorites, chefs also stay up on trends and create new recipes to make life deliciously fresh and surprising. To celebrate, visit your local restaurants and try something new! If you like to cook at home, gather some different ingredients and see what you can create! This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-pictureb-books-picture-book-review-Kids-Baking-Cake-in-Cooking-Show-Bakery-Coloring-Pages

Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 20 – Space Exploration Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-cover

About the Holiday

On July 20, 1969, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon’s surface. With one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon. Today’s holiday dates back to that Apollo 11 spaceflight and honors the phenomenal achievement of leaving earth to explore the universe around us. We also celebrate Moon Day today in commemoration of the first lunar landing. There are many ways to remember this moment in history that captured the imagination of millions and still resonates today. Why not go moon and star gazing, set off model rockets, enjoy a sci-fi movie or book, or throw a moon-themed party?


Today, I’m happy to welcome a guest reviewer—Nick Alexander!

Hi there! I’m so glad I could participate in reviewing this book. I’m Nick, a space-obsessed environmental science and geology major from Connecticut College who adores anything related to exploring the universe! I developed my love of space at an early age, and it’s inspired me to always think scientifically about the world around me. I’m a big fan of sci-fi, and I love classic science fiction novels. I love to write, read, and create things as well as come up with new ideas to research. I still hold on to my childhood ambition of becoming an astronaut, and I hope to one day get out into space and explore the cosmos!


The Darkest Dark

Written by Chris Hadfield | Illustrated by the Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric Fan)

 

The Darkest Dark is a story of many lessons, trials, and triumphs. The book focuses on a little boy named Chris as he discovers the best way to deal with his fear of the dark, a phobia that many children experience. Chris is a boy who dreams of outer space and aviation and longs to one day touch the stars like his heroes. However, there is one problem; Chris is terrified of the “aliens” that lurk in the dark, especially in his bedroom after the lights are turned off. He is so afraid that he can’t sleep through the night in his own bed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-bath-tub

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Through a journey of trial and error, with the support of his parents, and by watching the 1969 moon landing (which just had its 48th anniversary on the publication of this review), he overcomes his fear and pursues his dreams of becoming an astronaut. This wonderfully charming book explores many a small child’s fear—the dark—and reveals that there is far more to the dark than may meet the eye.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-sleeping

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Chris Hadfield, ISS commander and renowned Canadian astronaut, was very particular in the way he wrote the story, as it explores elements of his own childhood and ties into his own life. The fear of the dark—achluophobia or nyctophobia—is an incredibly common fear that many children deal with at some point in their life. By exploring this phobia, Hadfield channeled his fear into something that he later dedicates his life to. He uses his story to empower the reader and make them feel that even with fears, one can still accomplish anything.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-dock

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Terry and Eric Fan use a great series of techniques to help the reader understand what Chris is scared of, which also helps the reader learn to not be afraid of what’s around them. In the beginning of the book, the illustrators create an environment that gets the reader more accustomed to the idea of darkness and shows how it actually contains many possibilities and endless new questions to be answered. In a way, this atmosphere almost changes the reader’s view of what darkness really means, as it’s presented differently throughout the progression of the book. The illustrations, from the perspective of a space geek, are also rather accurate as well, showing the footage of the Apollo 11 landing and shots of the International Space Station in orbit!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-darkest-dark-playing-astronaut

Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As a self-proclaimed space expert, I’m delighted to get the chance to review this wonderful book. Growing up, my fear of the dark often got in the way of being more confident about myself, and to see that people I admire went through something similar really means a lot. As someone who eventually wants to go to space and explore the unknown, maybe it means I’m on the right path. As we continue to move forward, we must keep our eyes turned skywards, and we must continue to come up with inspiring stories like this, to encourage the next generation.

A note about Chris Hadfield and his life and work follows the text.

For kids who love space exploration or who are struggling with overcoming fears, The Darkest Dark is an inspirational read that would be welcome on home bookshelves and a wonderful resource in school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316394727

You can learn more about Chris Hadfield and his events, music, and videos as well as view a gallery of aerial photographs on his official website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Terry and Eric Fan on their website!

Blast off to The Darkest Dark with this book trailer!

Space Exploration Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moon-phases-craft

Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

Picture Book Review

July 15 – It’s National Ice Cream Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-summer

About the Holiday

Ice cream has a long and elite history, dating back to Ancient Greece when a rudimentary version of the confection was made of snow, honey, and fruit. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Catherine de’ Medici introduced the treat again, that a true ice cream was created. One hundred years later, Charles I of England used his royal clout to proclaim ice cream the prerogative of the crown. He paid to keep the recipe secret and forbid the common people from eating it. He and future royals must have known a thing or two about proprietary information as the first recipes for ice cream were not recorded until the 18th century.

This favorite dessert received its true recognition in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan established July as National Ice Cream Month. Today, indulge in your favorite flavor or sundae!

Ice Cream Summer

By Peter Sís

 

A little boy writes a letter to his grandpa telling him about his summer. “So far it’s been a delicious summer,” he says of his ice cream extravaganza. The boy reports that he’s very busy, but is also paying attention to school work every day. He knows how to read big words like tornado and explosion, and he is even creating his own book. He can solve math problems—even word problems—lickity split on his own or sometimes with his family’s help.

At day camp he and his friends are involved in all sorts of activities, such as sports, cartography, and field trips. The boy tells his grandpa that he’s poring over the encyclopedias his grandpa sent, learning about world history from Ancient China to Europe and America. In fact, he is discovering fabulous inventions and designing some of his own.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-summer

Copyright Peter Sís, 2015, courtesy of scholastic.com

He assures his grandpa that he has “been working hard all summer (though I always take a break on sundaes)” and has earned the special trip his grandpa mentioned. When the two meet, it’s obvious that Grandpa understands his grandson very well. They both sport ice cream shaped backpacks, and the trip they are embarking on is a hike to the tip of Ice Cream Peak.

Peter Sís’s celebration of ice cream is a perfect mixture of text and art. While the boy’s letter is kid-like bare bones, the ice-cream hued illustrations humorously and cleverly portray the boy’s delicious obsession. His room, with its scoop-shaped window overlooking an ice cream factory, is filled with a bed, bookshelves, desk, and toys that are all familiarly conical. The boy builds his sandcastle, complete with cone turrets, at the edge of a shore washed by multi-colored scoop waves, and the family’s beach umbrella is a whipped sundae top.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-summer

Copyright Peter Sís, 2015, courtesy of scholastic.com

At day camp all roads lead to flavorful sites where skyscrapers, attractions, and transportation are all seen through a sweet ice-cream cone lens. Even the Statue of Liberty holds aloft a vanilla soft serve cone. The boy’s travels through history reveal fascinating facts about the invention of ice cream, discuss how it spread across Europe and came to America, and depict innovations of and improvements to this favorite treat.

The final image of Ice Cream Peak, with its sprinkles-covered tip will delight ice cream aficionados of all ages. Kids and adults will want to linger over each page to scoop up all the visual pleasures.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0545731614

To view more books by Peter Sís and discover fun, title-related activities, visit his website!

National Ice Cream Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-maze

Ice Cream is A-maze-ing! Puzzle

 

Sometimes you’d walk through any kind of obstacle to get your favorite flavor ice-cream cone. Have fun following the path through this printable Ice Cream is Amaze-ing Puzzle!

Picture Book Review

July 18 – It’s Park and Recreation Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-cover

About the Holiday

We’ve hit mid-summer, and maybe you’re looking for something to do. This month’s holiday encourages people to get out and enjoy some exercise and fun in parks, at home, at the gym, in the pool, on tennis courts, or wherever you like to play. Biking is another wonderful activity that adults and kids can share, whether you live in a small town or the city.

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

By Allan Drummond

 

If you were to visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you’d be amazed at the number of bicyclists sharing the roads with cars and trucks. In fact, if you could count all of the bicycles going here, there, and everywhere, you’d see that “bikes rule the road.” It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1970s cars were still king, making the roads unsafe for cyclists.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-bikes

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But then “young moms like Maartje Rutten and her friends—and their children” decided to make a change. They called their friends, who called their friends, and word started to get around that roads should be shared by all. People in Amsterdam and all over the Netherlands started protesting. “At first the demonstrations were great fun. People even held parties in the middle of the road.” People sang songs, made human chains across streets, and talked to the media.

Then a tragedy made people look at the issue more seriously. A little girl riding her bike to school was killed by a car. Her father was a newspaper reporter, and he wrote a story revealing that just in that year alone five hundred children had been killed on the roads and “many of them were riding bikes.” This situation made people angry. More and more citizens joined the protests.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At the same time, gas prices were rising and fuel was becoming scarce. The government even banned cars from the roads on Sundays. “That gave Maartje an incredible idea.” She gathered her friends and told them her plan: they would ride their bikes through the new tunnel that was strictly for cars. Many people were wary but they came anyway, and on a quiet Sunday they pedaled through the darkness.

As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they could see the police waiting for them. Some of the riders wanted to turn around and go back, but Maartje pushed on and they followed. When they reached the end, the cops told them they had broken the law. The cyclists were taken to the police station. There, they were given lemonade and cookies. Maartje even “noticed that the policemen were smiling just a little bit. Maybe all of this protesting is working, she thought.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-more-protests

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

She was right! After that Maartje and her friends thought of other ways cars and bikes could share the roads. “They proposed special bike lanes on busy routes, traffic bumps and curves in the roads to slow down vehicles, and new laws giving bikes the right-of-way over cars.” Finally, it all came together. Now Amsterdam is known as the bike capitol of the world. Their ideas, including bike lanes, bike sharing, and new laws, are used in countries all over the globe.

Biking offers so much more than just less-crowded streets. It provides exercise, a quiet form of transportation, and a pollution-free way to get around. And, of course, bikes don’t require fuel to go. If you visit Amsterdam, you might even see Maartje riding around town on her bike. “Now that’s pedal power!”

An Author’s Note about how Pedal Power came to be and about the past and future of city biking follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pedal-power-Amsterdam-today

Copyright Allan Drummond, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Allan Drummond’s city bike-ography is an interesting look at the revolution and evolution of bike-friendly roads in Amsterdam and other large cities. By following the story of Maartje Rutten and how she transformed the mindset of both local drivers and government officials, Drummond allows young readers to see how one person can make lasting changes that benefit all.

Drummond’s colorful and clearly depicted illustrations take children into the heart of Amsterdam—and Amsterdam traffic—to understand the problem and join in the protests. As Maartje and her friends ride through the dark tunnel to face the police, readers will wait in suspense to learn how this peaceful demonstration played out.

Pedal Power would be a great addition to Social Studies units and an engaging read for kids interested in biking, history, and environmental issues.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374305277

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his books, and his art on his website!

Park and Recreation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bicycle-coloring-page-2

Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page

 

Riding a bicycle is a fast, fun way to exercise, do shopping, and spend time with friends. This printable Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page combines them all and then some! Grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers and give it a go!

Picture Book Review

July 17 – Global Hug Your Kid Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-cover

About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple: show your child or children that you love them by giving them a hug. And why stop at just one? Give hugs throughout the day, and tell your kids how much and why you love them!

Hug it Out!

By Louis Thomas

 

With rain pelting the windows, brother and sister Woody and Annie were playing inside. Woody was building an airport while Annie was creating a town from blocks. Everything was going great “until…they both reached for the car.” Then a tug-of-war began. Woody “wanted the car to pick up travelers from his airport” and Annie needed a little traffic in her town. They both yelled for Mom, who made them promise to be better sharers. Woody and Annie agreed with a pinky swear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-playing-happily

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But the sharing didn’t last long. Wasn’t Annie spending too  much time with the car? Didn’t Woody keep it too long? Both sides thought the other unfair, and then there was the name-calling: Annie called Woody a “‘dumb-dumb,’” and Woody retaliated with “‘ding-dong,’” and they both called for “‘Mommm….’” Mom returned with coffee in hand and requested that Annie and Woody apologize to each other. A couple of mumbles later, Mom proclaimed it “‘Good enough’” until little feet started getting involved, and cries of “‘Ow!’” and “‘Quit it!’” filled the air. And…oh yeah… “‘Mommmm!’”

Mom had had enough! This time she laid down the law, and Woody and Annie—eyes wide in and hands to their cheeks in horror—heard her say, “From now on, any time you argue, you’re going to have to…HUG IT OUT.’” Annie and Woody were flummoxed, confused, perplexed. Mom pushed them together cheek to cheek to demonstrate, and with frowny faces and stiff arms, they hugged.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-fighting-over-car

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Still, the chasing— “‘Hug it out!’” —the hair pulling— “‘Hug it out!’” —the squabbling— “‘Hug it out!’” —and the wrestling— “‘HUG IT OUT!’” (this time with stuck-out tongues) continued. Finally, Annie confessed that she couldn’t “‘take one more hug,’” and Woody agreed. The two went back to playing—apart. Woody flew his planes, and Annie took care of her town. “And they both found a way to play with the car.”

After a while they looked at each other with an unexpected realization. “‘Mommmm!’ Annie screamed. ‘Mommmm!’ Woody screamed louder.” And their mom answered “‘HUG IT OUT!’” And with big smiles, “they did.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-wrestling

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Louis Thomas is onto something in this timely, sibling-rivalry story. Kids—and adults—will recognize the realistic dialogue and circumstances that makes Hug It Out! a laugh-out-loud tug at the heart. Thomas’s positive “punishment” is a clever solution to those sister and brother squabbles and might inspire parents and caregivers to give it a try. Readers will love shouting out “Mommm!” and “Hug it Out!” in this perfect—and perfectly fun—read-along. Thomas’s bright-eyed, straw-haired siblings are adorable, and kids will giggle to see the two smooshed together in a forced hug that becomes closer and closer with every attempt to make up and later becomes a sought-out part of the day.

With it’s wry take on the daily travails of sister- and brotherhood, Hug It Out! would make an amusing addition to home bookshelves—one that might be reached for with every “Mommm!” 

Ages 3 – 7

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374303143

To view galleries of illustration work by Louis Thomas, visit his blog and tumblr!

Global Hug Your Kid Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-and-mitten-neck-warmer-and-pillow

Warm Hugs Neck Warmer or Pillow

 

Sometimes a little hug around the neck is just what you need to feel relaxed. With this easy craft you can make a soft pillow to support your head or a neck warmer for those times when you need to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Knee sock or tall crew sock
  • 2 knit gloves
  • Fiber Fill (for pillow and mittens)
  • Uncooked rice (for neck warmer)
  • Thread
  • Needle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-and-mitten-neck-warmer-and-pillow

Directions

For Pillow

  1. Fill knee sock or crew sock with fiber fill
  2. Sew open end of sock closed 
  3. Fill knit gloves with fiber fill
  4. Sew one mitten to each end of the sock 
  5. Curve sock pillow around neck and relax!

For Neck Warmer

  1. Fill knee sock with uncooked rice
  2. Sew open end of sock closed
  3. Fill knit mittens with fiber fill
  4. Sew one mitten to each end of the sock
  5. Heat in microwave for 1 minute and then in 30-second increments until desired warmth

Picture Book Review

 

July 16 – National Personal Chef Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-cover

About the Holiday

National Personal Chef Day pays homage to all of the professional chefs and bakers who provide tasty and nutritious meals to families, organizations, and institutions around the country. Through their education, skills, and talent, these chefs enrich the lives of those who can’t cook for themselves and provide comfort for the people who love and care for them. If a professional or personal chef cooks meals for someone you love, take a moment to thank them today.

The Bake Shop Ghost

Written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn | Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

 

For all intents and purposes, Miss Cora Lee Merriweather is Merriweather’s Bake Shop and the bake shop is Cora Lee. “Her Mississippi mud pie was darker than the devil’s own heart,” and her sponge cake was as light as angels’ wings. Her bakery case is stacked with fluffy pies, flaky strudels, and cakes of every size and flavor. In fact, no one’s birthday is complete without a Merriweather cake to celebrate with.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-bakery

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

When Cora passes away, the congregation at her funeral weeps when the preacher reads the bake shop menu and everyone realizes that “all those luscious desserts were now only sweet memories.” It doesn’t take long, however, for a new baker to buy Cora’s business. Gerda Stein stocks the shelves with the ingredients for her strudels and cakes and starts baking, but the ovens burn every dessert, the refrigerator goes on the fritz, and Gerda hears ominous footsteps overhead and frightening clanking behind her. She slowly turns around and finds herself staring straight into the eyes of a ghostly Cora Lee Merriweather who shrieks, “Get out of my kitchen!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-frightening

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The bake shop goes back on the market and is sold to Frederico Spinelli who is not afraid of ghosts—until the next day when he emerges from the front door drenched in powdered sugar and never returns. Sophie Kristoff, the marzipan queen, takes over next, only to be chased out by flying eggs, three pink marzipan pigs, and a bunch of marzipan grapes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-annie-comes

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

After her departure the shop stands vacant for years, growing dim and dusty. One day Annie Washington, fresh off her stint as a cruise ship pastry chef, strolls by the dilapidated storefront. She falls in love with it as soon as she steps through the door. Annie buys the old bakery and scrubs and polishes everything until it shines.

That night Annie goes straight to work on a puff pastry. Around midnight footsteps creak overhead, a cold wind sweeps the room, and mixing bowls topple to the floor. Annie keeps working. When she’s finished she dusts off her hands, turns around, and finds herself staring into ghostly eyes. “‘Miss Cora Lee Merriweather, I’ve been expecting you,” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-haunting

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Get out of my kitchen!” Cora says. But Annie is not intimidated. “This is my kitchen now,” she tells Cora. And what’s more, even though Cora may have been the best baker in the state, Annie tells her that she was the best pastry chef to ever sail on the Sea Star cruise ships. Come typhoon, tsunami, or shipwreck, she never left a kitchen until she was finished.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-annie-battles-cora

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Cora tries every trick in the book—she shrieks, flings utensils, rises up through the dough Annie’s kneading, shatters eggs, and as dawn breaks scatters a 50-pound bag of flour across the kitchen. All right, Annie says, “What can I do so you’ll leave me in peace?” Cora has a ready answer: “Make me a cake so rich and so sweet, it will fill me up and bring tears to my eyes. A cake like one I might have baked, but that no one ever made for me.” “Piece of cake,” replies Annie.

Annie makes every cake she knows and Cora critiques them. But none fill her up or bring a tear to her eye. Annie grows to respect the ghost’s advice, but she wants her kitchen back. After a month and hundreds of cakes, Annie is out of ideas. She goes to the library to research more recipes. There she finds a small book on town history, and after reading it, she knows just what kind of cake to bake.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-cora-lounges

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

That night at midnight Cora appears, and Annie is ready. She lifts the cover on a very special cake. “Across the top, in piped icing, it read, ‘Happy Birthday, Cora Lee.’” The ghost looks at Annie with tears in her eyes. “‘How did you know?’” Cora asks. Annie reveals the secrets of her research then adds, “Besides, who ever makes a cake for the baker?” With tears streaming down her face, Cora eats her slice of cake. When Annie offers her another, she declines. “‘I do believe I’m full.’”

Now everyone in town enjoys Washington and Merriweather Bake Shop, where the cakes are almost as good as Cora’s. But they never suspect that Cora Lee helps out in the kitchen. And the most beautiful cakes? Those are the birthday cakes Annie and Cora make for each other.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-cake

Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A recipe for Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake follows the story.

The Bake Shop Ghost was first published in 2005 and made into a short film in 2009 starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Despite its age, however, this is a story that seems fresh every time it’s read. Jacqueline K. Ogburn plays out the story with such excellent pacing and details that the twist ending is a true surprise. Her descriptions of Cora Lee’s delicacies are mouthwatering and her metaphors just as downhome and tantalizing. Ogburn’s Annie will inspire young readers with her confidence, kindness, generosity, and enduring friendship. 

Marjorie Priceman illustrates The Bake Shop Ghost with verve and delicious colors that will make readers wish they could visit Merriweather’s to sample the desserts in the well-stocked cases. The sophisticated shop is no less inviting, with its delicate chandeliers, French café chairs, and homey details. Priceman infuses her pages with humorous details as well: as Cora is distracted with a sale, a dog licks icing off a wedding cake, and at Cora’s funeral the preacher, choir, and congregation shed copious tears as ethereal visions of the cakes they will miss float in the air. The scenes in which Cora’s ghost menaces the new shop owners are cleverly depicted with swoops of white that bear Cora’s face and hands floating above the disaster she causes.

Ages 4 -9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Paperback edition, 2008 | ISBN 978-0547076775

National Personal Chef Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Cora Lee Merriweather—and they’ll become one of your favorite confections too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

Picture Book Review

July 15 – National Give Something Away Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the joy of giving. Whether you donate items from home to charity, volunteer your time in your community,or bring a friend a homemade treat, generosity will make both recipient and you feel good!

Hooray for Hat!

By Brian Won

 

Elephant wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. He’s hardly had a chance to fully shake off sleep when the doorbell rings. He clomps down the stairs yelling, “‘Go away! I’m grumpy!’” But there’s no one at the door. Instead Elephant finds a prettily wrapped present on his doorstep. Unwrapping it, Elephant finds the grandest hat he’s ever seen. It has everything – A pompom, a star, a feather, a mortar board with a tassel, a crown, a coo-coo clock bird, and even a cup holder! Elephant puts it on. How can he be grumpy with such a hat on his head? He can’t! “‘Hooray for Hat!’” he cheers and goes off to show Zebra.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-gift-for-elephant

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Elephant finds Zebra sitting alone on a tree stump. She doesn’t even turn around when her friend approaches. “‘Go away! I’m grumpy!’” she states. Elephant removes the top hat from his own new chapeau—a party hat with the pompom—and gently places it on Zebra’s head. Zebra can’t help but smile. “‘Hooray for Hat!’” they both cheer and head out for Turtle’s house.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-hat-for-zebra

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Oh, but Turtle is so grumpy that they won’t even come out of their shell. Elephant lifts down the cowboy hat with the star and feather from his own towering hat and gives it to his pal. Out pops Turtle who proudly joins the parade. “‘Hooray for Hat!’” they all cheer and march off to show Owl. “But Owl did not want to see them or their hats. ‘Go Away! I’m grumpy!’” she hoots from her tree trunk hole.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-hat-for-turtle

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Elephant is as wise as Owl, however, and thinks the striped mortar board is just the thing to change her mood. “‘Hoo-Hoo-Hooray for Hat!’” Owl says, leading the way to find Lion. Lion’s frowning face peers out at them from his den, and he shoos the group away with the familiar “‘Go Away! I’m Grumpy!’” Down comes the golden crown from Elephant’s hat and while Lion loves it, he’s more concerned with their friend Giraffe who isn’t feeling well. “‘What can we do?’” Lion asks the group.

They all know exactly what to do. They pack up the very special hat and take it to Giraffe, who is standing with her head hidden in a treetop. “Do Not Disturb” reads the sign hanging on the trunk. As soon as Giraffe dons that hat, though, a toothy smile breaks out, and the six best buddies cheer, “‘Hooray for Friends!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-hat!-hat-for-owl

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Brian Won’s joyful celebration of the power of surprise, friendship, and a great hat is a day brightener for anyone, whether they wake up grumpy or feeling fine. His adorable animal friends don’t mind a little grumpiness—they’ve experienced it themselves—but only want to make each other happier. The repeated phrasing throughout the story invites kids to read along, and the absence of pronouns offers open interpretation and inclusiveness. The confetti-colored hats will make kids smile, and the tribute to friendship will have them cheering along with this fun picture book.

A cheer-ful book, Hooray for Hat! would make a happy addition to children’s home libraries for those days when they need a little more encouragement or inspiration. Kids will want to get together with Elephant, Zebra, Turtle, Owl, Lion, and Giraffe again and again and will no doubt love to create a magnificent hat of their own!

Ages 3 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544159037

Visit the world of Brian Won on his website

Hooray for this book trailer!

 National Give Something Away Day Activity

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-hat-match-game

Hats Off to You! Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs. Can you find the two that match before you give them away?

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 pages of the Hats Off to You! game cards (or more to make the game harder)
  2. Cut the cards apart
  3. Shuffle the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table
  5. By turning one card over at a time, find all the matching pairs

Picture Book Review