July 29 – It’s National Ice Cream Month

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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!

The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution

Written by Lisa Robinson | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

When you think of ice cream, does your mind immediately go to vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Or maybe you think a little fancier, like mint chocolate chip or fudge swirl. But there’s a whole other menu to choose from: “What about Wavy Gravy, Truffle Kerfuffle, or Chubby Hubby? What’s the scoop on those wacky flavors?” If you’re sweet on ice-cream, you’ll want to keep reading to find out!

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all started back in 1963 with two friends—Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—who loved to eat. And they especially loved to eat ice cream. When they were in high school, Ben got a job driving an ice cream truck, and Jerry rode along to help scoop and tell “goofy jokes.” When they graduated, Ben and Jerry went off to different colleges and pursuits, but their careers didn’t turn out the way they planned. 

They were both feeling pretty down until they got together and decided to start a business together—a business where they’d be their own bosses and have fun. Since they both loved to eat, they first thought about a bagel delivery business, but it turned out to be too expensive. Then they thought about how much they loved ice cream and discovered that making it was much less expensive than making bagels.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Next, in Vermont, they found the perfect place to open shop and began fixing it up (it needed a lot of work!). But when they got to the plumbing job, Ben and Jerry didn’t have enough money to pay the plumber. That’s when Jerry had a brilliant marketing idea that the plumber jumped on. With the shop (and the plumbing) out of the way, Ben and Jerry began tinkering with their ice cream recipe.

“Teamwork was the answer. Jerry, the scientist, experimented with cream, milk, sugar, and eggs for the ice cream base. Ben, the artist, crafted clever combinations of chocolate, caramel, and cookies.” After a lot of trial and error, they hit upon the perfect combination of “rich, creamy, and chewy.” “Finally, on May 5, 1978, the doors of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop opened. And people came. Lots of people!” 

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Still, despite their success, there were still obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest was “making their flavors stand out” among all the others. They decided to give their flavors “cool names, like Chunky Monkey, Phish Food, and Dastardly Mash.” They even invited customers to submit ideas. And while most of Ben and Jerry’s flavors were hits, there were some clunkers among the batches. But Ben and Jerry knew how to make even these failures fun with the “Flavor Graveyard” that commemorates “dearly departed flavors” like Vermonty Python, Oh Pear, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

As their ice cream grew in popularity, Ben and Jerry wanted to do more with their product. “They believed they could use ice cream to help make the world a better place.” They began with paying their workers well and moved on to inventing an environmentally safe carton. Their factory sported solar panels and they looked for ways to reduce waste.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

To draw attention to world issues, they created special flavors: “Save Our Swirled to promote awareness of climate change; Imagine Whirled Peace to demand an end to war; I Dough, I Dough to support same-sex marriage; and Empower Mint to call attention to the unfairness of the growing gap between rich and poor.” They donated profits to causes they cared about and “formed the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to support ‘social and environmental justice around the country.'”

So now when you enjoy your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, you’ll know that you’re also contributing to “making the world a better place.”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note, a Timeline, and a list of sources.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-foundations

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Lisa Robinson’s smooth-as-ice cream storytelling relates the facts of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s uplifting and inspirational career while infusing her biography with Ben and Jerry’s personalities with a conversational cadence and clever, but not intrusive, puns sprinkled throughout.

Standout aspects of the book include how, as young men, both Ben and Jerry used their disappointments as a springboard to a creative, satisfying, and influential career; how they found strength in their diverse but complimentary talents; and how they relied on their personal compasses to design a business model that is mindful of employees’ needs as well as important social and environmental issues. And Robinson does all this while making her book fun to read aloud and including a comical cow that pops up on several pages to tell kid-pleasing ice cream jokes.

Stacy Innerst’s watercolor and ink illustrations top off Robinson’s story like luscious whipped cream on a six-flavor sundae. Soft, yet vibrant each page spread pops with grape purples, pistachio greens, lemon yellows, and plenty of chocolate waves and swirls. Ben and Jerry are front and center on most pages, coming up with unique ideas to make their ice cream as iconic as Ben’s hat. Young readers will benefit from seeing how these two life-long friends have each other’s backs, whether its “scarfing down pizza” as teens, rising above discouragement after college, or repairing the old gas station that will become their ice cream shop.

Spying the adorable cow on a page holding a mic, riding a pogo stick, fixing an ice cream truck, and even hanging out with a skeleton, kids will eagerly anticipate each new joke. Seen through Innerst’s eyes, Ben and Jerry’s world is one where ideas are colorful clouds and clouds are shaped like ice cream cones. It’s a pretty sweet world we all get to live in.

Inspirational and uplifting, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution is an outstanding combination of biography, social activism, and the powers of positivity and creativity. The book would be a stirring and dynamic addition to home bookshelves and is a must for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419748035

Discover more about Lisa Robinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stacy Innerst, his books, and her art, visit his website.

National Ice Cream Month Activity

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How Many Scoops? Ice Cream Stacking Game

 

How many flavors do you like on your ice cream cone? If you say “All of them!” then this game’s for you! 

Supplies

Directions

This game can be played with as many scoops as you like. Younger kids may only want to gather three or four scoops before a winner is declared. Older kids may want to earn six or even more scoops before they’re done. 

  1. Print out one ice cream cone and one set of scoop playing pieces for each player. The number of playing pieces you need will depend on how many scoops players determine it will take to win.
  2. Cut out the ice cream cone.
  3. Cut out and color the ice cream scoop playing pieces in your favorite flavors (or make up your own flavors!).
  4. Color the scoops on the die. The scoops on the die must correspond to the colors on the playing pieces. If more than six scoops are needed to win, print and color two die with 12 different colors/flavors. Kids can roll both dice at once or one at a time until all the flavors are gathered.
  5. Tape the playing die together.
  6. Choose a player to go first. That player rolls the die and places the color scoop shown on their cone.
  7. Play continues to the left.
  8. If a player rolls a color/flavor they already have, they lose the turn and play continues with the next player.
  9. Play continues until one person has collected the number of scoop playing pieces decided on to win.

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You can find The Sweetest Scoop at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Zoo Keeper Week

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About the Holiday

This week we honor the zookeepers and aquarists who care for the animals in our nation’s zoo and aquariums. Not only do they see to the animals’ feeding, housing, and health needs; maintain the facilities; and educate guests, zookeepers and aquarists also help scientists conduct research that helps them learn more about how to protect and preserve the world’s varied species. To celebrate today, take a trip to your local zoo or aquarium or visit the website of a zoo far away and learn about the animals there. 

One Blue Gnu

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Ana Zurita

 

Feeling lonely at the zoo and with a new cellphone from an accidently dropped box in hoof, one blue gnu calls two white sheep and gets a party started. The sheep call three orange apes with an invitation, and then “four red pandas in the sun / agree a party would be fun.” When the “five green ducks out on the lake” hear their “Quack! Quack! Quack!” ring tone, they begin to giggle. They’re in on the party idea and know just who to contact next. “Six yellow snakes receive a call. / The laughing ducks invite them all.”

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

The invitation calls and texts get passed along to more animals at the zoo until a sleepy pig calls the wrong number, and instead of reaching the hippos, he gets the tiger. Another try alerts those hippos and, finally, “ten purple birds.” At last, it’s party time with “fifty-five beasts just keeping cool, / splashing around in Blue Gnu’s pool.” Floating and diving, the animals are having so much fun, but who is creeping closer and closer? One hungry-looking tiger! In no time, he’s in the midst of them all—and has a plan: “The tiger calls a pizza man!”

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Full and happy and dry, Blue Gnu’s friends decide it’s time to go back to their homes. The animals leave as they came. “Ten purple birds take off in flight. / Nine gray hippos slip from sight.” After each group finds their way home, Blue Gnu is alone once more. But not for too long—another party is in the works.

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Image copyright Ana Zurita, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith, 2022. Courtesy of Amicus Ink.

Danna Smith’s rollicking zoo story combines counting up to ten and back down to one, colors, numbers, names of animals, and an opportunity for some fun addition and subtraction for older children in a clever rhyming romp that kids will want to visit again and again. And let’s not forget friendship—that’s here in abundance too, as one group calls another to create one enormous bash! The added suspense of Tiger’s intentions is quickly resolved in a surprising and kid-favorite way that’s sure to please readers. Smith’s jaunty cadence is a joy to read aloud, and the non-stop action and exceptional vocabulary will captivate both kids and adults.

Ana Zurita populates this zoo with adorable animals, depicted in vibrant colors set against textured and wildly detailed backgrounds that also accentuate the educational aspects on each page. Readers will love pointing out the colors and patterns of the animals’ clothes, counting the animals in each group, and recognizing ascending and descending numbers set in circles on each page. Humorous details also reward careful searching of the pages, such as a sneaky hippo trying to nab a cupcake and the yak’s “snack.” Tiger’s determined stride and furrowed brow will have kids guess, but only until the page is turned and the laughs ring out. Eagle-eyed future math whizzes may love discussing fractions as the pizzas are gobbled up, and saying goodbye to each group gives kids another chance to show their growing number skills.

Sure to be an immediate favorite read aloud, One Blue Gnu is a must on home bookshelves and for all classroom and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Amikus Ink, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681527451

Discover more about Danna Smith and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ana Zurita, her books, and her art visit her website.

National Zoo Keepers Week Activity

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One Blue Gnu Activities

 

You’re invited to enjoy these One Blue Gnu activities that let you do everything from designing your favorite pizza to practicing your counting, coloring, writing, and observational skills in these printable activity sheets.

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You can find One Blue Gnu at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

Starting Kindergarten is a major milestone in any child’s life and ushers in exciting growth in knowledge, friendships, and experiences. But children don’t all perceive and process the world in the same way. Being sensitive to individual differences and talking about issues as they arise are just two of the ways that kids can making navigating school or any new experience easier. Sharing picture books like today’s book can help too! 

Thanks to Harry N. Abrams for sending me a copy of Puppy Bus for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Puppy Bus

By Drew Brockington

 

As a boy’s parents unload the moving truck, he heads up the steps of the school bus with an anxious backward glance. once on the bus, his nerves take over and his mind races with all the new things he will encounter: “The teachers will be different. I’ll have to make new friends. I won’t even know where the bathroom is.” But in a minute, he gets a friendly lick of reassurance. Wait, what? That’s right, a big, slobbery lick of friendship. His seatmate even offers the boy his paw to shake. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-first-day

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It’s just about this moment that the boy realizes he’s made a mistake. “I’m on the wrong bus!” he shouts with an attendant “AUGHHH!!!” Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now. The boy gets off at Leroy’s Puppy School with all the other students and decides to find an adult to talk to. He finds the principal’s office only to find that the principal is also a dog. “Woof! Woof! Bark! Bark!” The principal does his best to help, but there’s a definite communication problem.

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Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The boy’s just wondering what he’s going to do now, when one of his fellow classmates gets a chomp on his shirt and drags him toward a doggie door leading to a classroom. Once everyone’s inside, the lessons begin. As the collie leads the class in learning how to roll over, the boy thinks, “Everything about this school is strange and different.” Math class doesn’t really add up. The bowlfuls of dry food are gross. And remember how the boy was worried about wondering where the bathroom was? Well, that’s not the worst of it! In the stall, he finds a fire hydrant next to the toilet paper roll. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-classroom

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all makes the boy miss his old school and friends even more. But then his puppy seatmate from the bus comes over to give him a cuddle, and the pup that sits next to him in math joins in, along with a couple of other “soft and fuzzy” students. Just then the recess bell rings, and they’re all off to have fun playing catch, digging in the dirt, running around and jumping, and just general piling on. The day ends with a song and a story, and by the time the boy gets on the bus home, he’s even speaking a little dog: “Arf! Arf!”

He gets home enthusiastic about his new school and the friends he’s made. He’s even excited to go back tomorrow. His parents are thrilled with his change of heart and send him off the next morning with big smiles and waves. There’s just one thing… could he be on the wrong bus again?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-recess

Copyright Drew Brockington, 2022, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Funny and relatable, Drew Brockington’s Puppy Bus is sure to reassure and delight all kids, whether they’re starting a new school or just a new grade. Being nervous about making new friends, meeting a new teacher, and navigating a school building is a universal emotion, even though it can often feel singularly personal. Brockington exposes the doubts kids have in a way that will make them laugh while discovering that friendships made and extended can make all the difference. His comical twist ending reminds kids that change is part of life and adapting is a valuable skill to have.

Brockington’s hilarious cartoon illustrations—well-known to his CatSronauts fans—depict the boy’s full range of emotions from panicky to uncertain to grossed out to perplexed. When he’s at his lowest point of the day, a group of canine classmates take notice and do what they do best—become enthusiastic and comforting best friends. As the boy and his new friends romp on the playground, kids get the message that reaching out to someone new or hesitant (or, conversely, accepting an invitation to join in) has benefits for all.

A terrific story to share as school starts up again or for any time a child is beginning a new activity or encountering change, Puppy Bus will be a favorite on home, classroom, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8 

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419751912

To learn more about Drew Brockington, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

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Small Box School Bus 

 

With a small tea box, some paint, and the printable template, kids can have fun making a model school bus (or Puppy Bus!) to play with or display. Make your bus as detailed or simple as you’d like!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print 2 copies of the School Bus Template
  2. Carefully take the tea box apart at the seams, invert it, and glue or tape it back together

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To Make the Passenger Side of the Bus

  1. Cut the Door from the template
  2. Glue the door to the box near the front
  3. Cut out and trim the row of windows from the template
  4. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  5. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  6. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  7. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box

To Make the Front of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the windshield in the lower corner of the template and glue it in place
  5. Cut and trim grill and glue it beneath the windshield
  6. Cut and glue white circles for headlights on either side of the grill
  7. Cut, trim, and glue the wide black strip to the bottom as the bumper.

To Make the Driver’s Side of the Bus

  1. Cut and trim the row of windows from the template
  2. Glue the windows near the top of the box
  3. Cut out and trim two of the solid black lines from the template
  4. Glue the stripes onto the side of the box below the windows
  5. Cut out two tires from the template and glue them to the box
  6. Cut out and glue the Stop sign over the two stripes near the front of the bus

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-bus-craft

To Make the Back of the Bus

  1. Cut out two of the red and orange paired lights
  2. Glue one on each side of the box near the top with the red light on the outside
  3. Add a School Bus sign between the lights
  4. Cut out the two small rounded corner windows
  5. Glue them underneath the lights close to the edge of the box
  6. Cut out and glue the bigger rounded corner window between the smaller windows
  7. Cut out and glue the yellow, red, and white lights underneath the small windows with the yellow light on the outside
  8. Cut out and glue the black rounded corner window centered beneath the lights
  9. Cut and trim the wide black stripe and glue it near the bottom of the box for the bumper

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puppy-bus-cover

You can find Puppy Bus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 18 – Global Hug Your Kids Day

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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? Such closeness builds strong family bonds and also helps with a child’s brain development and social and emotional learning. Give hugs throughout the day, and tell your kids how much and why you love them! 

Thanks to Tundra books for sending me a copy of Baby Squeaks for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Baby Squeaks

By Anne Hunter

 

In those early days when Mama Mouse held Baby Mouse, Baby was quiet. But then that long-awaited time came, and “Baby said Baby’s first word!” It was long before Baby said another. And then another and another and many, many, many more. In fact, Baby talked all the time. And to anything—even an acorn. Desiring a little peace and quiet, Mama put Baby right outside the door, where a mama bird was about to feed her little bird a nice, juicy dragonfly. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-squeaks-first-quiet

Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Baby Mouse squeaked hello. Baby even climbed up to where Mama Bird and Baby Bird were sitting and “talked and talked … and talked.” When Mama Bird spied another dragonfly floating past, she and Baby Bird took off in pursuit. Lucky for Baby Mouse, a rabbit was now munching a small flower at the base of the tree. Baby Mouse squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeaked. And squeaked some more until the rabbit hopped away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-squeaks-first-word

Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Next, Baby Mouse found a porcupine family and then a fawn. Baby found a seat between the fawn’s ears and “talked and talked … and talked” until the fawn lay down to take a nap. Baby lay down on the fawn’s back and went on talking as the little deer fell asleep. Back at home, Mama Mouse was enjoying the silence until she realized it was “TOO quiet.” She went outside only to discover Baby missing. 

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Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

She climbed to the top of the tree to survey her surroundings and then “heard the sound of Baby Mouse talking.” Mama followed the squeak, squeak, squeaks and found her baby. She held Baby in a tight hug, and for a moment all was quiet. But on the way home, Baby “talked and talked … and talked.” But that’s okay, because Mama Mouse and Mama Bird found the perfect solution for when they both need a little quiet time.

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Copyright Anne Hunter, 2022, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Anne Hunter’s endearing story, infused with love and humor, is made for snuggly story times with plenty of giggles—and maybe some shared memories too. The repeated phrasing is sure to have kids chiming in, and children who are beginning to read independently will enjoy demonstrating their skills. Hunter’s lovely illustrations invite kids into the heartwarming relationship between Mama Mouse and Baby Mouse as lap time, feeding time, play time, and even bed time are carried out to the sound track of Baby’s endless chatter.

Baby’s enthusiasm to meet new friends and discover new things is infectious and may prompt kids and adults to imagine what Baby might be saying in each speech bubble. Adults will no doubt smile in appreciation of Mama Mouse’s and the rabbit’s wide-eyed expressions as Baby Mouse’s squeak bubbles float around them. Looking out for images of Mama and Baby Bird (as well as a beetle) across the pages will reward readers as the story comes to it’s charming conclusion.

A story that parents, grandparents, and other caregivers will love sharing with their kids, Baby Squeaks will become a quick favorite. The book is highly recommended as a gift or addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-0735269095

Discover more about Anne Hunter, her books, and her art on her website.

National Hug Your Kids Day Activity

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Free Hug Coupons
 

Everyone needs a hug now and then! With these printable Free Hug Coupons you can extend Global Hug Your Kid day to every day of the year! Why not fill a jar with these coupons and display it so that all your favorite people can get a sweet hug whenever they need it most.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-squeaks-cover

You can find Baby Squeaks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 15 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available from farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month, spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way for them to learn cooking skills and even practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats! Today’s book should get you off to a delicious start!

Thanks to Oni Press for sharing a digital copy of This Is a Birthday Cake with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

This is a Birthday Cake

Written by Andrew Cangelose | Illustrated by Josh Shipley

 

Andrew Cangelose’s two-layered story about making a cake and the history of cake is by turns hilarious and informative. First, kids meet Shelly, a turtle and the forest’s official baker, and Bucky, a rabbit and baker-in-training. Shelly explains that she is “teaching Bucky how to make a birthday cake.” Bucky is rarin’ to go because as soon as the cake is baked, “the party will start.”

But wait! A narrator breaks in on the very next page to reveal that “cake was first used to celebrate birthdays in the Roman Empire two thousand years ago,” but “only became widely popular about two hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution.” Bucky isn’t too keen on the delay this history lesson has caused, and even less patient with Ms. Shelly’s directive to “visualize out beautiful cake in our minds.”

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

But wait! The narrator has another interesting point to make, during which Bucky takes to sticking birthday candles up his nose and in his ears. Finally, Shelly says it’s time to get the recipe and all of the ingredients. Bucky, it seems, is already those steps ahead of Ms. Shelly and hot-foots it out the door, giving her a podcast-worthy “Byeeeee!”

As Bucky speeds into the forest, the recipe tightly gripped in his hand, he imagines his success and the accolades that will follow. At home, Shelly is slowly and methodically making the batter. Bucky takes a moment to reflect on the results of his soon-to-be triumph: “another party just to celebrate [his] accomplishment” and the sad fact that he will most likely be asked to be the new official forest baker.

But what about the ingredients, Bucky? The narrator begins to outline the necessary elements to a good cake. Hmmm… seems Bucky has forgotten to bring these along. No worries, though. Garbage, the ground hog tells Bucky that dirt is delicious: “a little sweet. A little sour. A lot of worms.” Bucky adds it to his pot. Still, he needs a sweetener and a liquid as the narrator describes.

Now, with her cake in the oven, Shelly is relaxing with a hot cup of tea with honey, while Bucky is hightailing it away from a swarm of angry bees. A champion-spitting frog is happy to help out with the liquid. At last, it’s time for the mixing. Ignoring the narrator’s warning about overmixing, Bucky goes at it like a tornado. With no oven to bake his cake in, Bucky comes up with an… ingenious?… solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-is-a-birthday-cake-roman-empire

Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

What’s a birthday cake without decoration, though? To get things moving along quicker, Bucky elicits the help of his forest friends, and in no time, it’s finished. What about Shelly? She’s still carefully drizzling colorful icing on the layers. It’s a good thing Bucky’s cake is ready. The forest animals line up for big pieces, excited to party.

But while Bucky’s congratulating himself and extolling his speed, the animals are coming to a grim realization. It doesn’t take long for Bucky to understand that maybe his cake is a disaster. Fortunately, Shelly is on her way with another cake. The animals watch her coming closer, and closer, and closer… until ta da! “The birthday cake has arrived!”

With two cakes on offer, Shelly wonders about the voracious response to hers, and Bucky reveals his unique recipe. He even admits that he went to fast and that he needs to slow down when he’s excited. Shelly is understanding and promises they can try again tomorrow—if only they can get home before morning.

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Image copyright Josh Shipley, 2022, text copyright Andrew Cangelose, 2022. Courtesy of Oni Press.

Wonderfully paced and with funny, realistic dialogue, Andrew Cangelose’s fourth book in his This is a Taco series will have kids and adults laughing out loud as they read it together. Suspense builds as Bucky runs out to bake his own cake with only the recipe to follow. Wanting to discover what substitutions he makes for each ingredient will have readers whipping through the pages as fast as Bucky stirs the batter. And his self-confidence throughout adds another layer of amusing storytelling. Cangelose’s intermittent inclusions of information on the history of cake and a typical recipe is a genius device that not only informs but amplifies Shelly’s slow, careful process that drives Bucky crazy. Bucky’s admission that he worked too fast and Shelly’s patient and understanding response to his failed cake serve up just the right message, sweetened with love.

Josh Shipley’s hilarious illustrations perfectly convey Bucky’s impatience as well as his confidence in his baking prowess. As Bucky’s forest friends help him create his cake, their roles are all the more comical for Shipley’s understated depictions. Clever juxtapositions and well-loved cartoon tropes add to the fun. As the animals—all except one—reject (and eject) the cake, kids will laugh but also empathize with Bucky’s now-sheepish and disappointed expression.

A masterful collaboration between story and art, This Is a Birthday Cake is a humorous and heartfelt must for fans of the series and newbies alike. The book will become a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Oni Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1637150450

You can connect with Andrew Cangelose  and Josh Shipley on Twitter.

You can read my review of This Is a Flying Rat here.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Don’t Whisk Losing Your Page Bookmark

 

The author’s of your favorite books have cooked up such fantastic stories that you don’t want to risk missing a word! To make sure that doesn’t happen, use this culinary-themed bookmark!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print your bookmark
  2. Glue it to the poster board
  3. Cut out the bookmark
  4. Slip it into the book you’re reading now!

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You can find This Is a Birthday Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The brainstorm of the Chik-Fil-A Company as a clever advertising ploy to herd customers toward eating chicken, Cow Appreciation Day, also gives us an opportunity to really think about the importance of cattle. They have sustained humankind throughout history and even played an integral part in the defeat of small pox. Cows, with their gentle demeanor and soft, brown eyes, also appear as beloved characters in picture books, poems, and songs, making them one of children’s favorites. Today’s book continues that tradition in witty fashion.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a copy of Where’s My Cow? with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Where’s My Cow?

Written by Susan Blackaby | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

In a seaside pasture, a flock of egrets and a herd of cows lived in perfect symbiosis. When the sun rose each morning, the birds would fly off toward the ocean. All but one little egret who preferred his perch atop his cow. “So much hubbub made him woozy. And the beach seemed so far.” As the cow went about her day, she and the little egret talked about all the places the cow had been and all that she had seen. She’d heard ukulele music and watched kites in the sky. She’d even tasted a toasted marshmallow. At night, the egret dreamed of the ocean while “snuggled into the cow’s neck.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One morning, the little egret announced that he “‘might try flying.'” His cow was encouraging, reminding his trepidatious friend that she would be right there when he got back (which, the egret promised would be very soon). The egret took off and was soaring along, exhilarated by the view when he caught sight of the cows moving down below. Suddenly anxious, he wondered, “‘Where’s my cow?'” The egret swooned, then “spluttered”, then fell with a thud in front of his cow.

The egret confessed he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find his cow if he left, but the cow suggested he just look for her ears. With such assurance, the egret took off again, and this time he made it to the beach, where he picked up a shell. When he got back to the herd, though, all of the cows’ ears looked the same. Feeling panicky, he flew back and forth thinking “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” At last egret found her and explained the situation. Next time, the cow said, she’d flick her tail.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The next morning, egret made the trip to the beach again and found a ribbon from the tail of a kite. Upon returning, though, all the cows were flicking their tail, and he was filled with the same dread: “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” By the time he found her, “the egret felt wobbly and weepy.” They agreed that the next day, the egret would shout and his cow would shout back. Then the egret showed his cow the ribbon he’d found. She thought it was lovely.

After the next day’s adventure, the egret found a gnarled stick, but when he shouted for his cow to look, all the cows answered back. Some trial and error later, the egret and the cow reunited and agreed that they needed a better system. The the egret had an idea. From the shell and the ribbon and the stick, he fashioned a flag that couldn’t be missed. Now, the little egret never has to worry “Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?” because she’s always right there, next to the flag and all the egret’s gifts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-ribbon

Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2022, text copyright Susan Blackaby, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Highly original and filled with heart, Susan Blackaby’s funny and reassuring story gently reminds young readers that their parents, grandparents, caregivers, and whoever they rely on are always there to guide them home. Blackaby perfectly captures the emotions of both children and adults navigating separation or new experiences—from the little egret’s initial fear of flying out with the flock to his growing confidence to his ingenious solution to their problem. The cow’s enthusiastic encouragement and continued support of the egret’s ideas shows kids that leaving their comfort zone can be a positive and exciting adventure. Blackaby’s storytelling shines with lovely imagery and humorous, realistic dialogue, and her clever frame, revealing one of nature’s most complimentary relationships, will charm readers of all ages.

Sweet, supportive, and trusting, Scott Brundage’s egret and cow are enchanting hosts for Blackaby’s story. From the first spread, where little egret perches on cow’s neck as the rest of the flock flies towards the rising sun, readers see that these two have a special relationship. Turn the page, and egret has decided that he will try flying. His courage and fear are clearly evident, as is the cow’s steadfast encouragement and reassurance. As the young egret discovers the fun of flying and is excited to bring back souvenirs from his travels, his eager posture and happy expressions show kids the benefits of independence and self-confidence.

Sure to be a reassuring story and discussion-starter for kids experiencing separation anxiety or venturing into new experiences as well as an often-asked-for read-aloud for story time, Where’s My Cow? is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534111073

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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Moo Cow Mug

 

Milk, hot chocolate, or tea will taste so much better in a Moo Cow Mug you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

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Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color. Pour yourself a mug of milk and enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where's-my-cow-cover

You can find Where’s My Cow? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 11 – National Swimming Pool Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is as simple—and refreshing—as it sounds! On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than diving into the cool waters of an enticing pool. Whether you have a pool or enjoy going to a community pool, why not invite some friends to take the leap with you today?

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Too Many Pigs in the Pool for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Too Many Pigs in the Pool

Written by Wendy Hinote Lanier | Illustrated by Iris Amaya

 

On sunny days, Mr. Jenkins had his own pool routine: reading a book on the deck, taking a swim, then napping “in his floating lounge chair.” But these were solitary pursuits, and sometimes Mr. Jenkins wished he had someone to play pool games with. “One Sunday, Mr. Jenkins invited his neighbor, Ms. Peal, over for a swim.” She brought a snack and “her pet pig, Percy.” They had a fun day eating and swimming together.

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Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Monday, though, when Mr. Jenkins went outside to enjoy his pool, he found two pigs already there, floating on rafts: Percy and his friend Wanda. Mr. Jenkins let them stay. On Tuesday, Mr. Jenkins discovered four pigs in his pool—just enough to play Marco Polo, as he’d always wished he could. By Thursday, there were so many pigs in the pool that there was no room for Mr. Jenkins. But he was happy to sit poolside and watch the water volleyball game that was in full swing. 

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Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The number of pigs in the pool kept doubling every day, and on Saturday Mr. Jenkins, home from his morning garage-sale shopping, found sixty-three pigs bobbing in the water and one about to join this wall-to-wall pigfest. Mr. Jenkins tried to stop him. Mr. Jenkins tried to warn them. But it was too late. With a cannonball leap, the sixty-fourth pig landed in the pool. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-thirty-two

Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“The pool gave a shudder and a low groan. Then there was a loud pop.” In a moment the pigs all found themselves washed downhill in a huge, rushing wave. But all was not lost. The pigs found their way home, and Mr. Jenkins rebuilt his pool. This time, though, he added a sturdy fence around it and attached a sign banning all pigs except a welcome two. Now, Mr. Jenkins is enjoying the summer with Ms. Peal and Percy and Wanda—the perfect number of friends to play water volleyball and Marco Polo.

After reading, kids will enjoy jumping into the included activities that reinforce the math found in the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-too-many-pigs-in-the-pool-cannon-ball

Image copyright Iris Amaya, 2022, text copyright Wendy Hinote Lanier, 2022. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Wendy Hinote Lanier’s engaging and hilarious story will enchant readers as it cleverly incorporates math concepts into a rollicking story about friendship and watching what you wish for. What starts out as a simple desire by Mr. Jenkins to have company for pool games quickly explodes as the number of pigs at the pool doubles every day. Lanier’s easy-going storytelling adds depth and charm to her tale as she develops Mr. Jenkins’ personality and weekly routines, prompting kids to root for him as the week goes on. His ultimate success in finding just the right number of friends to enjoy the summer with adds up to lively story readers will enjoy all the year through.

Iris Amaya’s spirited illustrations will have kids laughing out loud at her depictions of the pigs—each of which sport unique swimsuits (some even reveal suntan marks) and gear for easy identification. Their silly antics, from belly flopping to exercising to that fateful cannonball, will have kids lingering over the pages and pointing out their favorites. Each of Amaya’s vibrant pages invites readers to count the pigs, an activity that’s sure to impress them on how quickly numbers add up when doubled in sequence. In addition to the pigs themselves, Amaya adds other details worthy of counting and/or sorting, such as the number of pigs wearing life vests and the number using floating rings; those wearing sunglasses or goggles; and those wearing a certain color swimsuit.

The number of pigs in the pool on each day is highlighted in the text with colorful type, and the addition involved in each doubling (for example: 1 + 1 = 2, 8 + 8 = 16, etc.) is portrayed at the bottom of the appropriate page spread.

Sure to make a splash with kids, Too Many Pigs in the Pool makes an exciting springboard for addition and multiplication math lessons for teachers or homeschoolers. The book will also be a favorite for giggly story times at home, school, and public libraries. A fun addition to any picture book collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534110601

Discover more about Wendy Hinote Lanier and her books on her website.

You can connect with Iris Amaya on Instagram.

National Swimming Pool Day Activity

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Courtesy of Coloring Only

Swimming Pool Coloring Page

 

You can keep the fun at the pool going even after you’ve dried off with this printable coloring page. And don’t forget to add your friends! To color this image online, visit Coloring Only.

Swimming Pool Coloring Page

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You can find Too Many Pigs in the Pool at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review