December 22 – National Cookie Exchange Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover-2

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday got its start during the Middle Ages, when spices and dried fruit were becoming popular additions to baked goods. These ingredients were expensive, however, and most families could only afford to bake cookies at the holidays. To celebrate, they held parties to share and appreciate these delicious treats. This tradition lives on in today’s cookie exchanges. To celebrate, organize your own cookie exchange or simply share your favorite cookies with your friends and family members.

Christmas Cookie Day!

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Pauline Siewert

 

Mama bear and her little bear get ready for one of the most fun days of the year. “Cooke day, / Time to bake. / Aprons on, / Lots to make!” The little one cracks an egg into the bowl while the butter, flour, and sugar wait their turn. Mom pours warm melted butter and lets her little bear stir it into dough.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-stirring

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With the dough rolled smooth, it’s time to use the cookie cutters to make…”Christmas tree, / Reindeer, bell. / Snowman, star, / Cookie smell.” The pair add angels, candy canes, and drummer boys before sliding the tray into the oven and watching them bake. At last the timer rings but they still must wait. Finally “ready, set… / Decorate!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cookie-shapes

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

It’s so much fun spreading the frosting and shaking out sprinkles to create green trees, yellow stars, and red-and-white striped candy canes. Even the bakers can’t resist nibbling a few. But not too many, because these are special “cookie gifts. / Made with care. / Pack them up, / Cooke share!” It’s time to invite friends and family for a yearly treat—“Christmastime, / Spirits bright. / Family hugs, / Cookie night.”

A delectable Christmas Cookie Day Recipe follows the story for all little bakers to try.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-into-oven

Image copyright Pauline Siewert, 2018, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s jaunty rhyming story captures all the giddy anticipation and fun of a day baking Christmas cookies. Short, lively verses follow Mom and her cub step-by-step as they make and decorate special treats for their annual cookie party and invite little ones to join in on repeat readings. Knudson delights in the enjoyment Mom and her little one feel during their day of baking and goes on to celebrate the deeper meaning and joy of Christmas as the two wrap up their cookies and give them to family and friends.

With tender smiles for each other, Pauline Siewert’s Mama bear and her cub spend a snowy day baking cookies in their cozy kitchen accompanied by a helpful mouse. Siewert’s vibrant colors mirror the cheerful companionship mother and child share on this much-loved day, and her engaging details, like a dusting of flour on the cub’s nose, will charm children. A double-spread scattering of the cookies the two make give little ones a chance to show their knowledge of shapes and Christmastime figures. The heartwarming final scene of the cookie party might just inspire a party of your own. Little ones will also be enchanted by the sparkly cover that opens this adorable book.

The absence of personal pronouns and a red apron for the little cub make Christmas Cookie Day! gender neutral.

A sweet story to spark a fun family tradition and share the joy of giving, Christmas Cookie Day! makes an endearing addition to a child’s home library.

Ages 2 – 6

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310762898

Discover more about Tara Knudson, her books, and her other writing for children on her website.

You can connect with Pauline Siewert on Instagram.

Meet Tara Knudson

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - head shot

I’m excited to be talking today with Tara Knudson about her sweet book, her favorite cookie, and how being a teacher inspires her work.

Christmas Cookie Day has such a joyous feeling. Do you have any special memories of baking with your family when you were a child?  What is your favorite kind of cookie?

I’m so glad that you think CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY has such a joyous feeling! The story evokes happy memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters when I was a child. I remember gathering the cookie cutters from the cabinet, excited to get started! We all stood around the kitchen table and decorated our cookies with sprinkles, frosting, and candy pieces. It was so fun!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - decorating cookies

While I do enjoy eating Christmas sugar cookies, my favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, especially ones with dark chocolate chips and a little salt. Yum!

As a regular contributor to children’s magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, Baby Bug, and Ladybug, you write stories and poetry for the youngest readers, what do you like about writing for this age? What are a few of the most important ingredients in stories for little ones?

I love writing for little ones because they are so curious about everything in the world around them—sights, smells, sounds, tastes, new experiences, and people. They take it all in as they learn, develop, and grow. I like to be a part of that.

My poems and stories for this age group often include short and simple sentences with some fun words added that young readers may not be familiar with.

You’ve said that you loved to write even as a child. Can you describe your journey to becoming a published writer?

My journey as a writer has been a long one. I still have my creative writing stories from second grade. Reading them now makes me laugh! Growing up, the stories were always special to me, but I did not know yet that I wanted to be a writer.

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - school writing folder

I started writing poetry when I was in high school. As I dealt with the problems and frustrations that adolescence can bring, I often wrote poems to express my feelings. After college, I became a Spanish teacher and I often used children’s picture books in the          classroom. I would spend hours at bookstores searching for favorite ones. It was during that time that I fell in love with picture books and decided that I wanted to write them.

In pursuit of my goal, I won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to take a break from my teaching job and live in Barcelona, Spain for a year and experiment with writing for children. I wrote many poems and rhyming stories for children. I continued to write after my return to the U.S. As years passed, I sold articles and poems to children’s magazines and continued to work on my picture book manuscripts as I worked as a teacher and later took care of my two sons. Finally, I signed with an agent who helped me sell my first book.

Can you talk a little about your work as a teacher? How do your experiences influence your work?

My teaching background is unique because I have taught different subjects to students of many ages. I started my teaching career as a high school Spanish teacher. Then, while in Barcelona, I taught English to middle school students. Upon my return to the U.S., I taught Spanish to grades K-2 and then math to grades 1-4. 

Whichever subject I teach, and to whichever grade level, there is always something for me to gain as a writer when I work with students. Whether it be from something that happens in the classroom or something that a student says that sparks a writing idea, being around children gets my creative juices flowing! I hope to get back in the classroom soon.

What’s up next for you?

My next book, EASTER EGG DAY, will be released in February, 2020. Also, I’m happy to announce that a third book in my holiday board book series will follow. I will share details about that book soon. I have plenty of non-holiday projects as well that I hope will make their way into the world in the near future.

What’s your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the excitement that leads up to it, the beautiful decorations, the spirit of giving, and the true meaning of the season. It’s such a magical and joyous time for people of all ages filled with traditions and love. I’m so happy that CHRISTMAS COOKIE DAY can be a part of it all!

CPB - Tara Knudson Interview - making cookies

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Tara! I wish you a wonderful holiday and much success with all of your writing!

You can connect with Tara Knudson on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter  

National Cookie Exchange Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craft

Gingerbread Kids Ornaments

 

All cookies don’t have to be edible! With this easy craft children can make gingerbread kid ornaments to decorate your tree or windows or to give to family and friends!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Trace gingerbread kid templates on brown foam sheets and cut out
  2. Paint around the edges with the white paint then add trim to the edge of the dress and the top of the socks 
  3. Add buttons
  4. Add faces
  5. Paint the hands of each figure then sprinkle glitter over the wet paint to make mittens
  6. To use as decoration, attach mountable squares. To use as an ornament, use a threaded needle to make a hole in the top of each figure and tie the thread to create a hanger.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-christmas-cookie-day-cover-2

You can find Christmas Cookie Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 23 – It’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-cover

About the Holiday

Sweet potatoes are yummy and satisfying—and they’re healthy! Full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, sweet potatoes make delicious side dishes for almost any meal. Sweet potato fries, muffins, pies, and—of course—casserole are just a few of the ways you can enjoy this natural treat. To celebrate today’s holiday, cook up your favorite recipe and discover some new ones!

Little Chef

Written by Matt Stine & Elisabeth Weinberg | Illustrated by Paige Keiser

 

Lizzie is a little girl who has always loved to cook. In fact, her mom and dad call her “their Little Chef.” She has her own chef’s uniform, complete with hat, and doesn’t mind the long hours a chef has to keep. Today, Lizzie is extra excited because “Grandmas is coming over for dinner!” Lizzie has learned all of her cooking skills from her Grandma, and tonight she is going to prepare a special dinner just for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-since-baby

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Lizzie knows she’ll need extra energy today, so she’s starting off by making her “famous scrambled eggs.” She whips eggs in a bowl with a fork and adds salt and pepper. After breakfast, Lizzie and her mom get ready to go to the farmers’ market to buy the ingredients for “Grandma’s Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.” Lizzie wants Grandma to see that she “can cook just like her.” At the farmers’ market, Lizzie picks out the freshest sweet potatoes she can find. Back home, Mom and Dad peel and chop the potatoes and help Lizzie put them into the big pot of boiling water. When the potatoes are soft, it’s time for “the best part about making Smashed Sweet Potatoes. Smashing them!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-grandma-coming

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Then “it’s time to add the secret ingredient! Grandma says every great recipe has one. It makes a chef’s food taste extra special and delicious.” But when Lizzie consults the recipe, no secret ingredient is listed. Lizzie decides she will just have to add one of her own. She looks in the spice cabinet and after going through bottle after bottle, she finds the perfect one. Lizzie gives her finished Smashed Sweet Potatoes a taste and waits for Grandma. Finally, Grandma arrives and everyone sits down to dinner. When Daddy tastes the sweet potatoes, he says, “‘Mmm!’” Mommy says, “‘ Mmmm!’” too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-eggs

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

But what will Grandma say? Grandma takes a bite and exclaims, “‘These are even BETTER than my own Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.’” Then Grandma wants to know what Lizzie’s secret ingredient is. But of course Lizzie can’t tell her that! Grandma picks up Lizzie and gives her a big hug. “‘…being with you is the best ingredient of all,’” she says. And as Lizzie lies in bed later that night, reading her cookbook by flashlight, she wonders what she’ll cook tomorrow.

A recipe for Chef Lizzie’s (Grandma’s) Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes that encourages young chefs to experiment with their own secret ingredient follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-ingredients-list

Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Kids who love to cook or help out in the kitchen will be delighted by Matt Stine and Elisabeth Weinberg’s story of a little girl who wants to impress the grandmother who inspires her. Lizzie’s enthusiasm for cooking and her confidence in her skills make this an uplifting tale for children of all talents. Lizzie’s special bond with her grandmother adds a tender family element to the story and her big-hearted nature makes her a sweet companion for little readers. The recipe included in the back of the book invites children to make Lizzie’s Smashed Sweet Potato recipe and find their own secret ingredient—an invitation few will be able to resist.

Adorable little Lizzie, with her wild frizz of hair is energetic, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and a free spirit. With dashes of humor, Paige Keiser follows her through a day of creating the perfect dinner for Grandma. Dressed in her chef’s uniform, Lizzie splashes her dog with egg, sends him sneezing in a cloud of pepper, and turns him orange as she whacks away at the soft chunks of sweet potatoes. Images of Mom and Dad happily encouraging and supporting Lizzie in her cooking are heartwarming, and Grandma’s big hug is as sweet as it gets.

A charming and inspiring story, Little Chef is a fun read for culinary kids and any child experimenting with their talent and striving to do their best. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and a great gift for grandmothers and grandkids to share.

Ages 2 – 6

Feiwel & Friends, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250091697

Discover more about Elisabeth Weinberg, executive chef and owner of Miss Elisabeth’s Catering in New York and a Food Network “Chopped” Champion, on her website.

Find out more about Matt Stine and his work as a music producer and composer for Broadway and Off-Broadway on his website.

To view a portfolio of artwork by Paige Keiser, visit her website.

Sweet Potato Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baking-with-grandma-coloring=page

We Love to Cook! Coloring Pages

 

Add your secret ingredient and get cooking on these printable coloring pages!

Baking with Grandma | Cooking with Dad

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-cover

You can find Little Chef at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 25 – It’s Middle Grade Monday

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-from-the-desk-of-zoe-washington-cover

 

Review by Jakki Licare

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Zoe, an aspiring baker, receives a letter on her 12th birthday from her biological father, Marcus, who is incarcerated for murder. She’s sure her mother won’t let her read his letter so she secretly hides it. She isn’t sure if she should write back because her bio dad must be a monster to have murdered someone. But he sounds so nice in the letter that Zoe decides to write back just this once to see if she can get some answers. As she’s trying to write back to her dad, her ex-best friend and next-door neighbor, Trevor, tries to hang out with her. After making it clear that they aren’t friends anymore, Zoe finishes her letter and mails it.

Zoe discovers that the Food Network is auditioning kids for a children’s baking show, and she begs her mom and step dad to let her audition. They aren’t sure if she’s ready, but they agree to think about it and even get her an internship at a local bakery. Over the next couple of weeks, Zoe sneaks out letters as she writes back and forth with Marcus. Zoe tells Marcus about her job at the bakery and how she wants to make her own recipe. Marcus tells her about his life in prison and how he’s going to college online. He suggests she tries to make a cereal cupcake.

After some prodding from Zoe, Marcus confesses that he’s innocent of his crime, but had a bad lawyer and ended up wrongly convicted. Zoe wants to continue writing to Marcus, but doesn’t like hiding it from her mom, so she asks her mom if she can write to Marcus. Her mother absolutely refuses, and Zoe decides she must keep lying.

Zoe is sickened by the idea that her dad is innocent and stuck in jail, but what if he’s just lying to her? Zoe decides to do some research at the library. Trevor finds her reading books about incarceration, and he listens as she explains that she wants to find out if her dad is really innocent. He helps her research and they start to talk. Zoe confesses she heard him bad mouth her to his basketball friends. Trevor apologizes and they decide to work things out.

Zoe decides she must find Marcus’s alibi witness and find out if Marcus is telling the truth or not. She begs Marcus for the name of his alibi witness and sets off trying to find the lady he met at a tag sale. She hits a lot of dead ends, but with Trevor’s help she stumbles across the person who fits the description Marcus gave her.

Unable to reach the woman by email, Zoe and Trevor sneak off to Harvard, where she teaches. When they find her, she says she doesn’t remember Marcus. Zoe is devastated that she trusted Marcus. She thinks that he must have been lying to her and that he did kill someone. Zoe and Trevor get back late, and their parents are furious that they ran off. While Zoe is waiting for her mom to get home, she gets a text from the professor saying she does remember Marcus and to call her back.

Zoe’s mom is furious when she finds out why Zoe went to Harvard on her own and absolutely livid to discover that she’s been secretly writing to Marcus. She takes away Zoe’s phone before she can call the professor back. Several days later Zoe’s mom and step dad tell her they’ve been in contact with the professor and that she did have an alibi for Marcus.

Over the next several weeks, a friend of her stepdad who is a lawyer and lawyers from the Innocence Project work together to assemble a case to appeal Marcus’s verdict. When they take it to trial, Marcus and his attorneys win. At the end, Zoe’s mom admits that she was wrong about Marcus and shouldn’t have thrown out Zoe’s letters. Zoe is still grounded for lying and running off to Harvard, but she uses the time to reconnect with her family. On his next birthday, Marcus gets to celebrate with his family at home. And while Zoe never realizes her dream to audition for the Food Network show, she does create a cupcake based on her dad’s suggestion, and the bakery where she’s interning adds it to their menu. She’s proud to take this as a success.

Review

 

Janae Marks’ uplifting and timely contemporary novel takes you on a quest for justice that is filled with memorable characters and strong friendships. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a compelling introduction for kids to the problem of racism in our justice system and will open up a lot of meaningful discussions.

Zoe is a spunky, upbeat, and determined twelve-year-old middle-class twelve-year-old. It’s her determination that ultimately brings about Marcus’s appeal, but we also see Zoe’s determination through multiple facets of her life. I love how she’s willing to prove to her parents she’s ready to audition for the Food Network. I like how she gives herself her own challenges too. No one asks her to come up with her own recipe, but she tackles that task and the problems involved in creating her own recipe herself. She doesn’t give up after the first batch of cupcakes comes out too sweet, but instead spends her time problem solving. She creates a system of small batches of cupcakes with different amounts of sugar until she finds the perfect recipe.  

Marks tackles the incredibly complex issue of wrongful incarceration with beautiful sensitivity. This is highlighted in the way Marks slowly changes commonly held views of prisoners. Zoe starts off reading her father’s letter and being surprised that he sounds nice instead of like a scary villain from a tv show. Marks also debunks the idea that only guilty people go to jail, a concept that many young readers may not understand. She introduces statistics on how black men are more likely to go to jail than white men and shows that an indifferent lawyer can lead to wrongful conviction.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington never feels depressing because Marks balances Zoe’s ambition of becoming a pastry chef along with her father’s storyline. Marks even manages to tie the two together by having Marcus make a suggestion in his letter to make a cereal cupcake. Forgiveness is a strong theme in From the Desk of Zoe Washington. In the beginning, Zoe is not speaking to her best friend Trevor, and he has no clue why. It isn’t until almost halfway through the book that we learn she heard Trevor dissing her to his teammates.

Marks does a superb job in showing how awkward it is to discuss hurt feelings but also how necessary it is to talk them through so there’s a chance for understanding and forgiveness. Here’s how Zoe describes her impressions of their conversation: “But it was like when you drew something in pencil and then tried to erase it—the pencil lines would mostly go away, but sometimes the indent would still be there, so you could still sort of see what had been erased. That’s how Trevor’s apology felt….”

Zoe’s mom also has her own issues with talking through problems. She’s so devastated by Marcus’s arrest that she closes off her heart and is unwilling to let Marcus hurt her baby. Zoe’s mom apologizes at the end, but Marks gives us enough of the scenario to see why Zoe’s Mom felt so betrayed. I think kids can relate to and learn a lot from these story lines leading to an understanding of how to open up to others.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is an outstanding middle-grade read for those interested in social justice and the intricacies of family relationships and friendship. If your kids enjoy Joan Bauer’s Close to Famous or Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, then From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a must read. 

Parental Considerations: racism, racial slurs, and talk of murder.

Ages 8-12

Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062875853

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-from-the-desk-of-zoe-washington-cover

You can find From the Desk of Zoe Washington at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-cover

About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-orchard

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-giving-apple

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-grandma's-house

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-chopping-apples

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-family

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 8.17.45 PM

Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

Johnny Appleseed Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples Recipe

 

Cinnamon apples are a delicious side dish to any meal! This tasty recipe is fun for kids and adults to make together.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-cover

You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 2 – It’s National Friendship Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aven-green-baking-machine-cover

About the Holiday

Friendship Month was instituted about ten years ago by the Oddfellows – or, as they are officially called, The Grand Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society (GUOOFS) – an international organization dedicated to philanthropy and charity believed to have established in England in the 1730s. The holiday encourages people to spend more time with their friends, get in touch with those they haven’t seen or talked to in a while, and to reach out to others who are alone or need a friend. As school gets underway, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to meet new people and form friendships – some of which may last a lifetime.

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Aven Green Baking Machine with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Aven Green Baking Machine

By Dusti Bowling | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

Hot off her stint as a sleuth, Aven Green has discovered another activity to conquer—baking! When she learns of a baking competition at the county fair the next weekend, Aven determines not only to enter, but to win the blue ribbon. She’s sure she will win because one, she’s an expert baker, having made a carrot cake last week; two, she’s a supertaster; and three, she has an excellent sense of smell. Now, as a pro, she calls her friends Kayla, Emily, and Sujata to come to her house prepared to each make a recipe of their choice. They will then choose which one to enter in the contest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aven-green-baking-machine-mixing

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2021, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With the girls all assembled at Aven’s house, they turn their attention to whose recipe to make first and focus on the ingredients Sujata brought to make her favorite Indian dessert, milk barfi. The other girls make fun of the dessert’s name, and Sujata retreats, crying, to Aven’s room. Aven’s mom appears to find out what happened. She asks the girls some pointed questions about whether they’d ever tried milk barfi before and if they had asked Sujata “what it tastes like or why it’s important to her.” She sends them in to Aven’s room to apologize. The friends make up and return to the kitchen to whip up the recipe, which Aven says smells like “spicy heaven.”

Next, they make Aven’s mint chocolate chip pie and then Emily’s peachy fluff, which Aven renames “peachy floof.” With these desserts all in the fridge, Kayla realizes they haven’t actually baked anything yet. And while the contest rules only call for an original dessert, Kayla thinks they should bake something. Aven suggests chocolate chip cookies until she discovers that the bag she thought held chocolate chips actually holds raisins for the raisin clafouti Kayla wants to make.

Aven has an unwavering loathing for raisins and tells Kayla, “‘Yeah, we’re totally not making that.’” The other girls defend Kayla’s choice. Hearing the shouting, Mom reappears and Kayla tells her how Aven won’t let her make clafouti—“‘raisin toefooty,’” Aven says, interrupting. Aven’s mom looks at her and tells her that she’s so disappointed in her behavior. Aven doubles down on her opinion and stomps off to her room to sulk. After the clafouti is in the oven, the girls all play together until it’s time to sample the desserts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aven-green-baking-machine-pie

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2021, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

They love the Sujata’s milk barfi, and Emily’s peachy fluff turned out to be soupy—delicious, but more of a drink. Aven’s chocolate chip mint pie was deemed too minty, and Kayla’s raisin clafouti was declared the winner. Still, Aven wouldn’t try it. After everyone left, Aven’s mom sits down with her and explains that “‘the Aven I know would try something, even if she didn’t want to, so as not to hurt her friends’ feelings…. You did not act like a good friend.’”

When Aven goes to apologize the next day at school, the other girls tell her they don’t want to enter the contest with her because she is “too difficult. ‘It’s your way or nothing,’” Emily tells her. As Aven sits alone on the playground, Ren comes over to see if she’s all right. Aven tells him about the contest and he tells her about his favorite dessert, manju—sweet bean paste steamed cakes. Aven makes a “yuck face” and Ren, sad, walks away. At home, Aven decides she’ll make something for the contest by herself and bakes a chocolate cake with mint frosting. But when the cake comes out of the oven, it is less than perfect. Aven cries because she knows she can’t win with that cake and her friends are all mad at her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aven-green-baking-machine-fair

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2021, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

She goes to visit her great-grandmother, who gives Aven some perspective while making another unusual cake that Aven thinks she’s not going to like but ends up loving. The next day, Aven asks Ren to be her partner in the contest, telling his she wants to make manju. At first Aven is reluctant to try the steamed cakes they make, but one nibble later, she’s ready for more. She even decides that “from this moment in history until the end of time, I would forever be Aven Green, trier of new things, even the weirdest things anyone ever heard of.” The night before the contest, Aven made I’m sorry cards for Kayla, Sujata, and Emily, using all of her best stickers and glitter glue.

The day of the contest finally arrives. Aven and Ren make a fresh batch of manju and take it to the fair. Aven gives out her cards and wishes her friends good luck. They all wait to hear the judges’ decisions and… First place went to an apple caramel cake. Second prize went to a chocolate cream pie. And Third Place went to… Sujata, Emily, and Kayla for their raisin clafouti. Aven cheered and cheered for them, and when they left the stage, they offered Aven one of the yellow ribbons. She thought it would look lovely hanging on her wall, but she declined, telling her friends, “‘I didn’t win it. Not only that, but I had a bad attitude about the raisin clafouti, which did win.’”

Besides, Aven says, “‘I didn’t lose…. I won a whole new friend! And now I have my old friends back, too. Best day ever!’” Then she tasted the raisin clafouti, and even though she didn’t like it, she praised it for being an award-winner. Then the friends took in the fair and the bluegrass music, and Aven discovered another activity to conquer. “‘Watch out, world!’” she cried. “‘Here comes Aven Green, Music Machine!’”

A glossary of baking words found in the story as well as recipes for milk barfi, mint chocolate chip pie, peachy floof, raisin clafouti, tomato soup cake, and manju follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aven-green-baking-machine-dancing

Image copyright Gina Perry, 2021, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Dusti Bowling’s second Aven Green story for young readers is infused with her protagonist’s distinct personality, infectious enthusiasm, and big heart. Realistic dialogue, situations, and emotions make it a book that will easily resonate with kids. While it’s easy to focus on the humor in Bowling’s story—which is delivered with snappy, rapid-fire dialogue and observations—the story also packs a punch in its message about the injustice of preconceived notions, the effects of thoughtless comments, ultra-competitiveness, and the true meaning of acceptance.

Just one of the joys of Bowling’s series is how Aven Green smashes wrong assumptions while being fearless and self-confident. Here, Aven discovers that while she promotes acceptance for herself, she must also extend the same appreciation to others. All of Bowling’s characters possess strong opinions, enough self-assurance to reject behavior that hurts, and the ability to recognize when they’ve been wrong and make amends. These qualities make them excellent role models for readers. As the girls separate into different teams for the baking contest and, ultimately, make a new friend, readers learn important lessons on standing up for oneself, making informed opinions instead of snap judgements, and what true friendship is all about.

Gina Perry’s engaging illustrations bring the story to life as readers see Aven cooking, eating, and creating cards for her friends with her feet as well as participating in all the other activities at school and the county fair. Her line drawings also capture the emotions of the characters as they argue, make up, and cheer each other on. Cameos by Aven’s mom and great-grandmother portray a steadying and caring influence.

Aven Green Baking Machine is a multi-layered story that will make kids think as they enjoy the humor, close relationships, and invitation to discover and bake recipes from around the world. This book is a good choice for kids and adults to read together while discussing the issues presented. Fans of the series will want to catch up on what Aven is conquering next and new readers will be happy to discover this empowering series.

Ages 6 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1454942207

Discover more about Dusti Bowling and her books on her website.

To learn more about Gina Perry, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aven-green-baking-machine-cover

You can find Aven Green, Baking Machine at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 16 – It’s National Blueberry Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-cover

About the Holiday

Farmers’ Markets are bursting with fresh produce during the summer months, and that is especially true for blueberries, those little round morsels of sweetness. The United States Department of Agriculture recognized July as National Blueberry Month in 2003, and it’s been delicious eating ever since! Blueberries are the perfect accompaniment to muffins, pancakes, bread, fruit salads, and of course they’re delectable just on their own! So visit a farmers’ market today and pick up a peck.

Blueberry Cake

By Sarah Dillard

 

A little bear comes into the kitchen and tugs at his mother’s apron strings. When she turns her head, her cub asks shyly, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks thoughtfully at her little one and sends him outside with a bucket. The cub dashes through the back yard and into the forest. Playfully, he wears the bucket like a hat and then does cartwheels until he comes to the edge of the woods. Peeking through the trees, the cub exclaims, “Oh!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-kitchen

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

What meets his eye is a wide-open field, a sea of blueberries. The little one sits down in the middle of a patch of delicious berries and begins filling the bucket with a concentrated, “Blueberries.” But it’s just so hard not to take a taste. Maybe just a handful. “Blueberries!” he exclaims. Then something else catches the little bear’s attention. It’s a butterfly – a monarch wanting to play chase. The cub runs after the butterfly, swinging the bucket and spilling the blueberries little by little along the way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-dashing

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

The game brings the cub to another field – this one dotted with black-eyed Susans and queen Anne’s lace. They’re so pretty that the cub can’t help but pick some. Into the bucket they go. At home, the little bear holds the bucket out for Mama and asks, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks at the offering and asks, “Blueberries?” The cub offers the flowers, but Mama still wonders where the blueberries are. The little bear inspects the bucket and quietly says, “No blueberries.” Mama crosses her arms and delivers the bad news: “No blueberry cake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-picking

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

That night in bed, the cub dreams of what might have been and just as the sun begins rising over the horizon, he’s ready to try again. The cub dashes back to the blueberry field and fills the bucket until it’s brimming with delicious berries. The sun is still dawning when he gets home and puts the bucket on the kitchen counter and returns to his room. When Mama gets up, she’s surprised to find the blueberries. When the little bear comes downstairs again, he skips into the kitchen, his eyes alight, and he exclaims, “Blueberry cake!” The flowers, arranged in the bucket, decorate the middle of the table, and Mama lays out a placemat and plate for her little cub. He eagerly watches his mama cut a slice of cake and serve it. He gazes at the cake, and has just one thing to say: “Applesauce?”

A recipe for blueberry cake that’s easy enough for “little cubs and other small people” to make with some help “from a mama or papa bear” follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-butterfly

Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

With just six words, a darling cub, and a loving mother, Sarah Dillard creates a story that will charm kids. Dillard’s sunny illustrations are infused with poignant moments of childhood that are fanciful, disappointing, surprising, humorous, and always full of love. An expressive reading of the simple dialogue brings out all the feeling of the gentle ups and downs of the story and can also serve as a lesson in recognizing emotions for young readers. Kids will also have a blast joining in and reading along.

Ages 3 – 8

Aladdin, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534451346

Discover more about Sarah Dillard, her books, and her art on her website.

National Blueberry Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-maze

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze

 

Can you help pick blueberries to make some delicious treats in this printable puzzle?

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze | A Bounty of Blueberries Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-cover

You can find Blueberry Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 4 – National Doughnut Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-cover

About the Holiday

National Doughnut Day may be one of the most delicious holidays of the year, but did you know that the day has a charitable history? The holiday was established in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor the women who served doughnuts and other home-cooked foods to soldiers on the front lines in France during World War I. Two hundred and fifty Salvation Army “Lassies” volunteered to provide this morale boost to the troops. Salvation Army Ensign Margaret Sheldon “wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.'”

National Doughnut Day began as a fundraiser by Chicago’s Salvation Army to help the needy during the Great Depression. The holiday continues to be a fundraiser in Chicago and other cities and is supported by national and local businesses.  Doughnut lovers can also take advantage of special offers at doughnut shops across the country.

Dozens of Doughnuts

Written by Carrie Finison | Illutrated by Brianne Farley

 

On a bright autumn morning, LouAnn is busy making a dozen doughnuts—her last treat before her long winter nap. “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Toasty, and tasty, and ALL for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Woodrow?’” At the door stands a little beaver. LouAnn invites him in and seats him at the kitchen table. They’re just about to split the doughnuts when the doorbell chimes again.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-woodrow

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

This time it’s Clyde, the raccoon. LouAnn welcomes him in and offers him her plate of doughnuts while she whips up another batch. These doughnuts—four for each—are frosted in blue. They’re all about to take a bite when “DING-DONG!” Tospy the possum arrives. “‘Delicious!’ cries Topsy. / She gulps down a swallow. / LouAnn’s heart feels warm, / but her belly feels hollow.” She stirs and she fries and soon has “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Some for each friend, and the rest for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Mouffette?’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-last-dozen

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

A skunk joins the group, nibbling and toasting with three doughnuts each as LouAnn uses her last egg to make more. This is it—the last dozen doughnuts. LouAnn is ready to munch when… you know! But there’s not a friend at the door—there are two! Two little chipmunks cram their cheeks full. And LouAnn? “She’s ready to sleep through the snow, ice, and sleet. / But winter is near and there’s NOTHING to eat!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-roar

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

From deep down in her grumbling, rumbling belly there emerges a huge “ROAR!”  as all of the friends “dash for the door.” LouAnn cries it out and collapses on the floor. Then “DING-DONG!” Who could be left? Who is there now? It seems Woodrow and Clyde, Topsy and Mouffette, and even Chip and Chomp are more observant than they might have seemed. They’ve brought milk and flour, eggs and supplies. And after snugging LouAnn into her favorite chair, they go to work. Soon there are “dozens of doughnuts, / hot from the pan. / Stacked up in heaps, and they’re ALL for LouAnn!” But does she gobble them all down, or are there some left for—?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-surprise

Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Carrie Finison’s bright, bouncy rhythm and perfect rhymes set up brilliant suspenseful page turns that, while disappointing for LouAnn the Bear, will have readers in gales of giggles and chiming along after the first surprising twist. LouAnn’s ready willingness to share her dozens of doughnuts is kindness at its best and also provide an invitation for kids to do a little math as each friend shares in LouAnn’s generosity. When LouAnn, getting hungrier and sleepier, finally cracks, sending her friends running, the final “DING-DONG!” ushers in another sweet surprise. Just like readers, it seems LouAnn’s friends have been paying attention to the numbers, and they want to be sure that LouAnn gets her equal share too. Finison’s storytelling provides a baker’s dozen of delight and will become a favorite read aloud for any child.

Deliciously enchanting, Brianne Farley’s illustrations introduce some of the most adorable forest animals around as they come to visit LouAnn, lured by the aroma of her doughnuts. Farley has designed for LouAnn a little stone house that’s an ingenious update on a bear’s cave and has decorated it with from a fresh color palette. Likewise, her autumn foliage makes use of creative raspberry russets and glowing yellows. LouAnn’s facial expressions clearly depict her waning enthusiasm for all the interruptions, but also her gracious personality once she opens the door. Kids will love watching the window beside the front door and trying to guess who each new guest will be.

The detailed images of doughnuts on each animal’s plate makes it easy for children and adults to talk about math concepts, including counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and sorting. When hunger and weariness finally overtake LouAnn, kids and adults will recognize her meltdown and commiserate with her. The return of LouAnn’s friends with supplies and good cheer makes this pre-hibernation party one that all children will want to attend (with their own doughnuts, of course!).

Endearing to the max, Dozens of Doughnuts is a joy to share and is sure to stir up enthusiasm for repeat readings at home, in the classroom, or for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518358

Discover more about Carrie Finison and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brianne Farley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Doughnut Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cd-doughnut-craft

Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut – or bagel – hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs or cut circles from cardboard or regular or thick poster board
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD or other material and let dry
  2. Add “frosting” by painting from the wavy line inward to the clear center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted. If using another material, draw and cut a center “hole” for your doughnut.
  3. When the “frosting” is dry, draw sprinkles on it with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dozens-of-doughnuts-cover

You can find Dozens of Doughnuts at these booksellers

Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review