September 17 – It’s Better Breakfast Month

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About the Holiday

What makes a better breakfast than a tall stack of pancakes? With so many varieties—from buttermilk to buckwheat to chocolate chip—and so many toppings, such as syrup, fruit, and jam, you could have a different breakfast nearly every day of the year!

Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book

Illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

 

Sometimes a novelty book comes along that transcends the “kid” category and provides fun and “Ooooh!’ moments for readers of all ages. Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book offers just this kind of delicious excitement. Opening the cover is like walking into a cozy kitchen, finding your favorite recipe and gathering all the necessary ingredients. The first two-page spread presents in visuals and words the recipe and the utensils and other cooking items needed to make pancakes.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, 2016, courtesy of phaidon.com

With the second two-page spread, cooking begins! A scoop of baking powder, two tablespoons of sugar, and half a teaspoon of salt are added to the bowl. But what about the cup of flour? Readers get to add that themselves with a pull tab that simulates the flour joining the other ingredients in the green mixing bowl. The clever cut of the opening and the mottled and powdery appearance of the illustrated flour gives the sensation of actual pouring.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, 2016, courtesy of phaidon.com

Next, readers get to measure out the cup of milk with the help of a pull tab that gives kids control over the amount being served. Four marks on the side of the measuring cup provide an opportunity to talk about fractions and the ¼, ½, and ¾ lines that are also incorporated into real glass measuring cups or the separate cups that come as part of a set. Once the milk is ready, it goes into the mixing bowl with the melted butter and the egg.

Grab your whisk and get stirring! A wheel on the side of the page lets kids “combine” these wet ingredients from their individual parts into a cohesive yellow batter. Now that the batter is ready, it’s time for “STEP 4: Ladle the batter into separate circles in the hot, buttered frying pan.” Readers will love pulling the tab that releases the batter into the pan—leaving just a drop of batter to sizzle on its own (and you know how good those crispy drops can be!)

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, 2016, courtesy of phaidon.com

The batter is bubbling—which means it’s time to flip the flap jacks! As the spatula appears from the top of the page, kids can lift one of the little round yellow pancakes from the fry pan and turn it over. Ingeniously, the reverse side is delectably browned. A turn of the page invites by-now-hungry readers to follow “STEP 6: When both sides are browned, stack the finished pancakes on a plate.”

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, 2016, courtesy of phaidon.com

A pancake-sized round indentation on the plate just begs to be filled with the browned pancake from the previous page. Adding the pancake to the sunny plate, kids will feel as if they are holding the spatula and carefully slipping it atop a stack ready to be eaten.  The last page encourages readers to “add butter, syrup, fruit, jam, lemon juice, honey, or whipped cream and taste what you’ve made! Delicious!”

Lotta Nieminen’s Pancakes! is so wonderfully conceived in its bold vibrant images and simple recitation of a pancake recipe. The crisp lines and absence of labels on the ingredients’ packages, puts the focus on the shapes, providing a chance for discussion of concepts such as rectangle, circle, half-circle, cylinder, oval, and triangle; flat and round; and bigger and smaller. Ideas such as hot and cold, measuring, pouring, mixing, stacking and others can also be introduced. The brilliant interactive elements invite kids and adults alike to play with this book over and over.

The sturdy board pages and convenient size make this a perfect take-along for trips to the market, picnics, appointments, sibilings’ activities, or other outings where waiting is required. For kids and adults who like to help out in the kitchen, love to cook, or are attracted by all things culinary, Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book makes a terrific gift and must have for home bookshelves. 

Ages 2 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872834

To view a gallery of graphic design and illustration work by Lotta Nieminen, visit her website!

Better Breakfast Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game

Pancake Flip-Out

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

To Play Pancake Toss

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

To Play With Dice

  1. Choose a number of pancakes that each player must add to their plate—say, maybe, a baker’s dozen.
  2. Take turns rolling the dice and adding the number of pancakes rolled to the plate. The first player to reach the agreed-upon number is the winner.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print enough copies of the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates for the game you choose and cut them out. Playing pieces can be printed on card stock or on paper. 
  2. If printing on paper, you can glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, or cardboard to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review

September 9 – National Bake and Decorate Day

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About the Holiday

Sometimes when you bake something, it looks a little…well…naked. A plain cake? A monochrome cookie? They just cry out for some color—and maybe a rose or two, or a superhero, or some words, or candies, or…you get the picture. Today’s holiday understands! So, get out your baking utensils, gather some ingredients, and design a beautiful or funny decoration! 

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake

Written by Michael B. Kaplan | Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

 

Betty Bunny knows she’s a “handful” because her parents often tell her so. Betty Bunny also knew her parents love her, so she figures that “being a handful must be very, very good.” One day when her mom offered her a piece of chocolate cake after dinner, Betty Bunny declined. She didn’t like trying new things, and “announced: ‘I hate chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is yucky.” But then added “‘What’s chocolate cake?’”

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, text copyright Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books

With her first bite, Betty Bunny was in love. She was so in love, in fact, that she decided that when she grew up she was “going to marry chocolate cake.” Her siblings were supportive—kind of—but her older brother Bill thought “‘you’re going to have really weird-looking kids.’” The next day at school, Betty Bunny had chocolate on the brain. When her teacher went over the A B C’s Betty said, “‘A is for chocolate cake, B is for chocolate cake, C is for chocolate cake.’”

On the playground when Betty Bunny mixed together dirt and water, it looked like chocolate cake, but sure didn’t taste like it. At dinner Betty Bunny was ready for her dessert before her healthy dinner, but her mom said no; and her dad agreed with her mom. Her siblings tried to help—kind of. Henry suggested she eat some peas. Kate told her to eat her carrots, and Bill taunted, “‘Why don’t you have some chocolate cake? That’s what you really want. Oh, no, wait. You can’t. Ha-Ha.’”

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Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, text copyright Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books

Betty Bunny exploded. She threw peas at Henry, tossed carrots at Kate, and lobbed mashed potatoes at Bill. Betty Bunny’s mother was not pleased and sent her little daughter to bed without chocolate cake. “Betty Bunny screamed, ‘This family is yucky!’” and stomped up the stairs. Later, her mom came up to kiss her goodnight, and she had a plan. She would put a piece of cake in the fridge and the next day after a good dinner, Betty Bunny could have it. “‘Maybe if you know it’s there waiting for you, it will be easier to be patient,’” her mom said. Betty Bunny thought this was a great idea and “wanted to say something especially nice to her mother. ‘Mommy,’ she said, ‘you are a handful.’”  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty-bunny-loves-chocolate-cake-kiss-goodnight

Image copyright Stéphane Jorisch, text copyright Michael B. Kaplan. Courtesy of Penguin Books

The next morning Betty Bunny couldn’t leave the house without first checking on her piece of cake. It looked so alone sitting on the plate all by itself, so Betty Bunny decided to put it in her pocket and take it to school with her. All day the secret knowledge of what was in her pocket made Betty Bunny happy. At dinner, after she had cleaned her plate, she reached into her pocket for her chocolate cake, but all she found was “a brown, goopy mess” that made her cry.

After her mom explained to her that putting the cake in her pocket was not the same as being patient, she prepared another piece for the next day. In the morning, Betty Bunny remembered her lesson in patience—and that’s why she put the cake…in her sock.

Michael B. Kaplan’s adorable Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake is a delight from its beginning to its smashing ending. He hits all the right notes in this humorous family drama, from the “helpful” siblings to the hair-trigger tantrums to the Ramona Quimby-esque misunderstanding of phrase. Along with the giggle-inducing fun kids learn a bit about patience, and adults discover insight into what goes on in their little bunny’s mind when obsession meets disappointment.

Stéphane Jorisch’s Bunny family is as cute as…well…a bunny.  His watercolor, pen and ink, and gouche paintings employ brilliant color and crisp lines to depict the loving relationship among the siblings and parents as well as the realistic home and school environments. The perfectly drawn body language—including folded arms, sly looks, emotional meltdowns, and understanding smiles—will resonate with kids and adults alike. And once the piece of chocolate cake appears, it’s easy to see how little Betty Bunny could become such a fan.

Ages 3 – 7

Puffin Books, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1101998632

National Bake and Decorate Day

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Delicious Dot-to-Dot

 

Everything is better with chocolate—even this printable Delicious Dot-to-Dot! Get your pencils, follow the dots, and then color this delectable page!

Picture Book Review

September 8 – It’s All-American Breakfast Month

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About the Holiday

Bacon has been around since ancient times. In early French it was known as Bako, in German as Bakko, and in Teutonic as Backe. In Middle English it was called Bacoun, but all these words simply meant “back,” as in the back meat of pigs. Preserved and flavored, bacon is a favorite the world over and has seen an explosion of uses in the past few years, from enhancing cupcakes, apple pie, and chocolate chip cookies to spicing up peanut butter sandwiches, lasagna, and French toast. But there’s nothing quite as enticing as two or three crispy slices sitting on the edge of a plate of eggs or pancakes as part of an all-American breakfast!

Everyone Loves Bacon

Written by Kelly Dipucchio | Illustrated by Eric Wight

 

From Egg to Waffle to Pancake, there was no one who didn’t love Bacon—even Bacon himself. Well…maybe French Toast was an exception, but he “doesn’t like anyone.” Bacon loved all the attention the other foods gave him. Jalapeño wanted to sit next to him, and Garlic thought he smelled so good! He made the fruit and vegetables laugh with his “charming stories and funny jokes,” and, boy, could he play the ukulele!

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Image copyright Eric Wight, 2015, text copyright Kelly Dipucchio, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Ham, sausage link, and sausage patty were jealous, “but Bacon didn’t care about them. Not one bit.” After all, “He was becoming a real celebrity. His picture appeared on t-shirts. And billboards. And buses.” Bacon was so enthralled with himself that he began to forget his friends. Sometimes he even “pretended not to know some of his old friends.” Bacon had fans, and that was enough for him.

Bacon began to live the high life of sports cars, designer clothes, and the latest fads. He was even the star of the breakfast pastry parade. “Indeed Bacon was the toast of the town. Until….” Well…we did warn you that “everyone loves Bacon.”

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Image copyright Eric Wight, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Kelly Dipucchio’s witty cautionary tale about a piece of bacon that gets too big for his broiler sizzles with snappy sentences and the perils of celebrity. She chooses words and experiences that are recognizable to any child navigating the world of school, siblings, and friends, and with sly winks to popular culture shows that mistaking fans for friends ends badly and that there is always someone “bigger” than you.

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Image copyright Eric Wight, 2015, text copyright Kelly Dipucchio, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Even if readers don’t like the taste of bacon, they won’t be able to resist Eric Wight’s adorable slice who becomes the star of a 1950s-era diner. From the first page where Bacon admires himself in the back of a spoon, kids will giggle as Bacon takes pictures with equally cute Hotdog, Chicken Leg, Pickle, Garlic, and Jalapeño, leads a citrus parade complete with paper cocktail umbrellas, and plays the ukulele for swooning tater tots, French fries, and curly fries. But as the other foods grow sad and disgruntled with Bacon’s attitude—even brandishing fancy toothpicks—kids will understand and empathize with these forgotten friends. When Bacon meets his fate on the last page, readers are sure to fork over a howl of surprise.

Ages 3 – 6

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374300524

To learn more about Kelly Dipucchio and her books, visit her website!

All-American Breakfast Month Activity

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Amazin’ Bacon Maze

 

There’s some tasty bacon sizzling in the center of this frying pan-shaped maze. Can you find your way through this printable Amazin’ Bacon Maze to eat it up? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 16 – National Personal Chef Day

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About the Holiday

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

The Bake Shop Ghost

Written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn | Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 -9

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

National Personal Chef Day Activity

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

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

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

Vanilla Cupcakes

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

Vanilla Bean Frosting

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

Directions

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

Additional Notes

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

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

Picture Book Review

May 17 – World Baking Day

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About the Holiday

This may be the most delicious day of the year! Established to share the enjoyment—and scrumptious results—of homemade breads, cookies, cakes, pies…. (Yum! I’m getting hungry just typing this sentence!) …World Baking Day encourages people to try their hand at mixing up a new or favorite recipe. As this is a worldwide holiday, you may consider baking something from another country or from your heritage. With so many cookbooks and online recipe sites available, it’s easy to find—and make—the perfect treat!

The Case of the Stinky Stench

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

The fridge is full and the denizens happy. Even former rivals Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are enjoying a sweet vacation together at the Marshmallow Coast. But wait! Who is that strange, half-moon shape rushing “past Trifle Tower” and “across Taco Bridge”? It’s none other than Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, with a disturbing message. “‘Uncle,’ Croissant said, ‘the fridge is in trouble! / A horrible stench turned a whole shelf to rubble! / I’m the last hope, or the fridge will be lost! / Help me, or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-marshmallow-coast

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just as he says this, the facts begin to stink for themselves, and French Toast pledges his help. It’s a do or die case for Croissant it seems, as he’s “solved zero cases since getting this job.” Lady Pancake decides the perp is Baron von Waffle and suggests the three pay him a visit. They quietly enter Onion Ring Cave, and Croissant confronts von Waffle. “‘What do you know about smells that are vicious?’ / ‘Nothing!’ said Waffle. ‘My home smells delicious.’” And he’s right; there’s nothing nose-worthy here. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast and Inspector Croissant leave the cave only to find that the odor has worsened. They follow some tater tots playing nearby to a red curry dish, where an okra divulges an intriguing clue about “a stinky red fish / who lurks at the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake,’” but in his rush to investigate, Croissant trips “by Miss Steak” and goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-von-waffle

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Back on his feet, the intrepid detective and his side-kicks find a sardine-can boat and row across Corn Chowder Lake until they find the “red herring.” They’re convinced that they’ve “unraveled this stinky affair,” but rowing closer, they catch a tantalizing scent instead of a treacherous one. Lady Pancake is ready to give up, but not Inspector Croissant. He sticks his nose in the air and concludes that the smell hails from Casserole Cliff.

When they get to the cliff, they discover a shriveled up mess. The veggies are soft and the fruit a bit rotten, but Inspector Croissant sees the cause of the trouble—“a moldy old fruitcake from eight months ago!” The three are mulling how to get rid of this putrid pest when the fruitcake shares his story, which is all too familiar. The cake confesses that he came to the fridge as a fresh, yummy treat but was left there uneaten to mold and to reek.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-tater-tots

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

The inspector understands a few things about food, and as he leads the sad culprit away from the cliff, he explains, “Everyone knows fruitcakes never go stale.” With careful trimming they clean up the cake. Soon the fruitcake is back to his delectable self and has attracted the attention of softhearted Miss Brie while the other foods welcome him back with good cheer and a party to boot.

With the case solved, kids are invited to join the swingingest party in town. As “Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes,” fill the fridge with music, the residents jiggle, wiggle, and dance with abandon across a two-page spread. A fold-down page presents a map that lets readers follow the action from Taco Bridge to Onion Ring Cave to Casserole Cliff and all the stops in between.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-onion-cave

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just reading the first line of The Case of the Stinky Stench with its familiar, exuberant rhythm, I caught a smile creeping across my face as I anticipated the story to come. This sequel to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is a cool, fresh take on the mystery genre for little detectives in the—dare I say?—baking. The most delicious part of The Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is Funk’s freewheeling imagination that comes to fruition in the expanse of that well-stocked refrigerator’s shelves. Clever rhymes, laugh-inducing puns, a whole stew—I mean slew—of fantastic words, and even a red herring await readers. Of course, old nemesis Baron von Waffle makes an appearance, and the introduction of the forgotten fruitcake shows kids that everyone deserves a second chance.

Brendan Kearney recreates the magic of this chef’s-delight of a refrigerator in full, vivid color and with the most adorable foods ever. Pink and white marshmallows, half-moon tacos, muffins, candy, cookies, and gummy bears all wear cute smiles, as they help Inspector Croissant. Even when the odor becomes overwhelming, the bottles, jars, fruit, and veggies sport endearing frowns. Rambunctious tater tots, hot chili peppers, and a steak-and-fries combo, join the fun. Kids will find ingenious details and visual jokes on every page, and will wish their refrigerators were half as exciting as the home of Lady Pancake and French Toast.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454919605

Discover the world of Josh Funk, his books, and activities for kids on his website!

View a gallery of illustration work and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

It’s no mystery that you’ll enjoy The Case of the Stinky Stench book trailer!

World Baking Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cinnamon-croissants

Bite-size Cinnamon Croissants

 

These mini cinnamon croissants are the perfect accompaniment to cup of tea and a great story! And they’re so easy that kids will love making them as much as they enjoy eating them!

Supplies

  • Tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, or to the temperature on the package of crescent rolls
  2. Open the tube of crescent rolls and lay them on a cutting board. Do Not separate the rolls
  3. With the rolling pin, roll the dough until it makes one sheet
  4. Measure ¼ cup sugar into the mixing bowl
  5. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or desired amount) to the sugar and stir together until well mixed
  6. Spread a layer of butter over the surface of the dough
  7. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar across the dough. Use more or less depending on how much cinnamon flavor you like
  8. Cut the dough into triangles about two to three inches wide at the base
  9. Roll the triangles up, starting at the base. Looser rolls make flakier croissants
  10. Place the croissants on a baking sheet and curve them into a crescent shape
  11. Bake the croissants at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden on top
  12. Let cool
  13. Enjoy!

Picture Book Review

May 6 – Join Hands Day

Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted to foster better communication between the older and younger generations and to recognize the ways that all people, no matter what their age, can help each other. Many communities use this day to begin a dialogue between their elderly and their youth, getting young people involved in visiting care centers and older adults helping out at schools and other youth programs. Another great way to celebrate is for grandparents and grandkids to spend the day together!

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids—his granddaughter and two grandsons. The kids are excited to be visiting their grandpa where they can play outside all day long. On this particular day, however, rain spatters the windows, and the kids are disappointed: “Whimper, sigh, / cloudy sky, / is it too wet to play? / We don’t want to stay inside / because of rain today.” But their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he suggests.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-picking-vegetables

Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Out to the garden they run in their raincoats and hats. “Splish, splash, / puddle dash, / We bounce right out the door. / We’re off to find some red and green, / some yellow, orange, and more. / Grandpa shows us how to move / Between each garden row. / Lifting up the drippy leaves, /  we see what colors grow.” They collect green spinach, kale, and zucchini; yellow peppers, purple cabbage and eggplant, red radishes and tomatoes; brown potatoes; and orange carrots. After some muddy fun among the plants, the kids go inside, get dried off, and begin to prepare their colorful stew.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-playing-between-the-rows

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Peel, slice / chop and dice, / colors fill the pot. / Stir in herbs and water / and then wait till it gets hot.” While the pot simmers on the stove, Grandpa and the kids snuggle on the couch with favorite books, reading together until the stew has simmered to perfection. The family then sits down to a homemade, colorful, delicious lunch of Rainbow Stew. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-playing-cooking-together

Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels, offering opportunities for learning as well as playing. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store. The rhyming verses each begin with an energetic couplet that kids will enjoy repeating or acting out. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables, and young readers may enjoy matching the vegetables to items in the kitchen, living room, and more. 

Children will identify with the disappointment of the three siblings when they learn it’s too wet to spend the day outside as well as their glee at squishing in the mud. The close bond between the kids and their grandfather as they cook and read together is a strong anchor for this story and promotes early literacy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-reading-together

Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Reading Rainbow Stew, preparing the delicious dish, and doing the puzzle below makes for a fun rainy – or sunny – day!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476

Learn more about Cathryn Falwell and her books and art on her website!

To discover more about Rainbow Stew as well as activities to accompany the book, head over to rainbowstewbook.com!

Join Hands Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Give Me Your Hand Interchangeable Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

April 21 – It’s Celebrate Diversity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ugly-dumpling-cover

About the Holiday

The month of April is set aside for people to recognize and appreciate the varied cultures and beliefs around the world. Instead of finding division and differences, we should celebrate the beauty and wonder of our multifaceted planet. This month offers a great opportunity to discover ways to incorporate acceptance and inclusiveness throughout your life.

The Ugly Dumpling

Written by Stephani Campisi | Illustrated by Shahar Kober

 

“Once upon a time, perhaps last week, or even last night, at your local dim sum restaurant…there was an ugly dumpling.” Sure, you might think all dumplings are ugly, but we’re talking about one particular ugly dumpling. It tried all sorts of tricks to make itself more attractive, but it still remained lonely and uneaten. It sat dejected until a cockroach traversing the kitchen caught sight of it and immediately fell in love.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ugly-dumpling-interior-art-dim-sum-restaurant

Image copyright Shahar Kober, text copyright Stephani Campisi. Courtesy of Mighty Media Press.

The cockroach “reached out an arm. (Or a leg)” toward the dumpling and offered to show it the beauty of the world. Together they traveled to cities near and far, experiencing them through culinary lenses—stacked-plate skyscrapers, piled-dishes skylines, and chopstick bridges that took them over flour mountains and folded-napkin peaks. Then, in a certain restaurant, the dumpling saw something astonishing! Not only one, but two, three, four, and more dumplings just like itself!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ugly-dumpling-trying-to-fit-in

Image copyright Shahar Kober, text copyright Stephani Campisi. Courtesy of Mighty Media Press.

Suddenly the ugly dumpling realized that it was not a dumpling at all, but a “steamed bun—a golden-hearted, smooth-skinned steamed bun, exactly like all the other steamed buns in the world.” The ugly dumpling puffed with meaning, importance, and…yeast! The restaurant patrons and staff and even the other steamed buns took notice. The cockroach by the ugly dumpling’s side cheered to see its friend receiving so much attention.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ugly-dumpling-roach

Image copyright Shahar Kober, text copyright Stephani Campisi. Courtesy of Mighty Media Press.

The people’s wide eyes and astonished expressions were not for the dumpling, however. Instead, they registered horror at the insect in their midst. The ugly dumpling was familiar with that look and did “something quite beautiful. It reached out an arm. (Or a leg.) And it led the cockroach out into the world, The beautiful, beautiful world.” And in that moment the ugly dumpling realized that it “was not like all the other steamed buns after all” and that “perhaps that was a good thing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ugly-dumpling-leaving-together

Image copyright Shahar Kober, text copyright Stephani Campisi. Courtesy of Mighty Media Press.

Stephani Campisi’s The Ugly Dumpling is a fresh and delectable dish-up of the classic Ugly Duckling story for a new audience. Stuffed with charm and off-beat humor, this tale of friendship and diversity embraces all who feel at odds with their environment—with or without the recognition of why. Its sweet and insightful ending emphasizes the idea that finding your niche does not always mean fitting in with a certain crowd, and that having the courage to strike out on your own path leads to beautiful relationships and personal happiness.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ugly-dumpling-different-dumplings

Image copyright Shahar Kober, text copyright Stephani Campisi. Courtesy of Mighty Media Press.

Shahar Kober’s dumpling is anything but “ugly.” His adorable puffed dough, lonely and ignored for not adhering to the mold, will melt readers’ hearts as he tries anything and everything—including green pleated pants—to fit in. Kobar’s stylish drawings are the perfect underscore to Stephani Campisi’s quick, dry wit—as in his rendition of three uglier-than-the-next dumplings—and if cockroaches were really as cute as Kober’s, we’d all set out a different kind of Roach Motel. A clever bit of typography transforms steam coming from a wok into the word HISS, and the restaurant scenes will make readers hungry for their favorite Asian eatery.

As readers turn to the last pages and watch the steamed bun and the cockroach leave the restaurant hand in hand (foot in foot?) under the shade of a paper umbrella, they will want to turn back to the beginning and start over again. The Ugly Dumpling is a must read and a wonderful addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 9

Mighty Media, 2016 | ISBN 978-1938063671

Get to know more about Stephanie Campisi and her work on her website!

To view a gallery of art by Shahar Kober for books, magazines, animation, and more, visit his website!

Check out the Mighty Media Press website for more about The Ugly Dumpling and a-dough-able coloring pages!

Take a look at the trailer for The Ugly Dumpling!

Celebrate Diversity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dumpling plush craft

Embrace Your Inner Dumpling Plush

 

We are all beautiful “dumplings” in one way or another! With this easy craft you can create a huggable friend and show others what you’re made of!

Supplies

  • Square piece of cloth in any fabric and color. Size of plush depends on size of cloth (the plushes shown are made from 18”-square cotton fabric)
  • Poly fill (the plushes shown use about 1 1/8 ounces of fill)
  • White cloth for eyes and mouth
  • Twine or string
  • Fabric glue

Directions

  1. Cut the corners from the square cloth to make a circular piece of cloth
  2. Fill the middle with poly fill
  3. Pull the edges of the cloth up and around the fill
  4. Tie the top closed with the twine or string
  5. To make the face, cut small circles and a mouth from the white cloth
  6. Smooth out a section of the dumpling body
  7. Glue the face to the body with fabric glue

Picture Book Review