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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

February 25 – Clam Chowder Day

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About the Holiday

Today we laud that cozy concoction of clams, onion, and potatoes that creates a warm, satisfied feeling in the tummy and is the perfect antidote to winter’s chill. Whether you like New England style clam chowder with its rich, creamy base or the lighter tomato-based Manhattan version, this delicious soup is sure to hit the spot!

Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook

Recipes by Gary Goss | Illustrated by Jane Dyer

 

“Beautiful Soup, so rich and green, / Waiting in a hot tureen! / Who for such dainties would not stoop? / Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!” With these words from Lewis Carroll, Blue Moon Soup introduces 33 delectable soup recipes plus some extras to go with them all wrapped up in the comfort and splendor of a picture book. The clever names of the soups will have kids giggling and eager to try such intriguing dishes as Twist & Shout, Polka Dot Soup, Bouncy, Bouncy Ball Soup, Squish-Squash Soup, and Funny Face Soup.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Categorized by seasons, these soups make use of familiar as well as more unusual ingredients while sprinkling in kid-inspired surprises like the ice cream in Believe It or Not! Soup, which is a yummy alternative to the usual frozen version of this favorite treat. Hey, Hey Soup, a “hot and jazzy sweet potato soup named after a great jazz club in Kansas City,” incorporates the flavors of curry while on top floats a chocolate garnish.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

A few offerings from Winter are Ch-Ch-Chili; Brrroccoli Soup au Gratin; Hot Diggity Dog Soup, a tasty minestrone with a hot dog addition; and Sob Soup, an onion soup that will have you crying with joy. Spring brings (No) Duck Soup, a lentil pleaser; Soup of the Evening, a sophisticated feta cheese and spinach dish; Sweet Dreams Soup made from carrots; and Abracadabra, a soup with more than a little magic.

Summer’s active days are perfect for a quick lunch or dinner, and Best Buddy Soup of tomatoes and oranges is a fast goodie to cook—and share. Fruit makes another appearance in You Can’t Elope, made from—you guessed it—cantaloupe, and if you like to bask in the sun, you may love Bisque in the Sun, a creamy pool complete with a couple of shrimp. Before winter rolls around again, Fall drops with veggie-inspired soups made of potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, squash, and peas.

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Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

And what about our honored soup of the day—clam chowder? That’s here too in Fish Soup, garnished with goldfish crackers.

An Extra, Extra, Eat All About It! final chapter provides recipes for banana bread, corn muffins, salad, guacamole, nachos, and other delicious sides that make a well-rounded meal. Front matter gives a list of supplies, rules for working in the kitchen, and directions for setting a table.

Gary Goss, former owner of the Soup Kitchen Restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts knows about soup and kids and what they like. In his Letter from the Chef that opens Blue Moon Soup, Goss talks about the warm, cozy feelings and good memories “soup day” creates and offers tips for making the cooking experience with kids easy and fun. Most recipes call for ingredients usually found in kitchens or easily picked up at the market and have fewer than ten steps to prepare them—steps that kids will enjoy helping with.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blue-moon-soup-garden-soup

Image copyright Jane Dyer, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Jane Dyer’s gorgeous illustrations populated with attentive fish waiters; lamb and lion best friends; a duck and ducklings fishing from the rim of a huge bowl; rabbits serving gazpacho; a cow, cat and, dog jazz trio; and more open each seasonal chapter and introduce some recipes. Each page is also peppered with adorable images of personified vegetables dancing, playing, cooking, and lounging that will charm little chefs as they help in the kitchen. Families may even find themselves making up stories about the characters in the book while the soup simmers.

Blue Moon Soup, a multi-award winning book, would make a delicious and often-consulted addition to anyone’s collection of cookbooks and a wonderful way to introduce kids to the art of cooking.

Ages 7 and up

Sky Pony Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1620879900

Discover more about Jane Dyer and a gallery of her well-loved children’s books on her website!

Clam Chowder Day Activity

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Souper Word Search Puzzle

Find the names of 20 ingredients in this tasty printable Souper Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

February 11 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to get out your favorite recipes, gather yummy ingredients, and bake with your kids! Not only does baking together teach valuable cooking skills, but it can bring a family closer. Talk about old family recipes and find new favorites. Of course the best part of baking together is eating the delicious treats afterward!

Baking Day at Grandma’s

Written by Anika Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Three little cubs bundle up in their winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens and head out over the snowy hills to Grandma’s for baking day. Soon they see “past the pond so smooth and clear / little cottage drawing near.” A knock on Grandma’s door brings her closer, and when she opens the door the trio give her a kiss before entering the snug home.

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

After warming their toes by the fire, the young bears grab the cookbook, a mixing bowl, a spoon, and a whisk because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” As her little bakers stand on chairs to reach the table, Grandma passes out aprons and reads the recipe. Happily crowded around the bowl, the cubs with “wooden spoon and measuring cup, / mix the batter; stir it up. / Fold it gently in the pan, / lick the spoon because we can.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

While they wait for their treats to bake, Grandma pours tummy-warming mugs of hot chocolate and one little bear draws a smiley face on the frosty window for a little chickadee to see. Grandma puts a record on her old Victrola, and as she sings the “soft and sweet skippy notes,” the cubs tap their feet. At last the kitchen timer rings, and the little bears dance arm in arm because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!”

The chocolate goodies pop from the pan, and with icing and sprinkles are ready to be wrapped and tied with a red ribbon. Other treats get pretty bags, “each one marked with little tags.” The cubs are also bundled nice and warm, and with final hugs for Grandma, they are soon “Walking home under the moon. / Back to visit Grandma soon.”

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-baking-day-at-grandma's-music

Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

Anika Denise’s sweet, rhyming story is as heartwarming as a cozy kitchen on a cold day. The buoyant rhythm is a joy to read, and Denise’s infectious repeated verse, “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” invites little ones to join in the story. The bond between the three cubs and their grandma is full of love and hugs, and just like the young bears, readers will want to return again and again to Grandma’s house.

Christopher Denise infuses his winter landscapes and Grandma’s house with rich, warm colors that welcome readers into this special family baking day. The three cubs, wrapped in green coats and red knit caps, march with their sled over brilliant white snowy hills between their house and Grandma’s tidy log cabin. Inside, the rooms glow with golden sunshine, and it’s easy to see why the cubs love their attentive grandma so as she gently guides them in baking.

Newly available as a board book, Baking Day at Grandma’s is a book that young children will love to hear over and over at story time, naptime, or bedtime. It would also make an appreciated gift to or from a grandmother.

Ages 2 – 5

Philomel Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399171574 (board book) / 978-0399242441 (hardcover)

Learn more about Anika Denise and her books and find Reader Engagement and Activity Kits on her website!

Discover the illustrated world of Christopher Denise on his website!

Spend time baking with Grandma with this sweet book trailer!

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection 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

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to give parents, grandparents, and caregivers a nudge to step back and look at our children and grandchildren as the unique individuals they are. Each child has a special personality and innate talents that combine to make them who they are. Today, celebrate each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life!

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-stirring-batter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466

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

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

Star Bright Books publishes fiction nonfiction, and bilingual “great books for great kids” and provides literacy resources for readers.

Celebration of Life Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

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

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

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

Picture Book Review

December 18 – Bake Cookies Day

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About the Holiday

Winter and the holiday season just doesn’t seem right without cookies. Baking those traditional morsels passed down from generation to generation makes the house smell yummy, creates family bonds, and provides delicious gifts for parties, neighbors, friends, and even you! To celebrate, bake up a batch or two of your favorite cookies, and discover fascinating facts in today’s book!

The Way the Cookie Crumbled

Written by Jody Jenson Shaffer | Illustrated by Kelly Kennedy

 

You might love lemon cookies, chomp chocolate chip cookies, and munch macaroons, but do you know where cookies came from or their perhaps less-than-delicious beginnings? Well, one of our fav snacks most likely got its start on a hot rock around 10,000 years ago. Ingenious farmers created a paste of wheat and water and baked this concoction by the heat of the sun. Convenient? Sure! Tasty? Maybe not so much.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

Fast forward to the 600s and the Persians began making improvements to the recipe. “They added things like eggs, butter, cream, fruit, honey, and eventually sugar. By this time hot rocks had been replaced by clay ovens. But the temperature was hard to determine, so “bakers dropped a bit of batter in them as a test.” While the batter went on to be used for cakes, these “tiny test cakes became treats themselves—what we would now call cookies.”

As time went by and people began traveling more, new ingredients, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered deer horns were introduced. Wait!…What? That’s right…ground up deer horns were used like baking powder and baking soda are used today to make baked goods rise. It wasn’t until 1850 that those conveniences came around; and not until the early 1900s that ovens and refrigerators made baking and storing foods easier.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

English and Dutch immigrants brought these hand-held treats to America, and while everyone enjoyed them, during the Revolutionary War Americans didn’t want anything to do with British things. This might have been when we adopted the word “cookie” instead of the English “biscuit.” Whatever they were called, though, they were still mostly made in home kitchens. That changed when a New York company imported machines to make crackers in factories and cookie companies followed suit.

But why are cookies so popular at this time of year? It seems that long, long ago, fruit and nuts were considered party food. I know, right? As time went on people rethought their party platters, and cookies won out. Even Queen Elizabeth I got in on the fun, having “gingerbread men made in the shape of her favorite advisors. Sweet!” Of course, she’s not the only famous person to get special cookies—how about that jolly old elf in the red suit? You’ll have to read the book to see how that tradition got started. Let’s just say that around the same time, another tradition took off—that of putting chocolate chips in cookie batter.

Of course cookies kept evolving by adding different flavors, changing shapes, including filling and in other ways. Today, stores shelves and bakeries are loaded with a vast variety of cookies, and home bakers are inventing new recipes all the time. Cookies are favorites the world over, and lucky for us they have a very bright future!

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

After becoming a “history of fun stuff expert on cookies,” readers can learn even more with pages dedicated to traditional cookies from around the world, the science behind baking cookies, and of course a recipe. There’s even a quiz so kids can test their newly acquired knowledge.

In her History of Fun Stuff: The Way the Cookie Crumbled early reader, Jody Jensen Shaffer introduces kids to the fascinating origins of one of their favorite snack foods. With tidbits sure to amaze and even raise giggles, Shaffer reveals not only the history of cookies, but facts on the development of cooking, the changes in baking methods, and the beginnings of automation. Her breezy, conversational style is perfectly aimed at her young audience, and the inclusion of facts on well-known favorites makes history relatable, relevant, and entertaining.

Kelly Kennedy infuses her cartoon-inspired illustrations with humor and realism to creatively depict the concepts in the text. Her full and half-page vibrant and dynamic scenes of people baking in various types of ovens, shopping for ingredients, selling cookies, and more excellently bridge the transition from picture books to chapter books for developing readers. Images of clay ovens, Colonial homes, early-model refrigerators, factory assembly lines, and others bring the text to life is ways that kids respond to.

For developing independent readers or as a read-to for kids interested in history, baking, and the origins of one of their favorite snacks, The Way the Cookie Crumbled dishes up a winning gift or addition to a child’s library.

Ages 6 – 8

Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481461801

To learn more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her other books, visit her blog!

A gallery of illustration work for kids and adults as well as video awaits at Kelly Kennedy’s website!

Bake Cookies Day Activity

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Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages

 

It’s fun to whip up a recipe together and then enjoy the results! With these two printable Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages, you can do both!

Boy and girl baking together | Delicious baked cookies

Picture Book Review