June 5 – Sausage Roll Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that party-platter and food-on-the-go favorite—the sausage roll, aka Pigs in a Blanket. Whether you make these with homemade sausage, full-size hot dogs, or tiny hot dogs, the flaky, buttery “blanket” makes it a little culinary luxury.  Why not bake up a batch for lunch or dinner tonight and serve them with your favorite sides? 

Pigs and a Blanket

By James Burks

 

A cute piglet loves her blanket sooo much; her brother loves his blanket sooooo much more! Henrietta loves the way her blanket smells. Henry loves the way his blanket feels. Henrietta reads with her blanket, while Henry draws under his.

Henry also creates hills in his blanket to zoom his monster trucks over while his sister uses hers as a backdrop for the fierce dinosaur movie she’s filming. The movie-making gives way to dancing because Henrietta loves to pirouette with her blanket. But wait a minute! The trucks have just gone off-blanket!! What’s happening?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pigs-and-a-blanket-playing-with-blanket

Copyright James Burks, 2016, courtesy of jamesburks.com

And—“Hey!”—mid-twirl, that familiar green cloth suddenly becomes a cape catching the wind behind Henry’s superhero personae. One blanket between two kids? Henrietta tugs on one end: “Stop pulling on my blanket!” Henry yanks on the other end: “Stop pulling on MY blanket!!” The tug-of-war rages until “RRRIIIPPPPP!”

Henry retreats to one corner and half-heartedly pushes around his monster trucks on his part of the blanket while glancing over to the other corner where Henrietta has unenthusiastically resumed her movie making on her half. Maybe drawing and reading will be better. But no, not really. That separated blanket isn’t nearly as cozy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pigs-and-a-blanket-playing-with-toys

Copyright James Burks, 2016, courtesy of jamesburks.com

The siblings move a little closer and shyly smile at each other. Maybe they can make up. “I missed you,” Henrietta confesses. “I missed you more,” Henry answers, placing a red checker on the board she’s brought over. The day is brightening in their playroom scattered with toys and art supplies. And as night falls, the two have cleverly reunited just in time for sleeping.

James Burks’ charming Pigs and a Blanket captures perfectly the vacillating relationship of siblings. Kids will recognize and appreciate the sentiments in this simple, honest story. While this sister and brother have separate interests and quarrel over a shared blanket, the truth is they love being together, and when the blanket no longer binds them, they soon realize life is much less rich.

Burks’ illustrations of the piglet siblings are adorable and expressive, registering the fortunes and misfortunes of an afternoon of play with joy, consternation, regret, sadness, and reconciliation. The book’s design makes excellent use of the two-page spreads. The sister plays with her blanket on the left-hand page, while her brother plays with his on the right. The blanket ingeniously disappears into the center of the pages, creating a smart, Ah-ha moment when Henrietta twirls it away from Henry. Likewise, after the blanket is torn apart, the once full-page illustrations are replaced with mostly white space as the two kids play alone and disconnected. As they move to restore their friendship, the white space lessens until it is again filled with love.

Pigs and a Blanket would be a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf to be reread at those times when getting along with siblings—or friends—seems hard.

Ages 2 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484725238

Discover more about James Burks, his books, and his art on his website!

Sausage Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crescent-rolls-recipe-pillsbury

Crescent Dogs Recipe courtesy of pillsbury.com

Pigs-in-a-Blanket Recipe

These snack, lunch, or dinner goodies are easy-peasy—and tasty too! They’re also great for getting kids involved in the kitchen. The simple steps are just right for little hands. This recipe from Pillsbury can be used with full-sized hot dogs or with mini hot dogs.  

Remember: always supervise young children when eating hot dogs. Babies and toddlers without their back molars should avoid hot dogs. For children under 4 years old, hot dogs should be sliced into quarters lengthwise and then cut into small pieces. For Guidelines on serving hot dogs to young children visit Our Everyday Life.

Ingredients

  • 8 hot dogs
  • 4 slices (3/4 oz each) American cheese, each cut into 6 strips
  • 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Slit hot dogs to within 1/2 inch of ends; insert 3 strips of cheese into each slit.
  2. Separate dough into triangles. Wrap dough triangle around each hot dog. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, cheese side up.
  3. Bake at 375°F. for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Picture Book Review

May 28 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

If I Had a Gryphon

Written by Vikki VanSickle | Illustrated by Cale Atkinson

 

Sam gazes at her first pet—a hamster—as he slumbers on his bed of shavings. She’s a little disappointed because mostly all he does is eat, sleep, and hide. She snuggles into her reading chair with a cup of tea and a book of mythical creatures and thinks: “If only I could have a pet / With strange, exotic powers, / I know that I’d find lots to do / To while away the hours.” She considers having a unicorn whose mane she could braid and who she could ride through fields of posies, then remembers that “Unicorns are pretty, / but they’re also very shy. / On second thought, I’d like to give a hippogriff a try.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam plans to take her hippogriff to the dog park to “run and jump and fetch” and “to give his wings a stretch.” Considering it again, though, she realizes that the dogs may find a hippogriff scary and that “when it comes to playing ball, / Well, things could get quite hairy.” Instead, she decides to get a sasquatch “with burly, curly fur,” but then she remembers all the time she’d spend brushing out the tangles. A gryphon with “flashing feathers” sounds better until she thinks how she’d have to fly it every day “regardless of the weather.”

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

A kraken would be an unique pet, but to survive the cold, wet depths while playing with it she’d need a scuba suit. A warmer companion might be a dragon, although she thinks with its “temperamental snout / I’d need a fire extinguisher / to put her sneezes out.” A kirin could be a possibility, although it “needs a field of grass / At least an ocean wide” to keep it happy; and a jackalope, while cute, is much, much, much too hoppy.

A phoenix might be an enduring pet, but it “needs a chimney nest / That’s smoke and fire proof” while a “Manticore needs special floss / For EACH and EVERY tooth.” There are oh so many creatures to contemplate—from harpies and chupacabras to fairies and kelpies to basilisks and sprites—but each is problematic in its own way.

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Image copyright Cale Atkinson, text copyright Vikki VanSickle. Courtesy of Tundra Books

Sam takes another look at the adorable hamster in its cage and reconsiders: “He may not be a gryphon, / Or a creature from the sea, / But I am his and he is mine / And that’s enough for me.”

Vikki VanSickle’s entertaining rhymes frolic, gallop, and prance through her encyclopedic array of fantastic beasts. Her young readers will be delighted that the fun of an imaginary menagerie is not just for the older set and will eagerly await each newly considered pet. VanSickle includes all the favorite mystical creatures, plus fascinating new ones that will spark kids’ imaginations and have them scrambling to find out more about them. The juxtaposition of attractive and less so traits of each possible pet adds a nip of humor to the verses that will make kids giggle. Sam’s ultimate realization that her hamster is the perfect companion is a sweet ending that reaffirms readers’ own relationship with their pets.

Cale Atkinson’s Sam is already a dreamer when she acquires her hamster. Her mug of tea sports a picture of a narwhal, her bookmark is a paper-thin dragon, and the book of Mythological Creatures that she consults is already well-thumbed. As the little girl with the square-rimmed glasses contemplates each creature as pet, Atkinson presents an illustration that is both humorous and beautiful. The hippogriff with its bird legs in front and horse legs in back is a gorgeous hue of blue, but it’s expressive reaction to seeing the dogs at the park as well as its enthusiasm to play along also causes the dogs to hide behind a tree. The sasquatch is a cutie, but he also snarls Sam’s bike and bed, trees, road signs, and a dog in its thick brown hair. And a turquoise dragon may shimmer with lovely scales, but it also chars walls and furniture. Despite its apparent sloth, Sam’s hamster actually is the perfect pet—besides, he might have a secret identity of his own!

If I Had a Griffin is a fun romp through a mystical realm of pets that kids will love to hear again and again. The book would be a welcome addition to kids’ bookshelves, especially if they have older siblings enjoying that other series that features magical creatures!

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1770498099

To learn more about Vikki VanSickle and her books as well as to download an If I Had a Gryphon Activity Guide and coloring page, visit her website!

National Pet Month Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Treats

 

Pets love it when you do something special for them! Here’s a recipe for homemade dog biscuits that will taste even better than store-bought because they’re made with love! Making dog biscuits is a fun way to spend time together and benefit furry friends. These biscuits make tasty treats for your own pet, or consider making a batch to donate to your local animal shelter. This recipe is easy and proven to be a favorite.

Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, 1 Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits

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.’”

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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.

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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

April 19 – Banana Day

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About the Holiday

It seems people are somewhat split on this most appealing holiday—is it a day for enjoying the tasty tropical fruit or a day for goofing off? Why not do both?! Bananas offer plenty of nutrition and flavor in their own tidy, take-along package, and they’ve been the subject of humorous skits as long as people have been tossing the peels to the ground. Today, grab a bunch and head out to have some fun at a park, playground, shoreline, or even back deck near you!  

Bananas in My Ears: A Collection of Nonsense Stories, Poems, Riddles, and Rhymes

Written by Michael Rosen | Illustrated by Quentin Blake

 

Things may go from the ridiculous to the sublime or from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the rhymes, stories, poems, and jokes in this collection are both ridiculous and sublime. Divided into four sections—The Breakfast Book, The Seaside Book, The Doctor Book, and The Bedtime Book—these bite-sized tales will nibble at your funny bone.

Each book includes six to seven short pieces that humorously reveal the inner workings of familial and community relationships. Recurring titles “What if…,” “Things We Say,” and “Nat and Anna” sibling stories tie the books together. The tone for Bananas in My Ears is set with aplomb in the very first offering, “Breakfast Time,” which reveals the chaos of early morning with its spilled milk, banging trash cans, pets on the table, school clothes ruined, and “I think I’m going crazy!” shenanigans. 

“What If…” (Breakfast Book) combines kids’ natural penchant for rhyming with their unbounded imagination and a bit of stream-of-consciousness to boot. Just as a little boy is to bite into a piece of toast, he has this thought: “What if / a piece of toast turned into a piece of ghost / just as you were eating it / and you thought you were going to sink your / teeth into a lovely crunchy piece of hot toast / and butter and instead this cold wet feeling / jumps into your mouth / going, / ‘Whoooooooooooooooooooo!’ / right down into your stomach…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Adding speech bubbles and expressive art to commonly used phrases in “Things We Say” transforms throw-off lines like “My hair’s a mess,” “Look what I found,” “You can’t lie there all morning,” and “Now what seems to be the trouble?” into self-deprecating humor all can relate to.

Four stories of Nat and his older sister Anna zero in on particular moments that illuminate the sibling relationship, At once opposed and in sync, Nat and Anna negotiate moments in which Anna is put in charge of watching Nat at breakfast with topsy-turvy results; a frightening story that Anna tells Nat about jellyfish somehow backfires; a trip to the doctor turns into a competition about future professions; and a “who’s-on-first” type banter allows Anna to enjoy some alone time.

“Three Girls” is a clever take on outwitting-an-ogre tales. Three girls walking on the beach come across a cave. One girl goes in and “sees a pile of gold sitting on the rocks, so she thinks, ‘Yippee, gold, all for me!’ And she steps forward to pick it up and a great big voice booms out ‘I’m the ghost of Captain Cox. All that gold stays on the rocks.’” Afraid, she runs out of the cave. The second girl is braver. She enters the cave, sees the gold, hears the same booming voice and is also chased away. Undeterred, the third girl walks into the cave, sees the gold, and hears the booming voice of Captain Cox. Instead of running away, however, she says, “‘I don’t care. I’m the ghost of Davy Crocket, and all that gold goes in my pocket.’” With her treasure secured she hightails it out to join her friends.

Among other fun stories in this volume are: “These Two Children,” with a lively recitation of familiar bedtime routines; “Fooling Around,” that offers light rhymes on children’s names; and another “What If” (the Breakfast Book) that will have kids cracking up —“What if / hard-boiled eggs turned into hard-boiled legs / just when your dad was eating his egg / and he says, / ‘Hey, what’s this?’…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Michael Rosen understands, as kids do, that sometimes nonsense makes perfect sense and that even the commonplace is quite absurd when you think about it. This collection of witticisms is sure to resonate with children. Just hand a child this book and get ready for giggles—and, oh yes, adults will chuckle too.

In his colorful pen and ink drawings the inimitable Quentin Blake enlivens each piece with rakish kids, wide-eyed parents, sloppy messes, bouncing, jumping joy, and all the silliness that contributes to having a great day. “An accident waiting to happen” doesn’t begin to describe the bedlam ensuing in “What Happens Next?” as each character and object is set up to play their part in an oh-so-human game of dominoes. Kids will love seeing themselves and the world around them so candidly drawn, and adults will appreciate the whimsical sophistication of the same.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763662486

Banana Day Activity

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Banana Banana Bread recipe, courtesy of allrecipes.com.

Banana Banana Bread

 

How can you go wrong with a recipe that includes so many bananas they have to be listed twice in the name? You can’t! This simple, yet delicious banana bread from Allrecipes satisfies the munchies at breakfast or snack time! Try it toasted—you’ll be sure to cheer B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Click here to begin enjoying Allrecipes Banana Banana Bread.

Picture Book Review

April 2 – Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

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About the Holiday

Those Aztecs! Is there nothing they couldn’t invent? Culinary aficionados from kindergarten to gourmet chefs have the Aztecs to thank for peanut butter—that smooth (or chunky, or super chunky) concoction that is perfect by itself or as an ingredient in complex dishes. The Aztecs created their version by grounding roasted peanuts into a paste.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are thought to have originated during the American Civil War, when soldiers combined their peanut butter ration with their jelly ration and slathered it all on bread. After the war peanut butter sales skyrocketed as everyone discovered what a delicious and nutritious delight this simple meal was. To celebrate today, make yourself a PB & J sandwich!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale

Written by Joe McGee | Illustrated by Charles Santoso

 

Reginald was surrounded by culinary boredom. All “the other zombies wanted brains for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” but Reginald really dug peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The people of Quirkville weren’t too keen on the zombies’ preferred meal either. Whenever the zombies lumbered through town groaning “BRAINSSSSS,” everyone ran away screaming.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-brains-reginald-hungry

Image copyright Charles Santoso, text copyright Joe McGee. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

Poor Reginald didn’t join the herd. His stomach was too rumbly and grumbly, “and all he could do was dream about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. ‘Sweet jelly…,’ moaned Reginald. ‘Sticky peanut butter…’” Sakes alive! The other zombies couldn’t understand. “‘No BRAINSSSSS?’” they asked. Reginald tried to explain how delicious peanut butter and jelly was, but the other zombies wouldn’t listen.

Reginald tried to satisfy his craving at the local café, but the man behind the counter just pointed to a sign that said “No Zombies Allowed.” In the school cafeteria, the lunch lady just plopped “a hunk of meatloaf” on his plate that looked disturbingly like brains. Reginald even went to the store to buy the ingredients himself, but when he got to the cash register, he had no money. No money meant no peanut butter, no jelly, and no bread.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-brains-no-brains

Image copyright Charles Santoso, text copyright Joe McGee. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

Then Reginald spied Abigail Zink with a lunch bag in her grasp. He “recognized the familiar jelly stain that was seeping through the paper bag” and made his move. At the same time, the “zombie horde shuffled and shambled around the corner” straight for Abigail, who had her nose in a book and took no notice of the danger. The other townspeople froze, and in that moment Reginald dashed forward and grabbed Abigail’s sack. He could practically taste the deliciousness inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-brains-reginald-grabs-bag

Image copyright Charles Santoso, text copyright Joe McGee. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

“Little Abigail Zink let out a shriek, the mayor’s poodle yipped and yapped, and the townspeople all screamed, ‘ AHHHHH!’” Reginald knew that if the other zombies had just one taste of peanut butter and jelly, they would change their minds about brains. Reginald held Abigail’s sandwich aloft and yelled, “‘BRAINS!’” The zombies crowded around as Reginald tossed the sandwich in the air.

Reginald had been right. With one taste, the zombies declared peanut butter and jelly “‘better than brains.’” Suddenly, the townspeople realized that the zombies were just hungry. With peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their tummies, the zombies became valued parts of Quirkville. The townspeople were happy, the zombies were happy, and Reginald? Well, he was still a little different. While the zombies now enjoyed PB and J, he “had moved on to…PIZZA.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-brains-zombie-horde

Image copyright Charles Santoso, text copyright Joe McGee. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams

Joe McGee’s tradition-bucking zombie offers a sweet wake-up call to anyone sleepwalking through life doing and liking the same things over and over while they follow the herd (or horde). McGee’s humorous descriptions of the marauding zombies and the townspeople’s reactions will have kids giggling all the way through the story. The resolution to Quirkville’s predicament is deliciously “brainy,” and Reginald’s continued individuality makes for a surprising and satisfying ending.

Charles Santoso knows that most families have one or two zombies of their own who latch onto a favorite food and won’t let go. His stitched up, shaggy haired, raggedy clothed child zombies are adorable, and kids will love finding their favorite among the horde. Clever touches, such as a pirate zombie and a zombie cat, as well as the screaming townspeople will make readers laugh.

For the walking hungry, Peanut Butter & Jelly Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale is sure to be ordered from the book cupboard again and again for fun story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2015 | ISBN 978-1419712470

Discover more about Joe McGee and his books on his website!

View a gallery of work by Charles Santoso on his website!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-erica's-sweet-tooth-peanut-amd-butter-and-jelly-muffins

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins, recipe from Erica’s Sweet Tooth, ericasweettooth.com.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins from Erica’s Sweet Tooth

 

Searching for a delicious alternative to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—one that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or as an in between sweet? Look no further than this scrumptious recipe from Erica’s Sweet Tooth! Made with creamy peanut butter, your favorite berry preserves, and a luscious crumble, these muffins will satisfy your PB & J cravings.

Click here for Erica’s Sweet Tooth Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Read Across America Day, which is sponsored by the National Education Association and promotes the joy and discovery that reading provides. Not only is reading fun, studies show that reading to a child from birth improves literacy and language development and leads to a lifelong love for books. Today, visit your local bookstore or library and find some new books to share—or grab some favorites off your shelf and enjoy them again!

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling

By Timothy Basil Ering

 

Captain Alfred was sailing home with his boat filled with ducks for his farm. “Nestled safe inside his fiddle case” was one nearly ready-to-hatch egg—a surprise present for his wife. Captain Alfred already had a name picked out for the little one—Alfred Fiddleduckling—and he knew this baby would be very special. But suddenly a “mighty gale whipped the seas into a raging fury” and tossed the little boat and its occupants to and fro. When the storm had blown itself out, a thick, impenetrable fog descended over the ocean.

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Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

From the porch of a small cottage on the shore’s edge, a woman looked out to sea as “tears of worry dropped from her cheeks, into the mist.” Baby Alfred, however, unaware of these events and hidden by the fog, hatched as the fiddle case floated on the now-calm water. The little duckling looked around and saw something in the water nearby. He paddled out to it and even though it took no notice of him, Alfred “embraced the object with all of his heart.” He “caressed it so that it would not feel as lonely as he did ” and was surprised to hear a most beautiful and unexpected sound.

Alfred immediately fell in love—and imagined that his love was reciprocated. The two drifted along, buoyed by the waves until Alfred’s feet touched ground in a spooky swamp. In a moment, however, the comforting music began again. The sounds, so unexpected in this mist-shrouded swamp, reached the ears of “a beast that was lurking in the tall grasses.” The Beast bounded in the direction of the sound and found Alfred and his love. With drool dripping from its jaws, the beast came closer. Alfred shook, and in his fear “his music became fast and wild!”

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Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

The beast stood on his hind two legs, rising high and menacing above tiny Alfred and…began to dance. The dog had missed his master’s fiddle playing and he now found a best friend in Alfred. The two trekked through the swamp, searching for home and becoming cold, wet, and helpless as the hours stretched on. The fiddle quivered with music that was as sad and helpless as the two wanderers.

But someone heard those quiet strains—the woman on the porch of the little cottage. “She ran through the fog, straight toward the sound of Alfred’s fiddle. She wrapped her arms around her dog and marveled at the special duckling and his music. “‘Don’t ever stop playing your wonderful music,’” she told Alfred. Alfred played with abandon, pouring out all the happiness in his heart. Out on the sea a raft of ducks and one very surprised captain heard the music…and you can guess what happened next!

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Image copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Timothy Basil Ering’s wonderfully unique tale of a ship-wrecked duckling and a fiddle who together make beautiful music that reunites a family is captivating. The story holds just the right amount of surprise, suspense, and heart to keep young children riveted to what happens next. Ering’s lyrical phrasing is music to readers’ ears and conveys the various melodies—sweet, quivering, poignant, tempestuous, and finally joyful—that carry the story from one event to another.

Ering’s full-bleed illustrations begin with bright vibrancy that gives way to gauzy grays as the fog rolls in. Despite the weather or ominous surroundings, Alfred remains a bright spot, his yellow fuzz and the multi-colored notes a glowing beacon in the dark. Little readers will love following the confetti notes of Alfred’s playing and guessing the next twist in the plot. The star of the story, plucky little Alfred, is a cutie as  with empathy he embraces the fiddle and bravely ventures through sea and swamp to find home.

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling is joyful, mysterious, and humorous tribute to friendship, love, and the unexpected that would make a great gift and an often-read addition to children’s home libraries.

Ages 2 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763664329

Read Across America Day Activity

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Snuggle-in Mug Cookie Treat

 

Snuggling up and reading is made even better with a quick and tasty treat! Make this warm mug cookie that takes only minutes to put together and then settle in for some favorite or new stories! Here’s a delicious recipe from Food.com for you to try!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons dark or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a microwavable mug. Microwave for 30 seconds to melt the butter and warm the milk.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix in flour, chocolate chips, and salt.
  4. Microwave for about 1 minute on High. (Cooking time is based on the texture of cookie you like)
  5. Cool for 5 minutes before serving
  6. Add toppings such as ice cream, whipped cream, or hot fudge or chocolate sauce

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.

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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