July 28 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month is set aside to honor the chefs, bakers, and cooks who create delicious meals and treats for hungry diners. Many of today’s culinary artists are involved in using organic and locally sourced foods, reducing waste, and bringing fresh foods and eating establishments to underserved communities. Through their knowledge, talents, experimentation, and love of offering good food for body and soul, those involved in the culinary arts make the world a better place for all. 

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee | Illustrated by Man One

 

“Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.” Roy considers himself a “‘street cook,’” and he creates food with love and care—and especially sohn-maash—for anyone who stops by. What’s sohn-maash? “It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods.”

When Roy was two his family moved from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles, California. His mother made kimchi that was so delicious friends bought it from the trunk of her car. Eventually, Roy’s parents “opened a restaurant—Silver Garden.” Roy loved exploring the various ethnic foods in his neighborhood, but always liked his mom’s food the best.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-locols

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy loved hanging out in the bustling kitchen of the Silver Garden. And when 3:00 rolled around “everyone gathered at booth #1 for Dumpling Time.” While they filled dumpling wrappers, they told stories, shared news, and laughed. “Family together, making food. Roy’s best good time.” In time his neighborhood changed, and the Silver Garden closed. His parents then opened a jewelry store, and the family moved to the suburbs. But Roy was not happy. He wasn’t like the other kids in the neighborhood.

After he graduated, Roy was at a loss; he didn’t know what he wanted to do. No matter what, though, he always went home, “where his mom helped him get strong with kimchi, rice, tofu, stew.” One day as Roy watched a cooking show, he realized his heart was in the kitchen. He went to cooking school and learned about recipes and preparing food. When he graduated, he got jobs in fancy restaurants where he cooked for a thousand diners a night and ran the kitchen crew. He knew that this was where he belonged.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

“Roy was a success—until he wasn’t.” There came a time when he couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace, couldn’t remember recipes. He lost his job. A friend suggested they open a food truck together—putting Korean barbecue in a taco. Roy jumped at the idea of remixing “the tastes he loved on the streets that were his home. He used mad chef’s skills to build flavor and cooked with care, with sohn-maash.” They called their truck Kogi BBQ, and they hit the road, looking for hungry customers.

At first the idea of a Korean taco didn’t fly, but once people tried them, they lined up to buy them. “Roy saw that Kogi food was like good music, bringing people together and making smiles. Strangers talked and laughed as they waited in line—Koreans with Latinos, kids with elders, taggers with geeks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix-watts

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy felt at home in his truck, and his Kogi tacos made him famous. He opened cafes in older neighborhoods, and called his chef friends, saying “Let’s feed those we aren’t reaching.” Chef DP joined up. Together they opened fast-food places for kids and others skateboarding, playing, or just hanging out.

In the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, across the street from an elementary school, they opened Locol. The two chefs wondered if people would “care about soulful fast food.” But he needn’t have worried. Before the doors even opened, a line formed down the street and around the corner. Now, Roy wants to bring the remixed flavors of Locol to other neighborhoods. He dreams of “‘feeding goodness to the world’” and says you can do that too. All it takes is to “cook with sohn-maash, cook with love.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix-neighborhood

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Extensive Authors’ and Illustrator’s Notes offering more information about Roy Choi, his work, and the making of the book follow the text.

For kids who love cooking—and eating—Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee have written a compelling biography of one of the culinary world’s stars. Beginning with Roy Choi’s childhood, Martin and Lee show young readers the family and social events that influenced not only his choice of career but his dedication to underserved neighborhoods. Scattered throughout the pages are poems that read like recipes and satisfy like comfort food. Full of care and love, the story will encourage readers to follow their heart, try out different ideas, and find the mission that’s important to them.

Graffiti artist and illustrator Man One infuses Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix with the vibrancy of the Los Angeles neighborhoods that nurtured Choi’s talent. Readers get to gather with the family during dumpling time and see the vast array of ingredients enveloped in the tasty wrappers, watch Choi finesse a lamb dish in his fancy restaurant, and feel the vibe as he remixes tacos with a Korean tang. Along the way, kids also meet the customers from all walks of life who line up to experience Choi’s food.

Ages 5 – 12

Readers to Eaters, 2017 | ISBN 978-0983661597

Discover more about Jacqueline Briggs Martin and her books on her website.

You can read more about June Jo Lee on the Readers to Eaters website.

View a gallery of art, murals, prints, and more by Man One on his website.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lemon-and-chocolate-cookies

French Butter Cookies – Lemon and Chocolate

 

Whip up a batch of these delicious cookies to eat yourself or share with others! There are two distinct flavors to satisfy any palate!

Ingredients for Lemon Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)

For Chocolate Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In a bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough. **For Chocolate Cookies use 1 ½ cups flour and add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and ground ginger before mixing.**
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half.
  5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  8. Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick.
  9. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round, fluted cookie cutter (or other cookie cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Put the baking sheet of cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough.
  11. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash.
  12. Then, with the tines of a fork or a toothpick, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie.
  13. Bake cookies for about 12-14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  14. Cool cookies on wire rack.

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-annie-battles-cora

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-cora-lounges

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bake-shop-ghost-cake

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

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-I-had-a-gryphon-phoenix

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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