August 8 – National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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About the Holiday

So, it’s that time of year! If you’re a gardener, you know what I’m talking about. A couple of weeks ago, you might have been filled with that giddy happiness as your squash plant produced its first zucchini. Maybe it went into a salad or pasta dish. Then came the second one—maybe two—a few days later, and you found a great recipe for those too. But now? You’re harvesting them by the bushel, and…well…you’re just not sure what to do with them all! That’s where today’s holiday comes in! Hasn’t it been a while since you did something really nice for your neighbors? A surprise bag of zucchini or yellow squash left on their porch might be just the thing! What’s that? They all garden too? Hmmm…. Then try the delicious chocolate chocolate-chip zucchini bread recipe below!

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Backed up by her parents and clutching her best friends, two squash named Bonnie and Baxter, Sophie peeks into her classroom on the first day of school. She sees kids running everywhere, talking and laughing. Her parents assure Sophie that she’ll make a lot of friends and have tons of fun, but Sophie is adamant: “‘I won’t,’” she says. And Sophie’s right. “The chairs were uncomfortable. The milk tasted funny. And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.”

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The other kids surround her with questions about Bonnie and Baxter. “‘Are they toys? Do they bounce? Can we EAT them?’” Sophie has had enough. “‘No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.’” And then there’s Steven Green. He sits near Sophie at circle time, plays near her on the playground, and stands over her breathing down her neck during art time. Ms. Park, the teacher, tells Sophie Steven is just being nice, but Sophie isn’t interested.

Steven does not give up so easily. He returns to show Sophie his best friend—Marvin, a stuffed frog that he got when the toy was just a tadpole. “‘Then you don’t need me,’” Sophie says and decides “that’s that.” But that isn’t that. The next day Steven is back, building a block tower near Sophie, reading her book over her shoulder, and even offering facts about fruit and vegetables during Sophie’s show and tell.

When her parents hear about Steven, they encourage Sophie to make a friend, but Sophie just clings tighter to Bonnie and Baxter. “Still, Sophie knew that Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever,” so when the other kids dance, spill their milk, or tell jokes, Sophie considers joining in. On the playground Sophie plays hopscotch while the other kids play tag, jump rope, and play other games together. When Steven asks if he can join Sophie, Bonnie, and Baxter, she refuses, leaving Steve and Marvin to sit alone.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When the weekend comes Bonnie and Baxter look “too tired to hop. Or build towers. ‘It’s time,’” says Sophie’s mother. Sophie digs a hole to make “a garden bed and tucked her squash in for their winter nap. ‘Sleep tight,’” she says. “‘See you soon.’ But spring seemed very far away.” On Monday Ms. Park asks the class to tell her what makes a good friend. The kids answer that friends play with you, help you, and think you’re funny. Steven answers “‘They like what you like.’” Ms. Park sends the kids off to draw pictures of their friends.

When Steven wants to see Sophie’s drawing of Bonnie and Baxter, the two get into a scuffle over the paper and it tears in half. “‘You are NOT my friend,’” Sophie says as she walks away. On the way home from school, Sophie tells her mom what happened. “‘Sweet potato,’” her mom says. “‘That adorable boy didn’t mean to tear your picture.’” But Sophie’s not so sure.

The next morning Sophie finds Marvin and a note in her cubby. She ignores it, and by lunchtime, Marvin is gone. Later that night, though, Sophie and her dad discover Marvin and the note inside her backpack. The note contains a drawing of Bonnie and Baxter as well as a packet of seeds.  “‘Do friends really like the same things you like?’” Sophie asks her dad. When he answers “Sometimes,” Sophie begins to think. She takes Marvin outside and sits near Bonnie and Baxter to think some more.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The next day Sophie runs up to Steven to tell him the great idea that Marvin had. They then tell Ms. Park. The next day, Ms. Park hands each child “a cup, some dirt and one small seed.” “‘Can we EAT them?’” a classmate asks. “‘No!’” says Sophie, and Steven adds, “‘You never eat a friend.’” The kids plant the seeds and put the pots on the windowsill. Soon tiny shoots appear in the cups and Sophie and Steven invite the kids to do a new-plant dance.

“‘See?’” Sophie tells Steven. “‘Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.’”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s sequel to her award-winning Sophie’s Squash is a heartfelt story for kids for whom the definition of friendship runs deep. Sophie’s hesitancy to join in the freewheeling play of other kids echoes the feelings of many children entering new classrooms, joining unfamiliar groups, or meeting any new challenge. The excellent pacing of the story as well as Sophie’s honest emotions allow for development of the theme that sometimes friendship takes time. Steven’s persistence sets a positive example for not passing judgement too quickly. Sophie’s transition from squash friends to human is treated sensitively and with cleverness. In the end Sophie learns how to make a friend while still staying true to herself.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Anne Wilsdorf’s cartoon-inspired illustrations perfectly depict the world that Sophie reluctantly inhabits. Her classroom is boldly colorful, full of books, toys, separate spaces, and of course all sorts of kids. Sophie’s reactions to the comments and actions of her classmates are clearly registered on her face and will make kids giggle even while they recognize her feelings. Steadfast Steven is, as Sophie’s mom says, adorable, and readers will empathize with his plight in just wanting to make a friend. The nighttime scene beautifully sums up Sophie’s dilemma and provides her and readers a moment to reflect on the story’s ideas.

On so many levels, Sophie’s Squash Go to School makes a wonderful addition to children’s and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509441

Discover much more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website!

National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day Activity

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Two Peas and Their Pod Chocolate Zucchini Bread 

 

Got some zucchini that you’ve grown yourself or that was snuck onto your porch? This scrumptious bread is doubly chocolate and as melt-in-your-mouth delicious as chocolate cake. I’m sharing this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe from the cooking, baking, and entertaining blog Two Peas and Their Pod. Check out more of their delectable recipes at twopeadsandtheirpod.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divide

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. You might have a few small brown sugar clumps and that is fine.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, don’t overmix. Stir in the shredded zucchini until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean, you might have some melted chocolate chips on the toothpick and that is fine. You just don’t want a lot of gooey batter.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the bread and carefully remove from the pan. Let the bread cool on the wire cooling rack until slightly warm. Cut into slices and serve.

If making muffins, bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Note-if you use coconut oil, make sure it is melted and slightly cooled. The bread will keep on the counter, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days. This bread also freezes well. To freeze, cool the bread completely and wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost before slicing.

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You can find Sophie’s Squash Go to School at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 6 – It’s International Assistance Dog Week

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About the Holiday

International Assistance Dog Week was established by Marci Davis, the author of Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, host of PetLifeRadio.com’s internet radio show “Working Like Dogs, and a paraplegic, to honor these loyal companions that through training and constant love transform the lives of those with disabilities. The holiday also promotes awareness and educates the public about service dogs and recognizes those who raise and train them from puppyhood. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about assistance dogs and the heroic deeds they perform. To learn about events in your area, visit the International Assistance Dog Week website.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

Written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

When the puppy, Rescue, a Seeing Eye dog in training, heard his trainer say “‘You aren’t meant to be a Seeing Eye dog,’” he worried. His family had always been Seeing Eye dogs, and he didn’t know what else he could do. But his trainer did. “‘The service dog team is better for you,’ his trainer said. ‘Service dogs work beside their partners, instead of in front of them.’” Rescue hoped he would make a good service dog. “He didn’t want to let anyone down.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

In the nearby city, a girl named Jessica had been hurt. Her right leg seemed to be healing, but “the doctors had to remove part of her left leg so she could be healthy again.” The doctors told her that she would have to use a wheelchair or prosthetic leg for the rest of her life. Jessica worried about how she would walk and do things by herself. “She didn’t want to let anyone down.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Meanwhile Rescue was learning all of the skills he’d need as a service dog. He learned how to fetch things and open doors. Jessica was also learning new skills. She practiced using a wheelchair, getting out of bed, putting on her prosthetic leg, and walking. Even though she made progress every day, Jessica felt frustrated about the things she could no longer do.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

One day, a visitor brought her service dog to meet Jessica. Jessica was so impressed by everything the dog could do, that she filled out an application to receive a dog of her own as soon as her visitor left. After Jessica left the hospital, she “got some very exciting news. Rescue got exciting news too.”

At last, the day arrived for Jessica and Rescue to meet. They liked each other immediately. After Rescue showed Jessica all the things he could do, they went back to the city to begin working together. Rescue brought her things she needed, he barked when Jessica needed someone, he could even push the walk button at street crosswalks.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Even though Rescue was a strong worker, Jessica knew he was also a dog who liked to have fun. “She made sure that Rescue had playtime every day.” Then one day, Jessica’s “doctor told her that her right leg would have to be removed too. She would need to wear two prosthetic legs.” Jessica was very sad, but Rescue knew just what to do to help her. As Jessica slept, Rescue cuddled up next to her.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once again, Jessica and Rescue went into training together. “They did chores together, played together, and snuggled together.” Both Jessica and Rescue felt happy. “‘You changed my life, Rescue,’” Jessica told her companion. “‘I couldn’t have done this without you.’” Rescue was proud of them both.

An Author’s Note from Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick Downes, both injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, follows the text and provides more information about the story, their Service Dog, Rescue, and the NEADS organization.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Based on Jessica Kensky’s real-life partnership with Rescue, Rescue & Jessica offers children a thoughtful and honest portrayal of loss, hope, and recovery. Jessica’s story will touch young readers while answering questions that many have as they interact with and see similar partnerships of Service Dogs and children or adults with physical disabilities. The Boston Marathon bombing is never mentioned in the story, leaving it up to adult readers to explain the details depending on the age and sensitivities of the listener. The addition of Rescue’s point of view gives readers a window into the intelligence and loyalty of these valiant animals. While not shying away from the difficulties that Jessica faced, each page is infused with courage and the resiliency of the human spirit.

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Scott Magoon’s realistic, digitally created illustrations will rivet children to the story with clear depictions of Rescue’s training and Jessica’s stay at the hospital. As Jessica suffers grief and worry, she is surrounded by darkness, but even here, spots of light are given in images of her parents’ vigil at her hospital bedside, a physical therapist’s encouragement, and the comfort Rescue provides on a starlit night. As Jessica learns to walk again with her prosthetic leg, black storm clouds give way to gray showers seen outside the therapy room window and the city—her home and ultimate destination is seen across the river in the distance.

A sunburst accompanies Jessica’s first experience with a Service Dog, and as she and Rescue become partners, the gray-tone images acquire a bit of green grass that blossoms into spring and then full-fledged summer when Jessica resumes some of her past activities with her family. The final two-page spread of Jessica, with Rescue by her side, leaving gray skies behind and walking across a bridge toward home and the glowing promise of a sunny day is moving and triumphant.

A poignant and uplifting story, Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship is highly recommended for any young reader and a must for pubic and school or classroom libraries.

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696047

To learn more about Scott Magoon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Assistance Dog Week Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. Why not get together with your friends and make a batch? Then share them with your pets or dogs who need a little extra love.

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, one 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.

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You can find Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s National Camping Month

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About the Holiday

For some, camping is the best way to spend a vacation. This month’s holiday celebrates that love of adventure and encourages people to explore some of the gorgeous national parks, campsites, and trails all across the country. Of course, there’s giddy excitement for kids in just setting up a tent in the backyard too. So whether you camp with an RV, pack up the car with tents and other gear, or just enjoy a different vista at home, enjoy camping this summer – and don’t forget the marshmallows!

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee

By Chris Van Dusen

 

As the sun came up Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee packed up their car and headed out on an adventure. They left their seaside home for the mountains, where they plan to camp for two nights or “possibly three.” Mr. Magee tells Dee that he’ll love camping. It’s quiet and peaceful and “aside from the wildlife, there’s no one around.” In a few hours they found the perfect spot to pitch their tent. “It was high on a hill with a beautiful view / of Mount Adams, Mount Lincoln, and Jefferson too.” But the prettiest sight of all was the stream that ended in a whooshing waterfall.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee gathered pine cones and sticks and made a fire where he cooked hot dogs for the dinner. Then “as the sun set behind far distant knolls, / they sat roasting marshmallows over the coals.” When darkness fell, Mr. Magee and his little dog fell asleep in their cozy camper. As they were dreaming of the next day, a bear bumbled by, led to the spot by the sweet smell of marshmallows.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The bear wanted those marshmallows, but he couldn’t quite reach with the car and the camper blocking his way. “But that didn’t stop the sneaky old snitch, / he simply tried squeezing right under the hitch.” But as he wriggled and wiggled he undid the lock, and the car rolled forward while the camper rolled back. On separate paths down the hillside, the two vehicles flew. The car bounced down the road, while the camper headed straight for the stream.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee and Dee woke in alarm when the camper splashed headlong into the roaring current. “They were caught in the rapids, but that wasn’t all. / They were headed smack dab through the big waterfall.” They were quaking with fear and the camper was swept away, but just as they were about to go over the falls, their camper was snagged by a rock on the edge.

They were worried and wondering what they could do, when the bear spied one more marshmallow to chew at the end of the camper. He jumped in the river, grabbed the hitch in his teeth, and dragged the camper back to the bank. When the bear tasted metal instead of sweetness, he moseyed away disappointed.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When the bear let go, the camper bounded away and rolled down the rocks. It came to rest right next to the car. Mr. Magee and Dee hitched up once more and drove home. They weren’t ready to give up their camping quite yet, so “when they got home with the sky turning red, / they decided to camp in the backyard instead.”

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Chris Van Dusen’s classic camping adventure featuring the loveable Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee is full of humor, suspense, and cozy moments. The sweet relationship between Mr. Magee and his faithful companion, will charm young readers and make them happy to be taken along for the ride. Van Dusen’s rolling rhythm and clever rhymes are catchy and fun to read aloud.

The vintage open-top rambler and tiny, rounded camper are just as endearing as the main characters as they roll and bump along the dirt road to the campsite and then go their separate ways to create a dramatic story. The blue seaside, mountain scenery, and fiery sunset are beautiful backdrops to the action, and the aerial view down the 50-foot waterfall will make readers cringe at Mr. Magee’s predicament.

Ages 4 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2003 | ISBN 978-0811836036

Discover more about Chris Van Dusen, his books and art on his website!

National Camping Month Activity

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Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes from allrecipes.com.

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

 

Toasted marshmallows aren’t just for S’mores anymore! With this delicious cupcake recipe from All Recipes, toasted marshmallows top off chocolate cupcakes in style! Visit All Recipes and get the recipe for Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes that makes any event as fun as a camping trip!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-cover

You can find A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Chronicle Books | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 9 – National Bagel Day

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About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast and lunch! Coming in all sorts of flavors and varieties, there’s a bagel for every taste, and whether you like yours toasted or not, with cream cheese or plain, it’s hard to deny that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

Bagel in Love

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Helen Dardik

 

Bagel was one talented bread! He loved to dance because “he never felt plain when he was spinning and swirling, tapping and twirling. When he read the advertisement for the dance contest at the Cherry Jubilee that night, Bagel really wanted to enter, but he didn’t have a partner. He went to the best dancer he knew—another bagel named Poppy—but she refused, saying that “his dance steps were half-baked.”

Next, he tracked down Pretzel at the spa, but as she enjoyed her salt rub, she told Bagel that his dancing just “didn’t cut the mustard.” And Matzo, primping with a manicure and facial, “flat out told him no.” Bagel was determined to find a partner and left Bakersville for Sweet City. There he “waltzed up to a table at a busy café. ‘I bet you’re all fabulous dancers,’” he said to the pastries enjoying coffee at an outdoor table. He then launched into a bit of a tap dance and asked if any of them would like to be his partner for the contest.

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Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake scowled at his stale moves. Not to be deterred, Bagel hopped onto a cake display pedestal and shouted out a dance challenge he thought couldn’t miss. Anyone who could match him tap for tap would win a date to the contest with him. But no one took Bagel up on his offer, and worse, Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake just laughed at him as they joined everyone heading to the Cherry Jubilee to watch the contestants.

In the empty café, Bagel felt sad. Maybe he’d be able to compete next year, he signed. He could hear the music begin at the Cherry Jubilee and his feet automatically started tapping. This time, though, he heard an answer back. “He tapped again. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap came the response.” Bagel didn’t know where the tapping was coming from.

Suddenly, he saw the cutest cupcake he had ever seen. Her pink frosting was swirled into a bouffant, and “she smelled oh so sweet.” Bagel asked her if she was the one who had answered his tapping. She admitted she was, but said she wasn’t a very good dancer. Bagel disagreed then asked her to dance. In the empty street outside the café, they twirled around and around. Bagel even tossed her in the air and caught her ever so gently.

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Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Cupcake told Bagel he was an incredible dancer, and Bagel, feeling “all toasty inside” returned the compliment. Once more, Bagel asked, “‘would you be my partner at the dance contest?’” Cupcake said yes, and they hurried off to the Cherry Jubilee. Their dance moves were a hit with the judges, who all gave them 10s. Bagel and Cupcake won the grand prize trophy, but for these two who had found true love, that “was just the icing on the cake.”

Natasha Wing bakes up plenty of kid-pleasing puns in her culinary/dance-off mashup that will have readers laughing on every page even as they empathize with Bagel and learn some valuable ingredients for the best kind of friendship. Pretzel, Matzo, and the pastries may appear sweet with their salt rubs, manicures, and fancy fillings, but their sour personalities are on full display as they laugh and scoff at Bagel and his dancing. Cupcake, on the other hand, has everything it takes to be a good friend. She’s sweet through and through from her stylish updo to her humble and complimentary conversation. Through Bagel and Cupcake, children see that true friends can be found and are those who appreciate each other for who they are.

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Who wouldn’t want to visit Helen Dardik’s baked-goods world with its delectable delights around every corner? Jelly-roll, cupcake, and fruit-tart homes line the street, special culinary spas cater to every detail, and the Upper Crust Café can’t be beat. Bagel is a cutie, and Cupcake is a-dough-able from her pink frosting hair to her aqua and pink paper-liner dress. A colorful, glitter-textured two-page spread shimmers with the love and joy that Bagel and Cupcake have in winning the trophy and each other’s hearts.

Bagel in Love is a fun and funny book—with a little life lesson mixed in—for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922391

Discover more about Natasha Wing and her books on her website.

National Bagel Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-snowman

There’s Snowtime Like Now for a Bagel Snack

 

You can make a snowman even when there’s no snow outside with this simple bagel treat!

Ingredients

  • Your favorite kind of bagel
  • Cream cheese
  • Baby carrot
  • Raisins, currents, or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread bagel with cream cheese
  2. Place carrot in the hole (prop up with more cream cheese if needed)
  3. Add raisins, currents, or chocolate chips as eyes and a smile

Picture Book Review

 

 

February 1 – World Read Aloud Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic, World Read Aloud Day encourages reading aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. To learn more about World Read Aloud Day  and to find stickers, bookmarks, posters, and a reading crown to decorate, visit LitWorld.

Read the Book, Lemmings!

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

 

On the whale ship S. S. Cliff, first mate Foxy quietly reads a book about lemmings. “‘Huh!’ he said. ‘Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.’” But even though Foxy emphasizes the word “don’t” the lemmings sitting on the railing only hear the word “jump.” “‘Jump? I’ll jump!’ said a lemming. ‘Me too!’ said a second. ‘Ditto!’ said a third.” And with a long Geronamoooooo! the three lemmings jumped overboard.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Polar Bear Captain PB, engrossed in his newspaper, had just one thing to say. “‘Huh…I guess they didn’t read the book.’” Foxy looked over the side and heard the first lemming shout out “‘Wet! Very wet!’” “‘Me too!’ called the second. ‘Ditto!’ called the third” With a sigh, Foxy took Captain PB’s bucket (with a stern warning not to let the lemmings eat his fish) and hauled the lemmings out of the sea.

On deck, Foxy gave each lemming a name and a hat “so he could scold them properly.” The first jumper was, appropriately, named Jumper; the second was called Me Too; and the third was named Ditto. Foxy held up the book about lemmings and said, “‘Read the book, lemmings!’” The lemmings seemed surprised by what they saw, and Foxy was glad they understood. But did they? Not so much. As soon as Foxy mentioned the word “jump,” it was “Geronimoooo” all over again.

Captain PB was pretty sure they hadn’t read the book. “‘Help! I need help!’ called Jumper. ‘Me too!’ called Me Too. ‘Ditto!’ called Ditto.” Captain PB handed over his bucket with the now lemming-flavored fish, and Foxy once more retrieved Jumper, Me Too, and Ditto from the ocean. He gave them a harsh talking to and was just about to say the fateful word again when he stopped himself and told them to just read the book themselves.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

“‘Ahhhhh!’” said the lemmings as they went off with the book. Captain PB was impressed. “‘Good thing you didn’t say jump,’” he told Foxy. Six ears perked up, and….” Geronimooooo!” The three lemmings were sinking fast, so Foxy did what any good first mate would. “Cannonball!” he yelled as he dove into the water. Foxy rescued the lemmings and flopped back on deck.

“‘Saved! I’m saved!’ said Jumper. ‘Me too!’ said Me Too. Ditto opened his mouth. ‘I love you!’” Foxy blinked and said “‘Thank you.’” Still, he wanted to know why the lemmings hadn’t read the book. “‘Can’t! Can’t read!’ said Jumper. ‘Me neither,’ said Me Too. ‘I can burp the alphabet,’ said Ditto.” Captain PB thought this was a good start.

For the rest of the day, Foxy practiced reading with the lemmings until they had it down: “Lemmings… don’t jump…off cliffs.” Foxy was satisfied and went back to reading his book. But the captain could not find his newspaper until…. The paper airplane zoomed by with three lemmings on board, shouting, “‘We fly!.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-read-the-book-lemmings-saved

Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Ame Dyckman’s laugh-out-loud story is pure genius, filled with personality and characters that make Read the Book, Lemmings! a perfect book for dramatic and spirited read-aloud story times. The sweet, reactive lemmings offer plenty of hilarity and opportunities for kids to chime in, while Foxy and Captain PB are terrific foils for the frolicking lemmings and their foibles. The nod to literacy is given a light touch that is sure to resonate with young readers, and which in the end reveals a truth worth repeating: with the ability to read, anyone can soar.

Zachariah Ohora’s little balls of fluff are as adorable as they come. Who can fault them for having so much fun following their instincts as they jump overboard with a gusty “Geronimoooo!”? Clever details, such as a whale as a fishing trawler and the life ring sporting the name S. S. Cliff, are inspired. Readers will love the graphic novel elements that make it easy to follow the dialog and the expressive characters who, as Ditto reveals, love each other.

Read the Book, Lemmings! is highly recommended and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and library shelves. The book would also make a much-appreciated gift.

Ages 5 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316343480

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

Learn more about Zachariah Ohora and his books and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Jump right into watching this Read the Book, Lemmings! book trailer

World Read Aloud Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chocolate-chip-mug-cookie-from-genius-kitchen

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

 

There’s really only one activity that is just right for today! So, why not make some hot chocolate or a chocolate chip mug cookie and settle in for a night of reading together? Here’s a recipe for a delicious mug cookie from geniuskitchen.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk (2% works well)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 (or more) tablespoons of dark chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate, the amount used may depend on the size of the chips)

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a mug and microwave for 30 seconds or until butter melts
  2. Stir in brown sugar
  3. Stir in vanilla and salt
  4. Add flour and stir until smooth
  5. Stir in 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  6. Add more chocolate chips on top if desired
  7. Bake in microwave oven on High for about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, depending on the consistency you like
  8. Can top with ice cream, if desired.

Picture Book Review

December 30 – Baking Soda Day

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About the Holiday

Baking soda is one of those little chemical compounds that is indispensable in so many ways. First produced in 1791 by French chemist Nicolas Leblanc, it’s used for everything from cleaning solutions to health remedies to black snake fireworks to science fair volcanoes. In 1846 two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, established the first factory in the United States to produce baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Of course, baking soda is also used to make treats of all kinds – even the ones featured in today’s book!

Baking Day at Grandma’s

Written by Anika Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

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

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

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

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

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

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

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

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

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

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

Ages 2 – 5

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

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

Discover the illustrated world of Christopher Denise on his website!

Spend time baking with Grandma with this sweet book trailer!

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

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

Vanilla Cupcakes

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

Vanilla Bean Frosting

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

Directions

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

Additional Notes

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

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

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Eat a Red Apple Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is steeped in the history of the apple industry in America, beginning with the work of John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple trees on his travels across the country in the early 1800s. Due to the popularity of apples and their ease of transportation, a variety of apples were being developed during the mid-to-late 1800s. While the “Ben Davis” apple was at the top of the list in 1880 for its resilience in tough growing climates and long shelf life, it wasn’t the tastiest of apples. As transportation from farm to store became easier and shorter, the Red Delicious emerged as the favorite. It held that position into the 1980s, comprising 75% of all apples grown in Washington state—one of the largest apple producers in the world. While other apple varieties have taken a bite out of the popularity of the Red Delicious, it is still the iconic apple—and the star of today’s holiday!

Little Elliot, Fall Friends

By Mike Curato

 

Little Elliot the elephant and his best friend Mouse loved the lights, action, and feel of the big city. Sometimes though “the city was too dirty, too loud, and too busy.” Mouse decided they needed a vacation, so they took a bus ride to the country. As they left the buildings and traffic of the city behind for the autumn leaves, rolling hills, and fresh air of the countryside, Elliot and Mouse felt refreshed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-in-the-country

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

When the bus dropped them off, Elliot exclaimed, “‘Wow…the country is even bigger than the city!’” They ran up a hill and relaxed under a tree feeling “the breeze and the sunshine and the soft grass.” Soon, they began to get hungry. Down in an orchard below, they found some juicy red apples to eat. Taking a bite, Elliot thought, “‘The country is delicious!’” Mouse thought the piles of fallen leaves were pretty fun too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-eating-apples

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The two played hide-and-seek in the woods, in a pumpkin patch, and in a corn field, where tall brown stalks still stood. Elliot thought the corn field was the perfect hiding spot, but as the sun began to go down and no Mouse appeared to find him, he wondered where Mouse was. “Suddenly, Elliot smelled something delicious.” He followed the aroma out of the corn stalks and to a farm house, where he found a an apple pie cooling on a windowsill.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-playing-hide-and-seek

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Elliot came closer, close enough to peek in the window. Just then Mouse jumped out from behind the pie. “‘I found you!’” he said. Elliot was excited to see his friend. It seemed that Mouse had been busy. When he couldn’t find Elliot, he knew just what to do. He made friends with the farm animals, and then they made a pie because Mouse knew that Elliot would follow his nose and come out of his hiding place. “‘Nobody knows me better,’ said Elliot.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-in-the-corn-field

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Later, the pig, cow, horse, dog, and chicken gathered with Elliot and Mouse around the big picnic table “for a fall feast.” With apple cider served in mason jars, Mouse gave a toast: “‘To new friends!’” and Elliot added “‘And to new treats!’” They fell asleep on the soft hay in the barn, naming the stars that twinkled in the dark sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-fall-feast

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books enchant little ones, and it’s easy to see why as Elliot and Mouse’s adventure into the countryside offers young readers all the comfort and camaraderie that best friends provide each other. The quietly simple and tender story is highlighted by Curato’s spectacular illustrations that combine the clear precision and details of photography with the playful softness of a favorite stuffed toy. Here and there clever designs in the images reflect the sunny tone and foreshadow the special treat Mouse uses to reunite with his best friend. The final nighttime spreads will fill children with wonder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-pie

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Little Elliot, Fall Friends is a sweet, sophisticated book that fans of the series will want to add to their collection and new readers will embrace, while also eager to discover the other Little Elliot books: Big City, Big Family, and Big Fun. It’s a “can’t miss” for any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796408

Discover more about Mike Curato and his books plus downloadable Little Elliot activity sheets on his website.

Eat a Red Apple Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples Recipe

 

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

Ingredients

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

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

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

Picture Book Review