October 18 – It’s National Cookbook Month

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About the Holiday

The way people access recipes has changed dramatically with the establishment of cooking blogs that give step-by-step directions and images along with some chatty discussion about what the dish means to the chef or home cook. And yet, physical cookbooks are still a favorite way for people to interact with food and the meals they make. There’s still something magical about leafing through the pages of a cookbook and taking in the gorgeous photography that makes each recipe enticing. Today’s holiday invites people to grab their favorite cookbook—or a new one—and get cookin’. Making meals at home is healthy and a wonderful way to involve the whole family in the planning and learning process.

The Silver Spoon for Children, New Edition: Favorite Italian Recipes

Edited by Amanda Grant | Illustrated by Harriet Russell

 

Why should adults have all the fun? With the proliferation of cooking shows on television—quite a few aimed at children—kids are more meal savvy than ever. When the Silver Spoon, the most influential Italian cookbook of the last fifty years, was released in English in 2005, it created a sensation. Four years later, a children’s version was released, introducing kids to delicious recipes formulated just for them.

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Image copyright Harriet Russell, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Silver Spoon for Children has been reissued in a beautiful edition that young foodies will eagerly devour. All the recipes presented have been tested with children for taste and ease of preparation by those aged nine and ten and older. The volume opens with discussions on cooking the Italian way, cooking safety, utensils and equipment, and techniques. These two-page spreads are delightfully illustrated with helpful tips and a bit of humor thrown in.

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Photograph copyright Angela Moore, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The recipes begin with Lunches & Snacks. Again, two-page spreads introduce each recipe with a discussion of ingredients on the left and a full-page, beautifully photographed image of the dish on the right. The text is an easy-to-read size; no squinting at tiny instructions here. First up is Prosciutto and Melon, a no-cook snack or appetizer. There’s even a hint on how to choose a ripe melon at the market. Turn the page and easily called out steps tell children exactly how to proceed. The numbered steps correspond to illustrated images that show each action required. Tomato bruschetta, pizzaiola toasts, summer cannellini bean salad, Tuscan minestrone soup, and tuna frittata and green beans are just a few of the ten recipes in this section.

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Image copyright Harriet Russell, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Moving on to Pasta & Pizza—yum!—kids learn how to make pizza dough and then how to top it to make favorites like Margherita, Napoletana, and sausage. Pasta is always a crowd pleaser! Here, kids learn how to cook dry pasta and also how to make fresh pasta dough for ravioli napoletana, tagliatelle with cream, peas and ham, baked maccheroni with parmesan, linguine with pesto, lasagna, rigatoni with meatballs, and two kinds of spaghetti.

Hearty main dishes come next, and children will be proud to offer their family and friends such heartwarming fare. Creamy risotto, two kinds of gnocchi: potato and polenta, baked cod with vegetables, fish kabobs, chicken stew, stuffed chicken fillets, beef stew, and two recipes for lamb will make kids dinnertime stars.

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Photograph copyright Angela Moore, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Those who love to bake will want to try their hand at making focaccia, and the scrumptious desserts will finish each meal in style. Three cake recipes vie for attention alongside warm and cool fruit offerings and a delicious berry ice-cream that is made without a machine.

A well-designed index that makes it easy for young cooks to find what they’re looking for wraps up this  cookbook that is sure to be a favorite.

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Image copyright Harriet Russell, 2019, text copyright Amanda Grant, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Amanda Grant is a food writer and specialist in children’s nutrition. She writes the Junior Cooks pages for Delicious magazine and has published several books on healthy eating for kids. Her engaging style—casual, informative, and kid-friendly—makes it easy for children to follow the recipes and create a sophisticated dish that everyone will enjoy.

Harriet Russell’s charming illustrations are a highlight, presenting information and tips in a way that speaks directly to younger cooks with stylish drawings and easy-to-understand actions that will make kids feel like professional cooks. Russell’s lovely color palette showcases the ingredients, and her use of space creates a fresh, inviting look. Children will enjoy the touches of humor here and there, because cooking should be, at its core, fun to do.

For any child interested in learning to cook or expanding their repertoire, The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes is a must. Adults will love it too for its ideas on broadening their child’s menu.

Ages 9 – 12 and up

Phaidon Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1838660192

Discover more about Amanda Grant, her books, cook school, and more on her website.

You can learn more about Harriet Russell and her art on her website.

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The Silver Spoon Classic

For all of you adult foodies out there, The Silver Spoon Classic was also recently released. Featuring 170 of the best-of-the-best recipes from Italy’s diverse regions, this incredible resource includes fascinating information on the origins of The Silver Spoon, organizing the kitchen and prep time, cooking methods, equipment, and an extensive glossary. Symbols throughout the book indicate which recipes are gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, take 5 ingredients or less, cook in one pot, and require only 30 minutes or less to prepare.

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Copyright Phaidon Press, 2019

A chapter of basic recipes leads into the chapter on appetizers with recipes for croquettes, focaccia, salads, and many more. Starters include succulent seafood pastas, spaghetti with a wide variety of sauces, penne, tortellini, ravioli, and other pasta recipes join those for creamy risottos, soups and more. Then come the main attractions! The two-page spreads present the written recipe on the left with a crisp, gorgeous photograph of the dish on the right.

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Copyright Phaidon Press, 2019

You’ll want to savor each of the ten recipes for fish and seafood. The meat section offers up a wide diversity of tastes from wild boar to braised beef to lamb, pork, and veal. Chicken and turkey recipes round it out. Rustic takes on zucchini, eggplant, and chard are delights, and, of course, we can’t forget pizza and all of the favorite toppings. These main dishes need sophisticated vegetable and potato sides, and those are here too.

After dinner, would you like to see a dessert menu? No question about it! But it’s so hard to decide! Cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, fritters, trifle, tiramisu, fruit, ice-creams, and sorbet all await. A clear index and recipe notes follow the main text.

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Copyright Phaidon Press, 2019

A delectable cookbook to add to your collection, The Silver Spoon Classic is one you’ll find yourself turning to again and again.

Phaidon Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-0714879345

You can find The Silver Spoon Classic at these booksellers

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

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You can find The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes at these booksellers

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

October 10 – National Cake Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

You’ve seen them on TV and in bakery shop windows—cakes that tower three, four, five, and even more tiers high, cakes shaped like animated characters, cars, clothing, even unicorns. Today’s holiday honors all of those creative professional and amateur bakers who keep decorating in new and amazing ways and pushing the boundaries of what a cake can be. Using six different types of icing to produce those stunning results, bakers are always searching for innovative methods for jazzing up these favorite desserts. To celebrate today, stop by a bakery and pick up a creative cake, or why not try personalizing your own homemade cake with colors, candies, and other decorations. No matter how it comes out, you know that it will taste delicious! There’s even a recipe at the end of this post! To add to the fun, get your kids involved in the baking and decorating process—just like the grandmother in today’s book! 

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1595727473 (Paperback)

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

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

National Cake Decorating Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

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

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

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

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You can find Cake Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 7 -World Chocolate Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of World Chocolate Day is simple! Most likely instituted to celebrate the introduction of chocolate to Europe on July 7, 1550, the day gives people everywhere the perfect excuse to indulge in this favorite flavor sensation. You know what to do! Bake some brownies, order a double scoop of your favorite chocolate-based ice cream, make a chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting, of course), or whip up a batch of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, and enjoy!

Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family

By Elizabeth Zunon

 

It’s a little girl’s birthday, and she and her daddy are making her “family’s special celebration cake” while her mom “goes to pick up another treat.” While they bake, the girl’s father reminds her that “‘chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao.” The girl has never met her grandfather since he lives in Africa and she wonders if she is like him. Her father begins to tell her the story of his growing up on her Grandpa Cacao’s Ivory Coast farm.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they add flour to the bowl, Daddy explains how her grandfather knew just when the fruit was ripe for picking. “Just like the way I can spot the end of summer from tinges of orange at the tips of treetops,” the girl thinks. Then, her father goes on, Grandpa Cacao expertly sliced the pods without damaging any of the beans inside. “‘Did you ever help?’” the girl asks as they melt the chocolate and butter for the cake. Her daddy says that everyone in the village worked together and that when he turned seven, he was allowed to help but only after he’d finished his homework and chores.

The white beans were put into pits lined with banana leaves and stirred periodically until they became light brown. Then they were moved to a cement floor to dry in the sun. The beans had to be taken in each night, and when storms came the beans had to be covered. The girl imagines her grandpa could smell the rain coming the way she could “smell a cold day.”

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

While they crack and add the eggs, the girl’s father tells her how the beans sounded and tasted when they were ready to sell. The story is making her hungry, and she wonders what Mommy could be bringing home. When he was older, Daddy says, he helped bag the beans to sell to the cacao buyers, who would send them to factories to be made into chocolate. With the money from the cacao beans, they bought “food, school supplies, uniforms, books, and fabric to have out special occasion clothes made.”

The cake batter is ready to pour into the pan, and she carries the big bowl to her daddy. She reminds him of Grandpa Cacao carrying a big basket of cacao pods. The thought makes them both smile. Then the girl’s thoughts return to what her mother is bringing home. Perhaps it’s a new dress or the puppy she wants. Daddy dips his finger in the chocolate batter and the girls licks the spoon. It makes him think of how he and the other kids snuck tastes “of the pulp from the cacao fruits or the candy-sweet drink” they made.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Baking in the oven, the cake smells delicious. Just as the timer rings, the doorbell chimes. When the girl opens it, she sees her mommy with an older man she’s never seen before. “‘Happy Birthday!’” he says, and the girl recognizes his voice from their phone calls. He hugs her and then gives her a big orange pod. It’s her birthday present, he tells her. But being with her Grandpa Cacao is “the best birthday present ever in the world.”

An Author’s Note following the text describes Elizabeth Zunon’s childhood in Abidjan, the realities of the cacao trade and Fair Trade products and a bit about how the illustrations were created. There are also brief discussions on the science and history of chocolate as well as a page on how cacao goes from bean to treat. Bakers will also be pleased to see the recipe for the special Chocolate Celebration Cake made in the story.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Elizabeth Zunon’s celebration of family and pride in one’s heritage is a compelling read that shines with a strong father – daughter relationship, shared memories, and the joys of working together. The warmth shared by the girl and her daddy is evident as she revels in hearing the story of Grandpa Cacao and identifying with him even though he lives far away. Zunon’s smooth delivery of Grandpa Cacao and Daddy’s story imparts fascinating details of how cacao is grown, harvested, and prepared for sale. While the little girl may wish for a new dress or a puppy, she is happier with the surprise of meeting her grandfather at last.

Zunon’s mixed-media, collage style illustrations beautifully meld the world inside the family kitchen with the girl’s imagining of life in Africa on Grandpa Cacao’s farm. The opaque screen-printed images of Grandpa Cacao, the girl’s father as a child and young man, and the other villagers, are powerful reminders to readers that their family and family history is always with them and supporting them.

A unique book to share during family story time, in the classroom, or during a library program, Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. And don’t forget to include cake!

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196404

Discover more about Elizabeth Zunon, her books, and her art on her website.

World Chocolate Day Activity

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My Kids’ Favorite Brownies from Cookies & Cups, copyright Shelly Jaronsky, January 29, 2019. Courtesy of cookies&cups.com.

Cookies & Cups My Kids’ Favorite Brownies

 

If you’re looking for a scrumptious chocolatey brownie that melts in your mouth, look no further than Shelly Jaronsky’s My Kids’ Favorite Brownies recipe on Cookies & Cups. While you’re there, you’ll want to look around at all of Shelly’s delicious recipes! 

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You can find Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Sweet potatoes are yummy and satisfying—and they’re healthy! Full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, sweet potatoes make delicious side dishes for almost any meal. Sweet potato fries, muffins, pies, and—of course—casserole are just a few of the ways you can enjoy this natural treat. To celebrate today’s holiday, cook up your favorite recipe and discover some new ones!

Little Chef

Written by Matt Stine & Elisabeth Weinberg | Illustrated by Paige Keiser

 

Lizzie is a little girl who has always loved to cook. In fact, her mom and dad call her “their Little Chef.” She has her own chef’s uniform, complete with hat, and doesn’t mind the long hours a chef has to keep. Today, Lizzie is extra excited because “Grandmas is coming over for dinner!” Lizzie has learned all of her cooking skills from her Grandma, and tonight she is going to prepare a special dinner just for her.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Lizzie knows she’ll need extra energy today, so she’s starting off by making her “famous scrambled eggs.” She whips eggs in a bowl with a fork and adds salt and pepper. After breakfast, Lizzie and her mom get ready to go to the farmers’ market to buy the ingredients for “Grandma’s Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.” Lizzie wants Grandma to see that she “can cook just like her.” At the farmers’ market, Lizzie picks out the freshest sweet potatoes she can find. Back home, Mom and Dad peel and chop the potatoes and help Lizzie put them into the big pot of boiling water. When the potatoes are soft, it’s time for “the best part about making Smashed Sweet Potatoes. Smashing them!”

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Then “it’s time to add the secret ingredient! Grandma says every great recipe has one. It makes a chef’s food taste extra special and delicious.” But when Lizzie consults the recipe, no secret ingredient is listed. Lizzie decides she will just have to add one of her own. She looks in the spice cabinet and after going through bottle after bottle, she finds the perfect one. Lizzie gives her finished Smashed Sweet Potatoes a taste and waits for Grandma. Finally, Grandma arrives and everyone sits down to dinner. When Daddy tastes the sweet potatoes, he says, “‘Mmm!’” Mommy says, “‘ Mmmm!’” too.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

But what will Grandma say? Grandma takes a bite and exclaims, “‘These are even BETTER than my own Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.’” Then Grandma wants to know what Lizzie’s secret ingredient is. But of course Lizzie can’t tell her that! Grandma picks up Lizzie and gives her a big hug. “‘…being with you is the best ingredient of all,’” she says. And as Lizzie lies in bed later that night, reading her cookbook by flashlight, she wonders what she’ll cook tomorrow.

A recipe for Chef Lizzie’s (Grandma’s) Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes that encourages young chefs to experiment with their own secret ingredient follows the story.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Kids who love to cook or help out in the kitchen will be delighted by Matt Stine and Elisabeth Weinberg’s story of a little girl who wants to impress the grandmother who inspires her. Lizzie’s enthusiasm for cooking and her confidence in her skills make this an uplifting tale for children of all talents. Lizzie’s special bond with her grandmother adds a tender family element to the story and her big-hearted nature makes her a sweet companion for little readers. The recipe included in the back of the book invites children to make Lizzie’s Smashed Sweet Potato recipe and find their own secret ingredient—an invitation few will be able to resist.

Adorable little Lizzie, with her wild frizz of hair is energetic, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and a free spirit. With dashes of humor, Paige Keiser follows her through a day of creating the perfect dinner for Grandma. Dressed in her chef’s uniform, Lizzie splashes her dog with egg, sends him sneezing in a cloud of pepper, and turns him orange as she whacks away at the soft chunks of sweet potatoes. Images of Mom and Dad happily encouraging and supporting Lizzie in her cooking are heartwarming, and Grandma’s big hug is as sweet as it gets.

A charming and inspiring story, Little Chef is a fun read for culinary kids and any child experimenting with their talent and striving to do their best. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and a great gift for grandmothers and grandkids to share.

Ages 2 – 6

Feiwel & Friends, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250091697

Discover more about Elisabeth Weinberg, executive chef and owner of Miss Elisabeth’s Catering in New York and a Food Network “Chopped” Champion on her website.

Find out more about Matt Stine and his work as a music producer and composer for Broadway and Off-Broadway on his website.

To view a portfolio of artwork by Paige Keiser, visit her website.

Sweet Potato Awareness Month Activity

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We Love to Cook! Coloring Pages

 

Add your secret ingredient and get cooking on these printable coloring pages!

Baking with Grandma | Cooking with Dad

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You can find Little Chef at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday—with all of it’s shopping, decorating, cooking, and hosting of family and friends—offers lots of opportunities for adults and kids to share their funny, sad, and even embarrassing stories with each other. Learning about others’ triumphs and foibles is a wonderful way to build bonds, and when multiple generations get together it’s also a great time to pass down family traditions. Today’s holiday encourages people to engage in the art of oral storytelling as a way to stay connected to their family heritage. To celebrate elicit your child’s help in the holiday preparations—and get talking!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sharing-the-bread-an-old-fashioned-thanksgiving-story-pilgrim-hats

Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe box

My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe-cards

Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sharing-the-bread-cover

You can find Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 6 – National Noodle Day

Noodle Magic by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Meilo So Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Noodle on this: what’s the difference between noodles and most other dry pastas? Noodles contain eggs! It’s just this kind of fascinating fact you can learn on National Noodle Day. Whether you like spinning the long strands around your fork or slurping them right from the bowl, noodles make the perfect comfort food whether they’re mixed with sauce, pesto, or meat and veggies. People make some pretty awesome crafts from them too! And that’s not just modern-day creativity, either. Thirteenth-century bakers made their dough into birds, stars, words, and other shapes. To celebrate today enjoy your favorite noodle recipe!

Noodle Magic

Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong | Illustrated by Meilo So

 

The emperor’s birthday is coming, and everywhere excitement fills the air. Mei’s Grandpa Tu will no doubt be making his famous noodles for the celebration. Mei loves to watch her grandfather work, slapping and kneading the dough and pulling the strands of noodles. He is so creative with his cooking that everyone marvels, even the Moon Goddess. In fact, Grandpa Tu is such an extraordinary artist that he makes noodle jump ropes and kite strings for Mei and her friends. They are as “simple as a sunflower” and as “easy as a sea breeze” to make, says Grandpa Tu.

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Image copyright Meilo So, text copyright Roseanne Thong. Courtesy of meiloso.com

But Mei thinks there is more to his talent and wishes that she had his magic. Her grandfather believes she does possess it. One afternoon the pair watch animal-shaped clouds fill the sky, and Mei asks if her grandpa can catch them with noodles. That night he makes a batch of noodles, and in the morning the two collect clouds as the sun appears.

On the day before the emperor’s birthday, everyone is busy making something special—everyone except Grandpa Tu. The villagers are perplexed. On such an important day, they will all want to enjoy noodles—and what about the special long-life noodles for the emperor? It is time, Grandpa Tu tells Mei, for her to make the noodles.

Mei is surprised and terrified. She slaps and kneads the dough as she has seen her grandfather do, but it remains ordinary. Where is the magic? “‘Trust in yourself,’” Grandpa Tu tells her, but Mei is doubtful. She decides that perhaps if she gives the Moon Goddess a gift, she will get magic in return. “‘You have all the magic you need,’” her grandfather assures her. Still, he helps Mei make enough dough to form an enormous ball of noodles.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-noodle-magic-making-noodles

Image copyright Meilo So, text copyright Roseanne Thong. Courtesy of meiloso.com

Mei throws the ball to the Moon Goddess and calls out for the Goddess to give her magic. Wisely, the Goddess reminds Mei that magic must come from inside. Mei closes her eyes and thinks very hard. She tussles with the Moon Goddess in a noodle tug-of-war, and suddenly…Snap!…the noodles break. The sky rains noodles of all shapes and sizes, Mei has discovered the magic that was in her all along!

With the charm of a Chinese folktale, Roseanne Greenfield Thong tells the universal tale of self-discovery. Her lyrical language adds a magic of its own to the tale, as when Mei watches her grandfather make dough: “she loved the powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light.” The relationship between the little girl and her grandfather is lovingly portrayed, offering a gentle depiction of the wisdom and reassurance provided by extended family members.

Meilo So brings the story to vibrant life with her colorful paintings of village life, Mei and Grandpa Tu’s home, and the Moon Goddess. The magic of Grandpa Tu’s noodles is cleverly shown in the transparent animals, dragons, and birds outlined in noodles that frolic across the pages. The two-page spreads of Mei’s village are particularly captivating, as packed with interesting scenes and details as any bustling town.

Ages 4 – 8

Orchard Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-0545521673

To learn more about Roseanne Greenfield-Thong and her books, visit her website.

Discover more about Meilo So, her books, and her art on her website.

National Noodle Day Activity

CPB - Noodle Puzzle

Noodle on This! Puzzle

 

Everyone has their favorite kind of noodles! Help these noodles get to the right plate, bowl, or pot in this printable Noodle on This puzzle that’s as wiggly as a wet noodle!

Noodle Magic by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Meilo So Picture Book Review

You can find Noodle Magic at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 13 – National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fangsgiving-cover

About the Holiday

Sponsored by The Young Chefs Academy, today’s holiday encourages kids and teens to become more involved in planning and cooking meals. When children and teens have more of a stake in what they’re eating, they become more experimental in food choices, more knowledgeable about food issues, and more invested in eating healthy. Being part of the preparation of meals can even contribute to better understanding in science and math as they measure and weigh ingredients, cut fruit and veggies, and serve portions. To celebrate today, have your kids participate in cooking and/or baking. They may just find another activity to love!

Fangsgiving

By Ethan Long

 

The monsters were all gathering for their Thanksgiving feast. It was a real neighborhood affair. Virginia the werewolf brought the sweet potato casserole, Sandy the witch had made stuffing, and Mumford the mummy supplied the cranberry sauce. Vladimir the vampire always roasted the turkey because “he knew how to cook it just right.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fangsgiving-friends

Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Just as he was basting the bird, he heard an unfamiliar HONK! HONK! It was his Uncle Gus, Aunt Bessy, and the twins Joey and Shmoey. Even their dog Spike had come along for the ride. “Vladdy” was thrilled to see his family and brought them inside to meet his friends. Sandy was excited to show Aunt Bessy the “mashed potatoes…with garlic,” but Bessy just hisssssed and “whipped up another batch. This time with eyeballs and earwax.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fangsgiving-cooking

Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

When Uncle Gus saw Vladimir roasting the turkey over an open fire, he had a better idea. Gus hooked it up to an electric machine and gave it a good jolt. And thanks to Joey and Shmoey, Fran Frankenstein’s pumpkin pie “turned into lump-kin pie” with the addition of maggot meatballs. Although Vladimir loved his family, he didn’t love what they were doing to the annual feast. They even had to close the window and sit in the dark because Vlad’s family was sensitive to the rising sun.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fangsgiving-reunion

Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

“Maybe the food will taste better if we can’t see it!” someone said. But then they all heard a crunching sound. They turned on the light to discover that “Spike had devoured everything!” Vladimir exploded. His family looked at him with sad eyes. They couldn’t understand how they had “ruined Thanksgiving.” After all, they were family. Seeing their hurt expressions, Vladimir realized they were right. It was time for a dinner re-do. Everyone cooked all day, creatively using whatever ingredients they had left. And if the turkey looked a bit corn(dog)y, it was still delicious. “So on that fourth Friday in November” Vladimir’s family and friends all gave thanks for such delicious food “to die for.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fangsgiving-family

Copyright Ethan Long, 2018, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mixing the frightfully funny ghastliness of Halloween with the family-embracing gratitude of Thanksgiving, Ethan Long cooks up a hilarious “Ewww-inspiring” story for sweet little monsters everywhere. As the neighborhood Thanksgiving feast goes awry with the arrival of Vladimir’s family, readers will revel in images of kid-pleasingly repulsive additions to traditional treats. As Vladimir, his friends, and family learn to cooperate in making a meal everyone can enjoy, readers learn that the holidays (and any day) really are more about family, friends, and feelings than about food or other fleeting things. 

A laugh-out-loud complement to the autumn holidays and beyond, Fangsgiving would be a fun addition to home and classroom bookshelves, especially if paired with fun cooking, drawing, or writing activities.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681198255

To learn more about Ethan Long, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box

Vampire Goodie Box

 

Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!

Supplies

  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black paper, heavy stock or construction paper
  • Fabric glue
  • Regular glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box-side-view (2)

Directions

  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose darker silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece of red felt so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt. Use craft glue on paper. Let dry
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom portion of the collar to the box near the front edge with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fangsgiving-cover

You can find Fangsgiving at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review