November 23 – 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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baking-with-grandma-coloring=page

We Love to Cook! Coloring Pages

 

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

Baking with Grandma | Cooking with Dad

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-chef-cover

You can find Little Chef at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 5 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit in many ways from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s a terrific time for adults to share family history and their own stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started. 

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

Written by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence | Illustrated by Yuko Jones

 

This true story opens with an invitation to listen as Niki Nakayama talks about her journey to becoming a chef in thirteen bites. “Come. Sit. Taste…” Bite 1: Niki was born in California but her parents were born in Japan. “Outside of Niki’s house was Los Angeles. Inside of her house was Japan.” While the two cultures often felt disparate, in Niki’s family’s kitchen “they became one.” Niki’s mother always put a Japanese twist on American dishes, with soy sauce or rice or teriyaki.

Bite 2: Close to New Year’s Eve, Niki’s grandmother took her to the grocery store to shop for the holiday dinner. Niki was excited. She loved buying all the ingredients for the feast to come: an opportunity to share “a table of love and laughter” in addition to the food. As Niki grew older, she created her own recipes and determined that she would get away from her family’s seafood-selling business and do her own thing.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Niki’s dreams seemed to get little attention from her parents, who doted on their son and encouraged his success. But Niki new she could be successful too. “Kuyashii! Niki thought. ‘I’ll show them!’” After high school, Niki traveled to Tokyo, Japan, tasting all the delicious food on offer. Later she took the train to where her cousins owned an inn. There she was served a meal comprised of many dishes, each “a work of art” and each with a delicious memory attached or story to tell. “Niki learned this storytelling feast had a name: kaiseki.”

When Niki returned home, she told her mother she wanted to go to school to become a chef. Her mother discouraged her, but Niki went anyway. “She began to see food as art—a carrot as a mountain.” And while her family thought her cooking was just a hobby, Niki thought “Kuyashii! ‘I’ll show them!’” Niki got a job at a sushi restaurant. “Female sushi chefs were rare,” and the head chef didn’t think she could handle the work. “‘You’re just playing chef,’ he joked.” But Niki told him she wasn’t playing.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

After working there and learning all she could, Niki decided to travel back to her cousins’ inn to study kaiseki. But there was a big obstacle. “As far as she knew, female kaiseki chefs didn’t exist. In Japan recipes and training was only handed down to males. People told Niki her dream was impossible, but she thought she could do it. Niki studied for three years and then returned to Los Angeles to open a sushi restaurant of her own.

Instead of being happy for her, her family was dismissive. At last she convinced them to give her a loan—but it came with the stipulation that “if the restaurant failed, she would have to close it and say goodbye to her dream forever.” Instead of the kaiseki dishes she wanted to serve, her mother thought sushi would be a better choice. Against her own wishes, she agreed. In a year, customers were lining up for her food. But making sushi was not what she really wanted to do.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

She closed her restaurant and wondered what to do next. Then, after much thought and exploration, she had her answer. She wanted to serve kaiseki that told her story—both Japanese and Californian. “Niki called her new restaurant n/naka. Naka means ‘inside’ in Japanese. Finally, Niki was inside her dream.” Through thirteen courses she told her stories—never serving customers the same meal twice. Now, every night tables are full of love and laughter, and Niki showed everyone that she could be a master chef.

Back matter includes a timeline of Niki Nakayama’s life from her birth in Los Angeles in 1974 to the awarding of two Michelin stars for her restaurant n/naka in 2019; a discussion of the words kuyashii and kaiseki; and a recipe for wonton pizza.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence’s biography of Niki Nakayama is an enthralling story of self-confidence, obstacles overcome, and success that will inspire readers to stay true to the voice inside themselves. Telling Nakayama’s story through thirteen bite-sized vignettes that reveal formative moments in her life that informed her journey is a captivating and effective way to show Niki’s growth as a chef as well as to explain the meaning and experience of kaiseki.

Readers will respond to Michalak’s and Florence’s straightforward text and the details of the hurdles placed in her way. One take-away for adult readers is the importance of recognizing, encouraging, and supporting their children’s dreams and talents—an awareness that can lead to ongoing discussions with kids as they grow, learn, and get involved in activities.

Yuko Jones’ lovely illustrations take readers into Niki Nakayama’s home to see her interacting with her family and the foods that so inspired her life’s work. Jones’ images of Japanese delicacies are particularly beautiful, giving kids a strong understanding of the courses served during a kaiseki meal. Niki’s self-assurance in the face of her family’s protests and her male-dominated culinary school class as well as the rarity of female sushi chefs is stirring for all readers. Jones’ final page spreads reveal the gorgeous dishes Niki serves and the inviting atmosphere at her restaurant n/naka.

A captivating and impactful biography of a contemporary chef and role model, Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections to inspire all kids who are contemplating their place in the world now and in the future.

Ages 4 – 10

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2021 | ISBN 978-0374313876

Discover more about Jamie Michalak and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Debbi Michiko Florence and her books on her website.

To learn more about Yuko Jones and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

You can learn more about n/naka and view a gallery of Niki Nakayama’s spectacular dishes on the n/naka website.

Family Stories Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-niki-nakayama-a-chef's-tale-in-13-bites-coloring-page

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites Activity Kit

 

Educators and families can find an extensive Activity Kit and coloring pages to accompany classroom or homeschool lessons or just for fun on Jamie Michalak’s website and Debbi Michiko Florence’s website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-niki-nakayama-a-chef's-tale-in-13-bites-cover

You can find Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 26 – It’s National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

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About the Holiday

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month has been celebrated in October for more than 30 years and was made official in 1999 by then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. With its salty crunchiness and that enticing Pop Pop Pop rhythm, this snack is a favorite the world over. Its history goes back to the Aztecs and beyond. Early explorers of the 1500s wrote about native peoples roasting corn until it popped and described it as looking like a “white flower.” It was eaten and also strung for decoration.

Most people now eat popcorn with salt and butter, but can you imagine having it with milk? Way before Corn Flakes and Cheerios came on the scene, people ate popcorn as cereal! Popcorn’s popularity, well, popped during the Great Depression, when it was one of the only treats people could afford. Why not pop up a batch today! For more interesting popcorn facts and recipes visit www.popcorn.org.

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

Written by Cynthia Schumerth | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

A group of kids plants rows of seeds, which with rain and sun grow unseen until “Surprise! Like magic sprouts appear! / Green and tender, finally here.” The kids help their plants grow by pulling weeds and watching out for pests. The seeds grow and grow until they are taller—much taller—than the children. What are the kids growing? Corn, but not just any corn…. Can you guess?

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the ears are picked, shucked, and dried, the kernels are ready to be tossed “Plink, plunk, plink” into a pot and heated up. Do you know what kind of corn it is now, or do you need another hint? Okay… “Steam builds around each kernel’s germ, / puffs the starch called endosperm.” A bit of science brings about explosive results then “first one pop! Then pops galore!” You know now! The kids grew their own popcorn! When the pot is overflowing it’s time for “butter, salt, then give a swish. / Lick our fingers—Mmm! Delish!”

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Fascinating back matter reveals the science behind this favorite treat. Diagrams and photographs let kids see inside a popcorn kernel and view the progression of a kernel as it is heated. They also learn about the two different shapes of popcorn and how they are used. A science activity gives readers the steps for growing their own popcorn from seed to sprout and reveals what transformations take place inside the kernel as the little plant grows. A popcorn art project fills out this STEAM lesson that’s sure to be a favorite.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There may be no more universally loved snack than popcorn, and Cynthia Schumerth makes learning about the science of growing the plants, preparing the ears for popping, and what happens when the kernels are heated lots of fun. Her bouncy rhyming storytelling will engage kids and get them excited about all the lessons these tiny kernels have to teach. Schumerth’s storytelling builds to its “kaboom” moment, mirroring the suspense popcorn lovers listening for that first Pop. Teachers and homeschoolers will love the resources following the story, which provide for a full lesson appropriate for science, nature, or cross-curricular lessons.

Mary Reaves Uhles’s action-packed illustrations will enthrall kids with their close-up perspectives and relatable details, like the little girl who’s wearing a cat’s ears headband as she digs up the ground for planting. Readers go underground to get a worm’s eye view of the kernels sprouting roots, get down in the dirt to pull weeds, and peek into the pot to make sure there’s going to be enough popcorn for the whole crowd. Images of the kernels pop, pop, popping show the process and will make kids plenty hungry. The final spread of all of the kids enjoying their harvest together is a celebration of popcorn and friendship.

An exuberant story that will spark enthusiasm for science learning and gardening, Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! will be a quick favorite and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110427

Discover more about Cynthia Schumerth and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Want to know more about Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!? You can read my interview with Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles here!

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month Activity

CPB - popcorn1

Popcorn Blast-Off Game

 

The popcorn is flying! Can you catch it? This is a fun game to celebrate this most delicious month! And if you keep the popcorn socks, it will make a great quick activity for those times when you want to get up and move but just don’t know what to do.

Supplies

  • 6 pairs of girls socks – white
  • A large bag of cotton balls
  • Towel or small blanket

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with a large handful of cotton balls (about 25)
  2. Knot the sock as you would a balloon and fold down the remaining ankle cuff
  3. Squish the sock to move the cotton balls until your sock looks like a piece of popcorn
  4. Players hold each end of the towel or side of the blanket so it sags
  5. Place popcorn in the middle of the towel or blanket
  6. On the count of 3, players pull tight on the towel or blanket
  7. Try to catch as many flying popcorn pieces in the towel or blanket as you can

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You can find Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

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About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

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Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

Johnny Appleseed 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

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

You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 1 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available at farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way to learn new cooking skills and practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats! Today’s book should get you off to a great start!

Thanks to Little Gestalten for sending me a copy of We Love Pizza for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Gestalten in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

We Love Pizza: Everything you want to know about your number one food

By Elenia Beretta

 

A spritely poem opens this compendium of all things pizza and invites readers to learn about this world-favorite dish, from its origins in Italy to a trip into outer space. First up, though, you’ll learn that “pizzas can be round or square, / In different shapes and sizes, / And sometimes what is in or on them / Is full of big surprises.” For instance, if you (or you and your friends) are super hungry, you might want to try a pizza al metro from Sorrento, Italy. “‘Metro’ means ‘meter’ (39 inches)—not the subway!—and that’s how long it is.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-pizza-margherita

Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Or you might like a slice of New York pizza, which is so big “you’ll need to fold it before you can hold it.” If you like your pizza ingredients inside the pizza, try a calzone or a lahmacun from Turkey and Armenia, which is “rolled up like a sleeping hedgehog, with minced meat on top and some super spicy vegetables inside, like onions, peppers, and garlic.”

So we know that people all over the world love pizza, but who invented it? That honor would go to some creative chef (or chefs) in Naples, Italy, who began selling pizza in 1738. At first, pizza was considered “a simple food for the poor,” but when Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba opened its doors in 1830 “as a proper restaurant,” pizza went upscale. Pizza became so popular that kings and queens even began enjoying it. One particular style of pizza was even created for a queen and was named after her. Can you guess which one? You may have even eaten one yourself!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-pizza-baking

Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Since you like to eat pizza so much, maybe you’d like to learn how to make it—from scratch, of course. Including the crust. When the pizza is bubbly, cheesy, and HOT, there’s only one thing left to do—eat it! But how you eat it is up to you. Is your way described in the next pages?

You may wonder when pizza came to America. When Italian immigrants moved to the US in the late 19th century, they brought their love of pizza with them. “When the first pizzerias in the USA were opened, more and more toppings were introduced, and more and more people became pizza fans.” In fact some of today’s best loved pizza places once housed much different businesses.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-pizza-america

Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

By now, you’re probably pretty hungry, so you’ll want to check out the fifteen very different types of pizza from around the world. One costs $2,000; one comes in a box made of pizza; and another is probably the sweetest pizza you’ve ever heard of. Of course, no book can celebrate pizza without mentioning all the people who have a hand in growing the ingredients, baking it, and serving it. You’ll be impressed with how much care goes into just one pizza!

Along the way, you’ll also learn fascinating facts about where in the world the most pizza is eaten, the video game character inspired by pizza, some incredible pizza records, and delivery options for every pizza lover.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-pizza-around-the-world

Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Elenia Beretta pairs her engaging and educational text about pizza with bright, whimsical images that introduce kids to a plethora of pizza styles and flavors as well as the people who created them long ago and those who gobble them down today. A highlight for any would-be pizza baker is the step-by-step illustrated tutorial on making a pizza starting with flour and yeast and ending with “Yum!” Depictions of pizzas enjoyed by readers’ peers around the world may inspire some kids to try something other than their usual order.

For kids who love pizza, history, cooking, and learning more about the world’s cultures, We Love Pizza is a smart and fun addition to any book collection.

Ages 5 – 9

Little Gestalten, 2021 | ISBN 978-3967047059

To learn more about Elenia Beretta, her books, and her art, visit her website.

We Love Pizza Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Little Gestalten in a giveaway. There will be two (2) lucky winners – One entrant and a friend they have tagged. Each winner will receive: 

  • One (1) copy of We Love Pizza by Elenia Beretta

To enter:

This giveaway is open from July 1 to July 5 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on July 6. 

Prizing provided by Little Gestalten

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

 

Create Your Pizza! Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Object of the Game: to be the first player to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

Directions

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards on regular paper or heavy stock
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first 
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places the facing ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play then passes to the right
  6. After the first round of play, when players roll an ingredient they already have, the die is passed to the next player
  7. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board and ingredients cards for each player. The first player to fill all the slices on the pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: add sauce (red x)

2: add cheese

3: add green peppers (green squares)

4: add garlic (white half moons)

5: add pepperoni

6: remove one ingredient and pass the playing die to the next player

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-pizza-cover

You can find We Love Pizza at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 15 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m excited to be celebrating the Book Birthday of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!, a story that makes delicious fun of learning about nature, science, and one fantastic treat! 

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

Written by Cynthia Schumerth | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

A group of kids plants rows of seeds, which with rain and sun grow unseen until “Surprise! Like magic sprouts appear! / Green and tender, finally here.” The kids help their plants grow by pulling weeds and watching out for pests. The seeds grow and grow until they are taller—much taller—than the children. What are the kids growing? Corn, but not just any corn…. Can you guess?

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the ears are picked, shucked, and dried, the kernels are ready to be tossed “Plink, plunk, plink” into a pot and heated up. Do you know what kind of corn it is now, or do you need another hint? Okay… “Steam builds around each kernel’s germ, / puffs the starch called endosperm.” A bit of science brings about explosive results then “first one pop! Then pops galore!” You know now! The kids grew their own popcorn! When the pot is overflowing it’s time for “butter, salt, then give a swish. / Lick our fingers—Mmm! Delish!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-stovetop

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Fascinating backmatter reveals the science behind this favorite treat. Diagrams and photographs let kids see inside a popcorn kernel and view the progression of a kernel as it is heated. They also learn about the two different shapes of popcorn and how they are used. A science activity gives readers the steps for growing their own popcorn from seed to sprout and reveals what transformations take place inside the kernel as the little plant grows. A popcorn art project fills out this STEAM lesson that’s sure to be a favorite.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-party

Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

There may be no more universally loved snack than popcorn, and Cynthia Schumerth makes learning about the science of growing the plants, preparing the ears for popping, and what happens when the kernels are heated lots of fun. Her bouncy rhyming storytelling will engage kids and get them excited about all the lessons these tiny kernels have to teach. Schumerth’s storytelling builds to its “kaboom” moment, mirroring the suspense popcorn lovers listening for that first Pop. Teachers and homeschoolers will love the resources following the story, which provide for a full lesson appropriate for science, nature, or cross-curricular lessons.

Mary Reaves Uhles’s action-packed illustrations will enthrall kids with their close-up perspectives and relatable details, like the little girl who’s wearing a cat’s ears headband as she digs up the ground for planting. Readers go underground to get a worm’s eye view of the kernels sprouting roots, get down in the dirt to pull weeds, and peek into the pot to make sure there’s going to be enough popcorn for the whole crowd. Images of the kernels pop, pop, popping show the process and will make kids plenty hungry. The final spread of all of the kids enjoying their harvest together is a celebration of popcorn and friendship.

An exuberant story that will spark enthusiasm for science learning and gardening, Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! will be a quick favorite and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110427

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Want to know more about Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn? You can read my interview with Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles here!

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! Book Birthday Activity

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Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

 

The popcorn’s jumpin’! Can you match the six pairs of kernels so you can enjoy a tasty snack in this printable puzzle?

Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

You can find Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 25 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you and your family have always liked to bake together or you’ve found a new hobby in the past year, February is a great time to scour cookbooks or find recipes online and add some new taste sensations to your traditional favorites. Baking together teaches valuable cooking skills and is a creative way to engage with math. It can also bring your family closer as you talk about old memories that revolve around baking or cooking and make memories for the future. Of course the best part of baking together is eating the delicious treats afterward!

Ginger and Chrysanthemum

Written by Kristen Mai Giang | Illustrated by Shirley Chan

 

Ginger has come to visit her cousin Chrysanthemum. “They’re as close as two beans in a pod,” but they don’t always see things the same way. Today is their grandmother’s birthday, and they want to make it perfect. Chrysanthemum has made a list of things they must do. First, she says they must dress up. While Chrysanthemum puts on the tidy checked dress she brought along and slips on a matching headband and cool, white sandals, Ginger tries on everything in her closet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-visiting

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

When Ginger’s ready, Chrysanthemum consults her list again and finds it’s time to shop for decorations and a gift and then head to Grandma’s New Asian Kitchen restaurant to decorate. Ginger doesn’t want to take time to read a list, though, and pulls her cousin out the door. They hurry to the market to do their shopping. Ginger finds paper lanterns in every color and thinks it’s fun to balance a stack of them on her head. Chrysanthemum knows Grandma loves flowers and chooses ginger and chrysanthemum flowers for the party. For Grandma’s gift, they buy a jade pendant.

One thing the cousins do agree on is that they love to help out at the grandmother’s restaurant. While each girl has their own favorite job to do, today they are decorating together. Ginger is running around hanging lanterns and Chrysanthemum  is carefully placing flowers on the tables when Grandma asks which of them would like to bake the birthday cake. Ginger has visions of making “an AMAZING cake with BLAZING candles” while Chrysanthemum says, “‘I’ll make a cake light and cool as a cloud.’” Grandma suggests they work together to make her green tea cake.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-utensils

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Ginger rushes around the kitchen, banging pans and rattling bowls; Chrysanthemum makes another list and patiently lays out all of her utensils and ingredients. Ginger is mixing the flour, eggs, and sugar with such vigor that the batter splashes everywhere. “‘Ginger, you’re too messy,’” Chrysanthemum tells her. Ginger is upset with how slowly Chrysanthemum is working. “Chrysanthemum steams like a teapot.”

Both girls reach for the green tea powder at the same time, but Ginger’s faster and dumps it in the bowl. Chrysanthemum yells at her cousin that she’s not following the recipe, but Ginger grumbles that “‘a recipe is just a fancy list.’” With the cake ruined, the girls take a break and decide to make another cake. But there’s no more green tea powder. They mull over the problem then Ginger suggests using chrysanthemum tea instead of green tea, and Chrysanthemum thinks of using ginger ice cream for the frosting. Ginger cleans up the mess while Chrysanthemum measures out the ingredients. “Ginger mixes. Chrysanthemum pours.” When they lick the spoon, the batter tastes delicious.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-baking

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

At the party, Chrysanthemum and Ginger take Grandma by the arms and lead her over to show her their cake. “The cake looks a little lopsided, the color slightly strange…. Ginger and Chrysanthemum hold hands – and their breath” as Grandma takes a bite. “She loves it!” She hugs her “little soybeans.” Then Ginger and Chrysanthemum share a slice. “Warm cake, cool icing. Perfect together. Like two beans in a pod.”

An Author’s note explaining the traditional Chinese belief that foods have warming or cooling characteristics and should, ideally, create a balance follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-party

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

In her entertaining story of two cousins with opposite personalities, Kristen Mai Giang cleverly uses the Chinese concept of warm and cool foods to create impulsive Ginger and precise Chrysanthemum. As the girls dress and shop for Grandma’s party, readers will be charmed by the cousins while giggling at their differences. When mishaps while baking Grandma’s cake fray their nerves and lead to angry words, Giang introduces a gentle lesson on how to get back on track and cooperation. While taking a break, Ginger and Chrysanthemum rely on their close relationship to come up with a solution that pleases them both. Kids will appreciate the ingenuity in their new recipe that combines both of their personalities and may be inspired to try making up a cake recipe of their own.

Shirley Chan clearly sketches out Ginger and Chrysanthemum’s opposite personalities in the first pages as Ginger stands in the middle of her messy room sporting a mix-and-match outfit appropriate for a rock star while Chrysanthemum channels a runway model in her perfectly accessorized dress. Spontaneous kids will identify with Chan’s depictions of Ginger playing around at the market while careful children will admire Chrysanthemum’s thoughtfulness in choosing just the right flowers. Chan’s images of the two spirited girls in the kitchen will enchant young readers, and the party scene is vibrant and inviting.

A creative and relatable story to inspire teamwork and a celebration of individuality, Ginger and Chrysanthemum would be an engaging addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Levine Querido, 2020 | ISBN 978-1646140015

Discover more about Kristen Mai Giang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shirley Chan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bake-up-some-fun-word-search

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-cover

You can find Ginger and Chrysanthemum at these booksellers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review