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

September 2 – It’s National Chicken Month

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About the Holiday

For over twenty years, the National Chicken Council has used the month of September to promote chicken sales as the summer grilling season winds down. The endeavor has been so successful that September is now known as National Chicken Month! While chicken on the dinner plate or in a sandwich is delicious, chickens also make good pets and—as today’s book proves—great friends!

Bear and Chicken

By Jannie Ho

 

On a cold winter day, Bear was coming home from his morning walk when “he saw a chicken, frozen in the snow!” He picked her and her knapsack up and brought them inside, where a warm fire crackled in the fireplace. “How does one defrost a chicken? thought Bear.” Bear took a blanket and wrapped the chicken like a burrito and held her tight until her eyes opened. When that happened, Bear smiled and Chicken found herself staring into two rows of very sharp teeth.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear took Chicken into the kitchen, where carrots and onions sat on the counter. Bear picked up his cookbook and began to read. “‘You are just in time,’” he said to Chicken. Chicken looked on worriedly as Bear filled a huge, chicken-sized pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. When Chicken inadvertently knocked over a pot of basil, Bear decided it was a perfect addition to his recipe.

With a newly sharpened knife, Bear chopped up carrots, celery, and onions. “‘Hmmm…what else is missing?’ said Bear,” looking right at Chicken. Bear lifted Chicken up to the pot of hot, bubbling broth. Imagining what would happen next, Chicken wriggled out of Bear’s grasp and ran away as fast as she could and out the front door.

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Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Bear chased after her, and even though Chicken “zig-zagged through the trees,” Bear caught up with her. She glanced at the big stick Bear had raised over her head, and thought it was the end for her. But Bear, his feelings hurt, was just holding out Chicken’s knapsack. “‘You forgot this,’” he said. Surprised, Chicken blurted out, ‘”You’re not going to eat me?’” Now it was Bear’s turn to be surprised, and he explained that he was making lunch for both of them.

Still wary, Chicken protested that she wasn’t hungry, but her grumbling tummy gave her away. The two laughed, and after Bear promised to help Chicken find her way home, they went inside to enjoy delicious bowls of vegetable soup.

An adorably illustrated recipe for Bear’s Vegetable Soup and a note about the diet of Black Bears follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-and-chicken-double-spread

Copyright Jannie Ho, 2017, courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Kids will love the suspense and humor of Jannie Ho’s mistaken purposes story. Her clever culinary puns set the action directly in the kitchen and put young readers in the same mindset as poor Chicken when she wakes up to a very suspicious smile. As Chicken stews about her predicament, little ones will empathize with her while older readers may have fun predicting Bear’s intent. The chase through the woods provides gentle suspense while the sweet reconciliation will have readers giggling along with Chicken and Bear.

Ho brings her distinctively cute artwork to her debut as an author/illustrator with great effect as Bear and Chicken exchange meaningful looks—but is Bear serious about cooking Chicken or just serious about his cooking? Kids will fall in love with little chicken from the moment she’s found in the snow and snugged into a warm blanket. Her worried expression will further endear her to readers, and who can blame them for a bit of worry of their own when Bear’s décor includes such things as a picture of bacon and eggs and the prominently displayed Chicken Cookbook?

A cozy Cozy for the youngest mystery lovers, Bear and Chicken would be a welcome guest on any home, classroom, or public library bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762462667

Discover more about Jannie Ho, her books, and her artwork on her website.

National Chicken Month Activity

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A Chicken to Crow About

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooden turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Cut out the comb from the red felt
  2. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  3. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  4. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Bear-and-Chicken-cover-II

You can find Bear and Chicken at these booksellers

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

July 16 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from entrees to desserts to everything in between. July is also a great time to honor the chefs, cooks, and bakers who continually develop new dishes, create exciting taste sensations, and make dining out an event to look forward to. Of course, during this month we also thank those home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate the holiday, go out to your favorite restaurant or try a new place. At home, get the kids involved in making meals or special treats. Cooking together is a terrific way to spend time together, and today’s book can get you started!

United Tastes of America: An Atlas of Food Facts & Recipes from Every State

Written by Gabrielle Langholtz | Illustrations by Jenny Bowers | Photographs by DL Acken

 

If you have a child who loves to cook, who’s a bit of a foodie, or who just likes to chow down, then the mouth-watering, eye-popping United Tastes of America is for them! Young travelers will also appreciate the wanderlust that the recipes and fascinating facts from each state serve up in abundance. Come along on a dip into the vast and varied culinary world of America!

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Starting on the East Coast in the state I grew up in, we visit Florida, where as Gabrielle Langholtz says, the “tropical weather allows farmers to grow all kinds of fruit, including lots of citrus.” The plentiful coastline on this peninsula also provides “fish such as grouper, pompano, and mullet.” Residents from Cuba Jamaica, Haiti, and the Bahamas have brought “Caribbean dishes such as mashed yucca,…fried plantains,…and arroz con pollo.” A slice of refreshing Key lime pie deliciously finishes off any meal. Some other tidbits to gnaw on before getting to the Key Lime Pie recipe on the next page revolve around the Cubano sandwich, conchs, alligators, and stone crabs.

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Moving up the coast and a bit inland, we come to Pennsylvania, where members of the Pennsylvania Dutch community know how to dish up traditional flavors from their German heritage that are still favorites with adults and kids. Some of these include “chicken potpie, ham loaf, egg noodles, and schnitz un knepp, or pork with dried apples.” You’d also find bright pink hard-boiled eggs (colored by pickling them with beets) and hinkelhatz, a hot pepper used to make sauerkraut from homegrown cabbage. Other local delicacies include button mushrooms (“The tiny town of Kennett Square, home to only six thousand people, grows more than a million pounds of mushrooms each week! That’s half of all the mushrooms farmed in America.”), chow chow, cheese steak, scrapple, and pepper pot. Turn the page and you’ll find a recipe for Soft Pretzels, a well-deserved pride of Pennsylvania.

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Photograph copyright DL Ackers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Trekking into the very middle of the country, we discover Missouri, which in addition to it’s tasty treats has a distinctive connection to home cooks everywhere. In 1931 Missouri resident Irma Rombauer “published 3,000 copies of The Joy of Cooking…. Irma’s book showed American food in a time of change.” While it contained recipes “for farm foods, like pickles, pie, and even possum…The Joy of Cooking also included recipes for canned ingredients, which many people saw as the foods of the future.” Irma may have been inspired by hearty Missouri fare like steak (a favorite ever since cowboys began bringing cattle from the southwest to the rail yards in Kansas City, MO), black walnuts from the Ozark Mountains, toasted ravioli, introduced by the state’s Italian immigrants, and partridge, a purported fave of Mark Twain. When you’re ready to create a true Missouri original, turn to the recipe for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake that is a “creamy-on-the-inside and crisp-on-the-sugary-top treat.”

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Travel down and west a few states to find New Mexico and its spicy cuisine. Known for its chile peppers (when you order be prepared to answer “the state’s official question ‘red or green?’”), New Mexico boasts home cooks and restaurants who can really highlight this hot ingredient. You can enjoy Posole, which is hominy simmered with green chiles and shredded pork or chicken; carne adovada, “pork cooked in red chile sauce with vinegar” and served with warm tortillas; and spicy pie, which is “apple pie baked with spicy Hatch chiles and often eaten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.” If you want to try something non-spicy, take a taste of prickly pear or piñon nuts. Hungry for a cookie with a bit of snap? Try the recipe for the anise-flavored Biscochitos, the official state cookies of New Mexico, that pair nicely with hot chocolate.

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Photograph copyright DL Ackers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Finally, this culinary caravan reaches the west coast and Oregon’s diverse flavor sensations. On the coast, fish and seafood as well as fiddlehead ferns, chanterelle mushrooms, and berries are seasonal treats. The Cascade Mountains offer more fishing, and in the valleys below fruit orchards provide apricots, peaches, pears, and apples. Foodies will be interested in snapshots that include the fact that “Oregon grows 99 percent of America’s hazelnuts” and that “scientists at Oregon State University developed delicious new berry varieties that include marionberries and tayberries.” You can get your day off to a healthy start with the hearty recipe for Granola with Hazelnuts and Cherries.

In addition to pages and recipes from the fifty states, United Tastes of America also includes culinary highlights from Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Before kids and adults get cooking, Gabrielle Langholtz packs the front matter with cooking tips, descriptions of nine cooking methods, helpful cooking how-tos, an illustrated and descriptive guide to kitchen tools, and a map of the United States and its territories. Two indexes in the back of the book help readers find information presented in the text and also present the recipes by level of difficulty from Easier than Average to Average Difficulty to Harder than Average. Most recipes fall within the Easier and Average categories. Her light, conversational introductions to each state will pique the interest of foodies, history lovers, and travelers alike.

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Photograph copyright DL Ackers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Each state is introduced with a two-page spread spotlighted with Jenny Bowers’ vivid, bold typography that names the state and presides over a silhouette of the state which hosts charming depictions of the interesting morsels of culinary information. Every recipe is clearly and beautifully photographed by DL Acken and presented in a way that is irresistibly enticing.

A cookbook that goes beyond its culinary roots, United Tastes of America will appeal to both kids and adults. It is a book that will be as welcome in the classroom for geography and social studies lessons (with a side dish of tastings) as in the kitchen, and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 11 and up (these are terrific family recipes that all ages will enjoy)

Phaidon, 2019 | ISBN 978-0714878621

You can connect with Gabrielle Langholtz on Instagram and Twitter

You can find a portfolio of work by Jenny Bowers on her website.

Discover more about DL Acken and her photography on her website.

Culinary Arts Month 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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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

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You can find United Tastes of America 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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-cacao-africa

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-cacao-chocolate

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-cacao-birthday

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

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

Today, the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the original 13 colonies, which asserted that the colonies considered themselves a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire. The day is traditionally celebrated with parades, picnics, and grand fireworks in cities and towns across the country or in one of our beautiful national parks. The holiday also provides the opportunity to remember and honor all the people who have come to America’s shores and have helped to build our nation. 

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel., 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580899857 (Paperback, 2019) 

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her books on her website. You’ll also find a Teacher’s Guide for Mountain Chef.

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Independence Day Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

The national parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. You may not be able to visit all of these parks, but you can still enjoy their beauty while you learn a little about them with these printable coloring pages! Then check the map and see if there’s a park near you!

Mesa Verde National Park | Gates of the Arctic National Park | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Biscayne National Park | Acadia National Park | Everglades National Park | Rocky Mountains National Park | National Parks Map

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You can find Mountain Chef at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 24 – National Escargot Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a fan of French cuisine—and who isn’t?—today is a day to celebrate! Escargot, or an edible snail, is a dish that has been enjoyed since at least Roman times. In fact, the oldest known cookbook, which dates from the first century B.C. to the second century A.D., contains a recipe for snails. To commemorate the day, you could head out to your favorite French restaurant or enjoy the sweet culinary caper in today’s book!

Escargot

Written by Dashka Slater | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

Escargot is a beautiful French snail. Of course, he says, you can see that for yourself. But, he wonders, what part of him do you think is the most beautiful part? His shell, his neck, or his antennae? Escargot will give you time to think about it, but he acknowledges that it is a very tough choice. “That is because all of Escargot is magnifique!” And if you want to kiss him, that’s ok too.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Escargot is on a mission to reach the beautiful salad “with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette” at the end of the picnic table (and the book). You are lucky enough to be invited along. As you accompany Escargot, he asks you a question. It seems simple enough: “What is your favorite animal?” Perhaps you’ve already started considering all the possibilities. But wait. Escargot has a sad story for you. A story, he says, that is “so sad I might cry.” He asks you to stroke his shell as he reveals “the very sad thing: Nobody ever says their favorite animal is the snail.”

Could it be they think Escargot is too slimy? He counters that the trails he leaves are not slime, but “shimmery stuff.” Could it be that snails are too shy? Escargot demonstrates the fierce face he uses to scare away “a lion or a wild boar or a carrot that sneaks into my salad.” And just then he comes upon such a carrot and asks you to make a fierce face and roar at it too. Yikes! You’ve scared Escargot into his shell. Escargot knows that you want him to come out again. All you have to do is ask him…and offer him a kiss. Don’t forget now, and he will “kiss you back: Mwah!” Now is the snail your favorite animal?

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Don’t say that snails are too slow to be your favorite animal. Escargot just likes to relax “before enjoying salad with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette” like any French snail. He “could run faster than the cheetah” if he wanted.

Don’t believe it? Escargot will race you to the salad—and whoever wins will be your favorite animal. Escargot takes off like the wind. Just a minute—he needs a rest, and if you could just blow on him to cool him off…. Now he’s ready “for the final sprint.” Ah ha! Escargot’s antenna is the first to touch the salad bowl. Wait…you’re there too? Escargot is generous and willing to share the victory with you. Now it’s time to celebrate by eating the salad “with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette.” Escargot climbs atop a crouton and surveys the greenery.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gasp! Among the croutons and the light vinaigrette lurk carrots! Escargot makes his fierce face, but the carrot does not run. Then Escargot remembers you; perhaps you would like to try the carrot. In fact, Escargot will try it with you. Just an itty-bitty nibble. Oh dear! The carrot turned out to be delicious, and Escargot forgot to leave you any. Now you’ll never choose him as your favorite animal.

“But that is okay. C’est la vie.”  In fact, Escargot thinks YOU are beautiful and magnifique. You are his favorite animal and he happily gives you a kiss. “Mwah!

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Dashka Slater’s instant classic features the sly stylings of a cunning French snail who wants nothing more than a lot of love and a little salad. Escargot’s wily ways include a pinch of boasting, a stir of the heartstrings, a dash of hyperbole, and a whole cupful of charm. Adults with little ones in their life will recognize all of them, and young readers will certainly identify with this sweet snail. Slater even sprinkles French phrases throughout the story to set just the right tone. Escargot’s gentle humor and wide-eyed entreaties to play along by pushing him, commenting on his most beautiful feature, stroking his shell, making a fierce face, kissing him, racing him, cooling him off, and trying a carrot will enchant kids and have them eagerly participating in reading. Escargot’s turn-about and Mwah! kiss at the end will also be familiar to adults as it presents the perfect ending for a perfectly beautiful story time.

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Escargot certainly has one thing right: he is beautiful. Sydney Hanson’s adorable French snail with his striped T, red neckerchief, teeny-tiny beret, and needle-thin antennae will steal readers’ hearts and will, of course, become their favorite animal. Escargot’s picnic-table race track, rendered in fresh, soft hues, is appropriately laden with French delicacies that serve as well-conceived and clever props for highlighting this one-of-a-kind snail. Hanson captures the big, innocent eyes, winsome looks, and generous kisses that little ones often use to beguiling effect to make Escargot absolutely oh là là magnifique

A perfect pairing of story and art, Escargot is a charmer for any story time, and would be a fun take-along for picnics and other outings. The book would be a smile-inducing, feel-good addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374302818

Discover more about Dashka Slater and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Sydney Hanson, visit her tumblr.

National Escargot Day Activity

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Happy Snail Coloring Page

 

This little snail will slither right into your heart! Have fun decorating this printable Happy Snail Coloring Page! You may even want to add a dash of glitter!

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You can find Escargot 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