July 23 – It’s 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!

Dozens of Doughnuts

Written by Carrie Finison | Illutrated by Brianne Farley

 

On a bright autumn morning, LouAnn is busy making a dozen doughnuts—her last treat before her long winter nap. “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Toasty, and tasty, and ALL for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Woodrow?’” At the door stands a little beaver. LouAnn invites him in and seats him at the kitchen table. They’re just about to split the doughnuts when the doorbell chimes again.

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

This time it’s Clyde, the raccoon. LouAnn welcomes him in and offers him her plate of doughnuts while she whips up another batch. These doughnuts—four for each—are frosted in blue. They’re all about to take a bite when “DING-DONG!” Tospy the possum arrives. “‘Delicious!’ cries Topsy. / She gulps down a swallow. / LouAnn’s heart feels warm, / but her belly feels hollow.” She stirs and she fries and soon has “One dozen doughnuts, hot from the pan. / Some for each friend, and the rest for— / DING-DONG! / ‘Mouffette?’”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

A skunk joins the group, nibbling and toasting with three doughnuts each as LouAnn uses her last egg to make more. This is it—the last dozen doughnuts. LouAnn is ready to munch when… you know! But there’s not a friend at the door—there are two! Two little chipmunks cram their cheeks full. And LouAnn? “She’s ready to sleep through the snow, ice, and sleet. / But winter is near and there’s NOTHING to eat!”

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

From deep down in her grumbling, rumbling belly there emerges a huge “ROAR!”  as all of the friends “dash for the door.” LouAnn cries it out and collapses on the floor. Then “DING-DONG!” Who could be left? Who is there now? It seems Woodrow and Clyde, Topsy and Mouffette, and even Chip and Chomp are more observant than they might have seemed. They’ve brought milk and flour, eggs and supplies. And after snugging LouAnn into her favorite chair, they go to work. Soon there are “dozens of doughnuts, / hot from the pan. / Stacked up in heaps, and they’re ALL for LouAnn!” But does she gobble them all down, or are there some left for—?

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Image copyright Brianne Farley, 2020, text copyright Carrie Finison, 2020. Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Dozens of Doughnuts ever since I met Carrie Finison at a kidlit conference last year, and am excited to feature this charmer for Culinary Arts Month. Finison’s bright, bouncy rhythm and perfect rhymes set up brilliant suspenseful page turns that, while disappointing for LouAnn, will have readers in gales of giggles and chiming along after the first surprising twist. LouAnn’s ready willingness to share her dozens of doughnuts is kindness at its best and also provide an invitation for kids to do a little math as each friend shares in LouAnn’s generosity. When LouAnn, getting hungrier and sleepier, finally cracks, sending her friends running, the final “DING-DONG!” ushers in another sweet surprise. Just like readers, it seems LouAnn’s friends have been paying attention to the numbers, and they want to be sure that LouAnn gets her equal share too. Finison’s storytelling provides a baker’s dozen of delight and will become a favorite read aloud for any child.

Deliciously enchanting, Brianne Farley’s illustrations introduce some of the most adorable forest animals around as they come to visit LouAnn, lured by the aroma of her doughnuts. Farley has designed for LouAnn a little stone house that’s an ingenious update on a bear’s cave and has decorated it with from a fresh color palette. Likewise, her autumn foliage makes use of creative raspberry russets and glowing yellows. LouAnn’s facial expressions clearly depict her waning enthusiasm for all the interruptions, but also her gracious personality once she opens the door. Kids will love watching the window beside the front door and trying to guess who each new guest will be.

The detailed images of doughnuts on each animal’s plate makes it easy for children and adults to talk about math concepts, including counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and sorting. When hunger and weariness finally overtake LouAnn, kids and adults will recognize her meltdown and commiserate with her. The return of LouAnn’s friends with supplies and good cheer makes this pre-hibernation party one that all children will want to attend (with their own doughnuts, of course!).

Endearing to the max, Dozens of Doughnuts is a joy to share and is sure to stir up enthusiasm for repeat readings at home, in the classroom, or for public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518358

Discover more about Carrie Finison and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brianne Farley, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut – or bagel – hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs or cut circles from cardboard or regular or thick poster board
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD or other material and let dry
  2. Add “frosting” by painting from the wavy line inward to the clear center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted. If using another material, draw and cut a center “hole” for your doughnut.
  3. When the “frosting” is dry, draw sprinkles on it with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find Dozens of Doughnuts at these booksellers

Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 9 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from salad to dessert and everything in between and the chefs, cooks, and bakers who create new dishes that keep us coming back for more. This month we also thank all the home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate this year, help out your local restaurants or bakeries and order take out to enjoy with your family. While spending more time at home this summer, why not get the kids involved in making meals or special treats. Cooking together is a terrific way to make memories while making family favorites.

A Book for Escargot

Written by Dashka Slater | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

“Bonjour!” Escargot—that most adorable snail (he’ll tell you so himself)—is back! He can see that you’re reading and doesn’t want to disturb you, even though he knows that “It can be distracting to have a very beautiful French snail staring at you while you read.” In fact, Escargot is on his way through the library to check out a French cookbook right now. Along the way, he’d like to talk about all things literary. First, Escargot would like to know your favorite book. “Is it Goldytentacles and the Three Snails? Harry Gastropodder and the Chamber of Salads?” Or maybe it’s another snail classic.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Escargot loves books, but there’s one thing that is so sad it makes him cry. Go ahead—you can wipe the tears from his eyes with your sleeve. What is so sad? None of the books have a snail hero. All the books about snails that he’s seen “make a joke about slow snail or shy snail. I am not laughing at this joke,” he says.

Escargot thinks that you—yes you, the reader—can write a story about an extraordinary snail that has daring adventures. He’ll even help you with the first sentence and how to illustrate such a magnifique character. Of course, every good story hero needs a problem. Perhaps you, as a writer, think: but Escargot, “‘you are so handsome, suave, and smart. What problem could you possibly have?’” And yet, Escargot does have a problem. He is bored with salads. And so, he is off to find a new recipe.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

But not so fast. Every story worth its salt also needs an obstacle. And can there be any greater obstacle than Escargot looking down (far down) upon the object of his quest: The Art of French Cooking? To show what an intrepid snail he really is, Escargot sets his antennae to horizontal and leaps. He flies! Sort of.

At last the “resolution of the story” is at hand (so to speak). Escargot opens the cookbook ready to discover a new delicious recipe. But what is this?! This is not a recipe Escargot wants a chef to see. And he certainly doesn’t want that chef to see him. Can you help hide Escargot? As this only slightly rattled snail hides out, you can finish your story. Escargot even gives you an ending sentence that you can finish with a little panache.

Now, where is that French cookbook? Perhaps Escargot was hungrier than he thought. The pages are looking kind of chewed, and Escargot’s cheeks appear a little puffed. But it is all good, and just as in any delectable story—Escargot’s and yours—ends “with a kiss! Mwah!

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2020, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2020. Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Like meeting up with a best friend after a long absence, Escargot and his second adventure will swell your heart. All the charm and endearing airs of Dashka Slater’s little French snail that made readers fall in love with him in Escargot still inspire his first-person monologue aimed directly at readers. Along the journey to finding a French cookbook, Escargot invites kids not only to write a story that has never been told before—the tale of a snail who overcomes the odds—or at least the odd obstacle—and becomes a hero—but to interact at certain points to help him out.

Slater’s clever takes on her audience’s favorite books will have kids giggling and retitling their own bookshelves while subtle allusions to the original story are enchanting and build giddy suspense for this book’s resolution. As a writing tool for teachers and homeschoolers, Escargot’s prompts and encouragement go a long way in helping children understand the basic structure of a story, how to use evocative vocabulary, and how to incorporate necessary elements. As Escargot once again comes out victorious, all readers will exclaim Oh là là! with a big Mwah!

Light, airy, and punctuated with the cutest snail around, Sydney Hanson’s illustrations are a joy. How magnifique it is to once again open the cover to those full-moon eyes, looong antennae, petite smile and very French shirt and scarf. Kids will love following Escargot’s silvery trail over snail bestsellers, through a palette of paint, and on to a pile of hilariously titled animal stories, which, much to Escargot’s disappointment, do not extend the superhero theme to snails. For future illustrators, Hanson demonstrates an easy way for kids to replicate Escargot and his escapade for their own stories. Each of Hanson’s pages is darling from Escargot’s flying feat of daring to his agility with the long-sought French cookbook to his solution to the unfortunate recipe.

Lovely and lovable through and through, A Book for Escargot will be a favorite. The book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections. And on’t miss the original, Escargot. While each story stands alone, these two books go together like butter and…well…you know!

Ages 4 – 6

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020 | ISBN 978-0374312862

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

You can connect with Sydney Hanson on Instagram.

Enjoy this A Book for Escargot book trailer!

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Super Snail Coloring Page

 

What do you think this snail is thinking about? Being brave? Fast? Creative? Magical?Make Escargot happy and write and illustrate a story about this super snail using the printable journal template and coloring page.

Super Snail Coloring Page | Journal Template

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You can find A Book for Escargot at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

Celebrating Books about Black Leaders in the Arts, Science, Music, Sports, Politics & More

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About Today’s Post

Following the recent events that have unfolded this past week, I feel it is important to celebrate Black leaders today, rather than another holiday. The biographies included in this list will educate and inspire readers with the stories of prominent Black leaders within the arts and sciences, as well as music, sports, politics, civil rights, and across society.

With their combination of compelling storytelling and powerful imagery, picture books provide a unique vehicle to invite discussion between adults and children about the inequity and injustices faced by many in this country and around the world. This list reflects books I have reviewed over the years. Please look it over and spend time reading these books with your children. Each title provides a link to the full review.

If you are in the position to buy any of the books on this list or other reviews that you may see, please consider supporting black-owned bookstores and/or your local booksellers. You can also support Black authors and illustrators as well as these books and others by asking your local library to carry them.

After today’s post, this list will appear in my sidebar. I’ll continue to add to it as I review more books.

Every day I am reading, listening, watching, and learning. I know I can never understand, but I stand with you.

Artists and Writers

 

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Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cobrera

In her outstanding biography, Suzanne Slade highlights the prodigious talent of Gwendolyn Brooks, illuminating the influences, continual study, and inborn voice that informed and created her poetry. Gwendolyn’s self-confidence, unique perspective, and the support she received throughout her youth and career are strong themes that will inspire readers. Slade focuses on the awe Brooks found in her subjects, demonstrating her singular vision and how poetry is found in the everyday aspects of life. Beginning with Gwendolyn’s childhood, Slade links the events of Brooks’ life with beautiful imagery of the clouds she once likened to her exquisite future. Quotes are sprinkled throughout Slade’s lyrical text, allowing children to hear Brooks’ own voice and the dreams and pride had for her work.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s acrylic paintings are stunning representations of Gwendolyn’s life. Her family life with her well-read and supportive family comes alive with images of their home, where the large glass bookcase has pride of place, portraits hang on the walls, Gwendolyn practices the piano while her mother exclaims over her poetry, and the family gathers for a meager dinner during hard times. For young readers, Cabrera visualizes the parts of Gwendolyn’s life that fed her imagination and work and the copious amounts of poetry that she created—even as a child. Images of Gwendolyn’s early publishing successes give way to the changes brought by the Depression, school, marriage, and motherhood, but a pen, paper, and books are still her constant companions. Scenes from Chicago give children a look at the city that inspired Gwendolyn’s poetry, and intermittent views of the pastel clouds let readers dream along with her.

A stirring biography to inspire the dreams of any child, Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks is a story that children will want to hear again and again. On its own or paired with Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry, the book also makes an impactful lesson for homeschooling. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419734113

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Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

With straightforward storytelling adorned with lyrical passages, Deborah Blumenthal reveals Ann Cole Lowe’s lifelong love of fashion design, her struggles, and her ultimate acclaim. Lowe’s natural talent, single focus, self-confidence, courage, and persistence come through as she overcomes obstacles and prejudice to become the first African American couture designer. Children interested in fashion and history will find much to spark their curiosity and desire to know more about the woman and her times. Blumenthal’s repetition of Lowe’s philosophy to think about what she could do instead of what she couldn’t change will inspire readers to push past difficulties and find solutions.

Laura Freeman’s full-bleed illustrations are as bold and vivacious as Ann Cole Lowe herself. Beginning with the endpapers, which are scattered with drawings of Lowe’s one-of-a-kind gowns, Freeman takes readers on a tour of the workrooms and salons stocked with the fabrics that gave form to Lowe’s creativity. While the backgrounds are typically brilliantly colored and patterned, twice Freeman places Lowe on a completely white page—after her mother has recently died and she is left alone to finish dresses and when she is segregated from the other students in design school. These pages make a moving and effective statement. Children fascinated by fashion will love seeing the beautifully depicted gowns, and may be stirred to create styles of their own.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499802399

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America Picture Book Review

Carole Boston Weatherford’s portrayal of Gordon Parks’ life is as starkly revealing as her subject’s photographs. With her writer’s skills, however, she deftly contrasts the facts of his life and turns his story into a universal metaphor for freedom and the struggle to attain it: “When young Gordon crosses the prairie on horseback, nothing seems beyond reach. But his white teacher tells her all-black class, you’ll all wind up porters and waiters. What did she know?” Weatherford’s pacing also adds to the story’s power. Although Parks attained wide acclaim, this biography ends with one of his earlier photographs—a picture of Ella Watson, a cleaning lady, who inspired Parks and came to symbolize the hopes of her generation and beyond. This is not only Parks’ story, but the story of millions of others.

Jamey Christoph continues and strengthens the metaphorical force of this biography in his illustrations. Readers first see Gordon Parks as a much-loved, smiling infant. He goes to school and grows up, his expression changing, slightly but importantly. He acquires his camera, and the pages are filled with drawn representations of his black-and-white photographs. Alternating dark and light pages further emphasize Parks’ world. The darkroom contrasts with Parks’ new bright office and prospects; the shadowed back alleys of Washington DC contrast with the city’s gleaming white marble monuments. Later photographs are also depicted, and “American Gothic” is represented on two pages. Christoph provides readers with much to see and ponder.

Ages 5 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2015 | ISBN 978-0807530177

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Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

Written by Roxane Orgill | Illustrated by Francis Vallejo

Roxane Orgill recreates the syncopation of jazz and the exhilaration of the photo shoot in twenty poems that capture the sights, sounds, conversations, horseplay, and vibe of that special day that forever commemorated the Golden Age of Jazz. The smooth, cool lines of Orgill’s free verse poetry are a joy to read aloud. Full of personality, captivating details, history, and nostalgia, the poems reawaken the past for a new generation.

Working from the actual black-and-white photograph, Francis Vallejo vividly reimagines the scene on 126th Street as well-known and lesser-known jazz musicians came together to represent themselves and their art for Esquire magazine. Vallejo’s acrylic and pastel illustrations bring to life the surprise, camaraderie, and expressions of the men, women, and boys as they mingle, rest, and pass the time until the pose and lighting is right for the shot. As the book opens, readers get a bird’s-eye view of the street and quiet neighborhood, but as the musicians begin arriving the illustrations move in, allowing readers to rub shoulders with the greats of jazz.

For children (and adults) who love photography, jazz, biographies, history, and/or poetry, Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph is a marvelous choice for home libraries and is highly recommended for school and public libraries.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Candlewick, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763669546

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Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

By Javaka Steptoe

Javaka Steptoe’s compelling biography of this complex, brilliant artist who people called “radiant, wild, a genius child” beautifully brings to life the inspirations and motivations that fueled his unique and intense talent. Steptoe delivers the story in staccato and flowing sentences, using consonance, assonance, and repetition—the rhythms of a poet. He shows how Basquiat maintained his focused determination, self-confidence, and persistence from childhood into adulthood. This perseverance reveals to readers that success is not a matter of luck, but of belief in oneself despite obstacles. Steptoe sensitively addresses the serious injury Basquiat suffered, his mother’s mental illness and Basquiat’s continued love for her, and his unsettled teenage years to complete this far-reaching life story.

Steptoe’s mixed-media paintings were created on found wood from neighborhoods across New York City. While Steptoe does not reproduce any of Basquiat’s work, he states that readers will find “original pieces that were inspired by him and my interpretations of his paintings and designs.” As befitting his subject, Steptoe offers pages that burst with vibrant color and intricate details and beat with the pulse of the city, the people, the dreams, and the imagination that Basquiat transcribed onto paper, walls, and canvas. Part collage, part fine art, Steptoe’s illustrations will fascinate children and entice them to linger and take in the emotion and meaning in each. The final spread, a crowd scene made up of photographs, sets Basquiat in the midst of people whom he and his art continue to inspire.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat offers children an inspirational model of creativity, compassion, and confidence no matter where their talents lie. The book is an excellent choice for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316213882

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A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Alice Fay Duncan | Illustrated by Xia Gordon

With her own sterling verses, Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life of Gwendolyn Brooks—the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature—taking readers to the Chicago neighborhoods that informed and inspired Brooks’ ideas and the words and rhythms with which she defined them. Along an arc that takes Gwendolyn from a child contemplating the potential of a flower to becoming that blossom herself, Duncan pays tribute to those who recognized Gwen’s genius and helped her fulfill her talent. For readers who themselves may be poets, writers, or other types of artists, Duncan’s beautifully crafted phrases about the artistic process of revision are inspirational and welcome. Standing side-by-side with Duncan’s storytelling are four of Brooks’ poems—The Busy Clock, Forgive and Forget, Ambition, and the children of the poor—Sonnet #2. From cover to cover, Duncan’s book sings with Gwendolyn Brooks’ positivity, confidence, uniqueness, and love for life that made her a unique voice for her time and always.

From the portrait of Gwendolyn Brooks that graces the title page and throughout the book, Xia Gordon’s distinctive artwork creates a masterpiece of motion and stillness that mirrors Brooks’ penchant for watching and listening to the sounds and sights that filled her mind and ultimately her notebooks. Downy swoops of violets, pinks, browns, and grays provide backdrops to images of Gwendolyn as a young girl and an adult rendered in lines that show her as down to earth but soaring in her thoughts. Her intelligence and spark shine through on every page. Gwendolyn’s parents appear often, always watchful and supportive. Her friends, her husband, her son, and her readers also populate the pages, giving the book an embracing warmth.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a must for school, classroom, and public library collections, and for children who are discovering their talents and the parents who nurture them, the book would be an inspirational and invaluable addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454930884

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Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia McKessack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, connected page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

Culinary Arts

 

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Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate from Farm to Family

By Elizabeth Zunon

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

Music

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Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Written by Kathleen Cornell Berman | Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown

Kathleen Cornell Berman’s lyrical passages reveal a boy, a teenager, and a man who embodied music, listening to and absorbing the various sounds around him and incorporating them into his own, unique sound. Her evocative vocabulary (swirl, rollicking, croon, rumbling, far-out, rippling, blizzard of notes, itching to play) and phrasing that blends short staccato lines with longer sentences echoes the rhythm of jazz and will keep readers riveted to the story. Berman emphasizes the listening, practice, and experimentation that informed Miles Davis’s original sound, showing children that innovation is built on hard work, dedication, and even history. Her inclusion of Davis’s setbacks also demonstrates that perseverance is part of the success of any endeavor.

Keith Henry Brown’s gorgeous, detailed pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations take readers from Miles Davis’s living room, where he listens to the radio as images of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington swirl through his imagination, to an overlook on the Mississippi River and its paddlewheel steam ships to the clubs and jam sessions of New York and finally, to the Newport Jazz Festival. Brown’s color palette of cool blues, greens, purples, and browns, punctuated with Davis’s ever-present gleaming brass trumpet, brings Davis’s country and city experiences to life while mirroring the tone and feel of his unique sound. Quotes from Miles Davis are sprinkled throughout the story and set apart with type that looks handwritten, giving his words a personal touch.

Sure to inspire readers to learn more about Miles Davis and listen to his music, Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound would be an excellent accompaniment to school music programs, an inspiring book for biography lovers and young musicians of all types, and a beautiful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 12

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146909

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Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

Written by Anne Rockwell | Illustrated by Colin Bootman

Anne Rockwell succinctly and clearly relays the story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band while also retaining all the heart and soul of this fascinating group of children and their dedicated caregiver. The true-life tale is mesmerizing, not only for the historical details of the growth of ragtime music and the Charleston dance but for the accomplishments of the orphans once given love, acceptance, and education. Rockwell’s conversational tone contributes to the story’s smooth, flowing pace, which will keep listeners or readers rapt from beginning to end.

Colin Bootman’s bold two-page spreads illuminate the sights and sounds of the early 1900s for readers. Emphasizing the personal connections between Reverend Jenkins and the orphans as well as the band and their audiences, Bootman’s vibrant paintings are full of people watching, dancing, marching, and celebrating these boys’ awesome gifts.

Ages 6 – 10

Carolrhoda Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761355656

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Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the African American National Anthem

Written by James Weldon Johnson | Illustrated by Elizabeth Catlett

It has been more than 120 years since James Weldon Johnson, a principal at Stanton Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida, wrote a poem to be used in the school’s commemoration ceremony of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. His brother, composer John Rosamond Johnson, set the poem to music. On February 12, 1900, five hundred students performed the song. From that celebration, the song spread, gaining in popularity throughout the South and then throughout the country.

In 1949 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People adopted Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing as the official African American anthem. The song continues to inspire as it is sung and heard in churches and schools and during times of celebration and protest. This new edition of Lift Every Voice and Sing brings together Johnson’s stirring poem with stunning black-and-white linocuts by Harlem Renaissance artist Elizabeth Catlett, who created them in the 1940s as part of a series of artworks focusing on black women.

An emotionally moving presentation of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson’s poem and song, Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the African American National Anthem would make a beautiful thought-provoking and inspirational addition to school, home, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 12 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681199559

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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creations of Hip Hop

Written by Laben Carrick Hill |Illustrated by Theodore Tayler III

Laben Carrick Hill’s biography of a Hip Hop pioneer invites young readers to discover the early years of and influences on the music they love today. Hill superbly structures his story so through the formative details of DJ Kool Herc’s life from childhood into adulthood, readers understand that they too can follow their hearts to achieve their dreams. When the Beat Was Born is inspirational in its depiction of an “ordinary kid” with ingenuity and self-confidence who changed the face of music by combining his multicultural experiences, being open to experimentation, including his friends, and sharing his vision. Straightforward storytelling is punctuated with verses of rap that make reading aloud fun and will engage listeners.

In his bold, vibrant illustrations, Theodore Tayler III lets kids in on the not-so-distant past that saw the rise of Hip Hop music, celebrity DJs, and new dance styles. Keeping the focus on DJ Kool Herc—just as Clive kept his eye on his future goals—Taylor reinforces the theme of the book. Scenes of kids lining up to attend DJ Kool Herc’s parties and dancing in the street give the book an inclusive feel. Images of skyscraper-tall stacks of records mirrors Kool Herc’s ambitions, and depictions of breakdancing moves will get kids wanting to try them for themselves.

When the Beat Was Born is a terrific biography for all children, whether they like music and dancing or quieter pursuits. In the classroom, the book would be a great addition to music, history, or biography units.

Ages 6 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1596435407

Civil Rights and Politics

 

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Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama

Written by Caroline Moss | Illustrated by Sinem Erkas

Encouraging, supportive, and always smiling, Michelle Obama inspired millions of kids across the country during her eight years as First Lady and continues to motivate children to be and become the best version of themselves. Through her fast-paced, engrossing biography, Caroline Moss creates a reading experience that gives children the opportunity to get to know their idol the way friends do: by talking together. In ten short, but information-packed chapters, Moss captures Michelle’s voice and spirit through snapshots of formative events that influenced and changed her life, all told in a conversational style with plenty of dialogue and fascinating details.

Sprinkled throughout the text are inspirational quotes from Michelle Obama that are called out in eye-catching blocks and soaring illustrations. Back matter includes ten key lessons from Michelle Obama’s life on how to become a leader, questions to prompt kids to think about what is important to them, and resources for further reading and exploration.

Accompanying this personal narrative are Sinem Erkas’s stunning 3-D cut paper artwork. Bold colors, stirring imagery, and portraits that follow Michelle through times of happiness, sadness, and change reveal to readers Michelle’s intelligence, spark, hard work, and enthusiasm for life that fuels her vision and success.

Emphasizing family, community, self-confidence, and the importance of seizing opportunities to make a difference, Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries to hearten and embolden young readers to listen to their inner voices and take action for what they believe in.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711245181

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Hector: A Boy a Protest and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid

By Adrienne Wright

Adrienne Wright’s gripping storytelling and evocative illustrations go hand-in-hand to present a full portrait of young Hector, his life, his sweet nature, and the dreams he had before he was killed in a protest against Apartheid. His family’s close bonds and their concern for each other is evident in the dialogue that accompanies images of Hector playing, helping Mma and Granny Mma, running errands, and interacting with his sisters. As June 16 dawns, Wright sketches a normal day, with Hector joking with his mother at home and his friend on the way to school.

As it did for Hector, the protest comes as a surprise for readers, sweeping them up into the action just as Hector was. Hector’s sister, Antoinette’s chapter is the shortest but gripping in its pacing that mirrors the turmoil of the day and her tragedy. As readers enter Sam’s viewpoint, they see, blocked off in vertical and horizontal frames, the pictures of celebrating and happy, yet serious students marching to make a difference. The moment of the shot is seen through Sam’s lens and clouded in smoke.

Wright’s use of overlapping storylines as she transitions from Hector’s account to Antoinette’s and then to Sam’s adds to the tension, drawing readers in and reinforcing their understanding of the atmosphere and what the students were protesting. The final, nearly full-page reproduction of the actual photograph is an unflinching look at the reality of that day, what it stands for, and its personal cost.

A profound narrative for teaching children about South African history, the costs of discrimination, and the personal stories involved in any conflict, Hector is an important book to add to school and public library collections.

Ages: The book is targeted for children from eight to twelve, but adults should be mindful of the maturity and sensitivity of readers. Hector would also be a compelling inclusion in middle school and even early high school social studies and history classes.

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146916

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Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Written by Dee Romito | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Dee Romito’s inspiring biography delves into the crucial role individuals can make in supporting people and causes they believe in. By focusing on unsung historical hero Georgia Gilmore and using her own words and thoughts, Romito reveals how those with strong beliefs can use their talents and courage to fight for change behind the scenes and still make an important difference. Her conversational storytelling brings a personal touch to this biography, drawing young readers in to learn the details of this early battle in the Civil Rights movement—also begun by an act of a solitary person. Bookended by the radio reports that Georgia hears, the story is well-paced to show how Georgia’s contribution grows over nearly a year. This timely biography is made even more resonant perhaps in that Georgia’s cooking and selling of meals and baked goods is an activity that many children will recognized from their own involvement in bake sales and other food-related fund raisers. The open ending invites readers to learn more about the Civil Rights movement and Georgia Gilmore.

Laura Freeman’s boldly colored, realistic artwork allows children to embrace the historical context of Romito’s biography through her expressive portraiture that introduces Georgia Gilmore, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the members of Georgia’s Nowhere Club. A double-spread of the National Lunch Company’s segregated counter is visually striking as the divide comes at the book’s gutter, creating the side for white customers on the left and the side for black customers on the right. The injustice of this separation is expressed in the similar red clothing and dark hair of the woman on the right and the man on the left. Illustrations of crowds walking as buses go empty, attending the boycott strategy meetings, secretly buying pies, and filling Georgia’s home place readers at these scenes of the resistance movement. Freeman uses action, media coverage, and Georgia’s courtroom appearance to great effect. Knowledgeable readers will understand that making a positive difference continues across all generations.

Pies from Nowhere is a stunning book of empowerment for children and adults. The theme of using ones talents to make a difference is a timely lesson that kids will respond to. The book belongs in all classroom, school, and public libraries and is a top choice for home bookshelves as well.

Ages 6 – 9

little bee books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1499807202

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What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Written by Chris Barton |Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Chris Barton’s stirring biography of Barbara Jordan introduces children to a woman whose voice is just as relevant today as it was when she was a state senator, US representative, and professor. Barton clearly and lyrically depicts Jordan’s trajectory while showing readers what it takes to succeed: practice, perseverance, learning, and wisdom. For young readers Barton briefly but cogently outlines the core of the case against Richard Nixon then allows readers to hear, in her own words, Jordan’s rousing defense of the Constitution. His inclusion of Jordan’s seventeen years of teaching after her diagnosis of MS is a poignant reminder that her influence is still heard through her students and admirers, and Barton’s final exhortation to readers to speak out honors Barbara Jordan’s life and will impel both children and adults to follow her lead.

Ekua Holmes stunning mixed-media illustrations will set readers’ hearts soaring in this over-sized picture book that beautifully reflects Barbara Jordan’s influence in politics and beyond. Holmes’ collages, rendered in lush colors and textured with intricate patterns and images from nature, take children on Jordan’s journey from sun-drenched Texas to law school to Washington DC, giving them a glimpse of her childhood and her growing stature as a stateswoman. Today’s savvy readers will be interested in the examples of campaign materials and images of Jordan’s building relationships with diverse voters and her fellow senators and representatives. Several photographs of Jordan from her graduation, campaigns, and televised appearances during the Watergate hearings join Holmes’ realistic portraits and will inspire readers to learn more about this influential and unforgettable woman.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? is a stirring and empowering biography that belongs in every home, school, and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Beach Lane Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481465618

Science

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blast-off-into-space-like-mae-jemison-coverBlast Off into Space Like Mae Jemison

Written by Caroline Moss | Illustrated by Sinem Erkas

Focused, intelligent, courageous, and giving, astronaut Mae Jemison is an inspiration to millions of kids and adults around the world. Through her captivating biography, Caroline Moss introduces readers to this accomplished woman in ten engrossing chapters that, through pivotal events, dialogue, and thoughts, reveal Mae’s dreams, motivations, and triumphs. Paced in short, impactful chapters, this biography reads like a novel yet imparts factual information that will entice readers to learn more about Mae Jemison and careers in science.

Sinem Erkas punctuates this personal narrative with her stirring 3-D cut paper artwork. Vivid colors and  action-packed imagery, take readers along on Mae’s journey from childhood dreams of “sailing off into space on a rocket ship” to the day she fulfills that dream and beyond. Images of Mae completing experiments in college and medical school as well as detailed depictions of Mae inside the space shuttle working and interacting with other astronauts will have children lingering over the pages.

Compelling and personal, Blast off into Space Like Mae Jemison is a biography young readers won’t be able to put down. The book is highly recommended for homeschooling and home libraries as well as for school and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 12

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711245150

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-counting-on-katherine-coverCounting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

Written by Helaine Becker | Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

Helaine Becker’s captivating storytelling captures Katherine Johnson’s genius for math and talent for applying it to even the most complex problems in a ground-breaking field. Her self-confidence, curiosity, and love of learning as well as her trajectory at NASA will impress readers, many of whom may also be dreaming of making a mark in new ways. A highlight of Becker’s text is her clear explanations of how Katherine’s calculations for NASA were used and what was at stake when her help was needed most. Becker’s repeated phrase “You can count on me” and her stirring ending weave together the numerical and lyrical aspects of Katherine’s life to inspire a new generation of thinkers.

From the first page, readers can see Katherine’s intelligence and inquisitiveness that shined whether she was walking to school, doing chores, or, later, making sure our astronauts made it to the moon and back safely. Dow Phumiruk’s artwork is always thrilling, and here blackboards covered in formulas as Katherine stands on tiptoe as a child and on a ladder as an adult to complete them will leave readers awestruck with her understanding of and abilities with numbers. Illustrations of school rooms and offices give children a realistic view of the times, and her imagery pairs perfectly with Becker’s text in demonstrating the concepts of sending a rocket ship into space and bringing it home again. Phumiruk’s lovely images of space are uplifting reminders that dreams do come true.

A stellar biography that will enthrall children and inspire them to keep their eyes on their goals and achieve their dreams, Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 9

Henry Holt and Company, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250137524

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Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Written by Margot Lee Shetterly | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Margot Lee Shetterly brings her compelling story Hidden Figures to children in this exceptional picture book that skillfully reveals the talents and dreams of Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine as well as the work atmosphere and social injustices of the time period. While acknowledging the struggles and obstacles the four women faced, Shetterly keeps her focus on the incredible achievements of these brilliant women and the positive changes and opportunities for others they created. Brief-yet-detailed descriptions and explanations of math, science, and computer terms flow smoothly in the text, allowing all readers to understand and appreciate the women’s work.

As Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine each begin their work at Langley as young women, Laura Freeman establishes their dreams and their particular field of expertise through richly colorful illustrations that highlight the schematics, tools, equipment, and models they used. In one particularly affecting spread, Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine go off to their offices on the left-hand side, and their white counterparts head out to theirs on the right-hand side while the blueprint of their building lies under their feet. Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine’s clothing is also mirrored in color by the women on the other side of the fold. Period dress and electronics show progression through the years, and kids may marvel at the size of early computers. The final image of Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine as older women is moving and inspirational.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race is an outstanding biography of four women who contributed their gifts for math as well as their self-confidence not only to science but to dreamers in their own and future generations. The book would be a stirring choice for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062742469

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Ticktock Banneker’s Clock

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

With lyrical language that glides as smoothly as a well-oiled timepiece, Shana Keller reveals the remarkable story of Benjamin Banneker, born free during the time of slavery, who possessed exceptional math and scientific skills and used them to help his friends and neighbors and to make real his vision of a striking clock. Keller’s detailed and descriptive storytelling animates this life story, allowing readers to take the journey with Banneker as he experiences excitement, setbacks, and ultimately success. Banneker, embodying determination, persistence, and creativity, is an excellent role model for kids with big dreams of their own.

David C. Gardner’s lovely full-page and two-page-spread illustrations gloriously portray Benjamin Banneker’s farm and home as well as his dedicated commitment to building a striking clock despite—or perhaps spurred on by—the challenges he faced. Gardner’s detailed images set the biography firmly in its time period, letting children experience farm and home life in the 1750s. Banneker carries wooden buckets to feed the animals, tobacco leaves hang in a dry shed, a fire blazes in a large, open fireplace, and a candle flickers as Banneker whittles wheels and gears with his pocket knife. The realistic paintings that depict Banneker’s emotions as he imagines creating a large clock, overcomes obstacles, and studiously works on his drawings and carvings will inspire readers to attempt their own inventions—whatever they may be.

For any would-be inventors, history lovers, tinkerers, and science buffs, Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a stirring biography that would make an inspirational addition to home, school and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369560

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Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Written by Chris Barton | Illustrated by Don Tate

Chris Barton’s biography of Lonnie Johnson is a fascinating look at a man who succeeds in turning “No” into “Yes” by the power of his intelligence, ideas, and determination. Kids will love hearing about how one of their favorite toys came to be and will be inspired to chase their own dreams despite challenges and setbacks. Barton’s detailed narration provides a full picture of Lonnie Johnson and his times, specifics that attract and inform like-minded kids. Including the results of Lonnie’s exam should encourage kids who think differently. The story is enhanced by the conversational tone that makes it accessible to kids of all ages.

Don Tate illuminates Lonnie Johnson’s life story with his bold, full-bleed paintings that follow Lonnie from his being a child with big ideas to becoming a man who has seen these ideas through to success. With an eyebrow raised in concentration, young Lonnie demonstrates confidence and skill as he works on an invention, and kids will love seeing the tools of his trade laid out on the kitchen table. As Lonnie grows older and designs systems for NASA, the illustrations depict the schematics of the Galileo power package and Lonnie’s surprise at the strength of the water stream in his prototype cooling design. As all kids know, the spurt of a Super Soaker is awesome, and this fact is demonstrated in a “Wowing” fold-out page.

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is a superb biography of the man who designs systems for the greater world but has never lost his youthful enthusiasm to invent. The book would be an inspirational addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580892971

Slavery

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Freedom in Congo Square

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford | Illustrated by Gregory Christie

Through powerful rhythmic couplets, as spare and austere as the work they describe yet ending in a focal point of hope, Carole Boston Weatherford recreates the steady thrum that resonated in the hearts of slave and free men and women as they anticipated each afternoon in Congo Square.  As the days remaining until Congo Square are counted off, Weatherford’s predominantly one-syllable words form a staccato beat, the pounding of hard, physical work. When Sunday comes and people find joy in their shared music and dance, Weatherford’s phrasing within the same structured couplets rises, employing multi-syllable words that give the verses a pulsing flow that echoes the freedom they find in Congo Square.

Gregory Christie’s vivid folk-art illustrations are a perfect complement to Weatherford’s verses. The elongated figures stand tall and proud amidst the fields and workrooms of the plantation. In some scenes the slaves’ angled bodies, leaning over to pick cotton, wash floors, or lift baskets may be bent, but they are not broken, and while two men work on building a wall, they seem to kneel prayerfully as they add another brick. In a moving two-page spread set at night, brown wood-grain houses superimposed with rows of sleeping slaves float on a blue-toned ground below a red sky, reminiscent of ships laden with Africans sailing the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade. As the men and women congregate in Congo Square, Christie’s lithe figures raise their arms and kick their legs in dance. The fiery backgrounds swirl with color as the celebrants jump, stretch, play instruments and move with exultation.

Freedom in Congo Square is both a heartrending and jubilant book that would make a wonderful and meaningful addition to any home, school, and public library.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801033

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Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Written by Ellen Levine | Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Based on an actual story of The Underground Railway, Henry’s Freedom Box is written and illustrated to stunning effect. Ellen Levine’s lyrical and metaphorical language combines with the excellent pacing of the pages to enhance the emotional impact of this powerful and original true story. Children will be inspired by this man who suffered devastating loss, but persevered and through cunning, bravery, and the help of friends, obtained freedom.

Kadir Nelson took inspiration for his illustrations from an antique lithograph of Henry Brown, created by Samuel Rowse in 1850. Through a combination of watercolor and oils crosshatched with pencil lines, Nelson’s richly hued paintings capture the poignancy of Henry’s struggles and ultimate freedom. His characters’ facial expressions are particularly moving.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad is a riveting story of slavery and one man’s fight for freedom that would make an excellent addition to children’s libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic Press, 2007 | ISBN 978-043977733

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Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome | Illustrated by James Ransome

Lesa Cline-Ransome has written a compelling biography of Frederick Douglass for children in Words Set Me Free. In straightforward language and through first-person point of view, Cline-Ransome reveals the brutal truth of Douglass’s life as a slave and his fight against injustice. As the title suggests, the book focuses on Frederick’s desire to become educated and the obstacles he overcame to succeed. This universally important message continues the work Douglass engaged in long ago.

James Ransome’s stirring paintings realistically highlight pivotal scenes of Frederick’s life, beginning with the tender moments he spends with his mother as a very young child. With an unstinting eye Ransome reveals the hardship and cruelty Frederick endured as a slave. His moving illustrations also demonstrate hope as Frederick, with blossoming intellect, resolves to educate himself and find a means of escape.

Ages 5 and up                                                                                                            

Simon & Schuster, New York, 2012 | ISBN 978-1416959038

Sports

 

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Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride

By Joel Christian Gill

Joel Christian Gill introduces children to Bessie, a determined, brave, and pioneering woman at a formative time in her life. Told that girls don’t ride bikes and that she wasn’t good enough or fast enough anyway, Bessie Stringfield wrestled with self-doubt, but she took control of what she wanted and ultimately proved to herself and others that she was more than capable. Gill’s first pages set the stage for readers to contemplate ways in which they may doubt themselves, before encouraging them to find inspiration and confidence in Bessie’s story.

Gill’s vivid illustrations clearly show Bessie’s sadness as she internalizes the boy’s taunts, her tenacity, and finally her jubilation is besting them and achieving her goal. Images of Bessie’s dream and its resulting reality creatively play on the dual meaning of the word dream while a change in Bessie’s room décor while she sleeps is a clever touch.

A singular story about a trailblazing black woman, Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride encourages children to embrace their own identity instead of letting others define them. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 9

Oni Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1549303142

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Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jump Champion

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Heather Lang brings an athlete’s appreciation for the in-born talent and hard practicing that creates a world-class Olympian. Her story reveals not only the details of Alice’s physical training but also the social and economic hurdles she overcame in her quest to compete in the Olympics. Lang’s graceful and evocative prose carries readers down dirt roads and over obstacles, to the halls of the Tuskegee Institute, and into Wembley Stadium as they learn about the singular focus Alice Coachman dedicated to her sport. Children will feel as if they are sitting in the stands watching with suspense as the bar is raised again and again, pushing Coachman to a world record.

Floyd Cooper sets readers in the hot, dusty, sun-burned South, where Alice Coachman—as a little girl and then a teenager—runs barefoot on dirt roads, jumps over homemade bars, leaps to tip the basketball from her brothers’ hands, and delivers food to tornado victims. The golden-brown-hued illustrations catch Dorothy Taylor and Alice Coachman as they soar over the high bar in their fierce competition and capture Coachman’s hopes, dreams, and anticipation as she waits—hands clasped—to hear the judges’ final decision in the 1948 Olympic Games. Readers will cheer to see Coachman standing on the first-place podium, ready to receive her well-deserved gold medal.

A compelling and inspiring biography for children pursuing any talent, Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jump Champion would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Boyds Mills Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-1590788509

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Serena: The Littlest Sister

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu

Karlin Gray’s masterful biography of Serena Williams shows young readers the determination, confidence, and strong familial bond that followed Serena through her life and made her one of tennis’s most influential women players. The family’s remarkable life and focus on what one can achieve will inspire all kids, no matter what their dream is. Choosing seminal events in Serena’s and Venus’s life, Gray follows Serena’s reputation on the court as she loses and wins matches, building suspense until that day when she accomplishes her goal and wins the US Open. Her inclusion of articles and comments that cast doubt on Serena’s future success, demonstrates that even the greats face opposition and naysaying, and Serena’s sister’s advice to ignore it is sound.

Monica Ahanonu’s textured, collage-style illustrations leap off the page with vibrant images full of action and the girls’ personalities. As the girls race onto a court for practice, their eager expressions show their love of the game and being together. Even as a four-year-old Serena has the steely eyed gaze of a champion as she watches the bouncing ball and lines up for her swing. Ahanonu’s use of various perspectives and shadowing create dynamic scenes on the court, and tennis lovers will be thrilled at the many illustrations of Venus and Serena playing their sport. The bond between the sisters is evident in images of Serena interacting with one or more of her sisters. Those who remember Serena’s win at the 1999 US Open will recognize her joyous win.

Perfectly aimed at young readers who are the same age as Serena and Venus when they began developing their skills and sport, Serena: The Littlest Sister is an inspirational biography of a present-day role model that is sure to spark an “I can” attitude. Adults who have followed the Williams sisters’ rise to tennis stardom will be equally enthralled with this beautiful biography. The book would make a stirring addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 8 – 11

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146947

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To order books from black-owned bookstores, you’ll find a list in this article by the African American Literature Book Club.

To support your local independent bookstore, order from: Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 21 – It’s Hot Breakfast Month

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About the Holiday

Hot Breakfast Month was established to encourage people to have a hot, healthy breakfast before they go off to work or school. A good breakfast can keep your brain and your body working longer and better, which will result in a good day and more happiness in your life! And during this cold month, it feels good to get the day started off with a warm, satisfying meal. So scramble up a few eggs, make a bowl of yummy oatmeal, or whip up a batch of pancakes or waffles. And if you’re following a more plant-based diet, there are lots of grains and greens that will give you a nourishing sendoff.

Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World

Written by Lynne Marie | Illustrated by Parwinder Singh

 

If you’re raising a culinary conscious and curious kid satisfies that gnawing hunger for more information on world cuisine. Visiting families around the globe at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, Lynne Marie offers up tidbits about what kids eat plus other interesting food facts. The first stop is China, where Yu Yan is enjoying a bowl of congee—or rice porridge—before heading out to school. This morning, the congee includes squid that her father has caught. Yu Yan “slurps loudly to show how much she likes it.”

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

High in the mountains of Peru, Luz is bundled up in the early morning air as she gets ready to help out with her grandfather’s llamas. First, she warms up with chuño cola—a soup made from freeze-dried potatoes. For Luz, breakfast usually consists of leftovers from dinner the night before. Hospitality is so important to people in the Philippines that one of the most common greetings is “‘Kumain ka na?’ meaning ‘Have you eaten yet?’” If not, you may be invited to join in a breakfast of spamsilog—a dish of fried SPAM, fried eggs, and garlic rice.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Jamaica, Zhade and her mother make savory pastries filled with spicy ground beef. These can be eaten on their own or wrapped in coco bread—a soft, sweet bread—to make sandwiches. For Camille, living in France, lunch is a four-course meal served at school. Today, Camille and her friends are having “a cucumber and tomato salad, then a main course of roast beef with cooked broccoli. Next, a small plate of cheese, finished with apple tart for dessert.” It must not be Wednesday, though. In France, there’s no school on Wednesday afternoons. “Instead, many attend on Saturday mornings.”

It’s dinnertime for Priya, who lives in India. She and her family are at their favorite restaurant, where Priya has ordered Tandoori chicken. “Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices then roasted in a tandoor, a round clay oven.” After dinner, she and her family go home to watch cricket on TV.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-eat-mealtime-around-the-world-jamaica

Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

For many families in Sweden, Thursday dinners follow a tradition that goes back to the fifteenth century. Tonight, Hugo is having “pea soup and pancakes with lingonberry jam. Perfect for keeping warm on a cold winter night.” Lingonberry jam isn’t just for pancakes. It can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

Finally! It’s time for dessert! In Egypt, Mandisa and her brother are enjoying basbousa—a coconut cake. They especially like it with a topping of rose-blossom or orange-blossom syrup that makes it taste extra sweet. In Nigeria, Chetachi can’t wait to dig into the bowl of tropical fruit sprinkled with coconut. It looks like his sister would like some too! All over the world, people sit down to meals with foods they love. Learning more about these dishes and trying them is a great way to feel a sense of community with other kids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-eat-mealtime-around-the-world-egypt

Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In her conversational tour around the world, Lynne Marie invites readers to sit down with their peers and enjoy a variety of meals and snacks while also learning a little about the history, culture, environment, and animals of each area. A question prompting readers to think about their own connection to food accompanies each two-page spread and offers an opportunity for classroom or home discussion and exploration.

Parwinder Singh populates his illustrations with enthusiastic kids dipping into soups, dishing up a plateful around the family dining table, helping out in the kitchen, and licking their fingers to enjoy every drop of a delicious treat. Singh’s colorful backdrops give kids a glimpse into the homes that nourish each child and the landscape that often influences the ingredients that make up their favorite foods.

Sure to spark children’s interest in tasting foods from around the world and learning more about the cultures of the thirteen countries represented here, Let’s Eat! Mealtime around the World makes for a deletable lead-in for social studies and geography lessons, events highlighting international foods, and multicultural explorations at home.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1506451947

Discover more about Lynne Marie and her books on her website.

Hot Breakfast Month Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious that each one doesn’t last long! In this game see how many pancakes you can flip onto the plate!

Supplies

  • Printable Pancakes Template
  • Printable Breakfast Plate Template (optional – you can use your own paper plate or other dish)
  • Heavy stock paper, poster board, cardboard, or foam sheet
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Spatula (optional)

You can play this game several ways:

  1. Print and cut out the pancakes and plate (or use your own paper plate or other dish) and glue them to the heavy paper, poster board, or foam sheet
  2. Place the plate on the floor
  3. Draw 3 concentric circles around the plate about 12 inches apart.  For younger children make the circles closer together.
  4. Give each player the same number of pancakes and choose someone to go first
  5. Each player takes turns tossing or flipping their pancakes, trying to get them onto the plate
  6. When a player has used all of their pancakes add up their score:
  • Hitting the target can earn you 20 points
  • Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point
  • Hitting the second circle is worth 10 points
  • Pancakes landing in the third circle are worth 5 points

Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!

Try this Option:

Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try flipping them with a spatula!

Or: Make up your own rules—and have fun!

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You can find Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 24 – National Food Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2011 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Food Day aims to raise awareness of nutrition issues and encourage people to “Eat Real.” Eating real means “cutting back on sugary drinks, overly salted packaged foods and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein.” Prominent food activists help people discover where they can find food that is healthy and affordable. Another goal is to promote food production that is mindful of the environment, farm animals, and farmers. The efforts of National Food Day continue year round and culminate on October 24 with special events.

I received a copy of Now You Know What You Eat from Orchard Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Orchard Books in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Now You Know What You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind

By Valorie Fisher

 

As you lick an ice cream cone, dip your spoon into a bowl of macaroni and cheese, or crunch on a pickle, do you ever think about all of the ingredients that go into it or where those ingredients come from? That’s the fascinating premise behind Now You Know What You Eat. Valorie Fisher presents this information in bright graphic form with an inviting vintage touch. Her clearly marked pages make connections that even the youngest readers can follow.

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Copyright Valorie Fisher, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

First up is that delicious summer treat—the ice cream cone. For kids this may look like cone + vanilla ice cream, but that pointy (or flat bottom) cup is made up of “flour + sugar + eggs + butter.” And the scoop? That’s made from “cream + milk + sugar + eggs + vanilla extract.” But where does all that stuff come from, a curious kid may wonder. Fisher has that covered too. Running along the bottom of the page is a pictorial which shows that eggs come from a chicken, flour comes from wheat, milk, cream, and butter come from a cow, sugar comes from sugarcane, and vanilla extract comes from the vanilla orchid.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-you-know-what-you-eat-maple-syrup

Copyright Valorie Fisher, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Children will be amazed to see what a collage the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is and where the ground cinnamon that gives them their spice and the baking soda that helps the dough rise come from. There’s even a little tutorial on how the cookies are made once the dough is mixed. That seemingly simple peanut butter sandwich is another work of art. Among other things, kids learn how jelly is thickened, the difference between whole wheat bread and white bread, and the role of yeast in bread making. They may also find it interesting that the peanut, despite its name, is not a nut at all, but a legume.

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Copyright Valorie Fisher, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

We all know mac ‘n’ cheese is scrumptious comfort food, but there’s a lot more to it than that—and readers will discover some surprising ingredients that go into the making of cheese. A short primer on macaroni dishes up some favorite shapes. Want to know how chocolate’s made? There’s a two-page spread for that too. From the cacao pod to the oven to the mold and every step in between, children discover how this favorite comes to be as well as the fact that “dark chocolate = milk chocolate – milk” and “white chocolate = milk chocolate – cocoa mass. The makings of maple syrup, dill pickles, lemonade, yogurt, vegetable soup, pizza, honey, and potato chips are also explored. A few ingredients, like milk, eggs, corn, and apples, are given an entire page to explain how it is grown or produced.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-you-know-what-you-eat-egg

Copyright Valorie Fisher, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Valorie Fisher combines symbols, such as addition and subtraction signs, brackets, and equal signs to show how separate ingredients are combined to become a favorite food. She also includes easy-to-understand text that explains more about each ingredient or finished dish and where base ingredients come from and/or how they are grown. Fisher also talks about the variety of milk-producing animals, kinds of corn, and types of apples and citrus fruits around the world. Noteworthy facts, such as how much milk one cow produces each week and that a person could stand on an egg without cracking it, will captivate kids.

Graphics-loving kids will immediately gravitate toward Fisher’s pages that use readily recognizable, but generic, images to deconstruct food into its individual parts. Presented on alternating colored squares, strips and blocks, the steps are easy to follow. Her vibrant choices highlight the food and draw readers in to linger over each page and its absorbing content. Illustrated pages also contain a guide to the makeup of a healthy plate; a chart outlining the minerals and vitamins in the foods presented and how they help the body; and a glossary.

Now You Know What You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind will entice readers of all ages to dig deeper into learning what goes into the food they eat and is an excellent accompaniment to cookbooks and nutrition guides at home and in school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338215465

To learn more about Valorie Fisher, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Now You Know What You Eat Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Orchard Books, Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Now You Know What You Eat, by Valorie Fisher

There are two ways to be entered to win:

  • Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.
  • Leave a comment on this blog post
  • Bonus: Reply with favorite food for extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 25 through October 31 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 1.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

National Food Day Activity

CPB - Noodle Puzzle

Noodle on This! Puzzle

 

Pasta is a perennial favorite! Help these noodles get to the right plate, bowl, or pot in this printable Noodle on This puzzle that’s as wiggly as a wet noodle!

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You can find Now You Know What You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | 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.”

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

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-giving-apple

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-grandma's-house

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-chopping-apples

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.

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

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/

National Apple Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Apple-Turn-Over-Matching-Puzzle

Apple Turn Over! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-too-much-flour

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-grandma's-cake

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