January 19 – National Popcorn Day

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About the Holiday

National Popcorn Day commemorates a snack that is enjoyed around the world—and why not?! It’s tasty, the perfect finger food, and fun to make! The history of popcorn may surprise you. Records of this favorite treat go back to the Aztecs and beyond. Early explorers of the 1500s wrote about native peoples+ roasting corn until it popped and described it as looking like a “white flower.” Indigenous peoples ate popcorn and strung it to use for decoration.

Most people now eat popcorn with salt and butter or a variety of flavorings, but can you imagine having it with milk? Way before Corn Flakes and Cheerios came on the scene, people ate it as cereal! And popcorn really became popular during the Great Depression, when it was one of the only inexpensive treats people could afford. Why not pop up a batch and snuggle in to learn more about popcorn with today’s book.

Popcorn!

Written by Elaine Landau | Illustrated by Brian Lies

 

Popcorn catches our fancy whether we’re at home, at the movies, at a carnival or at an amusement park. How much do we like it? Well, “each year Americans munch on 1,124,000 pounds” of the crunchy stuff! That’s about “68 quarts for every man, woman, and child!” Wondering if that corn on the cob you enjoy all summer could make popcorn if you cooked it just right? The answer to that is: nope! “Farmers grow all kinds of corn. But popcorn is the only corn that pops. It’s got to do with just the right combination of water, starch, and a hard, airtight shell, called a hull.” You can learn a few more interesting facts like this one when you take the short quiz!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-movies

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Where does popcorn grow? In the Corn Belt, of course! That’s not something you wear, but an area of Midwest America that had just the right soil and weather conditions to raise the different kinds of corn you love to eat. How long has popcorn been around? Would you believe that “researchers have found 1,000-year-old grains of popcorn?” Or that “the kernels still popped?” They did! But popcorn has an even longer history than that. The oldest ears of popcorn discovered were 5,600 years old and were found “in a cave in New Mexico.” These ears were tiny, though—only “about the size of your pinky finger.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-corn-skirt

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

These days, we just pop a bag of kernels in the microwave and in a few minutes it’s ready, but early popcorn eaters had some ingenious ways of cooking their treat. “The Iroquois of the Great Lakes region popped popcorn in special jugs that they placed in heated sand.” The jugs worked like a convection oven and kept the popcorn in one place. How did the Iroquois enjoy their popcorn? They made soup with it! Some Native Americans cooked their popcorn on the cob in the husks, while others put the ear on a stick and held it over a fire to roast.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-corn-stalks

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Some Native Americans also had stories to tell about popcorn. One such tale relates that “spirits lived inside each popcorn kernel.” The spirits were quiet and happy as long as they weren’t disturbed. But if the house grew hot, the spirits became angry. If the house became too hot, the spirits would get so angry that “they would burst out of their houses and fly off into the air as annoyed puffs of steam.” The Aztecs used popcorn in ceremonies, and, because of its resemblance to hailstones, it was used as tribute to the water god Tlaloc to ask for protection for fishermen during storms.

So how did popcorn become so popular? A little creative advertising helped that along. In 1885 the first popcorn machines were developed. These little carts with the enticing glass windows that allowed people to watch the popping process were great hits. “Men were hired to pop popcorn in front of stores to draw in customers.” Can you imagine what these men were called? Right! Poppers!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-brian-lies-raccoon-in-field

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Two world events also helped popcorn sales. During the Great Depression, popcorn was an inexpensive treat, and during World War II, delicious popcorn took the place of candy, which could not be produced since all the sugar was used to supply soldiers overseas. When a television set became common in most homes and people stopped going to the movies as much, popcorn sales plummeted. But creative companies came up with ways to make popping popcorn at home easy and fun. Popcorn and TV became a favorite pastime.

Popcorn is a healthy snack, too! As a good source of protein, iron, carbohydrates, and fiber while being low-calorie, popcorn is a treat parents can’t say “no” to! To learn more fascinating facts about popcorn—including the answer to that big question: What makes popcorn pop?—you’ll want to pop over to your favorite bookseller or library and pick up this book!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-corn-school

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

With wit and an easy conversational style, Elaine Landau cooks up an engaging look at popcorn. Short sections answer the questions kids have about popcorn while offering new and intriguing tidbits that will make kids feel pretty smart about one of our favorite snack foods.

Brian Lies lends his distinctive art style to illustrations that echo Landou’s humor while also enhancing the text with visual guides for deeper understanding. Along the way, young readers can follow a rascally, popcorn-loving raccoon as he enjoys popcorn on the cob in the field, moves a jar of popcorn from the fridge to the cabinet with—almost—no mishaps, roasts popcorn over a fire pit, and runs off with a full bowl of popcorn.

For kids (or adults) who love popcorn, food history, or cooking and to inspire fun classroom science and history lessons, Popcorn! can’t be beat!

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2003 | ISBN  978-1570914430

Discover more about Brian Lies and check out all of his great books and art on his website.

National Popcorn Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn-toss-up-puzzle

Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

 

The popcorn’s flying! Can you match the six pairs of kernels so you can enjoy a tasty snack in this printable Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

December 18 – Bake Cookies Day

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About the Holiday

Baking cookies is a wonderful to get the whole family together! Not only does everyone have fun, but it’s a great time to share traditional family recipes and tell kids the stories that go with them. By baking together children can also learn important skills that translate into future success in school and elsewhere. So, grab your recipes, ingredients, and utensils and bake up a few batches of scrumptious cookies!

How the Cooke Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie

By Gilbert Ford

 

As you’re gobbling down delicious chocolate chip cookies, do you ever wonder who invented them or how they came to be such favorites? Well, the “who” part is easy: chocolate chip cookies were the brainchild of Ruth Wakefield. But the “how” is a bit more tricky. Here are the three popular stories surrounding this yummy treat—which do you think is right?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-ruth

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth was a born baker. She loved helping her grandmother out in the kitchen as soon as she “was old enough to hold a spoon.” Ruth had a special feeling about cooking—to her “cooking was a science, and the kitchen was her lab.” When Ruth graduated from high school, she went to college to study nutrition. With her degree in hand, Ruth taught cooking in a high school. But while “she enjoyed leading her classes, she hungered for something more.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-teacher

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth met and married Kenneth Wakefield, who also “shared her passion for cooking.” Together, they planned to open their own restaurant. Four years later, even though the economy was in depression and they had a young son, Ruth and Kenneth bought an old tollhouse in Whitman, Massachusetts. They fixed it up and named their restaurant the Toll House Inn.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-inside-restaurant

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth did “most of the cooking herself while Kenneth ordered food and helped out in the kitchen.” Ruth was very particular about how the Toll House Inn was run, even measuring “the distance between the fork and the plate for accuracy. Hungry diners began visiting the Toll House Inn, leaving satisfied and ready to return.

So how did chocolate chip cookies come to be? Here are the three popular theories: “The Disaster”—One story says that while Ruth was “whipping up a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies,” her mixer, spinning at top speed, “knocked a Nestlé chocolate bar off the shelf” and right into the dough. “What a disaster!” The grill man thought Ruth should bake them anyway, and when the cookies were done, Ruth “discovered pure heaven.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-the-disaster

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“The Substitute”—Having forgotten to order baking chocolate, Ruth chopped up a Nestlé chocolate bar and added it to the dough, thinking that it would melt evenly in the oven. “But when she pulled the cookies from the oven, boy, was she wrong. ‘They’re ruined!’ she cried.” But some waitresses and kitchen workers tried them and found them to be delicious. When Ruth tried them herself, she agreed.

“The Mastermind”—Inspiration struck Ruth while returning from a trip to Egypt. Back in the kitchen, “she deliberately took an ice pick to that chocolate bar” and “dropped the chunks into the mix.” The baked cookies were “exactly how she imagined it. She “took a bite and savored the warm, gooey chocolate as it melted right in her mouth.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-the-mastermind

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

“So, which version do you believe?”

The Disaster seems a little random, and the Substitute is “a little hard to swallow,” considering Ruth’s vast knowledge of cooking and ingredients. That leaves the Mastermind. Ruth was well-known for her ability to create delectable desserts and for searching out new recipes. It seems that “Ruth deserves some credit. She was one smart cookie!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-serving-cookies

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

So with new cookies on the menu, Ruth began serving them to her customers. Everyone loved them and word spread about her “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies.” People came from far away to try them. So many people, in fact, that Ruth had to expand her restaurant. You might think that Ruth kept her recipe a secret, but instead, she shared it with anyone who asked! She even let it be printed in the newspaper. Soon, people throughout Boston were baking Ruth’s cookies.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-yummy

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

When Ruth was interviewed on the Betty Crocker radio show, her recipe spread across the country. Seeing an unusual increase in sales of Nestle chocolate bars, the managers set out to find the cause. Soon they showed up at Ruth’s door begging for her recipe. “She gave it to them, and Nestlé began to produce chocolate chips designed specifically for Ruth’s cookies.” In payment, it’s said “she was awarded a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate!”

By the 1940s Ruth’s recipe appeared on every bag of Nestlé chocolate chips. From then on, Ruth’s cookies became a favorite of adults and kids alike!

An Author’s Note relating more about Ruth Wakefield and her famous cookies, as well as her classic recipe follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-free-chocolate

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

Gilbert Ford presents this sweet story with all the intrigue that has grown up around the invention of the chocolate chip cookie while giving Ruth Wakefield her proper due for her cleverness in the kitchen. Ford’s conversational style invites kids to participate in the story—a nice touch considering that the chocolate chip cookie is a perennial favorite with children. Relating the three separate theories gives readers an opportunity to think about the nature of invention. Including the facts about Ruth’s generosity with her recipe show readers that sharing ideas can be beneficial and could even prompt discussions about different ways to handle proprietary information.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-the-cookie-crumbled-table-setting

Copyright Gilbert Ford, 2017, courtesy of gilbertford.com.

In keeping with his light tone, Ford’s illustrations combine realistic and whimsical elements. The three theories are presented in more comic-book style, while the rest of the story portrays the historical time period, Ruth and Kenneth’s growing restaurant, and, of course, the star of the plate—the chocolate chip cookie.

For kids who love cooking and baking, history, and biographies as well as for its value in initiating discussion and even projects, How the Cookie Crumbled would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481450676

Discover more about Gilbert Ford, his books, and his art on his website.

Bake Cookies Day Activity

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Baking Together Coloring Page

 

Baking together is a fun activity for kids and adults to do anytime! Before gathering all the ingredients and utensils, enjoy this printable Baking Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

January 17 – Kid Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all those ingenious kids who have improved the world with their inventions. This date was chosen to commemorate another child inventor—Benjamin Franklin—who designed the first swim fins when he was just 12 years old! (Seriously, is there nothing this man didn’t or couldn’t do?). With their supple minds and can-do attitudes, kids have changed the ways things are done in the fields of medicine, technology, communications, and even food—as today’s book shows! To learn more about the day and find resources for young inventors, visit the K.I.D website.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by Pat Miller | Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

In 1844 at the tender age of 13, Hanson Gregory left the family farm and went to sea as a cabin boy on the schooner Isaac Achorn. He quickly became the cook’s assistant and also learned how to rig the sails and “steer a ship over trackless waves by sun and stars.” By the age of 19 Gregory had become the captain of the schooner Hardscrabble, and within a few more years was racing “his cargo from Maine to California as commander of a clipper, the fastest ship on any ocean.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hole-story-of-the-doughnut

Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Hanson Gregory may have been one of the best captains to sail the seas—once awarded a medal for heroism for rescuing seven shipwrecked Spanish sailors even though his own ship and crew were endangered. But his greatest achievement was not attained because of his seafaring skills—it was his ingenuity in the galley that people remember.

On June 22, 1847 as a 16-year-old cook’s assistant, Hanson was rustling up the crew’s breakfast—coffee and fried cakes, the same as every morning. While the pot of lard bubbled on the stove, Gregory formed balls of sweetened dough and dropped them in. They sizzled and crisped—at least around the edges. The centers were raw, heavy with grease, and they dropped like cannonballs in the stomach. “Sailors called them Sinkers.” But this morning Gregory had an idea. He removed the lid from the pepper can and cut out the center of the balls. “Then he tossed the rings into the bubbling lard.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hole-story-of-the-doughnut

Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

The cook and the sailors took one look at this odd concoction and…ate them up! “The cakes were brown, and sweet, and fully cooked. Sighs of delight rose above the noisy sea. A new breakfast tradition was born.” Gregory told his mom about his invention, and she fried up large batches of these ‘holey cakes’ that became a sensation at a friend’s store and on the docks.

You might think this is a pretty interesting tale in itself, “but sailors like their stories bold” and so they “spun legends worthy of such a delicious treat.” One tale had Captain Gregory inventing the doughnut while he saved his ship from disaster. Another told how Gregory, distraught over the drowning of five sailors pulled to the ocean floor by their “sinker” breakfast, punched holes in every cake to make them look like life rings and vowed, “‘Never again!’”

Captain Gregory had a sense of humor about his accomplishment. During an interview he once stated that “he had invented ‘the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’” Gregory lived to be 89 and is buried “overlooking the sea where stormy weather can be spotted as readily as it once was from the quarterdeck of the Hardscrabble.”

An author’s note expanding on the story of Captain Gregory, the doughnut, doughnut shops, a timeline, and a selected bibliography follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hole-story-of-the-doughnut

Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Doughnuts have never been so evocative! In Pat Miller’s humorous, informative history of this favorite pastry treat, readers can smell the salt air, feel the ocean swell and roll under their feet, and even ache a little for those poor sailors forced to eat “sinkers.” Seamlessly interwoven into this foodography is a fascinating look at the early days of sail. Miller’s language is immediately stirring: the Ivanhoe bucks and plunges, the sea becomes a monster, and Captain Gregory spears a sinker on the wheel spoke. Kids will marvel at a 13-year-old going off to sea and becoming an inventor at 16.

Vincent X. Kirsch provides just the right touch to this captivating true story with his cartoon-inspired watercolor and cut paper artwork. Ingeniously incorporating Hanson Gregory’s innovation of removing the center of the fried cakes, Kirsch’s illustrations are “cored” to allow for text, while the extracted section appears on the facing page as a glimpse through a porthole. The maritime atmosphere—from ship to shore—of the mid-1800s is beautifully represented in the folk-style sketches, and the humor that is so intrinsic to this story is wonderfully embraced.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut will delight foodies and history buffs alike and would make a fun gift and a delectable addition to personal libraries for all ages.

Ages 5 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319615

Vincent X. Kirsch’s website is full of illustrations from his books for children—take a look at his portfolio!

Spend some time with Pat Miller on her website that offers activities, tips, resources and many more books!

Kid Inventors’ Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

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

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • 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, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing 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

Picture Book Review

December 18 – Bake Cookies Day

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About the Holiday

Winter and the holiday season just doesn’t seem right without cookies. Baking those traditional morsels passed down from generation to generation makes the house smell yummy, creates family bonds, and provides delicious gifts for parties, neighbors, friends, and even you! To celebrate, bake up a batch or two of your favorite cookies, and discover fascinating facts in today’s book!

The Way the Cookie Crumbled

Written by Jody Jenson Shaffer | Illustrated by Kelly Kennedy

 

You might love lemon cookies, chomp chocolate chip cookies, and munch macaroons, but do you know where cookies came from or their perhaps less-than-delicious beginnings? Well, one of our fav snacks most likely got its start on a hot rock around 10,000 years ago. Ingenious farmers created a paste of wheat and water and baked this concoction by the heat of the sun. Convenient? Sure! Tasty? Maybe not so much.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-the-cookie-crumbled-clay-oven

Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

Fast forward to the 600s and the Persians began making improvements to the recipe. “They added things like eggs, butter, cream, fruit, honey, and eventually sugar. By this time hot rocks had been replaced by clay ovens. But the temperature was hard to determine, so “bakers dropped a bit of batter in them as a test.” While the batter went on to be used for cakes, these “tiny test cakes became treats themselves—what we would now call cookies.”

As time went by and people began traveling more, new ingredients, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered deer horns were introduced. Wait!…What? That’s right…ground up deer horns were used like baking powder and baking soda are used today to make baked goods rise. It wasn’t until 1850 that those conveniences came around; and not until the early 1900s that ovens and refrigerators made baking and storing foods easier.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

English and Dutch immigrants brought these hand-held treats to America, and while everyone enjoyed them, during the Revolutionary War Americans didn’t want anything to do with British things. This might have been when we adopted the word “cookie” instead of the English “biscuit.” Whatever they were called, though, they were still mostly made in home kitchens. That changed when a New York company imported machines to make crackers in factories and cookie companies followed suit.

But why are cookies so popular at this time of year? It seems that long, long ago, fruit and nuts were considered party food. I know, right? As time went on people rethought their party platters, and cookies won out. Even Queen Elizabeth I got in on the fun, having “gingerbread men made in the shape of her favorite advisors. Sweet!” Of course, she’s not the only famous person to get special cookies—how about that jolly old elf in the red suit? You’ll have to read the book to see how that tradition got started. Let’s just say that around the same time, another tradition took off—that of putting chocolate chips in cookie batter.

Of course cookies kept evolving by adding different flavors, changing shapes, including filling and in other ways. Today, stores shelves and bakeries are loaded with a vast variety of cookies, and home bakers are inventing new recipes all the time. Cookies are favorites the world over, and lucky for us they have a very bright future!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-the-cookie-crumbled-vendors

Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

After becoming a “history of fun stuff expert on cookies,” readers can learn even more with pages dedicated to traditional cookies from around the world, the science behind baking cookies, and of course a recipe. There’s even a quiz so kids can test their newly acquired knowledge.

In her History of Fun Stuff: The Way the Cookie Crumbled early reader, Jody Jensen Shaffer introduces kids to the fascinating origins of one of their favorite snack foods. With tidbits sure to amaze and even raise giggles, Shaffer reveals not only the history of cookies, but facts on the development of cooking, the changes in baking methods, and the beginnings of automation. Her breezy, conversational style is perfectly aimed at her young audience, and the inclusion of facts on well-known favorites makes history relatable, relevant, and entertaining.

Kelly Kennedy infuses her cartoon-inspired illustrations with humor and realism to creatively depict the concepts in the text. Her full and half-page vibrant and dynamic scenes of people baking in various types of ovens, shopping for ingredients, selling cookies, and more excellently bridge the transition from picture books to chapter books for developing readers. Images of clay ovens, Colonial homes, early-model refrigerators, factory assembly lines, and others bring the text to life is ways that kids respond to.

For developing independent readers or as a read-to for kids interested in history, baking, and the origins of one of their favorite snacks, The Way the Cookie Crumbled dishes up a winning gift or addition to a child’s library.

Ages 6 – 8

Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481461801

To learn more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her other books, visit her blog!

A gallery of illustration work for kids and adults as well as video awaits at Kelly Kennedy’s website!

Bake Cookies Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-boy-and-girl-baking-coloring-page

Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages

 

It’s fun to whip up a recipe together and then enjoy the results! With these two printable Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages, you can do both!

Boy and girl baking together | Delicious baked cookies

Picture Book Review