July 16 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phaidon, 2019 | ISBN 978-0714878621

You can connect with Gabrielle Langholtz on Instagram and Twitter

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

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

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

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

Supplies

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

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Directions

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

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You can find United Tastes of America at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 7 -World Chocolate Day

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About the Holiday

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

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

By Elizabeth Zunon

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 3 – 8

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

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

World Chocolate Day Activity

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

Cookies & Cups My Kids’ Favorite Brownies

 

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

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

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

Picture Book Review

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

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

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

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 9

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

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

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

Independence Day Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

 

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

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

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You can find Mountain Chef at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

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!

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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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 his cartoon-inspired illustrations with humor and realism to creatively depict the concepts in the text. His 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

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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