May 11 – National Eat What You Want Day

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About the Holiday

Feel like your diet is out the window what with staying home or ordering take out? Has good nutrition taken a hit because ingredients are at a premium? Don’t stress! Today’s holiday gives you permission to eat that doughnut or cupcake or pizza or whatever you want without feeling guilty. Besides, sometimes indulging a little jumpstarts your metabolism and provides motivation for the long haul. Lately, I’ve been craving French fries, so in honor of that, I’m celebrating two best spuds that are fry-tfully good sports.

Chip and Curly, The Great Potato Race

Written by Cathy Breisacher | Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz

 

Spud City was about to hold its annual festival, and everyone was excited. Chip was practicing for the sack race. This year “he was determined to win the first-place prize: a Golden Bushel Award.” But a new spud in town—Curly—had a “spring in his step” and seemed to be real competition. Even though the other potatoes cheered him on, Chip was nervous.

On the day of the festival, the race route was lined with spectators. The couch potatoes lounged near the path while “the French Fries stood with their Tater Tots.” Even the sweet potato cheerleaders were waving pompoms and shouting. Just before the race began, Curly took a place next to Chip at the starting line.

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Image copyright Joshua Heinsz, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the whistle blew, Chip took off. He was in the lead until he heard someone behind him. “‘Look out!’ the BBQ Chips shouted. ‘Here comes a hot potato!’” Chip raced on, but then Curly bounced in front of him and even though Chip gave it his all, he couldn’t catch up. A moment later, though, Curly tripped and fell, leaving the path—and the race—wide open for Chip.

Chip hopped past Curly and was in clear sight of the finish line when he realized “he felt rotten.” He glanced back and “hashed it over in his mind.” He decided the only right thing to do was to go back. He offered Curly a hand up, and together they bounded down the route and past the other racers. But Curly was too quick for Chip, and he broke through the tape first. “In an instant, Chip’s dreams of winning were mashed.” 

Chip was just about to leave when Curly asked him to be his partner in the relay race. Curly thought they made a great team. They practiced until they found their groove. Everything was looking good until a new team showed up….

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Image copyright Joshua Heinsz, 2019, text copyright Cathy Breisacher, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Kids will devour Cathy Breisacher’s pun-filled romp that takes them to Spud City’s annual festival, where Chip and Curly face off to win a Golden Bushel Award in the sack race. While Chip pulls out to an early lead, Curly bounces back and threatens Chip’s years-long dream to win. A misstep by Curly gives Chip the opportunity to achieve his goal, but in his decision, Breisacher shows readers true sportsmanship and integrity. Curly also displays the qualities of a gracious winner, and as the two work together to perfect their relay skills, a friendship sprouts. The final scene offers a funny “oh, no!” moment while also reminding readers that winning can be fleeting, but friendship and staying true to oneself endure.

Joshua Heinsz populates Spud City with a wide array of taters—from tots to waffle fries, sweet potatoes to twice-bakeds, French fries to home fries, and more. Heinsz adds plenty of visual humor to the mix with clever street sign and shop names, and the couch potatoes are, ingeniously, those impossible-to-peel curved ones that lurk in many a 5-pound bag. Kids will love picking out their favorite kind of potato, and the expressive spuds will have readers captivated from the very first page.

For rollicking story times that also offer opportunities to discuss the nature of competition and friendship, Chip and Curly, The Great Potato Race is one to add to your home, classroom, or library shelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364084

Learn more about Cathy Breisacher and her books on her website.

To learn more about Joshua Heinsz, his books, and his art on his website.

A Chat with Cathy Breisacher

011CB

It’s so great to be talking with you again! This must be a really exciting—and busy!—time for you, so I’m thrilled to have you stop by!

You’ve mentioned that the inspiration for this story was a local potato festival. Can you describe that event a bit and tell what sparked the idea for Chip and Curly?

Every year, on the last Saturday in September, a town not far from where I live holds a Potato Fest.  The county where it is located is the second-largest supplier of potatoes in the state. People come from all around and a good portion of the downtown area is closed off for the event. There are tons and tons of vendors selling a variety of crafts, and the food vendors whip up all kinds of potato treats: sweet potato fries, potato candy, baked potatoes, pierogi, potato soup, French fries, potato bread, etc. There is live music as well as games for the kids. I love the fall season, and this is a great kick-off to the fall. I try to attend every year. So, in 2016 when I wrote this story, I thought about the potato festival and all of the kinds of potatoes that are sold at the event.  The names CHIP AND CURLY came to me and the idea for the story just flowed from there.

Of course, I have to ask—what’s your favorite kind of potato? Do you have a favorite recipe? Would you like to share it?

 I love twice baked potatoes. They are probably my favorite. But, there really isn’t a potato I don’t like. I also love perogies and sweet potato fries. Oh my goodness…it’s hard to choose just one. 

I’ll share a recipe for Cheesy Hash Brown potatoes that are gobbled up at many family events. They are so easy to make.

CHEESY HASH BROWN POTATOES

26 oz. Bag of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes (thawed)
2 cups Sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
16 ounces sour cream
1 (10 1/2 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 ½ sticks butter
3 cups Crushed corn flakes
1 teaspoon garlic salt and pepper to taste

Thaw the hash browns.  Melt 1 stick of butter and mix it with the hash browns.  Pour into 9 x13 pan.  Mix the sour cream, soup and cheese in a bowl. Spread over the potatoes. Melt ½ stick of butter and mix it with the crushed corn flakes.  Sprinkle over the potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

Being competitive can take so many forms. Do you consider yourself competitive? If so, in what way?

Yes, I’m definitely competitive. I always want to put 110% into things that I do. If there is a challenge of some sort, I am in it to win it. J In the past couple of years, I’ve been intrigued with Escape Rooms and trying to solve all of the clues before the time runs out. Recently, I heard of an Escape Room that no one has “broke out of” yet.  I want to be the first! J

Chip and Curly is loaded with puns and really clever word play! The story must have been a blast, but also challenging to write. Can you talk a little about how you put it all together?

Chip and Curly was definitely a fun story to write. I just pulled out my first version of this story, and it has so few puns in it. I didn’t initially write this story to be punny.  But, as I was doing my first set of revisions, a pun popped in my head.  More puns came to me as I continued to revise. It wasn’t long before I knew this had to be a story that centered on potato puns. I scoured the Internet to find words associated with potatoes. I must have looked at every list that exists online. The tricky part was to include those words and phrases that fit nicely with the story. I didn’t want to include something just to include it if the word or phrase really didn’t flow with the storyline. My amazing editor, Sarah Rockett, had excellent suggestions for tweaking the story a bit more after she acquired it. And I was delighted with the fun, playful, colorful art provided by the illustrator, Joshua Heinsz.

After practicing for a year to win a Golden Bushel Award for the sack race, Chip makes a surprising decision part way through the race. What would you like kids to take away from the story?

This is the crucial part of the story. I want kids to know that competing can be a lot of fun. And it can feel good to win at something, too. However, practicing good sportsmanship is important and helps build character. When we show respect toward our opponents, we can still have fun and compete, but it helps us to keep our focus on what’s most important—treating one another the way we want to be treated.

Since CaveKid Birthday was released in March, what’s been the best part of being a published author? The most surprising? As a librarian, how does it feel to see your own book on your library’s shelf?

Gosh, there is so much I am enjoying about being a published author. I love meeting new people (kids and adults) at book events and talking with them about stories. It has also been a treat to see friends and family who I haven’t seen for a while. Being a school librarian, I get an extra treat when kids ask to check out my book. That has truly meant the world to me. When my students tell me they love my books, my heart just completely melts.

During our first interview for CaveKid Birthday how did I miss that you’re from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania? Does the town live up to its celebratory name? Do you have a favorite town celebration or spot to write or visit?

Hmmm…very good question. The town where I live is a true community. People really get behind and support the schools, sports teams, agencies, fundraising events, etc. So I guess you can say that the people who live in Hollidaysburg celebrate one another’s aspirations and accomplishments. I am proud to live in this town. I do have a few favorite spots that I like to visit. There are a couple of parks that are so beautiful and serene. They are a great place to spend timejyeither alone or with family and friends. As for a favorite town celebration, I would have to say the Winterfest Light-Up Night that is held at the end of November each year. There are festivities in the downtown area and everything is decorated for Christmas. Local restaurants hold soup samplings and people vote on their favorite. Santa arrives and a giant tree is lit up that evening. There are ice carvings, too. It’s such a fun night and everyone is in the holiday spirit.

Thanks, Cathy! I can’t wait to try those delish-sounding potatoes! I know you’ll have lots of fun with Chip and Curly, and I wish you all the best with all of your books!

You can connect with Cathy Breisacher on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

National Eat What You Want Day Activity

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Appealing Potatoes Game

 

If you love potatoes, you can never get enough! Race to fill your plate with all six kinds of potatoes in this fun game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print a game board and set of game cards for each player.
  2. Choose a player to go first.
  3. Taking turns, each player rolls the paper die and places a game card matching the rolled potato to their plate
  4. Or: If using a regular playing die, use the corresponding number and kind of potato listed below
  5. The first player to add all six kinds of potatoes to their plate is the winner.

Corresponding Numbers and Potatoes:

  1. Mashed Potatoes
  2. French Fries
  3. Potato Chips
  4. Baked Potato
  5. Twice-baked Potato
  6. Sweet Potato Fries

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You can find Chip and Curly, the Great Potato Race at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 25 – National Zucchini Bread Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday seems to anticipate the prolific zucchini and yellow squash yields of summer gardens. Of course, they’re delicious too—giving a snap of flavor to side dishes, salads, pastas, and even breads—but, really, how do you keep up with the harvest? Today’s holiday offers a suggestion. And today’s book offers a humorous and creative way to share the bounty. Even if we can’t get together in person right now, we can always enjoy a great book and the scrumptious recipe at the end of this post!

Zora’s Zucchini

Written by Katherine Pryor | Illustrated by Anna Raff

 

Summer vacation was only three days old, but already Zora was bored. She was tired of riding her bike aimlessly around the neighborhood. But this time when she rode through town, she noticed a Free Zucchini sign in the window of the hardware store. She liked that the plant’s name began with a Z like her name, so she loaded up her basket and went home.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Zora showed her dad her new plants. As she carefully dug in the garden and settled them in, her dad said “‘That’s going to be a lot of zucchini.’” “‘We’ll eat it!’ Zora promised.” All June and July, Zora tended her garden, cheering “every time she saw a yellow-orange zucchini blossom.” When Zora saw her first zucchini, she picked it and ran inside to show her family. Soon, they were enjoying zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was zucchini bread, zucchini soup, and grilled zucchini. “By the first day of August, Zora’s garden was a jungle of prickly, tickly, bushy, blossomy plants,” and each one “was covered in zucchini. There was no way her family could eat it all.”

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

When Zora peeked into her neighbor’s yard, she noticed there was no zucchini in her garden—but plenty of tomatoes. She asked Mrs. Thompson if she’d like to trade. Mrs. Thompson was delighted to swap a bushel of tomatoes for a bushel of zucchini. But Zora’s zucchini kept on coming. “‘This is crazy,’ Zora said.” She filled her bicycle basket and rode through the neighborhood, giving them all away. But the day after that, more zucchini was ripe for picking. Then Zora had an idea and got her family involved. “Her brother painted the signs. Her parents printed the fliers. Zora and her sister posted them all over the neighborhood.”

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

On Saturday, Zora stood next to her homemade stand that sported a sign that read: “Take a Veggie, Leave a Veggie” with an added entreaty that said “Or at least please take some zucchini.” As sun rose in the sky, though, no one had visited her stand. But then Mrs. Rivera came by with a bowl of raspberries, Mr. Peterson brought potatoes, and others traded carrots, green beans, and peppers as well as apricots, plums, and cherries. “Zora traded and traded until all her zucchini was gone.”

But Zora’s Garden Swap stand had done much more than share fruits and vegetables. As she looked around at all of the people laughing, talking, and nibbling, she realized that “her zucchini garden had brought so many people together.” She couldn’t wait for next year’s garden!

Back matter includes a note about gardening and the amount of food from a prolific garden that can go to waste. It also includes ideas for donating, preserving, and sharing excess harvests.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Katherine Pryor’s easy-going storytelling and gentle humor will charm kids with its realistic portrayals of the excitement that every growth spurt, bud, and blossom in a garden creates. As the zucchini keeps coming, Zora’s family’s willingness to keep trying new recipes is heartening, and their help in making her Garden Swap Stand a success shows welcome family unity and support. Zora’s outreach, first to one neighbor, then to individuals throughout her neighborhood, and finally through her stand, encourages creative problem-solving. As Zora realizes that her garden has brought many people together, readers will also embrace the ideas of camaraderie and sharing and see that they too can foster such friendship in their school and community. For today’s food-savvy and socially conscious kids, Pryor’s addressing the issue of food waste and ways to share our bounty with others will appeal to and resonate with children.

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Copyright Anna Raff, 2015, courtesy of annaraff.com and Readers to Eaters.

Anna Raff’s cheery illustrations sparkle with the enthusiasm of children who go all in on a new interest. Kids will love seeing the zucchini plants grow from tiny seedlings to leafy giants that produce a flood of zucchini. Raff clearly shows Zora’s disbelief in her inexhaustible supply of squash and puzzlement as to what to do with it all, letting readers join in on her ever-growing problem. As Zora tries one solution after another and then hits on an idea, suspense grows, helped along with Raff’s visual clues in the signs and fliers her family makes. When the neighbors come together, smiling and chatting, at Zora’s stand, readers can see what a close-knit community can accomplish.

Sure to inspire a child’s interest in gardening and community sharing, Zora’s Zucchini, an award-winning book, is a fantastic addition to home, classroom, and public library shelves. The book also makes a fun pairing with picnics and visits to farmers markets and food festivals.

Ages 4 – 10

Eaters to Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0983661573 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0998436616 (Paperback, 2017)

Discover more about Katherine Pryor and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anna Raff, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Zucchini Bread Day Activity

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Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread from Creme de la Crumb

 

If you have zucchini to spare, you’ll love this delicious zucchini bread from Creme de la Crumb that’s sweet and moist and flavored with the homey taste of cinnamon! To find this scrumptious recipe and lots more, visit Creme de la Crumb!

Creme de la Crumb’s Cinnamon Swirl Zucchini Bread

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You can find Zora’s Zucchini at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 15 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

In 1987 National Garden Week sprouted on the calendar to celebrate the beginning of spring and the growing season. But a week just isn’t enough to enjoy all the fun and excitement (and delicious food and glorious flowers) of gardening. In 2002, the National Gardening Association extended the holiday to encompass the full month of April. A perfect activity for the whole family gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about the growth cycle, pollinators, nutrition, and more! If young plants or seeds are available in you area, creating a garden in your yard or even indoors makes a fun and educational addition to homeschool lessons with delicious rewards to come. Today’s book takes a look at an age-old question to whet your appetite for summer’s bounty.

By Jakki Licare

Fruit Bowl

By Mark Hoffmann

A mother and her child are back from the grocery store. Mom asks her child to put away all of the fruit and veggies. The child greets the fruit and asks how they are doing. “Peachy keen,” Peach replies. “Full of zest,” says Lemon. But Strawberry complains, “I was jammed in that bag.” The fruit all get into the bowl. Apple, peach, banana, lemon, orange, pear, strawberry, grapes, lime, blueberry, and…tomato. The child stops and tells the tomato he doesn’t belong in the fruit bowl. He is a vegetable and should be in the fridge. Tomato tells them he is fruit, but they all tell him he has to leave. “You’ll have to split,” Banana says. 

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Copyright Mark Hoffmann, 2018, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The child directs Tomato to the fridge, telling him he’ll go bad if he doesn’t cool it. Sitting on the edge of the crisper drawer, Tomato tells everyone he doesn’t belong in the fridge and he can prove it. He pulls out a book and begins to explain that all fruit start out as flowers. Banana remembers, “My flower was the best of the bunch.” The child asks if all vegetables are fruit since they come from flowering plants too. Tomato explains that vegetables come from different parts of the plant: leaves, stems, petals, and roots. Tomato then shows an x-ray of himself. The x-ray clearly shows his seeds on the inside. Potato exclaims, “I can’t believe my eyes!”

The child agrees that maybe he is a fruit, but tomatoes aren’t sweet like other fruit. Tomato is indignant and points out that cranberries and grapefruit aren’t sweet. The child wonders if anyone can settle this debate for them. Blueberry mentions that there is an old legend about Old Man Produce who is “hidden in this very kitchen.” The fruits all climb out of the bowl to seek out this sage.

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Copyright Mark Hoffmann, 2018, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In the corner of the counter, the fruits and vegetables find a very wrinkled raisin. Old Man Produce welcomes them with mystical knowledge about what they seek. The child asks him if a tomato is really a fruit. “Well that is the question of all questions. If the tomato is not a fruit. Is he not delicious?” Old Man Produce talks on for a long time until Tomato interrupts him with a curt “Yes or No?”

Finally, Old Man Produce confirms that tomato is a fruit. The child agrees that tomato should go in the bowl then. Lemon and Blueberry welcome him warmly. The child asks, “Are there any other vegetables that are fruits in disguise?” Tomato says, “Funny you should ask.” Suddenly, Pepper, Snap Pea, Eggplant, Pickle, Avocado, String Bean, and Yellow Squash all climb into the bowl too. The child agrees they all can stay, and the fruits all snuggle in happily. The vegetables in the fridge wish they had a bowl instead of a drawer. Tomato replies, “Those veggies are just greens with envy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fruit-bowl-pickle

Copyright Mark Hoffmann, 2018, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In this playful tale told entirely through dialogue balloons, Mark Hoffmann explains to young readers what makes a fruit a fruit. He introduces facts like: all fruits start off as flowers and carry seeds as well. Hoffmann also explains that vegetables come from other parts of the plants such as roots, petals, stems, and leaves. His wonderful and silly vegetable and fruit puns keep young children interested and laughing. Hoffmann also shows a huge array of fruits and vegetables which hopefully will make our more tentative eaters curious. 

Hoffmann’s bold illustrations fill each page with a colorful variety of fruit and vegetables that are a treat for the eyes. The vivid personalities of the fruit are easily conveyed through the artful and simplistic faces. Children will sympathize with Tomato when he sadly walks away from the fruit bowl in the beginning and then cheer along with the other fruit when, with a big smile, he climbs into the fruit bowl at the end.  Fun characters, such as Old Man Produce – a wrinkly raisin with a cane that’s a take off on wise wizards in books and movies – are sure to make children giggle throughout the story.

Flower Bowl is an educational and entertaining read for story times about nutrition, gardening, or plants and a wonderful addition to any classroom or home, or public library. 

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 9781524719937

Discover more about Mark Hoffmann, his books, and his art on his website.

National Garden Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fruit-bowl-craft-finished

Make your Own Fruit Bowl

 

Do your fruit need a home? Try this craft and make a place for all your fruit to hang out together (even tomato!)

Supplies

  • Modge Podge
  • Balloon
  • Plastic cup
  • 2 sheets of 12×12 cardstock
  • Foam brush
  • Scissors
  • Scrap Paper

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fruit-bowl-craft

Directions

  1. Cut sheets of card stock into 1-inch strips
  2. Blow up balloon to the size of the bowl you wish
  3. Before gluing be sure to lay down scrap paper on your work surface. This is a messy project! 
  4. Rest balloon on plastic cup
  5. Cover the top and sides of balloon in Modge Podge
  6. Take a strip of paper and coat the bottom side of the paper with Modge Podge. This is a great activity for younger children to help with.
  7. Lay strip along the balloon. Coat the top of the strip until it can lay smoothly along the balloon. The ends of the strips will stick up a bit and that is okay. Laying down the strips can be tricky and should probably be done by older children or adults.
  8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 until half of the balloon is covered. You can make your bowl shallow or deep depending on how much of the balloon you cover.
  9. Go over all the strips with another layer of Modge Podge
  10. Let balloon and strips rest in a safe place over night
  11. Next pop or cut balloon
  12. Cut edges off to even out bowl

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You can find Fruit Bowl at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the National Education Association in 1997, encourages children all across the country to celebrate reading and all of its joys and benefits. To commemorate the day, authors, illustrators, politicians, athletes, librarians, and families hold special reading events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community centers. A love of reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and begun early can be a powerful force for future success. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. There are fabulous worlds and stories waiting to be discovered.

Nerp!

By Sarah Lynne Reul

 

If you want to serve up a giggle-feast for your kids, you only need to open Nerp! To have them gobbling up the big slice of silliness Sarah Lynne Reul has whipped up. Part reptile, part fish, and completely adorable, the family conjured up by Reul—a mom, a dad, a baby, and their pet—are just getting ready to enjoy dinner.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nerp!-mushy

Copyright Sarah Lynne Reul, 2020, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

The baby has just helped Mom plop out their pet’s food into its dish and is pointing out how delicious that pink wiggly blob it. But the little family friend looks aghast and lets out a very decided “NERP.” Just then, though, all attention turns to Dad who proudly holds aloft the bowl of jelly-bean colored “Frizzle frazzle hotchy potch!” The baby gazes at his dad pleadingly while pointing at the bowl. “Hotchy-potch?” he asks. Then, giving the bowl the side-eye as if it might jump up and bite him, the tyke pushes it away with a decided “NERP.”

Another bowl appears, this one full of “Mushy gushy bloobarsh.” This bowl is even more ominous than the first, and the baby gasps. Their long-snouted pup, however, is licking its lips. Mom and Dad were apparently ready for these first rejections and have two more dishes on hand, but now Baby—his eyes closed—cannot even stand to sit at the table. “NERPITY NERPITY NERPITY NERP!” he says.

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Copyright Sarah Lynne Reul, 2020, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

Perhaps Mom and Dad have a personal chef stashed away somewhere because six more scrumptious meals—one even holding its own fork—emerge from the kitchen to entice the little one to eat. But where is Baby? His chair’s empty and his bib discarded. And yet there is a very welcome “ssluuurrrrrrrpppppp” sound coming from somewhere. Mom and Dad are so delighted, happy, thrilled to hear this sound of happy scarfing that they drop all of those carefully prepared and plated meals and rush to find out where it’s coming from.

But Whhhaaaaatttt!!!?? do they see? Their precious tot is down on all fours guzzling…pet food. Oh, well, shrugs Mom as Baby burps, but Dad is none too happy as he scrapes all of their hard work onto an enormous plate for a very happy pup who lets out a decided “YERP!” And with full bellies these two lay back with a “Yerpetty yerpetty yerpy yerp.”

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Copyright Sarah Lynne Reul, 2020, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

Clever mashups of foodie words, tasty adjectives, and nonsense words that are fun to say make reading Nerp! aloud––and with verve––a joy.  Combining this entertaining dialogue with charming mixed-media illustrations set in a diorama made of cardboard, Sarah Lynne Reul creates a wholly original story that will keep children and adults laughing all the way through. Reul addresses that age-old food fight between finicky kids and frantic caregivers with hilarious dishes and facial expressions that perfectly reflect the emotions on both sides. Her pitch-perfect ending will delight kids and have adults nodding in appreciation.

Perfect for both reluctant and adventurous eaters as well as for all book lovers, Nerp! belongs on the reading menu at home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454934028

To learn more about Sarah Lynne Reul, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Read Across America Day Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template or iron-on letters found at craft stores
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-bag-craft

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

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You can find Nerp! at these booksellers

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

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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

January 27 – National Chocolate Cake Day

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About the Holiday

Cake

Written by Sue Hendra | Illustrated by Paul Linnet

 

Cake had received an invitation to a party. “He’d never been to a party before, so he didn’t know what to expect.” He wanted to look his best, though, so he tried on different outfits and asked Fish what he thought. Fish didn’t think the pink parasol, the pirate get up, or the superhero costume were quite right. Fish suggested Cake wear a hat, so Cake went off to the shops in town to find one.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Cake tried on a fedora and a fez, a hat with streamers and a hat with a feather, he even tried on a hat with a full fruit salad on top, but none of these were what he wanted. A shop assistant approached and asked if he could help. Hearing that Cake was going to a party, the shop assistant brought out a hat that he said Cake would look “irresistible” in. Cake couldn’t wait to show Fish.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

At home, Cake put on his new purchase and surprised Fish with the big reveal. Fish took in the drippy icing hat sporting four lit candles and the blue ribbon and exclaimed, “‘You’ve cracked it!’” Cake jumped on his bike and rode to the party. As he rang the doorbell, Cake felt nervous, but everyone welcomed him with cheers and smiles. “‘A party isn’t a party without CAKE!’ they said.” Cake had a great time watching the dancing and games from his place on the table, but when the singing started he got a bad feeling about things. “Suddenly, there was a gust of wind, and everything went black.”

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Just then Cake felt a shaky hand grab his, and voice yelled, “‘Quick!’” Cake found himself running through the backyard and over the fence with a slice of pizza, cookies, ice cream, and other treats. They all went to Cake’s house and had a lovely tea party. Meanwhile, back at the party, Piñata rang the bell, hoping he wasn’t too late.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

If your kids enjoy a slice of dark humor, Sue Hendra’s droll party story is a gift they’ll love to open again and again. With clever turns of phrase and by juxtaposing Cake’s naïveté and readers’ birthday party experiences, Hendra invites kids to be active participants in Cake’s adventure. As Cake prepares for his first party, little ones will giggle as he tries on various outfits—sly riffs on popular cake decorations. Cake’s hat reveal provides a laugh-out-loud moment and increases readers’ suspense for what’s to come as Cake attends the party. Hendra’s food flight will delight kids, and the surprise ending gives them one more laugh—and a chance to devise their own story of Piñata’s escape.

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Image copyright Paul Linnet, 2019, text copyright Sue Hendra, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Paul Linnet sprinkles his pages with festive party colors, cake-shaped spotlights, and vibrant layers that are the icing to Hendra’s story. With his wide eyes and innocent expression, Cake is a sweetie that will charm little readers. The clueless revelry that Cake and Fish display over the chosen party hat is hilarious, endearing and even a little poignant. Cake’s impromptu tea party for his new foodie friends shows readers there’s a way to party for everyone—as Piñata is sure (hopefully!) to find out too.

For silly story time fun frosted with sweetness and spiced with suspense, Cake is a delectable addition to home, school, and public library book shelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534425507

You can connect with Sue Hendra on Twitter

You can connect with Paul Linnet on Twitter

National Chocolate Cake Day Activity

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Piece of Cake! Maze

 

Help the kids navigate their way through the party while picking up all five cakes so they can get slices of their own in this printable puzzle.

Piece of Cake! Maze Puzzle  | Piece of Cake! Maze Solution 

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You can find Cake at these booksellers

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

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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

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You can find The Hole Story of the Doughnut at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review