April 13 – National Make Lunch Count Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage American workers to get away from their desk and eat lunch out with friends and coworkers. Taking a break from the office and spending lunchtime having a little fun or over a stimulating conversation can rejuvenate you for the rest of the day. Many people have also embraced the holiday as a way to remind themselves and others to eat healthy and make what they make (or order) nutritious and beneficial. To celebrate, make lunch an adventure today. You might even decide to try something new—like the little girls in today’s book!

The Sandwich Swap

Written by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa 

 

Salma and Lily were best friends. At school they did everything together in the classroom and on the playground. They also ate lunch together every day. They loved all the same things—until it came to what was packed in their lunchboxes. Lily always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Salma always had a hummus and pita sandwich.

While Lily never said so, she thought Salma’s sandwich looked yucky, and Salma kept quiet about her opinion that Lily’s sandwich seemed gross. But one day, Lily did say what she’d been thinking. Salma couldn’t believe her ears. She frowned and “looked down at the thin, soft bread. She thought of her beautiful smiling mother as she carefully cut Salma’s sandwich into two neat halves that morning.” First she felt hurt; then she felt mad.

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Salma let Lily know just how gross and icky-smelling she thought Lily’s sandwich was. “Lily looked surprised. She sniffed the thick, squishy bread, and she thought of her dad in his silly apron whistling” as he cut her sandwich into triangles. After that the two girls did not play or draw together. And the next day, they ate at separate tables. The story of Salma and Lily’s argument had spread, and the other kids chose sides. In the cafeteria, they lobbed insults, calling each other “jelly heads” and “chick pea brains.”

Pretty soon there were shouts of “you’re weird” and “you dress dumb.” It wasn’t long before someone yelled “Food Fight!” and peanut butter, hummus, and all types of sandwiches flew through the air. “They stuck to the walls. They stuck to the ceiling. They stuck to the lunch lady.” Before anyone knew it, pudding cups and applesauce and carrot sticks were soaring through the air.

Lily and Salma gazed at each other across the mess and “felt ashamed by what they saw.” After they helped clean it all up and were sent to the principal’s office, they felt even worse. The next day, Lily and Salma once again sat across from each other during lunch. At last Lily said, “‘Would you like to try a bite of my peanut butter and jelly?” Salma said that she would and offered Lily a nibble of her hummus sandwich. Lily agreed.

On the count of three, Lily and Salma tried each other’s sandwiches. “Yummy! Mmmmm!” they both said, and then they traded sandwiches. After lunch they met with the principal again to tell her an idea they’d had. And on a sunny day, the school held a picnic where everyone shared their favorite lunch from their native country.

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The school lunchroom with its unique dynamics is a perfect setting for Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPuccio’s story that highlights the kinds of prejudice children can encounter whether for food choices or other differences. The inclusion of Salma’s and Lily’s thoughts about their parents is a poignant reminder of how profound and complex children’s emotions are. The humor and honesty in the girls’ relationship, thoughts, and argument as well as the food fight will resonate with readers. Salma’s and Lily’s decision to renew their friendship and try each other’s lunches and to share their revelation with their classmates leads to the kind of growth we all want for our kids.

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Tricia Tusa’s delicate and soft-hued mixed-media illustrations portray the joys of being best friends as Lily and Salma draw, swing, jump rope, and eat lunch together in beautiful two-page spreads. When their true feelings about each other’s sandwiches comes out, the girls are clearly reflective and then hurt and angry as they scowl nose to nose. The food fight is a double-spread free-for-all that will make kids laugh as the lunch lady seems to take the brunt of the flying food. The final gate-fold scene of the multicultural picnic is heartwarming.

The Sandwich Swap is a terrific read at home and in the classroom, especially near the beginning of the school year. The book is also a wonderful prelude to a classroom or school-wide multicultural day or food fair.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2010 | ISBN 978-1423124849

Learn more about Queen Rania Al Abdulla of Jordan and her global advocacy on her website.

Discover more about Kelly DiPucchio and her books on her website.

Get to know Tricia Tusa and view a portfolio of her books and art on her website.

Make Lunch Count Day

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Personalized Lunch Container

 

Take your lunch to school or work in style with this quick and easy craft! All you need is a plastic sandwich or food container, some permanent markers, and your creativity!

Picture Book Review

February 27 – National Strawberry Day

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About the Holiday

It may still be cold where you live, but delicious fresh, red strawberries will be available soon, bringing with them the taste of summer. Strawberries are grown in all parts of the world except the most frigid areas and are enjoyed alone or in delectable treats. To celebrate today, check out the strawberry offerings—either fresh or frozen—at your store and create a special snack!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Written by Don and Audrey Wood | Illustrated by Don Wood

 

It’s quite curious what Mouse might be doing with that ladder at this time of day. In fact, it might be worth asking. “Hello little Mouse. What are you doing?” Ah! It seems that beyond the hammock and the huge gnarled tree, there’s a strawberry plant. And on that strawberry plant is an enormous strawberry. Mouse seems very pleased with himself that he’s found it and has the ladder set up to pick it.

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Copyright Don Wook, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

But there is some disturbing news. Even though Mouse is half way up the ladder, it might just be good to ask if he’s heard about “the big hungry Bear.” His shocked reaction would say he hasn’t. Maybe it would be good to emphasize just “Ohhh, how that Bear loves red, ripe strawberries.” The Mouse wants to protect his find, but there’s no time to lose. After all that Bear “can smell a red, ripe strawberry a mile away….”

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Copyright Don Wook, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

Oh! The Mouse already has the strawberry off the stem. Well, this does pose a problem. You see, that only helps the Bear smell it more easily. Run, little Mouse! That Bear will soon be tromping through the forest on his huge feet with his huge appetite and find that strawberry. Burying it won’t help. Putting it under lock and key won’t help. And there’s no disguise the Bear can’t see through.

In fact… “There’s only one way in the whole wide world to save a red, ripe strawberry from a hungry Bear!” That’s right, so…get a knife… and… “cut it in two.” Then “share half with me. And we’ll both eat it all up!” And the Bear? Well, he’ll have to find another red, ripe strawberry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-mouse-the-red-ripe-strawberry-and-the-big-hungry-bear-eating

Copyright Don Wook, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

This classic story by Don and Audrey Wood was a favorite in my house and continues to excite gasps and giggles in kids today. The enticing storyline, teased along through innocent-sounding questions and “helpful” suggestions, leads to a twist ending that begs the question: Was there ever really a bear? Young readers will be thrilled to discover that they, too, get to share in that delicious red, ripe strawberry.

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Don Wood’s pleased-as-punch, surprised, worried, hurried, and ultimately satisfied Mouse is the star of the story and as cute as his readers, although the strawberry, dressed up in a glasses-and-moustache disguise, may get the biggest guffaw. The forest, with its gnarled trees and overhanging vegetation, offers a suspenseful obstacle course for the fleeing Mouse, and the Mouse’s home is a cozy spot for a snack.

A perfect book to jump-start gardening with kids, as a take-along on outings, as a lead-in to snack time, or for any spirited story time at home or in the classroom, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is a perennial charmer.

Ages 2 – 5

Child’s Play, 1984 | ISBN 978-0859530125 (Paperback); 978-0859531825 (Hardcover, 1997); 978-1846434037 (Board book, 1998); 978-1846434051 (English/Spanish edition, 2011)

To learn more about Don and Audrey Wood and all of their books, plus find activities, secrets, and more, visit their website.

National Strawberry Day Activity

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Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle

 

It’s strawberry-picking day! Can you match pairs of strawberries before you put them in the basket in this printable Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle.

Picture Book Review

February 25 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of February, family and friends are encouraged to get together and have fun baking. Making sweet treats and savory dishes that come out hot and delicious from the oven is a wonderful way to spend time together, try new recipes, and learn new skills. This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

Discover more about Liselotte Schippers and her books on her website.

Learn more about Monique van den Hout, her books, and her art on her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-pictureb-books-picture-book-review-Kids-Baking-Cake-in-Cooking-Show-Bakery-Coloring-Pages

Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

February 9 – National Bagel Day

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About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast and lunch! Coming in all sorts of flavors and varieties, there’s a bagel for every taste, and whether you like yours toasted or not, with cream cheese or plain, it’s hard to deny that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

Bagel in Love

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Helen Dardik

 

Bagel was one talented bread! He loved to dance because “he never felt plain when he was spinning and swirling, tapping and twirling. When he read the advertisement for the dance contest at the Cherry Jubilee that night, Bagel really wanted to enter, but he didn’t have a partner. He went to the best dancer he knew—another bagel named Poppy—but she refused, saying that “his dance steps were half-baked.”

Next, he tracked down Pretzel at the spa, but as she enjoyed her salt rub, she told Bagel that his dancing just “didn’t cut the mustard.” And Matzo, primping with a manicure and facial, “flat out told him no.” Bagel was determined to find a partner and left Bakersville for Sweet City. There he “waltzed up to a table at a busy café. ‘I bet you’re all fabulous dancers,’” he said to the pastries enjoying coffee at an outdoor table. He then launched into a bit of a tap dance and asked if any of them would like to be his partner for the contest.

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Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake scowled at his stale moves. Not to be deterred, Bagel hopped onto a cake display pedestal and shouted out a dance challenge he thought couldn’t miss. Anyone who could match him tap for tap would win a date to the contest with him. But no one took Bagel up on his offer, and worse, Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake just laughed at him as they joined everyone heading to the Cherry Jubilee to watch the contestants.

In the empty café, Bagel felt sad. Maybe he’d be able to compete next year, he signed. He could hear the music begin at the Cherry Jubilee and his feet automatically started tapping. This time, though, he heard an answer back. “He tapped again. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap came the response.” Bagel didn’t know where the tapping was coming from.

Suddenly, he saw the cutest cupcake he had ever seen. Her pink frosting was swirled into a bouffant, and “she smelled oh so sweet.” Bagel asked her if she was the one who had answered his tapping. She admitted she was, but said she wasn’t a very good dancer. Bagel disagreed then asked her to dance. In the empty street outside the café, they twirled around and around. Bagel even tossed her in the air and caught her ever so gently.

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Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Cupcake told Bagel he was an incredible dancer, and Bagel, feeling “all toasty inside” returned the compliment. Once more, Bagel asked, “‘would you be my partner at the dance contest?’” Cupcake said yes, and they hurried off to the Cherry Jubilee. Their dance moves were a hit with the judges, who all gave them 10s. Bagel and Cupcake won the grand prize trophy, but for these two who had found true love, that “was just the icing on the cake.”

Natasha Wing bakes up plenty of kid-pleasing puns in her culinary/dance-off mashup that will have readers laughing on every page even as they empathize with Bagel and learn some valuable ingredients for the best kind of friendship. Pretzel, Matzo, and the pastries may appear sweet with their salt rubs, manicures, and fancy fillings, but their sour personalities are on full display as they laugh and scoff at Bagel and his dancing. Cupcake, on the other hand, has everything it takes to be a good friend. She’s sweet through and through from her stylish updo to her humble and complimentary conversation. Through Bagel and Cupcake, children see that true friends can be found and are those who appreciate each other for who they are.

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Who wouldn’t want to visit Helen Dardik’s baked-goods world with its delectable delights around every corner? Jelly-roll, cupcake, and fruit-tart homes line the street, special culinary spas cater to every detail, and the Upper Crust Café can’t be beat. Bagel is a cutie, and Cupcake is a-dough-able from her pink frosting hair to her aqua and pink paper-liner dress. A colorful, glitter-textured two-page spread shimmers with the love and joy that Bagel and Cupcake have in winning the trophy and each other’s hearts.

Bagel in Love is a fun and funny book—with a little life lesson mixed in—for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922391

Discover more about Natasha Wing and her books on her website.

National Bagel Day Activity

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There’s Snowtime Like Now for a Bagel Snack

 

You can make a snowman even when there’s no snow outside with this simple bagel treat!

Ingredients

  • Your favorite kind of bagel
  • Cream cheese
  • Baby carrot
  • Raisins, currents, or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread bagel with cream cheese
  2. Place carrot in the hole (prop up with more cream cheese if needed)
  3. Add raisins, currents, or chocolate chips as eyes and a smile

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 27 – Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you’re making precise cuts or just snipping away to see what pattern emerges, creating paper snowflakes is a fun wintertime activity for both adults and children. This craft that decorates homes, classroom, libraries, community centers, and shops worldwide actually stems from a variation on origami, called kirigami. While both art forms involve folded paper, in kirigami the paper is unfolded and cuts are made in desired places. Snowflake making is a bit of a combination of the two, where the cuts are made while the paper is still folded. Why do we want to make snowflakes when there may be so many outside? Well, maybe the intricate uniqueness of snowflakes inspires us to be our best unique selves, and for residents of Southern regions, as I was while growing up, the paper variety are the closest thing there is to the real ones.

If Snowflakes Tasted Like Fruitcake

By Stacey Previn

 

Snowflakes gently fluttering down from a gray winter sky seem to tease “catch me if you can!” Perhaps it’s their similarity to coconut shavings or confectioners’ sugar sifted over a delicious cake that inspires us to stick our tongues out to taste those little white flakes. But what do they really taste like? And what if they tasted like other yummy foods? Stacey Previn explores that idea, starting with a winter favorite—“If snowflakes tasted like sugar plums…they’d be dancing in my head.” Or perhaps they are better for breakfast—“If snowflakes tasted like oatmeal…they would get me out of bed.”

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maybe snowflakes would be better in a mug—“If snowflakes tasted like cocoa…they would warm me to my toes” Or if they came in whipped cream dollops, “they would tickle me on my nose.” Imagine “if snowflakes tasted like apples…” you could “bake them in a pie.” And “if snowflakes tasted like peppermint…” we’d “wish more fell from the sky.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-snowflakes-tasted-like-fruitcake-oatmeal

Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sometimes snowflakes twinkle like diamonds, but what if they were as shiny as gumdrops? Or imagine if they were as warm and soothing as noodle soup. Still, there is that title question: what “if snowflakes tasted like fruitcake?” Well, then, I’m afraid we “would give them all away.” So what is that special flavor that makes us stick out our tongues? “Winter,” of course!

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Stacey Previn offers up a whimsical, culinary menu of various taste sensations that might entice readers to eat up winter’s delicate, white morsels, including those above as well as honey, figs, chestnuts, gingerbread, popcorn, and marshmallows. Accompanying each verse are richly colored and wood-grain-textured folk-art illustrations that enhance the homey nature of the book. From verse to verse, a red-snowsuited child, joyful to wake to falling snow, imagines shaking snowflakes from tree branches, building a snowman and a snow choir, roasting snowflakes in a pan, catching snowflakes in a spoon, a net, a ladle, and more.

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Copyright Stacey Previn, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Kids who love playing in the snow—and for whom snowflakes are a delicacy—will delight in curling up with cup of hot chocolate and enjoying the sweet ideas and fanciful humor in this cozy wintertime book. Its sure to inspire kids to think up their own taste comparisons.

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801804

Discover more about Stacey Previn and her books on her website!

Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day Activity

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Fantastic Paper Snowflakes! 

 

You can create beautiful snowflakes with these printable snowflake templates. With a little color or glitter, you can make each snowflake one-of-a-kind! Here are two to start you off. You can find more templates at firstpalette.com.

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Snowflake Template 1 

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Snowflake Template 2

 

Picture Book Review

 

 

December 20 – It’s Tomato and Winter Squash Month

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About the Holiday

The cold months of the year call for warm, hearty meals, and what better way to satisfy the desire for comfort food than to incorporate some of the most flavorful vegetables around? Tomatoes are a staple in many dishes, while the many varieties of winter squash (including acorn, butternut, spaghetti, kabocha, and delicate) are versatile and can add new taste sensations to any dinner. So as the temperature dips, scout out these vegetables and savor their rich flavors!

Rabbit Stew

By Wendy Wahman

 

“Rusty and Rojo toiled and tilled in their vegetable garden all summer long.” But now the crops have ripened, and the two foxes are ready to enjoy the bounty of their hard work—so are their neighbors, the Rabbits. As Mommy Rabbit and the bunnies nibble away in a corner of the garden, Rusty gently squeezes the tomatoes and finds them “plump, yet firm.” “Perfectly so,” Rojo agrees as he lifts Daddy Rabbit from the carrot patch. “At last,” Rusty and Rojo exclaim, “the time is ripe for our prizewinning Rabbit Stew!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

While Rojo picks “lean, green runner beans,” the Rabbits look on worriedly. Daddy tries to hide, but Rusty spies him in the wheelbarrow full of purple kale. Then, when the family dives back into their cozy “hole sweet hole,” they find that their convenient carrot snacks are being abruptly snatched away—only to be added to the pot of “splendid Rabbit Stew.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

Next come raisins and celery “and roly-poly blueberries.” But what about those white and gray bits of fluff? Will they end up in the foxes’ buckets too? Of course “juicy red tomatoes, fresh sprigs of parsley, and sweet yellow peppers” are also musts for the foxes’ “finest-ever Rabbit Stew.” With the pot overflowing with colorful veggies, only one more thing is needed—“one…big…round…white…bowl…for our favorite Rabbit, Stew—and his family too!”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017. Courtesy of wendywahman.com.

With her fertile imagination and a clever play on words, Wendy Wahman offers up a delightful story that will have readers guessing until the very end. Along with the mystery and the yummy descriptions of each ingredient, Wahman presents a counting game for readers. As Rusty and Rojo pick their vegetables, children can count the ten runner beans on the trellis, nine purple kale leaves in the wheelbarrow, eight carrots from the burrow, and all of the other ingredients on down to one. But do Rusty and Rojo need one big white rabbit or something else? Kids will love the twist at the end and cheer to see Daddy Stew, Mommy Strudel, and their little bunnies—Dumpling, Biscuit, and Ragu—dining on the special meal grown and created just for them.

Everyone’s garden should look as deliciously vibrant as Wahman’s riotous patch of vegetables! The vivid colors jump off the page while providing texture and nuance to the illustrations. They also give kids another concept to learn and talk about. Little details, such as the tiny caterpillar and the yellow butterfly that follow the bunnies from page to page, as well as the fancy burrow lined with photos of friends and family will enchant readers. 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, 2017, courtesy o f Wendy Wahman.

Welcome themes of friendship, diversity, and inclusiveness can also be found within the illustrations and the story.

Rabbit Stew is a bright, humorously sly story that would be a wonderful addition to any child’s library. The book also makes a perfect companion for trips to the farmers market, on picnics, or to spur interest in home gardening. The attention to the details of what rabbits can safely eat, as well as the number and color concepts provided in the illustrations, makes Rabbit Stew a great choice for school story times and spring lessons.

Ages 3 – 7

Boyds Mills Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629795836

You can download a fun Rabbit Stew Activity Sheets from Boyds Mills Press!

Discover more about Wendy Wahman, her art, and her books on her website!

You’ll dig this Rabbit Stew book trailer!

National Garden Month Activity

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game, copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

Meet Author/Illustrator Wendy Wahman

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Today, I’m really happy to be chatting with Wendy Wahman about her art, her books, her inspirations, and a really sweet school visit she had recently.

Your bio mentions that you worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until 2009. Can you describe your work there?

I worked in the art department doing maps, graphics, info-graphics and illustrations for every section of the newspaper. Ninety percent of the work was on deadline, so I learned to think and draw fast.

Our poor beloved P-I. It was 146 years old when Hearst closed it down. About 150 of us went down with the ship. Best job I ever had. I miss the variety and culture and importance — and honesty — of journalism. I miss my P-I family, very much.

How did you get started illustrating and writing books for children?

I was really just snooping around for illustration work. I had an idea for a book on dog body language I wanted to do, but imagined ‘a real writer’ should write it. I sent out some of the dog body-language art samples and heard back from four major publishers. Laura Godwin at Henry Holt called me, and was so passionate about dogs and kids—and my art. She asked to see a dummy. What dummy, right? I had no dummy, just an idea and some art samples. I took two weeks off from the P-I and put together a dummy. Laura helped me tremendously, as did my brilliant writer husband, Joe Wahman.    

Don’t Lick the Dog is a how-to primer on being safe with dogs. We followed with the companion book, A Cat Like That. We never did do my dog body-language book. It’s sitting here patient as can be. “Good dog, book.”

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, Don’t Lick the Dog. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

 

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman, A Cat Like That. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

Your art is so varied—from humorous to infographics to striking, serious editorial work. You also work with crisp, clean lines and beautiful textures. Can you talk about your process and inspirations?

Thank you so much, Kathy. Well. I sit and think and read a lot. Mostly I just look and try to distract myself from thinking too hard. I like to thumb through my Thesaurus. When I’m stuck, I try to remember to move away. This can be physically—exercise or a walk; mentally—read or look through books; or emotionally—play with my dogs or call somebody. I say, try, because too often I sit rooted, thinking, thinking. Better to get up and move.

What was the inspiration for Rabbit Stew?

I feed my dogs a homemade stew of meat & veggies. Long ago, I was stirring up an enormous batch of dog food, when “rabbit stew” fluttered to mind. Rabbit Stew is also a counting book, counting down veggies from ten to one. It’s also a color book. It was a challenge to find ingredients safe for rabbits, in different colors and not give it away. Like, rabbits love dandelions and they’re very good for them, but I only know a couple of people who would knowingly toss dandelions into the pot. No potatoes; they are toxic to bunnies, and cabbage isn’t good for them either. 

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A happy fan enjoys reading “Rabbit Stew” with lunch! Photo courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

You give presentations at schools and libraries. Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share?

I did a school visit recently in southern California and got to take my mom to a presentation for 4th graders. I introduced her to the students, and they gave her a loud round of applause! Even more tender, when I was signing books (and the other stuff kids want signed), they asked if my mother would also give them an autograph. Is that the sweetest or what? Children can be so inspiring, healing, and wise. 

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Wendy reads “Don’t Lick the Dog” to enthusiastic kindergarteners in Kennewick, WA. Photograph courtesy of Wendy Wahman

You also teach bookmaking to kids. That sounds fun and fascinating! Can you tell me a little bit about these classes?

I’m so glad you asked about these little books, Kathy. I love making them and sharing the process. Anyone can make one. I’ve taught them to kindergarteners through seniors. I call them “Insight Books,” because what comes out can be surprising, revealing, and often cathartic. Random lines inspire images and ideas. Some people write, others write and draw. Sometimes we collage. Even if you do nothing at all put look, the lines may stimulate ideas. These book are fun to make with a partner too. 

What’s up next for you?

I’m very excited about my next book, Pony in the City (Sterling Publishers). Kevan Atteberry’s book, Swamp Gas, releases the same day, Sept. 9th, and we’re talking about having a co- launch party.

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Image copyright Wendy Wahman. Proofs of “Pony in the City” (Sterling, releasing Sept. 9 this year) courtesy of Wendy Wahman.

I’m working on Nanny Paws (Two Lions), a book inspired by my little white poodle, LaRoo, and the children next door. Here’s a picture of LaRoo and my other dog Jody with my friend Vikki Kaufman‘s poodles. Vikki is a breeder of beautiful silver and blue standard poodles. Vikki took the picture, can you tell?  Her dogs are staring straight at her. Poor LaRoo. She is a shy girl and just wants to get away from the masses.

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Wendy with LeRoo and Jody and Vikki’s TinTin, Nickel and Eureka.

I’m also working on a dummy for a beautiful story written by Joe, “One Bird” (www.joewahman.com). I’m doing the art for both Nanny Paws and Joe’s story in a new/old style for me: pencil and watercolor.

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Image from “One Bird,” written by Joe Wahman, illustrated by Wendy Wahman. Courtesy of Wendy Wahman

Do you have a favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving.

Do you have an anecdote from a holiday you would like to share

If you come over for Thanksgiving, prepare yourself for a vegetarian feast. We don’t eat animals here — but we do make them big, round, splendid bowls of stew.

Thanks so much, Wendy! It’s been a lot of fun! I wish you all the best with all of your books!

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You can find Wendy’s books at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Boyds Mills Press

You can connect with Wendy on:

BēhanceFacebook | LinkedIn | PinterestTwitter

Visit Wendy’s shops:

Cafe Press: http://www.cafepress.com/profile/109591016

RedBubble:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/wendywahman/portfolio

Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/wendoodles/products

Wendoodles coloring book: http://www.amazon.ca/Wendoodles-Wendy-E-Wahman/dp/1517403456

Picture Book Review