September 5 – National Cheese Pizza Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re wondering what you should have for dinner or lunch…or…heck—even breakfast!—ponder no longer. It’s National Cheese Pizza Day, which gives you carte blanche to indulge in this hot, bubbly favorite any time today. And even though the official holiday only mentions cheese, I don’t think anyone will mind if you add a few toppings!

Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster

By Claire Lordon

 

Lorenzo is one adventurous lobster! Not only does he like exploring new places, he loves getting his claws on new foods. One day while at the beach, Lorenzo meets a seagull who has found a tasty slice of pizza to nosh on. “‘What’s that?’” Lorenzo asks, “‘It smells amazing!’” The seagull tells him and invites him to try it. Lorenzo takes a nibble…and then a bigger bite. He loves this pizza thing so much that he eats it all up.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On his way home to tell his friends about his discovery, Lorenzo runs into Kalena, his turtle friend, and tells her all about the triangular food that is “‘crispy and chewy at the same time; salty, tangy, and full of flavor, too!’” Kalena is intrigued and suggests they try to make one themselves. At Lorenzo’s house they begin gathering the ingredients, but when Kalena asks what was in the pizza, Lorenzo can’t remember. Kalena looks in the cupboard and pulls out seaweed cake and kelp paste. “‘Perfect!’” agrees Lorenzo. For the “stringy” part, Kalena suggests eelgrass, which also has the benefit of being extra salty. And the “round things on top”? Sand dollars sound delicious!

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Image and text copyright Claire Lorden, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

So the pair bake up their green concoction, and when the timer rings they dig in only to find that it “‘isn’t quite right.’” Not one to give up, Kalena offers a new set of ingredients: “‘kelp dough, squid ink, algae, and coral rings.’” This pizza isn’t right either—in fact, Kalena says, “‘This tastes icky! And the algae is stuck in my teeth!’” Suddenly, Lorenzo has a brainstorm. He remembers that the pizza was made of “‘sponge patties, jellyfish jelly, seaweed noodles, and seashells.’”

Listening to that recipe, Kalena isn’t so sure, but they make it anyway. When this creation comes out of the oven, one small nip convinces Kalena that this one is “‘gross.’” Poor Lorenzo—he so badly wanted to make a delicious pizza with his friend. Kalena leaves Lorenzo’s house with the distinct impression that pizza is terrible. But as she heads up the beach toward home, she smells a delicious aroma. Coming closer she spies a “round food,” and buys one.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With one bite, she’s smitten! This round food is “‘so chewy, and salty, and…wait a minute.’” It dawns on Kalena that this might be the very pizza Lorenzo was talking about. There’s just one thing—why is it a circle? Even though Kalena wants to devour the whole thing, she thinks about how sad Lorenzo was and hurries back to his house with the steaming box. Sure enough, Lorenzo is moping about the afternoon’s debacle.

“‘Hey Lorenzo, look what I found!’” Kalena calls. “‘Holy anchovy!’” Lorenzo exclaims when he tastes it, “‘This is exactly like the pizza I had earlier, but this time it’s big and round!’” They are excited to dig into their treat, but they carefully study the pizza’s ingredients before eating it all up. One pizza just isn’t enough, so Lorenzo and Kalena make another…and another…and another—and share them with all their friends at a huge pizza party.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Who knew pizza and the ocean had so much in common—the same salty tang, the same appealing aromas, the same recognizable shapes? Claire Lordon, that’s who! In her funny culinary adventure, Lordon captures the enthusiasm children have to share and replicate a new discovery  but also presents the moments of disappointment when reality and memory don’t match. Kids will “ewww…ohhh…yuck…and yuck it up at the alternative pizza ingredients Lorenzo and Kalena combine in their attempts at a “normal” pizza. These two friends are sweetly supportive of each other through kelp paste and pepperoni and know how to share life’s ups and downs.

Lordon’s adorable sea creatures populate vibrant underwater and beach environments that will be as familiar to kids as their own homes and playgrounds, but with an oceanic twist. Images of the alternate ingredients are clever adaptations of the elements of a normal pizza as Lorenzo remembers the shapes but not the names of the fixings.

Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster is a delicious ingredient to add to any child’s bookshelf, and kids will no doubt want to build their own pizzas just like Lorenzo—a crustacean who really knows his crust!

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802283

Learn more about Claire Lordon and her work on her website!

To read my interview with Claire, click here!

Cheese Pizza Day Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient and pass the playing die to the next player

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You can find Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

 

August 24 – National Waffle Day Short & Sweet Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m thrilled to join the Long & Savory Book Tour for Short & Sweet, the fourth book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French series. The fact that today is National Waffle Day makes it doubly sweet as Baron von Waffle has played an integral part in each story. And just how important are waffles to the world? Well, waffles and waffle irons have been around since the 14th century, and today’s holiday celebrates the day in 1869 when Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York received the first patent for a waffle iron. Fortunately for us, this favorite breakfast treat has also helped to inspire one of the most innovative kidlit series around.

I received a digital version of Short & Sweet courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Short & Sweet (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Volume 4)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

Back in the old familiar fridge, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are getting ready to host a tea party. After all the preparations, though, Pancake is achy and Toast felt quite pale. “Pancake then screamed, ‘Are we both going stale?’” One friend at the party didn’t mince words. “Baron von Waffle, their guest, said, ‘You’re gruesome. / I’ve never seen such a hideous twosome.’” But the news wasn’t all bad, he had a solution and handed them a brochure for Professor Biscotti’s Laboratory, where she promised rejuvenation with her “DE-spoiling ray.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast hurried on over and took their seats. Biscotti aimed her laser and…poof! When the smoke cleared Pancake and Toast had become kids. “‘Explain what you did to them!’ Waffle demanded. / Professor Biscotti said, ‘Hmm. I’ll be candid. / I over de-spoiled them with my device. / I’m ever so sorry. I’ll charge you half price.’” But while the Baron was arguing with the professor, Toast and Pancake had grown alarmed.

They ran quickly away from the monster waffle. But the pair’s fear left Waffle a blubbering mess. They’d all just become friends, but now he was afraid that fun was all over. Professor Biscotti, though, said she could fix it; they just needed a plan. By this time, the two pint-sized companions had reached the city. They raced to “Limes Square” and then to “Pasta Playground,” where they joined the little noodles on the see-saw, the swings, and the slide. Until they saw the library and scampered inside. Meanwhile, Waffle was cooking up bait to capture them and “Biscotti kept working in her laboratories, / while Pancake and Toast sat enraptured by stories.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

There was only one thing that could tear them away. Then they smelled that sweet scent and “they followed their noses past fjord, wall, and hill / and then kept on running and running until… / ‘The old syrup trick,’ Waffle said with a smirk. / ‘Professor, I’ve got ‘em. So now will it work?’” With hope, Biscotti put them back in the chairs and fired up her laser. But it just wouldn’t work. Waffle offered some syrup to make the gears stick, and this time when the laser went Zap! the tiny duo grew up! Pancake and Toast were glad to be back.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they learned that the Baron was the monster they’d feared, they were ashamed and apologized. Waffle was relieved, and as the three headed back to finish their tea, Pancake assured Waffle, “‘we’ll always be chums.’ / ‘Exactly,’ said Toast, ‘till we wither to crumbs.’”

Fans of the series know to expect a party at the end of the story, and this time out, they’re invited to Food Fest, where Juice Springsteen is the headline act. Kids will love picking out their favorite characters from the other three books from among the adoring—and adorable—crowd. Another perk is the fold-out poster that depicts a map of the route Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast took from Crust Boulevard and Professor Biscotti’s Lab all the way to Limes Square, the playground, and the library.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Like fine grape juice, Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series gets better with age. In Short & Sweet, Funk’s talent for clever rhymes and jaunty rhythms is on full frolic as Pancake and Toast’s quest to feel young again goes a little too far. His robust storytelling takes comical aim at current fads as well as something that never goes out of style—friendship. When Pancake and Toast learn they’ve mistaken Waffle for a monster and inadvertently hurt his feelings, Funk reveals that the best way to smooth things over is with heartfelt apologies and reassurances. Readers will appreciate Baron von Waffle’s sweet throwback to the book that introduced us to this most magical of refrigerators along with the hiding place of choice of these two cutie-pie protagonists, who live large in our hearts even when they’re tiny.

Opening the door to Brendan Kearney’s fridge is always a treat. Each page offers new visual puns, hilarious foodie takes on furniture, décor, and technology, and even a few clues to the concert acts that close out the fun. Adults will smile wryly at Professor Biscotti’s frosted chocolate hair and white lab coat while kids giggle at the book titles Pancake and Toast devour at the library. Biscotti’s avocado laser is an ingenious touch. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and Baron von Waffle, with their signature toppings, remain as charming as ever, and the theme of friendship is baked into every page.

Fresh, funny, and as heartwarming as reuniting with a best friend, Short & Sweet is a must addition to home, school, and public libraries. If you’re new to the series, check out  the first three books

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast | The Case of the Stinky Stench | Mission Defrostable

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454934271

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books on his website

To learn more about Brendan Kearney, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Don’t shrink away from watching the Short & Sweet book trailer!

And don’t miss the Virtual Launch Party at An Unlikely Story bookstore September 1

Short & Sweet Virtual Launch Party with An Unlikely Story bookstore

National Waffle Day Activity

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Waffle Tic-Tac-Toe

The grid of a waffle makes a perfect tic tac toe board! With this special breakfast-inspired tic tac toe set you can cook up some sweet fun! With all the choices of squares in a waffle to fill, you can play 3-by-3, 4-by-4, 5-by-5, even 6-by-6 games! 

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-waffle-game-pieces

Directions

  1. Play 3-by-3 games as you always do
  2. For the other options each player tries to build rows of 4 pieces down, across, and diagonally
  3. The player with the most 4-in-a-row rows wins!

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You can find Short & Sweet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound (Shop IndieBound for exclusive Short & Sweet swag! Learn more here!)

Short & Sweet Preorder Swag

Don’t miss the rest of the Long & Savory Book Tour! Follow along here!

CPB – Short & Sweet Long & Savory Virtual Tour

DoPicture Book Review

August 22 – National Bao Day

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About the Holiday

National Bao Day, established as an annual holiday in 2017, was founded by Wow Bao to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of their first restaurant in Chicago on August 22 and to honor the ancient Chinese tradition of bao. To celebrate today, order dinner from your favorite Chinese restaurant or make this delicious meal at home.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Written by Kat Zhang | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Amy can do lots of things well. She can even multitask. But when it comes to making the perfect bao—the thing she wants to do most of all—she has no luck. “Sometimes they come out too small. Sometimes they come out too big.” Sometimes the filling is oozing from the top; sometimes the bao is empty; and then there are the times when the whole bao crumbles before she can even eat it. Everyone else in the family can make a perfect bao. “Their bao are soft and fluffy and so, so delicious.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Today, Amy has decided, is the day she will do it. “She’s going to make the world’s most perfect bao.” Her dad helps her mix up the dough. Then they knead it and pound it and leave it to rise. Soon the little lump of dough fills the bowl. Amy’s dad squashes it, rolls it, and cuts little rounds while Amy’s mom makes the filling on the stove.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Now it’s time to make the bao. Amy’s mom, dad, and grandma gather at the table and start filling the dough. Amy fills a round too, but turns out a little lumpy, so she tries again. This one is too full and no matter how much she pinches the top, it just doesn’t close right. Her dad, mom, and grandma are all making perfect bao. They try giving her advice, but it doesn’t help. Amy feels dejected. Then she has an idea. She looks at her hands, she looks at the grown-ups’ hands. She looks at the dough. “She whispers her idea into her grandma’s ear.” In a moment she has two “Amy-size pieces” of dough in her hands. She rolls out the dough, fills it just right, and “pinch, pinch, pinches it shut.” Amy holds up her “perfect bao!”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Amy makes perfect bao after perfect bao. Now it’s time to steam them. Inside the bamboo steamer are all of Amy’s bao—the good and the bad. When they’re done, the family sits down to munch. Amy eats two of her perfect bao. Then she eats one of her lesser attempts and discovers that it tastes just as good as the perfect ones. The next day she takes her bao to school to share at lunchtime, and her classmates think they are just perfect.

Amy’s family recipe for bao follows the story.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her charming culinary tale, Kat Zhang introduces a little girl who dreams of perfection. In Zhang’s straightforward storytelling, kids will recognize their own desires to reach perfect heights—whether in art, music, sports, or other activity. Kids will be captivated by the step-by-step process in making bao—especially if their own family has joined the bread-making phenomena of recent months. As Amy begins assembling her bao, only to have them turn our lumpy or empty once again, suspense builds. Amy’s realization of problem and solution is an empowering lesson for children struggling to achieve their own goals while her discovery that both perfect and imperfect bao are just as delicious is a reminder that perfection isn’t everything.

Charlene Chua’s Amy Wu is a powerhouse of enthusiasm and personality who tackles tasks with everything she’s got, and she has her heart set on making the perfect bao. Chua depicts Amy’s imagined perfect bun floating above her, surrounded by light and celebrated by a dragon and a fenghuang, humorously portraying the lofty goal Amy, like many kids attempting to achieve a goal, has given herself. As Amy sets her plan in motion on the appointed day, Chua realistically illustrates each step. Readers will empathize with images of Amy struggling to fill and close her bao, and a clever close-up illustration of Amy with her family behind her reflects the way people, advice, and even one’s own thoughts can intrude. When Amy realizes that the size of her hands in relation to the amount of dough is the problem, savvy readers may think back to the first spread, where Amy has similar problems with a toothpaste tube and her shoelaces. 

An empowering story, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao inspires children to keep striving to achieve their goals while including comforting reassurance for the journey along the way. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534411333

Discover more about Kat Zhang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bao Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Amy-Wu's-family-bao-recipe

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

 

Try your hand at making perfect – or not so perfect – bao. Either way, you know they’ll taste delicious! You can find Amy Wu’s family recipe at Simon & Schuster.

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-cover

You can find Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 31 – It’s National Hot Dog Month

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About the Holiday

Since 1956, hot dogs have been top dog throughout July. Independence Day, summer picnics, and camping trips are just a few of the events that are more fun with this versatile favorite. Enjoyed throughout the world, hot dogs even get their own special days in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Australia and other countries. A favorite of kids and adults alike, hot dogs can be enjoyed plain or loaded with everything from mustard to chili. While Hot Dog Month may be winding down, there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy this simple meal.

Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Victor Juhasz

 

Before Eleanor Roosevelt became the first lady of the United States, she loved to grill up hot dog roasts for her family and friends. You see, Eleanor loved hot dogs! But after her husband Franklin became President, Eleanor had important duties. “Things were tough in the United States in the 1930s,” and since Franklin “couldn’t walk or move about easily, he counted on Eleanor to travel around the country for him” talking to people to see how the government could make things better. “Soon Eleanor was as popular as the president.”

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Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Not only was the United States suffering through a depression, it looked like the world would soon be at war. Eleanor presided over many fancy dinners in the White House given in honor of important people. These dinners, complained Eleanor, were “always hot dog-less.” Then, in 1939, the king and queen of England decided they would visit America to commemorate the 150th anniversary of our country’s independence from Britain. No English monarch had visited America in all that time.

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Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eleanor did a little research and discovered that Queen Elizabeth was a distant cousin of George Washington. “‘She’s practically a member of the American family!’” Elizabeth exclaimed. “‘So to celebrate the first royal visit,’ Eleanor continued, ‘we need an all-American picnic.’” But first, came a fancy dinner. Following that, the Roosevelts and the king and queen drove to Hyde Park, New York, where the Roosevelts had an estate.

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Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eleanor planned her picnic to be held at a simple stone house on the property owned by the president, where the scenery was as pretty as it gets. Eleanor packed the menu full of traditional American favorites, including turkey, ham, cranberry jelly, baked beans, strawberry shortcake—and, of course, hot dogs. When the details of the menu were released, the White House was inundated with letters from all over the country protesting that hot dogs should not be offered to the queen.

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Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eleanor answered the protesters in her daily newspaper column. She reassured them that there would be “plenty of other food, and…the more important guests will be served with due formality.” On June 11, Eleanor finished her morning routine and rushed to the cottage to prepare for the picnic. As the king and queen arrived—driven by the president himself in a specially outfitted car—Eleanor could see from the expressions on the royal faces that Franklin hadn’t resisted the temptation to show off, “racing their majesties up bumpy roads, through the woods, and around steep, twisty turns to the picnic site.”

When it came to eat, King George picked up a hot dog and “ate it with gusto … and mustard!” He even had seconds. And the queen? She daintily cut hers up with a fork and knife. After dinner, King George and Queen Elizabeth began their trip back to England with a train ride. Townspeople flocked to the station and stood along the banks of the Hudson River to see them off.

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Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Three months later, World War II began. England and America fought side by side to defeat their enemies. The Roosevelts had promised to visit Queen Elizabeth and King George, but Franklin died before the war’s end. Eleanor later made the trip alone. On June 11, 1989 another picnic was held at Hyde Park in remembrance of that other picnic fifty years earlier. Some of the guests had been children at that first memorable party, and Queen Elizabeth “sent a special message: ‘The memory of the picnic was a source of strength and comfort to the king and me through the dark days of the Second World War….’” And what did the guests enjoy at that second picnic? The menu was “exactly the same—right down to the hot diggity dogs!”

An Author’s Note adding a bit more information about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and King George IV and Queen Elizabeth follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-king-and-queen

Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman’s engaging and smoothly paced story captures Eleanor Roosevelt’s warm-hearted personality and down-home friendliness that made her one of American history’s most beloved first ladies. Details of Eleanor’s White House duties juxtaposed with humorous anecdotes about her love of hot dogs, reaction to her choice of menu, and Franklin’s penchant for driving create a well-rounded portrait of a particular time in history. Including 1989’s 50th anniversary picnic reminds readers of the ongoing friendship between America and Great Britain.

Victor Juhasz uses lush, caricature-style art to great effect in representing the 1930s to ‘40s time period, the lavish trappings of the White House, and Eleanor’s larger-than-life personality and influence. Her wide smile and can-do attitude as well as her self-confidence are on display for young readers to appreciate and emulate. Other character’s facial expressions clearly spotlight the humorous incidents but also the seriousness of the times. And, of course, those hot dogs that Eleanor loved so much look good enough to eat!

For young readers interested in history, culinary arts, and biographies, adding Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic to their reading menu would be a treat. Teachers will also find the book an engaging inclusion to lessons on the historical time period, women in history in general, and Eleanor Roosevelt in particular.

Ages 8 – 11

Sleeping Bear Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1585368303

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Victor Juhasz, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Hot Dog Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-maze

Grab Those Hot Dogs!

 

There are delicious hot dogs scattered throughout this maze! Can you collect all nine on the way from start to finish in this printable puzzle?

Grab Those Hot Dogs! Maze | Grab Those Hot Dogs! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-cover

Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic can be found at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound 

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chip-and-curly-spud-city

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-zora's-zucchini-biking

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.

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

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

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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

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

You can find Fruit Bowl at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review