January 5 – Blog Tour Stop for Everybody Counts!

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I’d like to thank Matt Forrest Esenwine for sharing a digital copy of Everybody Counts! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Everybody Counts!

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Emma Graham

 

Children are invited to a lively international food festival in this rhyming and educational book that introduces readers to twelve nationalities through their cardinal numbers from 1 to 10 and a favorite dish that kids will be eager to try. As they visit each “booth,” readers learn about the ingredients and how each meal is made and meet an animal commonly found in each country. Along the way, they also gain a sprinkling of history, traditions, and information on the featured language. Kids even discover which number is considered the luckiest in China and why.

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Image copyright Emma Graham, 2023, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2023. Courtesy of The Little Fig.

With a verse that plays on the idea of counting, Matt Forrest Esenwine starts off his world tour by prompting readers to look not only for the special attributes of each animal and their country but for those inside themselves and in those around them too: “Everyone is helpful, / in large or small amounts. / Everybody matters. / Everybody counts!” The enthusiasm in these words carry over onto each page spread, which includes a deliciously descriptive rhyming verse, a charming paragraph of explanatory text, and a row of numbers along the bottom, presented in their written form and how each is spelled in the particular language.

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Image copyright Emma Graham, 2023, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2023. Courtesy of The Little Fig.

Emma Graham immediately captivates readers with her vibrant opening spread that frames Esenwine’s introductory verse with a series of beautifully patterned plates representing the countries found within the book’s pages. With a page turn, kids are invited into the festival to meet some of the excited participants as they chat with their neighbors and show off their dishes. Graham packs her pages with personality, adorable animals, images of ingredients, and symbols, patterns, landscapes, and colors that give kids plenty to talk about and to jumpstart research projects or new recipes to try. 

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Image copyright Emma Graham, 2023, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2023. Courtesy of The Little Fig.

The multifaceted approach of Everybody Counts! is sure to engage kids in many ways—from feeling pride in their own heritage to the sense of accomplishment in learning to count in another language to wanting to try new tastes and foods. For teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other adults, the book provides an enticing way to introduce geography, language learning, math, and even art lessons. The book’s familiar frame of an international festival can also spark ideas for events in classrooms, schools, and extracurricular clubs or organizations. 

Sure to prompt enthusiasm for story times, educational reading, and a host of extended activities, Everybody Counts! is highly recommended for home libraries and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

The Little Fig, 2023 | ISBN 978-1633330559

About the Author

Matt Forrest Esenwine’s children’s poetry can be found in numerous anthologies, including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry. His various poems and picture books have received numerous positive reviews, including a Kirkus star. Flashlight Night was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books for Kids and chosen by Kirkus as one of the Best Picture Books of the Year. Matt currently has twelve other books under contract and coming soon. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and more pets than he has fingers. You can visit Matt on His website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.

About the Illustrator

Emma Graham is a versatile and experienced illustrator and graphic artist. Since graduating from Norfolk Institute of Art she has build a vibrant portfolio including children’s picture books, private commissions, and Wild In Art sculptures. She was longlisted for the Picture Books Hooks mentoring scheme and a finalist in The Hook at the SCBWI BI conference. As author, she was a finalist in the Stratford Literary Festival’s Salariya Prize for picture books. Emma is commissioned illustrator for the Children’s Appeal at Ipswich Hospital(UK)–a charity raising funds for a full refurbishment of the children’s ward. You can connect with Emma on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.

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You can find Everybody Counts! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local, independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 15 – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

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About the Holiday

The holidays are coming, and today’s holiday offers the perfect opportunity to really look deep into your fridge and toss any of those leftovers or nearly empty jars to make way for the special dinners and treats to come. This season of favorite foods won’t be complete, though, without the newest book in the beloved Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series to share!

Thanks to Josh Funk for sharing a digital copy of The Great Caper Caper with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Great Caper Caper (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #5)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

It was still nighttime “deep in the fridge” when Sir French Toast woke Lady Pancake with a scream. When she sleepily meets him in the living room, Toast tells her that the Great Light has disappeared. She doesn’t believe him at first. “‘Nonsense,’ said Pancake. ‘Crack open the drapes.’ / But as she gazed out, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, my crêpes!’” It was true. “All of the fridge was consumed by the dark. / From Lentil Soup Springs up to Passionfruit Park.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Then Pancake noticed a light shining in the distance. They hurried toward it and found themselves in Las Veggies, where a gleaming Tower dominated the landscape. As soon as Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake entered the door, they demanded to know who was in charge. “A salty green bud with an odor of brine, / Answered the question: ‘This tower is mine!’” He introduced himself as Count Caper, “the richest, most powerful food” and mocked Pancake’s idea that he had stolen the Great Light. Then he threw them out of Las Veggies Tower. On the way home, French Toast seemed distressed, but Pancake told him she had a plan all figured out.

Back in their rooms, Pancake and Toast assembled a team of eight friends they’d made through their many adventures together, and Pancake explained the scheme she had in mind. The crew set right to work, infiltrating Count Caper’s inner sanctum for reconnaissance, gathering the supplies they’d need, and devising a creative diversion. At last the time came to put their plan into motion, and the team descended surreptitiously on a Las Veggies Tower showroom. Disguised as audience members, Croissant, Tofu, Pancake, and Toast took their places close to Count Caper’s table as the Beets took the stage. In a moment they had unboxed a commotion of animal crackers that sent Count Caper’s guards running, and Pancake’s plan progressed without a hitch.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

They had just gained access to Count Caper’s office and discovered the hidden Great Light when Count Caper appeared. When confronted with his crime he caved, relating that he’d been scorned all his life and left in the shadows. He’d decided he’d had enough and wanted to bask in the star-making glow of the Great Light. Having confessed, he then ordered his guards to capture Pancake, Toast, and their friends.

But before they could, one of Pancake’s team member from Caper’s own inside circle stepped forward and gave his boss with an alternate scenario—and future. Count Caper looked around at the ten he had captured. They were smiling and hopeful, true friends all together. Again Caper relented and told them to just take the light. He “…then let out a moan. ‘Leave me to sulk in the dark all alone.’” This time, it was Lady Pancake who had an offer to make, and she invited Count Caper to help them reinstall the Great Light to its proper place. Now with the light safe and secure, it was time to go on with the show.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Returning to Josh Funk’s imaginative world with this fifth book in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is just like peering into your own refrigerator with a bad case of the munchies and finding your favorite dessert waiting just for you. The first glimpse into Funk’s fridge immediately welcomes readers back to the clever food-inspired landscape and the promise of a surprising adventure to come. This time, Pancake and Toast team up in a buddy heist escapade that spools out with the same charm, humor, and camaraderie that makes this genre a favorite.

Funk’s nimble wordplay and smart rhymes give the story a brisk energy that will keep kids guessing at how Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast will resolve their dilemma while staying true to the series’ focus on friendship and welcoming new pals to the fold. And all wrapped up with the eagerly anticipated group party at the end.

Speaking of that party, Brendan Kearney once again gets everyone out on the dance floor with a twinkling disco ball, shining spotlights, and VIP tables sprinkled near the stage where a very special guest gets ready to sing. Leading up to this celebration, Kearney takes kids back to this one-of-a-kind fridge, with its rolling hills, wide lakes, deep valleys, and—who knew?—the glitz, glamour, and Great Light of Las Veggies! Count Caper’s office is, appropriately, furnished with others of his ilk, including jarred pickles, peppers, and pearl onions. And his desk? A tin of “extra briney” anchovies.

Kids will have fun joining in on the subterfuge as disguised (but still recognizable to young readers) Croissant, Fruitcake, Brie, and the others spy on Count Caper. When he’s caught, the cheerful group dynamics extends companionship not only to Count Caper but to readers—who will enthusiastically accept—as well.

Shining a light on friendship and second chances, The Great Caper Caper provides lively, high-style hijinks entertainment and will be a favorite read aloud on home bookshelves, whether you’re adding to the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series or discovering it for the first time. For school and public library collections, this book and the others in the series are a must.

Ages 4 – 8

Union Square Kids. 2022 | ISBN 978-1454943631

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Josh Funk Headshot-Credit Carter Hasegawa

Josh Funk is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. His other works include, How to Code a Sandcastle, Lost in the LibraryAlbie Newton, and more. Josh lives in Massachusetts and invites you to learn more about him by visiting joshfunkbooks.com.

About the Illustrator

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Brendan Kearney is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. Brendan also is the author-illustrator of ForestThe Night the Moon Went Missing, and Fish. He currently lives in the UK with his family and invites you to learn more about him by visiting brendandraws.com.

Snack on this book trailer for The Great Caper Caper

There’s no expiration date on all the fun in these fantastic blogs! See what’s inside!

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Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day Activity

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Friendship is Illuminating! Maze

 

You can solve almost any dilemma with friends! In this maze these two friends want to shine together! Can you help the lightbulb at the top find a way through the maze, while picking up some pals along the way in this printable puzzle?

Friendship is Illuminating! Maze and Solution

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You can find The Great Caper Caper at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s National Eat Better, Eat Together Month

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About the Holiday

National Eat Better, Eat Together Month encourages families to gather around the table for at least one meal a day. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics the benefits of eating together are wide ranging and can include better grades, better health, and fewer behavioral problems. Studies also show that when families get together for a meal, they tend to make more balanced food choices. This important uninterrupted time together allows each member of the family to share stories about their day or talk about issues that concern them, building stronger bonds.

Tiny Spoon Vs. Little Fork

Written by Constance Lombardo | Illustrated by Dan Abdo & Jason Patterson

 

The alarm clock on the kitchen wall “Bringgg! Bringgg! Bringggs” waking the baby’s spoon and fork, who pop out of their respective drawers, each raring to start the day. But it seems that these two have never met. “Wait a minute! Who are you?” they say in unison. Turns out Tiny Spoon and Little Fork both have the same job – to feed the baby. Tiny Spoon and Little Fork start to get into it—how Spoon has been there from the beginning and how much Baby loves to slurp, but now Fork reveals, Baby “wants to BITE! And CHOMP!” But time’s ticking away and Spoon and Fork have to get to the table.

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

They make the daring leap only to continue their brew-ha-ha. Tiny Spoon has lots of great attributes and comes from sturdy stock, as proven by the photo album of “prominent spoons” like Aunt Soup Spoon, Daddy Serving Spoon, Cousin Teaspoon, and Grandpa Scoop. But Little Fork’s not impressed and opens up a photo app to demonstrate some bonafides in Uncle Salad Fork, Mama Carving Fork, Cousin Dinner Fork, and Great Grandma Tuning Fork, who had quite a voice. Tiny Spoon counters with an indisputable fact—”I was there FIRST time Baby ate solid food.”—and regales Little Fork with the fond memory of that day, Vroom, Vroom airplane noises and all.

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

“BORING!” Little Fork says. “I’d like to see you try and twirl spaghetti.” Tiny Spoon volleys, but their pointed (and well-rounded) one-upmanship is interrupted by the “Thump! Thump! Thump! of Baby, who squeals “SPOOD!” and “FROK” as soon as she sees them. And, as she reaches out towards them, the promise of an answer is at hand. Instead, though, both Tiny Spoon and Little Fork are in hand, while Stuffed Bunny is in the other! 

Baby raises her arms! This is not eating posture… this is… “WHEEEEEEEEEEE!… NOT fun” to Spoon while “it’s a little fun” for Fork. Through the air Spoon, Fork, and Stuffed Bunny fly, landing with a bump on the floor just as the alarmed Clock warns that Baby’s hungry. This is dire. How will Tiny Spoon and Little Fork get where they are so needed? They try shimmying, climbing, even having Bunny toss them. up, but they clatter back to earth every time.

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

But Baby’s needs are more important than ranking themselves, and Spoon and Fork find a clever way to work together and propel them to the table top, where Baby reacts with glee and surprise and immediately snatches them—one in each tiny fist—so that Tiny Spoon can scoop up oatmeal and Little Fork can grab the scrambled eggs. And Baby? She can “nom nom nom nom nom…” 

Happily food-encrusted and content with a good meal satisfactorily relayed, Tiny Spoon and Little Fork congratulate each other. They don’t have much time to relax, though, as Baby snatches them up again and they take another airborne trip across the kitchen to…could it be?…the dishwasher!

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

Constance Lombardo’s madcap romp will have kids laughing out loud as Tiny Spoon and Little Fork try to outdo each other and claim the title of Baby’s favorite utensil. The comical repartee between Spoon and Fork lends itself to dramatic readings that kids will love chiming in on. As Tiny Spoon and Little Fork realize that their responsibility to feed Baby transcends their competition, they work together to ensure Baby’s needs are met, providing a humorous lesson on teamwork and friendship.

Dan and Jason know just what kids think is funny, and they bring all their talent for visual silliness to this rollicking story. Tiny Spoon and Little Fork’s expressive faces that accentuate the competition between them, Clock’s frantic Bringggg-ing, hand waving and alert that “BABY WANTS BREAKFAST NOW!” and baby’s boisterous actions will make any child or older sibling laugh out loud. The vivid, comics-style illustrations, dramatic text, and non-stop action will have kids shouting “again, Again, AGAIN!” for these two tiny superheroes.

A rollicking story that’s pure fun for lively story times, Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork is highly recommended. The book would be an often-asked-for favorite on home bookshelves and is sure to be in constant rotation at school and public libraries. If you’re looking for a gift for any child and especially an older sibling, you can’t go wrong with this book!

Ages 4 – 8

Hippo Park Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640063

About the Author

Constance Lombardo is the author/illustrator of four books, including the three books in the Mr. Puffball series and the picture book, Everybody Says Meow, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book. Her passion for classic movies and classic comedy shines through in her work. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina. You can learn more about her books on her website and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Illustrators

For the past 10 years, award-winning duo Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson have developed numerous animated campaigns, network TV and web series, and critically acclaimed commercial work. Their extensive portfolio has garnered them industry-wide recognition, while their humorous sensibility and diverse skill set has landed them jobs for top global brands. Dan and Jason have set up properties at Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, and Nickelodeon as well as a feature animated film through Paramount Pictures. The well-versed storytellers have developed original content for a wide variety of platforms, including print (Nickelodeon Comics, The New Yorker), theater (Pilobolus), and digital. Learn more about their work on their website. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

National Eat Better, Eat Together Month Activity

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Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork Printable Placemat

 

What’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner – or a snack – without a placemat? Messy! And what’s a placemat without fun puzzles to do? Boring! With this printable placemat from Hippo Park, you can spend mealtime with Tiny Spoon, Little Fork, and all their friends! Choose from full-color and black-and-white placemats here:

Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork Super Fun Printable Placemat

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You can find Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 24 – National Food Day

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About the Holiday

Established by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Food Day is celebrating its fourth anniversary with 8,000 events across the country, including festivals, film screenings, and even massive apple crunches. Other events will take place on university campuses, in public school systems, in restaurants, at farmers markets, and online. National Food Day aims to shed light on issues of food justice, including access to healthy food and food production that is mindful of the environment, farm animals, farmers, and food workers.

The holiday also aims to raise awareness of nutrition issues and encourage people to “Eat Real,” which means “cutting back on sugary drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein.” Prominent food activists help people discover where they can find food that is healthy and affordable. Another goal is to promote food production that is mindful of the environment, farm animals, and farmers. The efforts of National Food Day continue year round and culminate on October 24. To learn more about the Center for Science in the Public Interest and National Food Day, visit the CSPI website. 

Thanks to Twirl Books and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Mr. Bear’s World of Food with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mr. Bear’s World of Food

By Virginie Aracil

 

Do you have a little one who’s just discovering how many types of food there are? Is your child eager to try anything on their plate, or are they a bit more picky? No matter how your child interacts with food, they’ll be fasciated by Virginie Aracil’s whimsical Mr. Bear’s World of Food, a charming and boldly illustrated menu to tastes and flavors. 

Mr. Bear meets readers outside the Bakery, where’s he’s already bought a loaf of bread. “When I take a bite of bread all my senses wake up! What happens is wonderful,” he says. Young children may want to know what these senses are, and Mr. Bear is very accommodating in teaching them. Flaps at his ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and heart reveal the five senses—and a sixth: “feelings.”

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Copyright Virginie Aracil, 2022, courtesy of Twirl Books.

Mr. Bear and a sweet muffin then invite kids to explore … well … foods that are Sweet, such as carrots, honey, sweet potatoes, candy, and more. Next, a saltshaker joins Mr. Bear to exhibit some Salty foods, like popcorn, cold cuts, and cod fish. Yum! But, sometimes, foods make your nose crinkle and your mouth pucker. Those would be foods that are Bitter, such as grapefruit or dark chocolate, and Sour, such as lemons, pickles, and others.

Ahhh! Now it’s time for some foods that just taste delicious and fill your tummy with warmth like roast chicken, roast beef, or scalloped potatoes. Feeling too warm now? Kids will enjoy cooling down with Fresh yogurt, cucumber, watermelon, or lettuce. Do you smell something? I smell something—something Pungent! It must be the blue cheese, sauerkraut, century egg, or durians. 

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Copyright Virginie Aracil, 2022, courtesy of Twirl Books.

Now perhaps it’s time for a dish that’s a little bland—but still tasty! Matzo bread, crackers, tofu, or mozzarella will hit the spot, along with a glass of water, of course! Mr. Bear has some Favorite Foods, including French fries, milk and cookies, and mac and cheese. And, finally, there are foods that are perfect for Sharing, such as pizza, kebabs, paella, and even that loaf of bread Mr. Bear bought at the beginning of this sensory trip!

Now that his tour through the different flavors and tastes is over, Mr. Bear has one last question for readers. In a large-scale, double-page pop-up, Mr. Bear, wearing a chef’s hat and coat, has arranged an array of foods in front of him and wonders, “What is your favorite food?” and “What do you want to eat today?” Kids will love answering and will most likely want to go back to point out their favorite dishes!

In addition to the above-mentioned categories, Mr. Bear also introduces kids to the flavors Umami, Rich, and Smoky. There’s also a page of Seasonings that highlight or enhance a food’s flavor, such as ginger and chili peppers. 

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Copyright Virginie Aracil, 2022, courtesy of Twirl Books.

Virginie Aracil’s delightful guide to foods and tastes from around the world is well conceived, with large and realistically illustrated images that immediately make each type of food recognizable and appealing to her young audience. Vivid colors and attractively designed pages of board book quality will hold readers’ attention while enticing them to try foods that might be unfamiliar to them. Children who are learning to recognize letters and those who are beginning to read will enjoy testing their new skills with the names of each food, which are presented in a prominent and clear typeface.

Each flavor profile is portrayed in a two-page spread. On the left Mr. Bear is joined by a representative of the category for a short, humorous conversation that will get little ones giggling, while the foods appear on the right. The size of the book is perfect for lap reading or for sharing on the floor or at a table, and an attached baguette-shaped bookmark will hold your place between tasting sessions.

A fun foodie adventure that’s sure to get kids excited about trying new foods and different tastes—and even going to the grocery store or farmers market—Mr. Bear’s World of Food would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as to preschool and kindergarten classrooms, where it would make a terrific introduction to lessons about food and taste-testings. School and public libraries will also find it to be a popular choice among patrons.

Ages 3 – 5

Twirl Books, 2022 | ISBN 979-1036345173 (Board Book)

Discover more about Virginie Aracil, her other Mr. Bear books, and her design work on her website.

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You can find Mr. Bear’s World of Food at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 2 – National Food Bank Day

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About the Holiday

National Food Bank Day was established by St. Mary’s Food Bank, the world’s first food bank, which was founded by John van Hengel in Phoenix, Arizona in 1967. The idea spread throughout the country, and now St. Mary’s Food Bank distributes 250,000 meals daily with the help of staff, volunteers, and partner agencies, making it one of the largest food banks in the United States. This year, a record number of families (nearly 150,000 in August alone) have sought help. Food banks across the country help millions of men, women, and children who live with food insecurity due to job loss, illness, and other circumstances. Many food banks offer educational opportunities that help people change their situation and begin anew. Often, those who have benefited from the programs return to volunteer and contribute to the very food bank that helped them. To learn more about St. Mary’s Food Bank, visit their website. To find a food pantry in your area to get help for yourself, to donate, or to volunteer, visit the Ample Harvest website.

I’d like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Saturday at the Food Bank with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Saturday at the Food Pantry

Written by Diane O’Neill | Illustrated by Brizida Magro

 

When Molly came to the table for dinner, she saw that they were having chili—again. She and her mom had eaten chili for two weeks straight. But there was “fancy milk too.” Molly smiled as her mom measured sugar and cinnamon into her glass and added milk.” There was only a splash of milk left when Mom put it back into the almost-empty refrigerator.

Tomorrow, Mom said, they’d go shopping. “Molly’s eyes lit up” as she imagined “chicken and spaghetti and ice cream.” But Molly’s mom tempered her expectations, saying that they’d be going to a food pantry. A food pantry, she explained, is “‘a place for people who need food…. Everybody needs help sometimes,’” she added. That night there was no warm milk before Molly went to bed and her stomach growled.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In the morning when Molly and her mom got to the food pantry there was already a line waiting for it to open. Molly had brought paper and crayons and sat down to draw. Then she saw a girl who was in her class at school. She called out a hello, but “Caitlin looked away.” When Molly ran over, Caitlin told her she didn’t want anyone to know that she and her grandmother needed help.

Molly went back to her mom, wondering if there was “something wrong with needing help.” She wanted to go home, but she was also hungry. Molly’s mom suggested she draw a picture, and the woman in front of them asked if she’d draw one for her too. Then everyone in line seemed to want a picture. Molly ran back to Caitlin to ask for help. Caitlin sat down and began to draw too.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When the door opened, Molly and Caitlin each had a picture for the woman who welcomed them in too. Molly noticed that her mom had to sign in before she got a cart and they could begin shopping. They didn’t do that at the grocery store. The shelves at the food pantry were stocked with items she recognized from the store they usually shopped with. She ran over and took a box of sugar cookies off the shelf, but her mom told her “‘They—the people in charge—they’ll want us to take sensible stuff.’” Molly felt embarrassed and couldn’t understand why the cookies were there if they couldn’t take them. She sadly returned them to the shelf. As they went to look for food, Molly thought her mom didn’t want to be seen there, either—just like Caitlin. In a whisper, Molly reminded her that everyone needs help sometimes.

They went through the store taking one can, bag, or box of the food they needed. Then Molly’s mom reached for a box of powdered milk. They could have fancy milk that night. When they got to the checkout desk, Molly and Caitlin found their drawings hanging on the wall. The man at the counter bagged their groceries and then handed Molly’s mom a box of sugar cookies. “‘Saw your little girl looking at these. She can have them, if that’s okay with you, ma’am,’” he said. Molly noticed that her mom looked like she might cry.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As they were walking home, Molly saw Caitlin and her grandmother coming the same way. They were all happy to discover that they were neighbors. Molly’s mom explained that she’d been looking for work since the factory closed, and Caitlin’s grandma said she’d been sick. Caitlin understood, but wished they didn’t have to shop at a food pantry. But then Molly told her that “everybody needs help sometimes” and reminded her that they had helped make the man at the checkout counter feel happy with their drawings. Caitlin hadn’t thought about it that way. She smiled. Then Molly invited her and her grandmother to have lunch with them—with sugar cookies for dessert.

Following the text, a note for parents, teachers, and other caregivers from Kate Maehr, the Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, reveals more information about food insecurity, including recent statistics and a resource where people can find help and more information.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Diane O’Neill’s well-executed story about two families who need the help of a food pantry is a poignant reminder of the many people—perhaps even readers’ classmates—who face food insecurity every day. Through the experiences of Molly and her mother and Caitlin and her grandmother, readers discover what it’s like to go to bed hungry, miss out on treats, and feel ashamed to ask for help. As this is Molly and her mother’s first trip to a food pantry, Molly’s questions and observations well reflect children’s own or reassures those who are familiar with these important resources.

O’Neill’s straightforward storytelling emphasizes the fact that at one time or another everyone needs help and demonstrates simple ways that children make things better through their generosity, optimism, and acceptance. Molly and Caitlin’s budding friendship makes for an uplifting and hopeful ending and may spur readers to recognize need in their midst and extend kindness.

Through her realistic illustrations of two families in need of assistance from a food bank, Brizida Magro helps children see and understand what food insecurity and food pantries look like. At home, Molly and her mom eat small portions of leftover chili and the last full glass of milk. When Molly’s mom puts the carton in the refrigerator, the shelves are nearly empty, and Molly lies awake in bed, too hungry to fall asleep.

The line outside the food pantry is made up of people from all walks of life, and inside the displays of food replicate a grocery store with the exception of signs asking shoppers to take one item only. These images can lead to meaningful discussions on the enormity of the issue. When Molly and Caitlin draw pictures that cheer up everyone in line as well as the food pantry workers, kids will recognize not only different ways of helping but their own role in making the world a kinder place.

Empathy shines on every page of O’Neill’s necessary and welcome story. Saturday at the Food Pantry is timely, heartfelt, enlightening and a must-buy addition to home, classroom, and school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807572368

Discover more about Diane O’Neill and her work on her website.

You can connect with Brizida Magro on Instagram.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saturday-at-the-food-pantry-cover

You can find Saturday at the Food Pantry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 29 – It’s National Ice Cream Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-cover

About the Holiday

Ice cream has a long and elite history, dating back to Ancient Greece when a rudimentary version of the confection was made of snow, honey, and fruit. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Catherine de’ Medici introduced the treat again, that a true ice cream was created. One hundred years later, Charles I of England used his royal clout to proclaim ice cream the prerogative of the crown. He paid to keep the recipe secret and forbid the common people from eating it. He and future royals must have known a thing or two about proprietary information, as the first recipes for ice cream were not recorded until the 18th century.

This favorite dessert received its true recognition in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan established July as National Ice Cream Month. Today, indulge in your favorite flavor or sundae!

The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution

Written by Lisa Robinson | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

When you think of ice cream, does your mind immediately go to vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Or maybe you think a little fancier, like mint chocolate chip or fudge swirl. But there’s a whole other menu to choose from: “What about Wavy Gravy, Truffle Kerfuffle, or Chubby Hubby? What’s the scoop on those wacky flavors?” If you’re sweet on ice-cream, you’ll want to keep reading to find out!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-ice-cream-truck

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all started back in 1963 with two friends—Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—who loved to eat. And they especially loved to eat ice cream. When they were in high school, Ben got a job driving an ice cream truck, and Jerry rode along to help scoop and tell “goofy jokes.” When they graduated, Ben and Jerry went off to different colleges and pursuits, but their careers didn’t turn out the way they planned. 

They were both feeling pretty down until they got together and decided to start a business together—a business where they’d be their own bosses and have fun. Since they both loved to eat, they first thought about a bagel delivery business, but it turned out to be too expensive. Then they thought about how much they loved ice cream and discovered that making it was much less expensive than making bagels.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-recipe

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Next, in Vermont, they found the perfect place to open shop and began fixing it up (it needed a lot of work!). But when they got to the plumbing job, Ben and Jerry didn’t have enough money to pay the plumber. That’s when Jerry had a brilliant marketing idea that the plumber jumped on. With the shop (and the plumbing) out of the way, Ben and Jerry began tinkering with their ice cream recipe.

“Teamwork was the answer. Jerry, the scientist, experimented with cream, milk, sugar, and eggs for the ice cream base. Ben, the artist, crafted clever combinations of chocolate, caramel, and cookies.” After a lot of trial and error, they hit upon the perfect combination of “rich, creamy, and chewy.” “Finally, on May 5, 1978, the doors of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop opened. And people came. Lots of people!” 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-shop

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Still, despite their success, there were still obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest was “making their flavors stand out” among all the others. They decided to give their flavors “cool names, like Chunky Monkey, Phish Food, and Dastardly Mash.” They even invited customers to submit ideas. And while most of Ben and Jerry’s flavors were hits, there were some clunkers among the batches. But Ben and Jerry knew how to make even these failures fun with the “Flavor Graveyard” that commemorates “dearly departed flavors” like Vermonty Python, Oh Pear, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

As their ice cream grew in popularity, Ben and Jerry wanted to do more with their product. “They believed they could use ice cream to help make the world a better place.” They began with paying their workers well and moved on to inventing an environmentally safe carton. Their factory sported solar panels and they looked for ways to reduce waste.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

To draw attention to world issues, they created special flavors: “Save Our Swirled to promote awareness of climate change; Imagine Whirled Peace to demand an end to war; I Dough, I Dough to support same-sex marriage; and Empower Mint to call attention to the unfairness of the growing gap between rich and poor.” They donated profits to causes they cared about and “formed the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to support ‘social and environmental justice around the country.'”

So now when you enjoy your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, you’ll know that you’re also contributing to “making the world a better place.”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note, a Timeline, and a list of sources.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-foundations

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Lisa Robinson’s smooth-as-ice cream storytelling relates the facts of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s uplifting and inspirational career while infusing her biography with Ben and Jerry’s personalities with a conversational cadence and clever, but not intrusive, puns sprinkled throughout.

Standout aspects of the book include how, as young men, both Ben and Jerry used their disappointments as a springboard to a creative, satisfying, and influential career; how they found strength in their diverse but complimentary talents; and how they relied on their personal compasses to design a business model that is mindful of employees’ needs as well as important social and environmental issues. And Robinson does all this while making her book fun to read aloud and including a comical cow that pops up on several pages to tell kid-pleasing ice cream jokes.

Stacy Innerst’s watercolor and ink illustrations top off Robinson’s story like luscious whipped cream on a six-flavor sundae. Soft, yet vibrant each page spread pops with grape purples, pistachio greens, lemon yellows, and plenty of chocolate waves and swirls. Ben and Jerry are front and center on most pages, coming up with unique ideas to make their ice cream as iconic as Ben’s hat. Young readers will benefit from seeing how these two life-long friends have each other’s backs, whether its “scarfing down pizza” as teens, rising above discouragement after college, or repairing the old gas station that will become their ice cream shop.

Spying the adorable cow on a page holding a mic, riding a pogo stick, fixing an ice cream truck, and even hanging out with a skeleton, kids will eagerly anticipate each new joke. Seen through Innerst’s eyes, Ben and Jerry’s world is one where ideas are colorful clouds and clouds are shaped like ice cream cones. It’s a pretty sweet world we all get to live in.

Inspirational and uplifting, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution is an outstanding combination of biography, social activism, and the powers of positivity and creativity. The book would be a stirring and dynamic addition to home bookshelves and is a must for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419748035

Discover more about Lisa Robinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stacy Innerst, his books, and her art, visit his website.

National Ice Cream Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ice-cream-cone-game

How Many Scoops? Ice Cream Stacking Game

 

How many flavors do you like on your ice cream cone? If you say “All of them!” then this game’s for you! 

Supplies

Directions

This game can be played with as many scoops as you like. Younger kids may only want to gather three or four scoops before a winner is declared. Older kids may want to earn six or even more scoops before they’re done. 

  1. Print out one ice cream cone and one set of scoop playing pieces for each player. The number of playing pieces you need will depend on how many scoops players determine it will take to win.
  2. Cut out the ice cream cone.
  3. Cut out and color the ice cream scoop playing pieces in your favorite flavors (or make up your own flavors!).
  4. Color the scoops on the die. The scoops on the die must correspond to the colors on the playing pieces. If more than six scoops are needed to win, print and color two die with 12 different colors/flavors. Kids can roll both dice at once or one at a time until all the flavors are gathered.
  5. Tape the playing die together.
  6. Choose a player to go first. That player rolls the die and places the color scoop shown on their cone.
  7. Play continues to the left.
  8. If a player rolls a color/flavor they already have, they lose the turn and play continues with the next player.
  9. Play continues until one person has collected the number of scoop playing pieces decided on to win.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-cover

You can find The Sweetest Scoop at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 10 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

I must confess that this is one of my favorite holidays. To me there’s nothing better than waking up with a well-steeped cup of tea, writing while a favorite mug brimming with hot tea sweetened with honey sits nearby, enjoying scones with clotted cream and jam and a hot cuppa…well…you get the picture. People have drunk tea since earliest times for its soothing and medicinal properties. Mellower than coffee and available in endless varieties and tastes, hot tea is just the thing for relaxing moments. Today, enjoy your favorite tea or try a new kind! There’s a world of tea to be discovered – as today’s book reveals!

Thank you to Greystone Books for sharing a copy of Teatime Around the World with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Teatime Around the World

Written by Denyse Waissbluth | Illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne

 

Two women sit at a table with steaming cups of tea in front of them, talking. “Tea for one. Tea for two.” To the side sits a teapot, its contents still warm. At their feet a child is having a tea party with a bear, jauntily clad in a feathered hat. Cookies, strawberries, and croissants fill out this feast served from a special tea set. “Tea for me. Tea for you.” Tea time continues in Morocco, where a father and child kneel on pillows. The father pours out three cups of mint tea. Made with green tea, mint, and sugar, each cup of tea will have “a slightly different taste.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

In India a street vendor sells a cup of masala chai to a woman, who’s looking for a peaceful break during her day. The “strong tea and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper…boiled with milk and sweetened” will hit the spot. Hot tea is relaxing, but on a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of iced tea. In Thailand, locals and tourists enjoy cha yen, sold from street vendors’ carts. This “strongly brewed sweet tea is poured over ice and drunk from a bag through a straw. Indigenous people in North America soothe fevers, colds, sore muscles, and even sleepless nights with tea made from “berries, plants, and roots.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Special tea times—like chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony during which matcha, a powdered green tea is served, and afternoon tea, enjoyed with trays of treats world wide—bring people together for comforting respites. You’ll be interested to discover the origins of afternoon tea too! Tea can be served quietly or dramatically, like “teh tarik, or pulled tea…the national drink of Malaysia,” is “poured from up high, or ‘pulled’ between two mugs, to make it frothy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-poured

Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Tea is as old as its discovery thousands of years ago in China and as new as bubble tea, created in Taiwan in the 1980s. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, yerba maté tea is served in hollowed-out gourds with a “special straw called a bombilla,” while in Jamaica sorrel, made from roselle hibiscus buds, “spiced with ginger, cloves, and sugar,” is perfect for any festive occasion. No matter where you live, what flavors of tea you enjoy, or how you serve it, you can always count on “tea for one. / Tea for two. / Loved by all / the whole world through.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-for-group

Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

With a lilting poem that flows from page to page, Denyse Waissbluth introduces unique flavors, special brew methods, and the comforting feeling a cup of hot or iced tea infuses into a day. The shared experience of tea drinking provides a fascinating touchstone for Waissbluth’s travelogue that takes kids around the world to experience the rituals, recipes, and traditions from each country that make their tea unique. Waissbluth’s conversational style will appeal to kids looking to learn how global cultures are similar to and different from their own.

Chelsea O’Byrne’s lovely matte illustrations take children to cities, the countryside, and the seaside around the globe, revealing not only diverse scenes of how tea is made, served, and enjoyed, but homes, food, and clothing as well. Children will be excited to see such homey and intimate portraits of their peers around the world.

Sure to spur readers to learn more about the countries featured and entice them to try their signature teas, Teatime Around the World would enhance geography, history, and multicultural lessons for school and homeschooling and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Greystone Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1771646017

You can connect with Denyse Waissbluth on Instagram.

To learn more about Chelsea O’Byrne, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-word-search-puzzle

Tea for You! Word Search

 

Can you find the names of eighteen delicious teas from around the world in this printable puzzle?

Tea for You! Word Search Puzzle | Tea for You! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-cover

You can find Teatime Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review