October 10 – National Cake Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

You’ve seen them on TV and in bakery shop windows—cakes that tower three, four, five, and even more tiers high, cakes shaped like animated characters, cars, clothing, even unicorns. Today’s holiday honors all of those creative professional and amateur bakers who keep decorating in new and amazing ways and pushing the boundaries of what a cake can be. Using six different types of icing to produce those stunning results, bakers are always searching for innovative methods for jazzing up these favorite desserts. To celebrate today, stop by a bakery and pick up a creative cake, or why not try personalizing your own homemade cake with colors, candies, and other decorations. No matter how it comes out, you know that it will taste delicious! There’s even a recipe at the end of this post! To add to the fun, get your kids involved in the baking and decorating process—just like the grandmother in today’s book! 

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy runs to his grandma, excited that it’s “Cake Day!” “That’s right,” his grandma agrees, “Today we’re going to bake a cake!” The boy, hardly able to see over the counter, wants to be picked up and see what’s in the cabinet. His grandma happily obliges, and the pair carefully pick the ingredients for their cake together.

“‘Hmmm…we need flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to make a cake,’ says Grandma.” With all the ingredients set on the table, the two start measuring. The little chef is eager and curious: “‘Cake Day! How much, Grandma?’” he asks. As Grandma pours the flour into the cup and a soft, powdery cloud envelops them, the delighted boy laughs, “‘Too much, Grandma!’” The two work happily side by side, with Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

As the ingredients start to mesh, Grandma exclaims, “‘Look! What’s happening to the batter?’” The little boy wants to help it along and takes up the wooden spoon. Round and round he stirs, creating swirls in the yellow batter until it’s ready for the oven. “‘Bake day! Your turn, Grandma!” the boy says and stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven. 

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Image copyright Estelle Corker, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of Star Bright Books, 2016

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With keen expectation the boy asks, “‘Cake day! Ready, Grandma?” Grandma encourages her grandson’s inquisitiveness and explains the process: “‘We have to wait until the cake rises. The heat makes it rise. When you hear the timer go BEEP BEEP it will be ready.’” At last the cake comes out of the oven, but it’s not ready to be decorated yet. First, they must wait for it to cool.

In a short time the high, golden cake can be iced and decorated. The little boy vigorously shakes a jar of sprinkles over the top, scattering a rainbow of colors across the white frosting. The cake is beautiful and just the right complement to the little boy’s Cake Day, Bake Day, Shake Day—Birthday!

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

Ellen Mayer’s language-rich and playful story of a small child and his grandmother baking together is a wonderful introduction not only to reading but to the type of full-sentence conversational modeling that improves and increases literacy. The steps to baking the birthday cake flow organically and lyrically through the loving relationship between the little boy and his grandma, enticing young readers to learn more about the world around them and how it works. The repeated phrases “Cake day! Bake day!,” and “Ready, Grandma?” as well as the boy’s short statements offer opportunities for kids to read along and learn new vocabulary as they develop important language skills.

Estelle Corke’s cheery illustrations glow with enthusiasm and the close bond between grandmother and grandson. The grandmother lifts, steadies, and holds the boy while still allowing him to perform all the tasks he can. The little boy, in his green apron, delights in every aspect of the baking process, his eagerness expressed in his animated smile and lively participation. The homey kitchen is awash in inviting colors and objects that children will recognize. The clearly drawn boxes and jars of ingredients, kitchen tools, and furnishings offer readers a chance to practice their vocabulary and learn new words.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1595727473 (Paperback)

To see more books by Ellen Mayer as well as language development and reading strategies for young children, visit her website!

Visit Estelle Corke’s website to view a gallery of her artwork!

National Cake Decorating Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Invite your child or children to help, and make a cake decorated just the way they’d like! Here’s the full recipe that Grandma uses. Recipe courtesy of Ellen Mayer.

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus a little to grease cake pan.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • You will need: 3 mixing bowls:
  1. 1 to cream butter and sugar
  2. 1 to mix flour, baking powder and salt
  3. 1 in which to beat the eggs
  • A 7-inch diameter, deep cake pan

Directions

  1. Butter pan and dust with flour.
  2. Set the rack at the middle of the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In the third bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then alternate with the egg and milk mixture. Continue to alternate ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often.
  7. Add vanilla and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  9. Bake cake about 45 minutes. Insert knife or wooden skewer into the center. If it emerges clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove cake from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes.
  11. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and leave to cool.

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth
  2. Spread on the top and sides of cake
  3. Decorate with sprinkles or your favorite topping

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You can find Cake Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 26 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There are so many ways to read a new book! Some people like to share the experience with others, reading a book as a group and discussing it as they go along, while some like nothing better than to snuggle in for a good, long solitary read. But there are certain books that are made to be read with a very special someone—like today’s book. 

I received a copy of I Love My Glam-MA from Scholastic for review consideration. All opinions are own. I’m happy to be teaming with Scholastic in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

I Love My Glam-MA

Written by Samantha Berger | Illustrated by Sujean Rim

 

While everyone has their own special name for their grandmother, “maaaaabe they should really be called ‘Glam-MA.’ Because Grandmas are some of the most glamorous people you’re ever gonna meet.” It shows in how grandmas greet their grandkids—with a big smile, a cheerful greeting, and a huuuge hug. It’s in how they celebrate any and every event—large or small. And that bag they carry? A pirate would be jealous of the treasure inside.

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Image copyright Sujean Rim, 2019, text copyright Samantha Berger. Courtesy of Scholastic.

While some Glam-MAs share quiet time with a siesta or a rock in a cuddly chair, other Glam-MAS fiesta and totally rock out. In Glam-MA’s hands a blanket may become “a reading fort… or she might turn it into a super cape.” Just like Glam-MAS “follow their instincts” they “let you follow yours,” and they always make you the star. But do you know what “really makes a Glam-MA so glamorous? YOU. Because you’re the one who made her a Glam-MA in the first place!”

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Image copyright Sujean Rim, 2019, text copyright Samantha Berger. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Samantha Berger celebrates all the ways in which grandmas show their individuality, style, and personality—from their talents and interests to how they dress and get around to their way of making each grandchild feel special—in her bubbly tribute to these most influential family members. Little ones will eagerly point out all the ways the book reflects their own Glam-MAS, and the story is sure to inspire kids to add their own examples. After reading, you can bet that kids will ask to visit, call, write, or text their own Glam-MA.

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Image copyright Sujean Rim, 2019, text copyright Samantha Berger. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Sujean Rim’s textured, mixed-media illustrations sparkle with the joyous excitement that defines grandma and grandchild time together. As these grandmothers and children play dress-up and beauty parlor, relax in a hammock or rocking chair, and travel, cook, and party together, their eyes light up and they flash bright smiles. You can almost hear their giggles. These Glam-MAS are up on the latest trends, too, and little readers will be awed by all that emerges from one grandma’s bag. A two-page spread of child-made cards and awards for Glam-MAS depicts just some of the things kids value in their relationship with their grandparents.

A perfect at-home story-time share for grandmothers and their grandchildren or for kids who want to feel closer to their grandmothers as well as a loving family bonding story, I Love My Glam-MA would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and library collections. The book would make a much-appreciated gift for grandmothers or soon-to-be grandmothers.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338151831

Discover more about Samantha Berger and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sujean Rim, her books, and her art, visit her website.

I Love My Glam-MA Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Two Tough Trucks, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | illustrated by Hilary Leung

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

This giveaway is open from September 26 through September 30 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 1.

Giveaways open to US and Canadian addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find I Love My Glam-MA at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 20 – A Crazy-Much Love Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be celebrating Read a New Book Month by participating in the blog tour for A Crazy-Much Love and hosting a giveaway of this heartwarming book. I received a copy of the book to check out, and all thoughts are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below.

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.

A Crazy-Much Love Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of A Crazy-Much Love written by Joy Jordan-Lake | illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from September 20 through September 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 27.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

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You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 8 – National Grandparents Day

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About the Holiday

As a child in the 1920s, Marion McQuade accompanied her grandmother as she visited elderly neighbors, offering friendship and help when needed. This early experience sparked Marion’s lifelong concern for the elderly and especially for grandparents. In 1956, Marion helped institute a tribute to octogenarians. It was just the beginning of her work on behalf of the elderly and her hopes to create a special day commemorating the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day. As Marion envisioned it, the day gives grandparents and grandchildren an opportunity to show their love for one another and for older members of the family to pass down their stories and wisdom to younger generations. 

Love is Kind

Written by Laura Sassi | Illustrated by Lison Chaperon

 

Little Owl had been saving up his coins to buy something special for Grammy’s birthday. He even knew exactly what he wanted to give her—“a heart-shaped box of chocolates.” He took the coins out of his pocket to look at them, but just as he did he tripped over a tree root and his money went flying. One, two, three, they rolled down the hill “until wobble PING” they landed right by Beaver’s dam. Little Owl ran after them. Just as he got close, he heard little Beaver excitedly showing her mommy that the tooth fairy had come after all. Seeing the big smile on Beaver’s face, Little Owl just wished her a “tooth-errific day” and headed back home.

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

As luck would have it, though, Little Owl spied a dollar lying among the fallen autumn leaves. He was excited that now he could buy Grammy’s gift, but then he saw the “Missing $1.00” sign on Mrs. Mouse’s house. He picked up the money and rang Mrs. Mouse’s doorbell. Mrs. Mouse was thrilled to see her money again as she and Mr. Mouse needed it to fix up the nursery for the new babies they were expecting. “Little Owl smiled. ‘That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!’” he said.

Little Owl continued on and while cutting through the sunflower field, he ran into Rabbit, who had “THREE heart-shaped boxes of chocolates—” one for Ma, one for Pa, and one Rabbit was going to keep for herself. “Little Owl’s feathers stood on end. You have THREE! That’s not fai…’ Little Owl stopped. Getting angry wouldn’t get Grammy those chocolates.” Instead, he told Rabbit to enjoy her candy, and she hopped happily off. In a moment, though, she was back with a coupon for one free box of chocolates.

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Little Owl skipped all the way to Chipmunk’s Chocolate Shoppe. But when he got there, all of Chipmunk’s chocolates were gone and he was just closing the shop. Once again, Little Owl smiled, gave good wishes, and waved goodbye. Still, little Owl was disappointed. He had nothing to give Grammy.

When he got to Grammy’s house, he tearfully told her about his day. After he was finished, Grammy told him that the love he had shown to Beaver, Mrs. Mouse, Rabbit, and Chipmunk was “‘better than any heart-shaped box of chocolates.’” Little Owl was surprised. Just then he caught his reflection in the window. The white feathers of his face formed a perfect heart. “‘…I guess I gave you a heart-shaped gift after all!’” he said. “‘Me!’” And Grammy thought that was “‘the best gift of all.’”

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Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Laura Sassi’s tender intergenerational story delves gently and with an endearing main character into what it means to love. Not only does Sassi reveal the true meaning of love, but she shows young readers how to express it by what they do and say (or don’t say). Through each of Little Owl’s encounters, he demonstrates kindness and empathy as he puts the happiness of others ahead of his own desires. Sassi’s genuine storytelling doesn’t shy away from Little Owl’s honest emotions that touch on ownership, disappointment, anger, and sadness, but in each case Little Owl is guided by his strong internal moral code revealed organically through his thoughts and actions.

As Grammy comforts her young grandson, she reinforces the idea that the best gift someone can give an individual, their community, and the world at large is not stuff but a caring and compassionate heart. Little Owl and little readers need not rely only on the words of the story but come to understand this important lesson through Little Owl’s reflection in the window as well. Lines from the poem “Love is Kind,” found in 1 Corinthians 13, are sprinkled throughout the text: in the river that runs past Beaver’s dam, over Mrs. Mouse’s hearth, in the petals of a sunflower, and elsewhere, reminding readers that these ideals can be found everywhere and encouraging them to look for and contribute to universal kindness.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-is-kind-beaver

Image copyright Lison Chaperon, 2018, text copyright Laura Sassi, 2018. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

With his soft tufts of autumn-hued feathers and cozy coat and scarf, Little Owl is an adorable friend to follow on a journey. Lison Chaperon’s woodland neighborhood glows with gold and russet leaves, providing a warm backdrop to the snug homes of Little Owl’s neighbors. Children will be enchanted by the Mouse’s tree trunk-and-toadstool house, where a swing set with walnut-shell swings wait in the yard for little mice to play. When Little Owl heads into the sunflower patch, kids will spy a snoozing caterpillar, a bee and a ladybug having a picnic, and a glimpse of the bunny he’s about to bump into.

In Little Owl’s encounters, readers can clearly see what the coins, the dollar bill, and the three boxes of chocolates mean to each respective family. In this way, children discover both sides of each story and can better understand how generosity affects both the giver and the receiver. As Little Owl loses hope of getting a gift for Grammy, the sunny sky turns gray and rainy to reflect his mood, but a rainbow appears when Rabbit pays her good fortune forward by giving Owl a coupon. It’s nighttime when Little Owl reaches Grammy’s, and he’s welcomed by shining lanterns and a starry sky. Inside, Grammy’s just finishing up a delectable cake to share while snuggling in Grammy’s rocking chair.

This lovely, multilayered story is delightful for any story time while also providing many opportunities for adults and children to talk about ideas of love, kindness, empathy, and how one person’s actions and words can make a difference in others’ lives. Love is Kind would be a favorite for grandparents and children to share. Reading it with little ones is also a wonderful way to bring closer grandparents who live far away. The book would make a sweet gift and addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Zonderkidz, 2018 | ISBN 978-0310754893 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-0310754848 (Board Book)

Discover more about Laura Sassi and her books on her website

Love is Kind Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Zonderkidz in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Love is Kind written by Laura Sassi | illustrated by Lison Chaperon

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from September 8 through September 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 15.

Prizing provided by Zonderkidz

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Grandparents Day Activity

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Little Owl Cookies (and Grand ones too!)  

Made with Love by Laura and her daughter

 

My 14-year-old daughter loves spending time her grandparents and she thought these LOVE IS KIND owl-themed cookies would be a fun and tasty way to celebrate that special bond between child and grandparent. We hope you enjoy our activity—and after baking and decorating together, we hope you’ll be inspired to spread some love by sharing the cookies with neighbors or friends who perhaps live too far away to be with their grandchildren on Grandparents Day! Enjoy!

Supplies

  • A favorite sugar cookie recipe (or buy pre-mixed cookie dough from the market)
  • Two glasses with different sized rims for cookie cutters (so you can make little and big owls)
  • A bag of confectioners’ sugar, a few splashes of milk, food coloring
  • Several bowls to mix your icing along with a spoon and toothpick for each color
  • Candy eyes (found in baking section at market)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough, then press circles—both big and small (to represent grandparents and grandchildren) using rims of two different sized glasses. 
  2. Place the dough circles on a cookie sheet. Then, taking little scraps of cookie dough, shape and press triangle-shaped owl tufts atop each circle, as shown.
  3. Bake according to recipe or package directions. Let cool.
  4. Using my sweet daughter’s samples as a model, or following your own owl vision, decide how many colors you will need to decorate your owls. 
  5. For each color, add a generous half cup of confectioners’ sugar and a splash of milk to a small bowl. Add a drop or two of food coloring, or mix two colors to create a new color. Stir gently using a spoon. (The amount of sugar, milk, and color drops you use will depend on how much icing you need.  Also, you will have to play with consistency until you get it just right – not too watery and not too thick.  My daughter apologizes for being so vague, but really mixing it up is part of the fun. Your grandkids will LOVE it!)
  6. To paint the owls, cover the cookie with your base glaze. Add the eyes while the glaze is still wet so they stick in place. Wait for the bottom coat to get a little crusty (so colors don’t bleed) before adding the final details such as beak and feathers.
  7. Finally, arrange a plate of big and little owl cookies for yourselves and another to share (in true LOVE IS KIND fashion)!  Have fun!

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You can find Love is Kind at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Gorgeous Grandma Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate grandmothers and give them the praise they deserve! Besides loving and always being there for their grandkids, grandmas are out there working, having fun, exploring new adventures, and sharing it all with family and friends. They’re also the source to go to for family memories and stories of generations past. In short, grandmas are gorgeous inside and out! Children benefit in many ways from having a close relationship with their grandparents. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan an outing or a visit between children and their grandmother. If that isn’t possible, call or write, and it’s always fun to read a book about grandmas—like today’s sweet book!

With Love, Grandma

Written by Helen Foster James | Illustrated by Petra Brown

 

Little Hedgehog waves goodbye to Grandma, who’s off on an adventure. Along the way Grandma writes letters to her grandchild about all the fun she is having and how her experiences remind her of her dearest love. Grandma’s first letter is dated May 15th and addressed Dear Sweat Pea…. She is writing from a meadow of wildflowers and says “Grandma misses you, but your love grows in my heart. She also sends along a packet of wildflowers for her grandchild to plant.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

May 18th finds Grandma describing a mountain hike she took with friends, and she includes a picture of a deer and fawn she saw. She suggests that she and her “Sunshine” “go for a hike the next time you visit CAMP GRANDMA. She closes saying, “I love you ‘over the river and through the woods’ and to the tippy-tip-top of the highest mountain.”

It’s June 3rd and Grandma’s writes “Ahoy, Matey!” to tell her little one about her “full-of-fun day” kayaking. She even made a pirate hat complete with feathers to send along with her letter and promises to make one together at CAMP GRANDMA. She signs off, “I’ll always love you to the stars and back. With Love, Grandma XOXO. PS Explore more!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-with-love-grandma-meadow

Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“Dear Snickerdoodle,” Grandma writes on June 10, “I was at the beach today.” Making s’mores with her friends reminded her of the time she made them with little Hedgehog. She’s ready to do that again at CAMP GRANDMA and sends a “funny saying, but it’s true. ‘Every day, I LOVE you s’more!’” On June 15th Grandma’s travels are over and she’s back home ready to have her “Dear Cupcake” come to visit. She’s whipping up a batch of cupcakes they can share at CAMP GRANDMA because she and her grandchild “go together like fronting on a cupcake.”  She ends her letter “With Love, Grandma XOXO. PS Grandma loves you!”

As quick as a wink, Little Hedgehog is packed and running up the walkway to CAMP GRANDMA with arms stretched wide to receive Grandma’s loving hug.

Free of personal pronouns and illustrated with gender-neutral clothing, With Love, Grandma XOXO will be embraced by all children. Beautiful, easy-to-follow illustrated directions for making s’mores and a paper pirate hat follow the text.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2018, text copyright Helen Foster James, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen Foster James’ story in letters is so adorably charming that young readers will snuggle in to learn about Grandma’s next adventure and her endearing reminders to her grandchild. James’ grandma is energetic, creative, and accomplished, and her independence and zest for life mirrors today’s grandparents. Each page is filled with tons of love and the knowledge that little ones are always in a grandparent’s heart even if or when distance separates them. While sharing encouragement, teachable moments, gentle advice, inside jokes, and favorite activities, Grandma reveals her pride in and devotion to her grandchild. Little listeners will be reminded of their own grandmas and the special bond they have.

Petra Brown’s stunning two-page spreads gorgeously depict Grandma’s adventures—from a wildflower meadow, mountain pass, plein air painting class, and Memorial Day parade to a rambling river, bookstore, and rainy day. Playful snapshots of Grandma and Little Hedgehog laughing and enjoying each other’s company at home are also interspersed among the lovely illustrations. Images of the flower seed packet, photo, postcard, and pirate hat Grandma sends with some letters adds depth and interest to the story.

This tender, warm-hearted book is like a big hug from Grandma on the bookshelf that can be shared again and again. With Love, Grandma makes a joyful gift to or from Grandma—one that will be cherished.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585369423

Discover more about Helen Foster James and her books on her website.

To learn more about Petra Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Gorgeous Grandma Day Activity

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World’s Best Grandmother Certificate

Do you have the world’s best grandmother? Of course you do! Show her how much you love her by giving her this printable certificate!

World’s Best Grandmother Certificate

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You can find With Love, Grandma at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 7 -World Chocolate Day

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About the Holiday

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

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

By Elizabeth Zunon

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-cacao-birthday

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

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

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

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

Ages 3 – 8

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

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

World Chocolate Day Activity

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

Cookies & Cups My Kids’ Favorite Brownies

 

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

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

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

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

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About the Holiday

One of the best parts of summer is all the fresh fruit and veggies that are available in your own garden, at farmers markets, and at grocery stores. Vibrant red strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and tomatoes; deep green lettuce and kale; and a rainbow of squash, peppers, and potatoes make cooking and eating a special treat. There’s no better way to celebrate the season than by making favorite recipes—and trying some new ones—with your favorite fruits and vegetables.

I received a copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

Written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan | Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

 

Your birthday present wish list isn’t that long, but it is tech-y, full of dreams for a phone, a computer, headphones, and even a drone. But what does Grandma bring? “Surprise! It’s a…lemon tree.” Fortunately, you know your manners, so you look happy—even excited—on the outside while inside you feel more frown-y and maybe a bit cry-y as you thank her sweetly. What you don’t do is “drop it off a bridge. Tie it to your birthday balloons. Play ding dong ditch the lemon tree.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-grandma-gives-you-a-lemon-tree-birthday

Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Instead, the next day you find a sunny spot for your tree, water it just enough, and protect it from danger. When winter comes, you bring it inside and keep it warm. When you see that it’s growing, you repot it. You wait and wait some more. “Once the snow melts, it’s time to bring your lemon tree back outside,” and pretty soon, you find yourself “picking lemons! Woo-Hoo!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-grandma-gives-you-a-lemon-tree-bong

Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

All those lemons are great for slicing and squeezing. But that’s a lot of lemon juice. What to do? “Gather these items: 1. Lemon juice. 2. Water. 3. A pinch (or handful) of sugar. 4. Flashy lemonade stand. Cue dazzling smile and…” you’ll have plenty of money to “finally buy exactly what you want.” You know what that is, right? Something off that wish list, or… “something you can really enjoy.” Something like that wagon full of plants and flowers you’ve bought to make a garden that “you can share with others too”—especially Grandma!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-grandma-gives-you-a-lemon-tree-garden

Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Directly addressing the reader, Jamie L. B. Deenihan introduces the unthinkable gift and the inexpressible emotions it elicits with droll wit that kids will respond to with knowing giggles. But today’s crop of readers is a complex bunch, and they’ll also appreciate the value of a living, growing, giving present that they can care for and share. As the little girl tends to her lemon tree through the seasons—reading to it, transplanting it to roomier quarters, measuring it, and even naming it—Deenihan lends a layer of depth that readers will recognize from their own experiences of growing up.

At last, the lemons are ready to be picked and made into lemonade and the girl reaps the fruits of her labor in her popular lemonade stand. But these are more profound than perhaps expected as, instead of spending her cash on items from her electronics-heavy wish list, she buys a garden-load of new plants with which she transforms her neighborhood. How do the other kids react? They seem happy enough to leave their robots on the sidewalk and put away their phones to enjoy a day in nature.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-grandma-gives-you-a-lemon-tree-ding-dong

Image copyright Lorraine Rocha, 2019, text copyright Jaime L. B. Deenihan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Between the front endpapers—where the neighborhood streets are empty of people, a vacant lot between apartment buildings collects trash, and a kite lies forgotten on a rooftop—and the back endpapers—where the sidewalks are full of kids, flower pots dot stoops, the vacant lot is a thriving park, and the kite soars above the buildings—an unforeseen and surprising transformation takes place. Lorraine Rocha captures the girl’s internal conflict about her gift with humorous snapshots of what she shouldn’t do with the tree and then juxtaposes them with others that show her becoming more and more invested in her little, leafy charge.

When the lemons are picked, they spill out of the bowl and dot the counter, a sunny accents to the girl’s soft-blue kitchen. The long line at her lemonade stand attests to their delicious allure. Rocha cleverly mirrors the ubiquity and sterility of electronics in her illustration of the gray Mega Store, where the only colorful element is the display of plants on sale. The final two-page spread of the lush and vibrant garden is joyously inclusive, and kids will love peering into the windows to see how the neighborhood has been brought together.

A book to spark a love of gardening, discussions on community, and a second look at all of those tech toys, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-145492381

Discover more about Jamie L. B. Deenihan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lorraine Rocha, her books, and her art, visit her website.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan | illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from June 17 through June 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on June 24.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lemon-birds

Lovely Lemon Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape

Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

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You can find When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review