February 4 – It’s National Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to gather with family and friends and spend those cold, indoor day baking your favorite recipes! Baking together is a great way to teach valuable cooking skills and a little math. Talking with kids while baking cane fun too! Tell old family stories, favorite recipes, and funny or memorable culinary experiences at school, home, or while eating out. Of course, the best part of baking together is eating the delicious meals or treats afterward!

There Are No Bears in This Bakery

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Muffin, the “whiskers” of the neighborhood assures readers that “there are no bears in Little Bear Bakery.” After all, he works the nightshift and knows everything that goes on. He knows the scratchy sounds of the mice, the clanging that means the raccoons are raiding the trash, and the flip flap of the bats. But he has to admit that last night there was a new sound: “grrrrrrrrrrr.” He went to investigate.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

“The air was cool and wet like a dog’s nose.” None of the regular creatures were in the alley, but “the bakery’s back window was open like a crooked smile.” And, again, Muffin heard, “grrrrrr.” He entered the bakery thinking that maybe the intruder was a mouse looking for sprinkles. Then he saw it. Was it a huge mouse? No. It was a tiny bear. The bear was surprised; Muffin was surprised; and Muffin’s tale? It “was the most surprised” of all. The “grrrrrrrr” was coming from the bear’s stomach.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-alley

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Muffin knew just what to do. He gave the cub a slice of cake, let her choose a doughnut from the bakery case, and toppled over a canister of cookies so she could nibble a few. The bear’s belly stopped grumbling, but then the bakery seemed quiet – too quiet. Muffin looked around and saw something in the darkness. It turned out to be a huge bear, and suddenly Muffin was in the dark as he was enveloped in a big hug. “It was warm, like a bath mat in the sunshine. It smelled like that bath mat needed a bath.”

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The mama bear was a bit hungry too and scarfed down some sprinkles. As the sun came up, the bears crept out the window and down the alley toward the forest. With the nightshift over, Muffin headed home to wake up his sleeping human and tell his heroic tale. “It was a messy job,” he said, “but I handled it.” And as Muffin curled up on his pillow, he just happened to mention, “By the way, we’re out of donuts.” Among other things….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-goods

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Julia Sarcone-Roach’s storytelling is as frisky as a kitten and full of hilarious and oh-so-apropos similes from a cat’s point of view. Sarcone-Roach imbues her little feline security guard with the supreme confidence and guilt-free consciousness that cat lovers will recognize. Kids and adults will enjoy the noir-tone of this wry narrator, and like the best parodies, the suspenseful buildups give way to laughs. Sweet moments abound during the off-hours snackfest, and as readers gaze into Muffin’s wide, “who-me?” eyes, they’ll know that after the clean-up there will still be cuddles for this adorable cat.

Sarcone-Roach’s nighttime illustrations are rich with humor and shadowy atmosphere as Muffin relates her suspenseful tale of how she rid the bakery of bears. Clever perspectives immerse readers in Muffin’s experience while also allowing them to laugh at the feline expressions that make these pets so beloved. The little bear cub is as cute as a mini-cupcake and as endearing as any child. Those readers with a cat “alarm clock” will appreciate the morning scene, and the final spread of the bakery will elicit an “Oh!” or two.

If you love any of these: cats, bears, bakeries, mysteries, or a story wonderfully told that kids will want to hear again and again, you’ll want to add There Are No Bears in This Bakery to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399556654

Discover more about Julia Sarcone-Roach, her books, and her art on her website

National Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

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You can find There Are No Bears in This Bakery at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 29 – Throw Out Your Leftovers Day

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About the Holiday

It’s been a week since Thanksgiving Day – do you still have leftovers in your fridge? Are there plastic containers on the shelves holding food just waiting to be warmed up for a lunch or dinner that never seems to come? Perhaps there are even some mysteries lurking in the back. If so, then today’s the day to take the plunge and clean it all out to make room for fresh fruit, veggies, and other goodies! 

The Case of the Stinky Stench

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

The fridge is full and the denizens happy. Even former rivals Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are enjoying a sweet vacation together at the Marshmallow Coast. But wait! Who is that strange, half-moon shape rushing “past Trifle Tower” and “across Taco Bridge”? It’s none other than Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, with a disturbing message. “‘Uncle,’ Croissant said, ‘the fridge is in trouble! / A horrible stench turned a whole shelf to rubble! / I’m the last hope, or the fridge will be lost! / Help me, or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-marshmallow-coast

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just as he says this, the facts begin to stink for themselves, and French Toast pledges his help. It’s a do-or-die case for Croissant it seems, as he’s “solved zero cases since getting this job.” Lady Pancake decides the perp is Baron von Waffle and suggests the three pay him a visit. They quietly enter Onion Ring Cave, and Croissant confronts von Waffle. “‘What do you know about smells that are vicious?’ / ‘Nothing!’ said Waffle. ‘My home smells delicious.’” And he’s right; there’s nothing nose-worthy here. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast and Inspector Croissant leave the cave only to find that the odor has worsened. They follow some tater tots playing nearby to a red curry dish, where an okra divulges an intriguing clue about “a stinky red fish / who lurks at the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake,’” but in his rush to investigate, Croissant trips “by Miss Steak” and goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-von-waffle

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Back on his feet, the intrepid detective and his side-kicks find a sardine-can boat and row across Corn Chowder Lake until they find the “red herring.” They’re convinced that they’ve “unraveled this stinky affair,” but rowing closer, they catch a tantalizing scent instead of a treacherous one. Lady Pancake is ready to give up, but not Inspector Croissant. He sticks his nose in the air and concludes that the smell hails from Casserole Cliff.

When they get to the cliff, they discover a shriveled up mess. The veggies are soft and the fruit a bit rotten, but Inspector Croissant sees the cause of the trouble—“a moldy old fruitcake from eight months ago!” The three are mulling how to get rid of this putrid pest when the fruitcake shares his story, which is all too familiar. The cake confesses that he came to the fridge as a fresh, yummy treat but was left there uneaten to mold and to reek.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-tater-tots

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

The inspector understands a few things about food, and as he leads the sad culprit away from the cliff, he explains, “Everyone knows fruitcakes never go stale.” With careful trimming they clean up the cake. Soon the fruitcake is back to his delectable self and has attracted the attention of softhearted Miss Brie while the other foods welcome him back with good cheer and a party to boot.

With the case solved, kids are invited to join the swingingest party in town. As “Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes,” fill the fridge with music, the residents jiggle, wiggle, and dance with abandon across a two-page spread. A fold-down page presents a map that lets readers follow the action from Taco Bridge to Onion Ring Cave to Casserole Cliff and all the stops in between.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-onion-cave

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just reading the first line of The Case of the Stinky Stench with its familiar, exuberant rhythm, I caught a smile creeping across my face as I anticipated the story to come. This sequel to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is a cool, fresh take on the mystery genre for little detectives in the—dare I say?—baking. The most delicious part of The Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is Funk’s freewheeling imagination that comes to fruition in the expanse of that well-stocked refrigerator’s shelves. Clever rhymes, laugh-inducing puns, a whole stew—I mean slew—of fantastic words, and even a red herring await readers. Of course, old nemesis Baron von Waffle makes an appearance, and the introduction of the forgotten fruitcake shows kids that everyone deserves a second chance.

Brendan Kearney recreates the magic of this chef’s-delight of a refrigerator in full, vivid color and with the most adorable foods ever. Pink and white marshmallows, half-moon tacos, muffins, candy, cookies, and gummy bears all wear cute smiles, as they help Inspector Croissant. Even when the odor becomes overwhelming, the bottles, jars, fruit, and veggies sport endearing frowns. Rambunctious tater tots, hot chili peppers, and a steak-and-fries combo, join the fun. Kids will find ingenious details and visual jokes on every page, and will wish their refrigerators were half as exciting as the home of Lady Pancake and French Toast.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454919605

Discover the world of Josh Funk, his books, and activities for kids on his website!

View a gallery of illustration work and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

It’s no mystery that you’ll enjoy The Case of the Stinky Stench book trailer!

Throw Out Your Leftovers Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cinnamon-croissants

Bite-size Cinnamon Croissants

 

These mini cinnamon croissants are the perfect accompaniment to cup of tea and a great story! They’re so easy that kids will love making them as much as they enjoy eating them! And everyone will enjoy eating them so much that there will never be leftovers!

Supplies

  • Tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, or to the temperature on the package of crescent rolls
  2. Open the tube of crescent rolls and lay them on a cutting board. Do Not separate the rolls
  3. With the rolling pin, roll the dough until it makes one sheet
  4. Measure ¼ cup sugar into the mixing bowl
  5. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or desired amount) to the sugar and stir together until well mixed
  6. Spread a layer of butter over the surface of the dough
  7. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar across the dough. Use more or less depending on how much cinnamon flavor you like
  8. Cut the dough into triangles about two to three inches wide at the base
  9. Roll the triangles up, starting at the base. Looser rolls make flakier croissants
  10. Place the croissants on a baking sheet and curve them into a crescent shape
  11. Bake the croissants at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden on top
  12. Let cool
  13. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-cover

You can find The Case of the Stinky Stench at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 24 – Small Business Saturday

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About the Holiday

Sure, you could buy all of your gifts online or join the throngs at some big box store, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, head out to the independently owned shops in your area and see what kinds of unique items you can pick up for the people on your list. Not only will you find gifts that will surprise and delight your friends and family, you’ll be helping your local economy. More and more people every year are enjoying the camaraderie and atmosphere of Small Business Saturday. With friendly shop owners and a relaxed shopping experience, it’s no mystery why.  Why don’t you join in this year? 

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Small Business Saturday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bake-up-some-fun-word-search

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 31 – National Magic Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

About the Holiday

While there’s lots of magic going on today as little witches and wizards roam neighborhoods across the country casting spells and charming people to give them candy as part of Halloween, National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day.

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my o own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

National Magic Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-magic-maze

It’s Magic! Maze

 

Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-cover

You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

October 23 – National Food Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2011 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, today’s holiday encourages people to “eat real” by cutting down on sugar and processed food and choosing fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and sustainably raised proteins. While the work of education goes on all year around, today is marked by special events and festivals, some involving the nation’s top food activists.

Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

Events are getting curiouser and curiouser in the fridge world conjured up by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney. So much so that “meeting in secret behind Pickle Post, / sat Lady Pancake beside Sir French Toast.” They’d noticed the fridge was getting frostier, even dangerous, and they weren’t the only ones. Stepping into view just then was Agent Asparagus, who flashed an FBI (Fridge Bureau of Investigation) badge.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mission-defrostable-pickle-post

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy fo Sterling Children’s Books.

Agent Asparagus happened to be looking for Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast to join her “superspy team” to defeat someone’s “despicable scheme.” They joined up at once and followed the spear up to the freezer, but suddenly Agent Asparagus was grabbed from above and hoisted away. While Pancake was ready to rescue their friend, “Toast held her back. / ‘Something is up there, and it could attack.’”

They needed more help they both realized, and though risky, Pancake thought she knew just who to ask. But Baron von Waffle was not so inclined, but after hearing their plight and some begging and pleading, he finally agreed to lead them through the landscape he knew so well. “At last they arrived in the heart of the freezer / only to hear someone should the words, ‘Seize her!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mission-defrostable-danger

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy fo Sterling Children’s Books.

In a snap Pancake and Toast were “captured and shackled in curly fry chains,” and  “the duo was led through a gate of plantains.” And what about Waffle? He ran away while our heroes were brought before the empress, who wanted to do away with the fridge food—the intruders.

But who did they see sitting high on the throne? None other than Agent Asparagus, who’d hatched this nefarious plot. It seemed long ago during a “bean avalanche” she’d been separated from her bunch and after wandering alone had ended up in the freezer. Now she was taking her revenge on Pancake and Toast, whose race for the syrup had started it all.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mission-defrostable-agent-asparagus

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy fo Sterling Children’s Books.

There was no one to help them get out of this fix—or was there? Onto the scene burst Baron von Waffle sending Asparagus’s guards scurrying and freeing Pancake and Toast. Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake were surprised too and wondered why he had saved them. Waffle had to admit, “‘Sometimes I envy the friendship you share. / But how could I leave you to freeze in despair?’” They all agreed to be friends. Hearing this story, Asparagus teared up and promised to “‘unfreeze the fridge and retreat.’”

There was always room for one more friend or two, and the trio invited her to join them. As the fridge warmed up and everyone thawed out, they toasted Pancake and Waffle and, of course, Toast. Then all the food in the fridge joined their friends in the freezer and partied and danced (to the Peach Boys) on the snow-covered hills.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy fo Sterling Children’s Books.

In Mission Defrostable, Josh Funk serves up a delectable threequel to his Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series that dished out suspense, surprises, puns, and clever turns of phrase that keep the plot and the plotting racing toward a satisfying conclusion. As in Funk’s two previous books, the rhyming verses are a joy to read aloud as they flow with snappy dialogue, evocative descriptions, and ingenious uses of a refrigerator’s design and culinary contents. Linking this third book to the first is inspired storytelling. Both kids and adults will appreciate Funk’s linguistic artistry that provides lots of laughs intertwined with a melt-your-heart friendship story.

Returning to Brendan Kearney’s fully realized refrigerator world where cunning characters lurk and intrigue is always on the menu is a treat that grows more delightful with each visit. Inspector Croissant and a spiffed-up Fruitcake make an appearance as Pancake and Toast discuss the nefarious cold snap that is affecting them all. An appropriately frosty blue backdrop lends a shivery atmosphere to the mystery as adorably frowning fruits, vegetables, bagels, gummy bears, and other foods await their fate. Action abounds when Pancake and Toast are captured, shackled in the clever curly fry chains, and discover the true culprit. The eagerly anticipated double-spread fold-down page that traditionally ends the book will prompt plenty of “Ooh”s and “Ahh”s as the now-happy residents of the fridge enjoy a party and winter sports in the broccoli forest.

Mission Defrostable is a must for Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast fans. For those not familiar with the series, the book is a thrilling introduction that will have readers wanting to catch up with this delicious dynamic duo. A terrific gift and addition to home, school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 9

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun printable activities on his website.

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

Warm up to this Mission Defrostable book trailer!

National Food Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-breakfast-is-best-world-search

Breakfast is Best! Word Search

 

With so many delicious foods to choose from, breakfast might just be the best meal of the day! Can you find the twenty-one breakfast foods in this printable puzzle?

Breakfast is Best! Word Search PuzzleBreakfast is Best! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mission-defrostable-cover

You can find Mission Defrostable at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 23 – It’s National Dairy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1937 as National Milk Month to encourage people to drink more milk to stabilize the dairy industry during a time of surplus. The event grew to celebrate all the benefits provided by the dairy industry around the world. The name was changed when the National Dairy Council took over promotion of the holiday. 

A Symphony of Cowbells

Written by Heather Preusser | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

With the dawning of spring, Gimmelwald came alive with the “Da-ding, da-ding. Jingle-jangle, jingle-jangle. Clang-clong-clank, clang-clong-clank” of bells as the cows were led to the sweet, green grass in the high meadows. The cows’ milk would become “scrumptious cheese…sold by the wedge, wheel, and wagonload.” As Petra walked with her family’s herd, she led her favorite cow, Elfi, who “wore the most booming brass bell of all.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But one day Elfi’s bell was missing. Petra’s father told her they had a schedule to keep and that Elfi would have to go without her bell, but Elfi wouldn’t hear of it. She stomped her hoof and stood her ground. No amount of pushing, pulling or prodding could move Elfi from her spot. Petra ran and retrieved a tiny tin bell to hang around Elfi’s neck, but Elfi only “sniffed and snorted at the embarrassing tinkling. Tittle-tattle-tink, tittle-tattle, tink.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-stubborn-elfi

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Without Elfi to lead them, Petra’s other cows lay down in the meadow and refused to move as well. “‘No milk? No cheese? What’ll we do?’ Petra gulped.” She begged Elfi to get up, but Elfi simply gazed at Petra with “eyes wide as milk saucers.” Petra knew she had to find Elfi’s bell. She searched the house, looked in the barn, and combed the field, but didn’t find the bell. The sun went down, and “the stubborn cows remained rooted among the bellflowers.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-tiny-bell

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In the morning, Petra spied a crow with something shiny in its beak. She ran after it and discovered the bird’s huge nest high on a cliff. She was much too small to reach it, so she called her father, her mother, and a couple of neighbors. They piled on top of one another, and as Petra teetered on her mother’s shoulders, she reached into the nest and pulled out…Mr. Schmid’s pocket watch, Miss Baumann’s reading glasses, Farmer Felber’s wrench, Mother’s bracelet, Father’s keys, and…Elfi’s brass bell!

Petra skipped all the way to where Elfi and the other cows were keeping their protest, the brass bell announcing “Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG. Brrring-BONG, brrring-BONG” all the way. When Elfi saw her bell, she danced with joy. Petra placed the bell over Elfi’s head and kissed her velvety nose. The other cows took notice. “On cue, they stood and moseyed up the mountainside….The symphony of cowbells was harmonious again—and LOUD. It was springtime in Gimmelwald after all.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-symphony-of-cowbells-clanging-bells

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, text copyright Heather Preusser. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Heather Preusser’s enchanting Swiss tale of tenderhearted but stubborn Elfi will delight readers with its musical mystery and gentle humor. Kids will love hearing and reading along with the melodic verses of jingling cowbells sprinkled throughout the text. Preusser’s lyrical phrasing is as fresh as the mountain air and will transport children to the beautiful Swiss countryside.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a perfect example of text and illustrations working together to present the story and add layered details that elevate the reading experience. Eileen Ryan Ewen’s gorgeously detailed and charming paintings take readers to the heart of Gimmelwald, with its glorious mountain backdrop, quaint village architecture, and cozy homes decorated with Alpen cuckoo clocks, dainty curtains, and window boxes overflowing with flowers.

Along the way Ewen frames a consecutive story along the bottom of most pages. Through these panels, eagle-eyed readers will notice a curious happenstance occurring in Gimmelwald which just may explain a few things…. It’s not until the end, however, that kids discover the answer to the story’s mystery.

A Symphony of Cowbells is a captivating and humorous look at country life with a little science sprinkled in. Readers may be enticed to do a little more research into the animal behaviors that influenced the story. The book would make a lovely addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369683

To learn more about Heather Preusser and her book as well as see a video about the real Gimmelwald, visit her website!

Discover more about Eileen Ryan Ewen and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Dairy Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-a-symphony-of-cowbells

Ring a Bell for Reading Bookmark

 

It’s easy to make a stylish bookmark that can ring out your love of reading while marking your page!

Supplies

  • 3 shoelaces or ribbon of different designs
  • Small “sleigh” bells or other bellscelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-a-symphony-of-cowbells

Directions

  1. Hold three shoelaces together and knot them together at the top
  2. Braid the shoelaces together as long as you want your bookmark to be
  3. At the end, string three or more bells onto the ends of the shoelaces and knot the shoelaces together to hold the braid closed.
  4. Alternately, you can knot the braid at the end and tie a group of bells to the end.
  5. The end with the bells becomes the top of the bookmark.

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You can find A Symphony of Cowbells at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 22 – National Chocolate Éclair Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that paragon of desserts, the chocolate éclair. Part pastry, part creamy filling, part chocolate goodness, and completely delicious, the éclair—and later the chocolate version—was the brain child of French chef extraordinaire Antonin Carême in the early 1800s. Abandoned by his parents during the French Revolution, Carême went to work as a kitchen boy to survive. He became an apprentice to famous pâtissier Sylvain Bailley, and he was so talented that, after his training, he was able to move from restaurant to restaurant while gaining a name for himself and his delicacies. Enjoy the day by indulging in this very special treat.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

National Chocolate Éclair Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bake-up-some-fun-word-search

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review