August 17 – It’s National Catfish Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale

About the Holiday

National Catfish Month honors the hard work and innovations of America’s catfish farmers, many of whose families have been farmers for two or three generations. This delicious fish has many nutritional benefits. It is found mostly in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana and is one of the most sustainable species of fish. Fried or blackened with spicy Cajun or other spices, catfish makes for a scrumptious meal! Try some this month!

A Catfish Tale: A Bayou Story of the Fisherman and His Wife

Written by Whitney Stewart | Illustrated by Gerald Guerlais

 

Down in the bayou, so the story goes, there lived two young sweethearts named Jacques and Jolie. Jacques liked to “pole his skiff through cypress knees to his favorite fishing hole,” and Jolie cooked up peppery hot gumbo and sang “so true even the cicadas hushed up to listen.” One day Jacques hooked a big one, and when he pulled up his line a catfish sprang from the water. But this was no ordinary catfish. The wily fellow explained that he was a magic catfish and not at all a catch for supper. Jacques was so frightened that he freed the “jabbering critter” and took off for home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale-crocodile

Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, 2014, text copyright Whitney Stewart, 2014. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

When Jolie learned Jacques had given up their chance for a wish that could replace their shack with “a proper house where she could sing for a crowd,” she was steamed. Jacques thought everything was all right the way things were, but he hightailed it back to the swamp and asked that catfish for a house. The catfish was obliging and with a grin said, “‘Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.’”

In her big, beautiful house, Jolie entertained loads of friends and decided to take her show to all the cities down the river. All she needed, she said, was a paddle wheel boat. The catfish smiled when he heard Jacques’ request and said, “‘Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.’” Every night Jolie sang from the bow of her grand paddle wheeler. Her fans called her the Queen of the Mississippi, and she ate it up.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale-catfish

Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, 2014, text copyright Whitney Stewart, 2014. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

Jacques was miserable stuck in his stateroom with a pounding headache and no fishing pole, so he returned to the bayou to find his catfish friend. Meanwhile, Jolie took the New Orleans nightclubs by storm. With Mardi Gras approaching, Jolie had one more little favor to ask of the catfish, and with a “tooloulou” Jolie became Queen of Mardi Gras. She wore a diamond crown and a white satin gown. Even though things were a little rocky—the cheering crowds couldn’t hear her sing, and the Mardi Gras beads she tossed to her fans got tangled in her crown—she loved being queen.

Jolie wrote to Jacques and asked to become Queen of the Bayou. The catfish said his magic words and in no time Jolie was crowned Queen amid blaring musicians and applauding fans. Jolie smiled and began to sing. Suddenly, a fierce hurricane blew up, “snakes, alligators, and swamp creatures slithered up the riverbank. Ghosts, and goblins flew from the cemeteries and pirate skeletons escaped watery graves to dance in the streets.” And Jolie? She was swept up and unceremoniously dropped in a tree. From among the branches she called to a passing pelican, “‘Tell my husband to ask that catfish for one more little thing!’”

Jacques “paddled faster than an alligator could swish its tale” and asked that catfish for one last wish…, and what do you think he said? Well, he just slipped back beneath the water ‘cause he knew “Jolie didn’t need nothin’ more.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-catfish-tale-riverboat

Image copyright Gerald Guerlais, 2014, text copyright Whitney Stewart, 2014. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

A Catfish Tale includes a Bayou Glossary as well as a recipe for Seafood Gumbo by New Orleans native Hans Andersson.

Whitney Stewart’s tall tale of a magic catfish, the woman who learns enough is often enough, and the man who loves her will capture kids’ fancy. Jolie’s overreaching ambition and the catfish’s ready spell give children plenty of opportunity to join in with repeated phrases, and the well-paced suspense will keep kids engrossed in the action. The unique bayou setting and colloquial lilt sets A Catfish Tale apart as a rollicking story-time romp with a bit of Cajun caution and a whole lot of magic.

Gerald Guerlais brings the mystery and flavor of the deep south to A Catfish Tale with moss greens and shadowy blues that well depict the bayou’s natural environment. Twisty Cypress trees dip their roots in still, lily pad-filled waters, shimmering lights glow in the nighttime swamp, and spooky critters teem in the stormy sky. The magic catfish wears an ever-present, easy-going grin, and a crusty, good-ol’-boy alligator spins the tall tale just the way he’s heard it. Children will love the scenes of the paddle wheeler and the festive atmosphere of Mardi Gras.

Whitney Stewart’s  A Catfish Tale, a deft retelling of  Grimm’s A Fisherman and His Wife, is a fantastic introduction to the distinctive qualities of the southern Mississippi region, one which kids may want to explore further.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2014 | ISBN 978-0807510988

To learn more about Whitney Stewart and her work as well as to discover activities for children and teachers, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustrations by Gerald Guerlais on his website!

National Catfish Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bayou-coloring-page

Catfish Coloring Page

 

The catfish is a most unusual creature! Add your own swamp or river setting to this Printable Catfish Coloring Page!

February 6 – It’s Hot Breakfast Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

About the Holiday

Hot Breakfast Month was established to encourage people to have a hot, healthy breakfast before they go off to work or school. A good breakfast can keep your brain and your body working longer and better, which will result in a good day and more happiness in your life! Isn’t that worth cracking a few eggs in a pan, toasting some bread, or—as Paul Bunyan preferred—mixing up a batch of pancakes?!

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

By Matt Luckhurst

 

Everyone knows that Paul Bunyan and his best friend Babe the Blue Ox were “the greatest lumberjacks to every work the forests.” But not many people know just how that came to be. It all started because Paul was a very big boy in a very small town. He found it hard to concentrate on school because he was always thinking about his mom’s pancakes. “‘Math,” Paul said, “is just not very tasty.’”

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-and-the-great-pancake-adventure-babe-and-paul

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Now, Paul and Babe were lucky enough to live in an area where lots of fresh fruit and vegetables were grown, but they only wanted pancakes. In fact when their mom tried to feed them broccoli, they spit it right out! So Paul’s mom made stacks and stacks of pancakes until she was out of breath—but she still had fields to tend to. Paul and Babe tried to free up time for Mom to keep cooking by working in the fields, “but their big feet just squished and squashed everything in sight.”

Finally, there were just not enough pancakes at home, so Paul hugged his mom and set off into the deep dark forest to find his “pancake fortune” with Babe at his heels. With their heads in the clouds and their bellies empty, they happened upon a lumberman with a huge problem. The Syrup River was dammed up with pancakes and the logs couldn’t get through. It was just the job for Paul and Babe!

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-and-the-great-pancake-adventure-babe-smiling

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Paul and Babe ate every last pancake until the river was clear. The lumberman was so impressed he offered them a job on the spot! And the best part was that they would be paid in pancakes! The trio tromped from Wisconsin to California, logging the land and making their mark. In Minnesota it was “so cold that all of Paul’s words froze before they could make a sound. They say you can still hear his voice in the forests there today as they thaw out.” Further west Paul and Babe had a little something to do with creating the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon would still be a flat plateau if it weren’t for Babe’s voracious appetite.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-and-the-great-pancake-adventure-paul's-words-freeze

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

But one day Babe fell ill, and Paul was feeling a little under the weather himself. The doctor gave them a grave diagnosis. “‘You seem to have been eating too many pancakes!’” he announced. Paul was flabbergasted—how could there be such a thing as too many pancakes?! But the doctor explained that a balanced diet was best. Paul pondered where he could find good food. Then it hit him! Paul and Babe said goodbye and headed back home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

Copyright Matt Luckhurst, courtesy of mattluckhurst.com

Mom was thrilled to see them and cooked plenty of nutritious meals to make them healthy. They stayed in town and grew “Bunyan sized veggies,” helped the townspeople, and always listened to Mom. And they never ate another pancake ever again! Well….

As Matt Luckhurst so adroitly knows, there is no more fascinating figure of North American folklore than Paul Bunyan and no greater meal than a pancake breakfast! Combining the two is sweet genius and rollicking fun to boot! Tall tales capture the imagination, and Luckhurst has included plenty of fantastic events to keep kids enthralled from page to page. Luckhurst’s larger-than-life illustrations burst with color and dynamic 3-D typography that enhance the humor and heart of Paul and Babe’s predicament. The juxtaposition of sizes and folk-art influences create unique, eye-catching pages, and Paul and Babe’s endearing innocence make them loveable characters.

Perfect for folktale lovers, pancake aficionados, kids who follow a singular vision, and anyone who loves a good yarn, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure is great fun and would be an often-read addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012 | ISBN 978-1419704208

You’ll enjoy getting to know more about Matt Luckhurst and viewing a portfolio of his work on his website!

Take a peek at this awesome trailer for Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure!

Copyright Matt Luckhurst

Hot Breakfast Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game

Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious that each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates and cut them out
  2. Glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review

June 28 – Paul Bunyan Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

About the Holiday

The tales of Paul Bunyan, a logger of superhuman size and strength, and his companion Babe the Blue Ox belong to some of the most popular folklore of early North America. Many think his name stemmed from the Quebec bon yenne!, which expresses surprise or astonishment. The phrase would be fitting as Paul Bunyan is said to have accomplished many feats, including creating the Grand Canyon when he walked through the area dragging his ax and forming the Great Lakes as a watering hole for Babe. In 1916 freelance writer and adman William B. Laughead took the figure of Paul Bunyan for an advertising campaign for the Red River Lumber Company, and the stories received new burnishing and popularity.

To celebrate today’s holiday research folklore about Paul Bunyan and Babe, take a walk in the woods Bunyan loved so well, and read today’s book!

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure

By Matt Luckhurst

Everyone knows that Paul Bunyan and his best friend Babe the Blue Ox were “the greatest lumberjacks to every work the forests.” But not many people know just how that came to be. It all started because Paul was a very big boy in a very small town. He found it hard to concentrate on school because he was always thinking about his mom’s pancakes. “‘Math,” Paul said, “is just not very tasty.’”

Now, Paul and Babe were lucky enough to live in an area where lots of fresh fruit and vegetables were grown, but they only wanted pancakes. In fact when their mom tried to feed them broccoli, they spit it right out! So Paul’s mom baked stacks and stacks of pancakes until she was out of breath—plus she had fields to tend to. Paul and Babe tried to free up time for Mom by working in the fields, “but their big feet just squished and squashed everything in sight.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

Finally there were just not enough pancakes at home, so Paul hugged his mom and set off into the deep dark forest to find his “pancake fortune” with Babe at his heels. With their heads in the clouds and their bellies empty, they happened upon a lumberman with a huge problem. The Syrup River was dammed up with pancakes and the logs couldn’t get through. It was just the job for Paul and Babe!!

Paul and Babe ate every last pancake until the river was clear. The lumberman was so impressed he offered them a job on the spot! And the best part was that they would be paid in pancakes! The trio tromped from Wisconsin to California logging the land and making their mark. In Minnesota it was “so cold that al Paul’s words froze before they could make a sound. They say you can still hear his voice in the forests there today as they thaw out.” Further west Paul and Babe had a little something to do with creating the Rocky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon would still be a flat plateau if it weren’t for Babe’s voracious appetite.

But one day Babe fell ill, and Paul was feeling a little under the weather himself. The doctor gave them a grave diagnosis. “‘You seem to have been eating too many pancakes!’” he announced. Paul was flabbergasted—how could there be such a thing as too many pancakes?! But the doctor explained that a balanced diet was best. Paul pondered where he could find good food. Then it hit him! Paul and Babe said goodbye and headed back home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-paul-bunyan-and-babe-the-blue-ox-the-great-pancake-adventure

All images courtesy of Matt Luckhurst (mattluckhurst.com)

Mom was thrilled to see them and cooked plenty of nutritious meals to make them healthy. They stayed in town and grew “Bunyan sized veggies,” helped the townspeople and always listened to Mom. And they never ate another pancake ever again! Well….

As Matt Luckhurst so adroitly knows, there is no more fascinating figure of North American folklore than Paul Bunyan and no greater meal than a pancake breakfast! Combining the two is sweet genius and rollicking fun to boot! Tall tales capture the imagination, and Luckhurst has included plenty of fantastic events to keep kids enthralled from page to page. Luckhurst’s larger-than-life illustrations burst with color and dynamic 3-D typography that enhance the humor and heart of Paul and Babe’s predicament. The juxtaposition of sizes and folk-art influences create unique, eye-catching pages, and Paul and Babe’s endearing innocence make them loveable characters.

Perfect for folktale lovers, pancake aficionados, kids who follow a singular vision, and anyone who loves a good yarn, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure is great fun and would be an often-read addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012 | ISBN 978-1419704208

Take a peek at this awesome trailer for Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure!

Copyright Matt Luckhurst

Paul Bunyan Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancake-game

Pancake Flip-Out

Pancakes are served in a stack because they’re so delicious each one doesn’t last long! This game gives you the chance to see how many pancakes you can flip onto a plate! You can play this game several ways:

  1. Give each player the same number of pancakes and see how many they can toss onto the plate during their turn
  2. Make a target with the plate in the middle and draw 3 concentric circles around it. Hitting the target can earn you 20 points. Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point, the second circle is worth 10 points, and the third is worth 5 points. Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!
  3. Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try throwing them with a spatula!
  4. Make up your own rules—and have fun!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates and cut them out
  2. Glue the pancakes and plate to poster board, cardboard, or foam to give the pancakes more weight for throwing and the plate more support
  3. Once dry, the game pieces are ready for fun!

Picture Book Review