January 19 – National Popcorn Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-cover

About the Holiday

National Popcorn Day commemorates a snack that is enjoyed around the world—and why not?! It’s tasty, the perfect finger food, and fun to make! The history of popcorn may surprise you. Records of this favorite treat go back to the Aztecs and beyond. Early explorers of the 1500s wrote about native peoples+ roasting corn until it popped and described it as looking like a “white flower.” Indigenous peoples ate popcorn and strung it to use for decoration.

Most people now eat popcorn with salt and butter or a variety of flavorings, but can you imagine having it with milk? Way before Corn Flakes and Cheerios came on the scene, people ate it as cereal! And popcorn really became popular during the Great Depression, when it was one of the only inexpensive treats people could afford. Why not pop up a batch and snuggle in to learn more about popcorn with today’s book.

Popcorn!

Written by Elaine Landau | Illustrated by Brian Lies

 

Popcorn catches our fancy whether we’re at home, at the movies, at a carnival or at an amusement park. How much do we like it? Well, “each year Americans munch on 1,124,000 pounds” of the crunchy stuff! That’s about “68 quarts for every man, woman, and child!” Wondering if that corn on the cob you enjoy all summer could make popcorn if you cooked it just right? The answer to that is: nope! “Farmers grow all kinds of corn. But popcorn is the only corn that pops. It’s got to do with just the right combination of water, starch, and a hard, airtight shell, called a hull.” You can learn a few more interesting facts like this one when you take the short quiz!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-movies

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Where does popcorn grow? In the Corn Belt, of course! That’s not something you wear, but an area of Midwest America that had just the right soil and weather conditions to raise the different kinds of corn you love to eat. How long has popcorn been around? Would you believe that “researchers have found 1,000-year-old grains of popcorn?” Or that “the kernels still popped?” They did! But popcorn has an even longer history than that. The oldest ears of popcorn discovered were 5,600 years old and were found “in a cave in New Mexico.” These ears were tiny, though—only “about the size of your pinky finger.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-corn-skirt

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

These days, we just pop a bag of kernels in the microwave and in a few minutes it’s ready, but early popcorn eaters had some ingenious ways of cooking their treat. “The Iroquois of the Great Lakes region popped popcorn in special jugs that they placed in heated sand.” The jugs worked like a convection oven and kept the popcorn in one place. How did the Iroquois enjoy their popcorn? They made soup with it! Some Native Americans cooked their popcorn on the cob in the husks, while others put the ear on a stick and held it over a fire to roast.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-corn-stalks

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Some Native Americans also had stories to tell about popcorn. One such tale relates that “spirits lived inside each popcorn kernel.” The spirits were quiet and happy as long as they weren’t disturbed. But if the house grew hot, the spirits became angry. If the house became too hot, the spirits would get so angry that “they would burst out of their houses and fly off into the air as annoyed puffs of steam.” The Aztecs used popcorn in ceremonies, and, because of its resemblance to hailstones, it was used as tribute to the water god Tlaloc to ask for protection for fishermen during storms.

So how did popcorn become so popular? A little creative advertising helped that along. In 1885 the first popcorn machines were developed. These little carts with the enticing glass windows that allowed people to watch the popping process were great hits. “Men were hired to pop popcorn in front of stores to draw in customers.” Can you imagine what these men were called? Right! Poppers!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-brian-lies-raccoon-in-field

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Two world events also helped popcorn sales. During the Great Depression, popcorn was an inexpensive treat, and during World War II, delicious popcorn took the place of candy, which could not be produced since all the sugar was used to supply soldiers overseas. When a television set became common in most homes and people stopped going to the movies as much, popcorn sales plummeted. But creative companies came up with ways to make popping popcorn at home easy and fun. Popcorn and TV became a favorite pastime.

Popcorn is a healthy snack, too! As a good source of protein, iron, carbohydrates, and fiber while being low-calorie, popcorn is a treat parents can’t say “no” to! To learn more fascinating facts about popcorn—including the answer to that big question: What makes popcorn pop?—you’ll want to pop over to your favorite bookseller or library and pick up this book!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn!-elaine-landou-and-brian-lies-corn-school

Image copyright Brian Lies, 2003, text copyright Elaine Landau, 2003. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

With wit and an easy conversational style, Elaine Landau cooks up an engaging look at popcorn. Short sections answer the questions kids have about popcorn while offering new and intriguing tidbits that will make kids feel pretty smart about one of our favorite snack foods.

Brian Lies lends his distinctive art style to illustrations that echo Landou’s humor while also enhancing the text with visual guides for deeper understanding. Along the way, young readers can follow a rascally, popcorn-loving raccoon as he enjoys popcorn on the cob in the field, moves a jar of popcorn from the fridge to the cabinet with—almost—no mishaps, roasts popcorn over a fire pit, and runs off with a full bowl of popcorn.

For kids (or adults) who love popcorn, food history, or cooking and to inspire fun classroom science and history lessons, Popcorn! can’t be beat!

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2003 | ISBN  978-1570914430

Discover more about Brian Lies and check out all of his great books and art on his website.

National Popcorn Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-popcorn-toss-up-puzzle

Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

 

The popcorn’s flying! Can you match the six pairs of kernels so you can enjoy a tasty snack in this printable Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

October 14 – It’s Bat Appreciation Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-cover

About the Holiday

It makes sense that October—when we celebrate all things spooky and nocturnal—is Bat Appreciation Month. But we don’t celebrate bats just because they’re cool around Halloween—bats are cool all the time! Scientists estimate that there are 1,300 species of bats, most of which are beneficial for the areas in which they live. Some bats are awesome at keeping the insect population under control. Fruit bats help distribute seeds, and other bats eat pollen, helping to pollinate foods, including bananas, guava, and agave. Unfortunately, bats are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and pesticides. This month learn more about these fascinating creatures!

Bats in the Band

By Brian Lies

 

Huddled together a colony of bats sleeps through the winter, but as the icy weather warms they stretch their wings and take flight to find food. As they swoop through the air chasing the echoes they hear, these animals that live by echolocation sense “that something’s not right. / And then when a bugle blast shatters the night, / that one lonely note tells us just what is wrong: / We’re hungry for sound—we’ve been silent too long.”

The bats swarm to a summertime theater now quiet and dark except for a small glow that invites them inside. They enter the building—passing hawkers of T-shirts, posters, and hats—and set up the stage and the lights. Some bats have brought their own instruments while others improvise with the leftovers of last season’s concertgoers. “Behind the stage curtain, they’re getting in tune, / making up things out of straws, out of spoons.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-one-bat-band

Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Finally, the conductor lifts his baton, and the concert begins. “We sing together as one voice. / It seems the very walls rejoice! / All together, rafters ringing… / it’s as though our souls are singing.”  Then the strings “change the mood to sweet and mellow” before a one-bat band takes over. “Next up, there’s a country song—/ some lonesome bat done someone wrong. / He’s  gone and broken someone’s heart. / Now everything has come apart.”

There’s even an entertainer for children far off in a corner where the pups can run and play. Now on stage a blues singer “cries of lonely days and empty skies” that make the bats cry. “It’s hard to figure—eyes get wetter, / …so how is it that we feel better?” There’s not much time for reflection though as a hard-rock band begins “blazing,” “pumping,” and “jumping.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-blues-singer

Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

While everyone is dancing to the beat, the sun begins to rise signaling that it’s time for the bats to go. But in one last blast, all the musicians jam together. “The music soars. Finale’s here, the ending of the song. / It builds and builds—now here it comes! / It’s going…/ going…/ GONG!” With that last bang of the cymbal the bats, “worn out, wrung out, half asleep,” fly from the theater and out into the dawning day. In the air they discover the music in everything from “the roar of a car, or the bark of a pup—/ the sound of the rest of the world waking up.” As they fall into slumber up in their cozy rafters, the bats continue to sway unconsciously. “It’s not our intention, but you understand. / We’re dreaming of being the bats in the band.”

Brian Lies “Bat” books are well-known and well-loved. Bats in the Band continues the excellent storytelling and poetry of his other titles, this time to a musical beat. The idea of bats needing to hear sound after a long winter’s silence is a clever introduction to the concert theme, and these bats play almost as many different styles of music as there are species of bat. The rhyme scheme is true and musical, carrying the story well through its words and rhythm.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-rock-n-roll-bats

Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Lies’ illustrations remain as enchanting as ever. The two-page spread of the bats choosing and tuning up their instruments is a joy. Bats make a xylophone from keys hanging on a peg board with two nails for mallets. Instead of a harp, a bat plucks the tines of a plastic comb, and a bendy straw serves as a fine wind instrument. The string section plays while hanging upside down (of course!). The pups’ entertainer will bring a smile to readers’ faces, and the blues singer performs under cool blue lights. Kids and adults will love lingering over the detailed pages, where allusions to actual concert atmospheres abound. Look for the bats holding aloft lightning bugs in a tribute to a long-held tradition.

Bats in the Band is a rockin’ addition to Brian Lies collection and will be welcome on any child’s shelf—whether they are completing the set or just starting it!

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544105690

Visit Brian Lieswebsite to learn more about him, view his many books, and see a gallery of his artwork.

Bat Appreciation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books=picture-book-review-spiral-bat-words-word-search

Spiraling Bats Word Search

 

Find the bat related words in this printable Spiraling Bats Word Search that dips and soars like the flight of a bat! Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

August 27 – International Bat Night

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-cover

About the Holiday

From the time that darkness falls on August 27 until the sun rises on August 28, people in more than 30 countries organize walks, talks, and all kinds of educational and fun activities related to bats and their conservation. Why not find an event in your neck of the woods—or cave—and celebrate this most unusual and beneficial animal!

Bats in the Band

By Brian Lies

 

Huddled together a colony of bats sleeps through the winter, but as the icy weather warms they stretch their wings and take flight to find food. As they swoop through the air chasing the echoes they hear, these animals that live by echolocation sense “that something’s not right. / And then when a bugle blast shatters the night, / that one lonely note tells us just what is wrong: / We’re hungry for sound—we’ve been silent too long.”

The bats swarm to a summertime theater now quiet and dark except for a small glow that invites  them inside. They enter the building—passing hawkers of T-shirts, posters, and hats—and set up the stage and the lights. Some bats have brought their own instruments while others improvise with the leftovers of last season’s concertgoers. “Behind the stage curtain, they’re getting in tune, / making up things out of straws, out of spoons.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-one-bat-band

Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Finally, the conductor lifts his baton, and the concert begins. “We sing together as one voice. / It seems the very walls rejoice! / All together, rafters ringing… / it’s as though our souls are singing.”  Then the strings “change the mood to sweet and mellow” before a one-bat band takes over. “Next up, there’s a country song—/ some lonesome bat done someone wrong. / He’s  gone and broken someone’s heart. / Now everything has come apart.”

There’s even an entertainer for children far off in a corner where the pups can run and play. Now on stage a blues singer “cries of lonely days and empty skies” that make the bats cry. “It’s hard to figure—eyes get wetter, / …so how is it that we feel better?” There’s not much time for reflection though as a hard-rock band begins “blazing,” “pumping,” and “jumping.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-blues-singer

Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

While everyone is dancing to the beat, the sun begins to rise signaling that it’s time for the bats to go. But in one last blast, all the musicians jam together. “The music soars. Finale’s here, the ending of the song. / It builds and builds—now here it comes! / It’s going…/ going…/ GONG!” With that last bang of the cymbal the bats, “worn out, wrung out, half asleep,” fly from the theater and out into the dawning day. In the air they discover the music in everything from “the roar of a car, or the bark of a pup—/ the sound of the rest of the world waking up.” As they fall into slumber up in their cozy rafters, the bats continue to sway unconsciously. “It’s not our intention, but you understand. / We’re dreaming of being the bats in the band.”

Brian Lies “Bat” books are well-known and well-loved. Bats in the Band continues the excellent storytelling and poetry of his other titles, this time to a rock-n’-roll beat. The idea of bats needing to hear sound after a long winter’s silence is brilliant, and these bats play almost as many different styles of music as there are species of bat. The rhyme scheme is true and musical, carrying the story well through its words and rhythm.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bats-in-the-band-rock-n-roll-bats

Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Lies’ illustrations remain as clever as ever. The two-page spread of the bats choosing and tuning up their instruments is a joy. Bats make a xylophone from keys hanging on a peg board and two nails for mallets. Instead of a harp, a bat plucks the tines of a plastic comb, and a bendy straw serves as a fine wind instrument. The string section plays while hanging upside down (of course!). The pups’ entertainer will bring a smile to readers’ faces, and the blues singer performs under cool blue lights.

Kids and adults will love lingering over the detailed pages, where allusions to actual concert atmospheres abound. Look for the bats holding aloft lightning bugs in a tribute to a long-held tradition.

Bats in the Band is a rockin’ addition to Brian Lies collection and will be welcome on any child’s shelf—whether they are completing the set or just starting it!

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544105690

Visit Brian Lies‘ website to learn more about him, view his many books, and see a gallery of his artwork.

International Bat Night Activity

celebrate-picture-books=picture-book-review-spiral-bat-words-word-search

Spiraling Bats Word Search

 

Find the bat related words in this printable Spiraling Bats Word Search that dips and soars like the flight of a bat! Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review