October 13 – It’s National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

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 About the Holiday

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month has been celebrated in October for more than 30 years and was made official in 1999 by then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. With its salty crunchiness and that enticing Pop Pop Pop rhythm, this snack is a favorite the world over. Its history goes 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.” It was eaten and also strung for decoration.

Most people now eat popcorn with salt and butter, but can you imagine having it with milk? Way before Corn Flakes and Cheerios came on the scene people ate popcorn as cereal! And popcorn really became popular during the Great Depression, when it was one of the only treats people could afford. Why not pop up a batch and  read today’s reviewed  picture book. For more interesting popcorn facts and recipes visit www.popcorn.org.

The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Biteable Rhymes

Written by Deborah Ruddell | Illustrated by Joan Rankin

 

Each season has its much-anticipated delicacies and each food its particular fans. Winter offers hot drinks and cinnamony goodies; Spring ushers in fresh, juicy fruit; Summer requires icy-cold, refreshing treats; and Autumn settles in with warm, comforting meals and snacks. Year-round there are foods to delight the tummy and—in this fun collection of poems—the imagination. So let’s snuggle up on the couch and welcome The Arrival of the Popcorn Astronauts:

“The daring popcorn astronauts / are brave beyond compare— / they scramble into puffy suits / and hurtle through the air. / And when they land, we say hooray / and crowd around the spot / to salt the little astronauts / and eat them while they’re hot.”

Or perhaps those universally loved “Dazzlers of the Dinner Plate” and “Lunchroom Legends” that get their own tribute in Stand and Cheer for MAC and CHEESE! is just what you have in mind. When Winter drapes its icy blanket over the world, a special kind of steaming hot chocolate can always be found at The Cocoa Cabana where “On an ice-skating pond in the state of Montana, / there’s a little red tent called the Cocoa Cabana. Calling all skaters, the big and the small! / Marshmallow Peppermint Cocoa for all!

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Image copyright Joan Rankin, text copyright Deborah Ruddell. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Spring invites The Strawberry Queen and “You’ll know her the minute she enters the room / by the first little whiff of her spring time perfume / and her elegant suit—which is beaded and red— / and the leafy green crown on the top of her head. / Remember to bow and address her as Ma’am, but don’t say a word about strawberry jam.”

Thirsty? Then perhaps you would like A Smoothie Supreme with its very distinctive ingredients: “A whisper of pickle / is what I detect. / with glimmers of turnip / I didn’t expect”… “The mudpuddle splashes / are really delish, / and the finishing touch is that nubbin of fish!” Or maybe you’d like to learn How a Poet Orders a Shake, which goes in part: “‘A frosty cup of moonlight, please,’ / the poet murmurs, low. ‘As mushy as a mittenful / of slightly melted snow…’”

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Image copyright Joan Rankin, text copyright Deborah Ruddell. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Imaginative verses also transform a slice of watermelon into a lake complete with “a little fleet of small black boats”, introduce peaches with their “…sunset of beautiful colors / on the flannelpajamaty skin”, follow the Voyage of the Great Baked Potato Canoes that “…oozed with steam and sour cream. / They were loaded with bacon and chives. / But silverware was everywhere— / and they barely escaped with their lives”, and wonder about who will eat The Last Brownie, which is “As hard and square and rugged as a brownie made of stone.”

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Image copyright Joan Rankin, text copyright Deborah Ruddell. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Deborah Ruddell has included so many more wonderfully delicious, fresh, and surprising poems with clever takes on the foods that flavor our days. The rhymes flow with a sweet, easy rhythm and are as fun to say as they are to hear.

Joan Rankin’s vivid watercolor illustrations bring each poem to life with adorable characters, humorous details, and plenty of action. Her “healthy” gingerbread house set among a broccoli forest is a beautiful departure from the well-known original, a dapper Dracula swoops down on an unsuspecting sleeper, a mouse wields an axe over a crusty brownie, and impressionistic trees hold ripe apples. Kids will love lingering over the pages as they listen to each poem to capture every nuance.

The Popcorn Astronauts and Other Biteable Rhymes makes a fun take-along book for picnics, trips to the farmers market or orchard, and playground—or anywhere that a quick nibble of food would taste better with a “Biteable Rhyme.”

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 | ISBN 978-1442465558

Discover more books by Deborah Ruddell plus fun activity guides on her website!

National Popcorn Poppin’ Month Activity

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Popcorn Blast-Off Game

 

The popcorn is flying! Can you catch it? This is a fun game to celebrate this most delicious month! And if you keep the popcorn socks, it will make a great quick activity for those times when you want to get up and move but just don’t know what to do.

Supplies

  • 6 pairs of girls socks – white
  • A large bag of cotton balls
  • Towel or small blanket

Directions

  1. Stuff the socks with a large handful of cotton balls (about 25)
  2. Knot the sock as you would a balloon and fold down the remaining ankle cuff
  3. Squish the sock to move the cotton balls until your sock looks like a piece of popcorn
  4. Players hold each end of the towel or side of the blanket so it sags
  5. Place popcorn in the middle of the towel or blanket
  6. On the count of 3, players pull tight on the towel or blanket
  7. Try to catch as many flying popcorn pieces in the towel or blanket as you can

Picture Book Review

October 6 – It’s National Pizza Month

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About the Holiday

Pizza is one of those foods that just puts a smile on your face. It’s associated with parties, good times with friends, and relaxing weekends. It’s also one of the few foods that is so varied that you can have it made your way with your own favorite ingredients – while your table mates can too. The mix of ingredients also makes pizza a great metaphor for life or a microcosm of society. However you look at pizza, this month indulge in all your favs!

Secret Pizza Party

Written by Adam Rubin | Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

 

Raccoon, plastered against the Pizza Shop window, drools over cheesy slices others are eating inside. He so wants a piece and would even be happy with the leftovers in the back alley trash. But when he tries to paw one out of the can, he gets swept away with a broom. Maybe  if he knew how to ask politely things would be different.

Raccoon loves pizza so much that he thinks it should hang in art museums and that people should eat it in the bathtub. “Of course the best part about pizza is the gooey cheesiness, salty pepperoni-ness, sweet tomato-ness, and crispity, crunchity crust. Yum!” Maybe a pizza party will cheer Raccoon up – a secret pizza party. Why should it be secret? Because secret is special— like an intricate secret handshake only you and one other person know, or a secret stair case that leads…who knows where, but somewhere amazing!

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Besides, you know what a regular raccoon pizza party would be like—there would be brooms and horrified faces and panicked shouts of “Get that raccoon off the table!!!” But here’s how a secret pizza party would sound: “Get that raccoon another slice of pizza, he’s the guest of honor.”

So the first order of business for this secret pizza party is…ordering! Before the call is placed, though, you’ve got to think: if you call and order the pizza, you’ll have to give your address. And if you give your address, the pizza guy will know where you live. And if the pizza guy knows where you live he “might recognize you from the posters and chase you off with a broom.” So what are you to do? A disguise will do the trick. “Okay now, play it cool. You’re just an honest pizza-buying citizen who left his wallet in the car,” and as soon as the pizza is in your hands you make a run for it back to your tree.

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Ok, phew, great job! Now you can enjoy…but not too loud or with too much light. You don’t want anyone to see. Wait a minute! What’s that right outside your home? Another secret pizza party where everyone is wearing masks?

Perfect! Ok, you’ve infiltrated the party…you’re reaching for a slice of pizza…and no one suspects a thing. NO! NO! NO! You’re rolling in the pizza on top of the table!! You blew your cover. Grab as many pieces as you can and run because here they come with the brooms…!

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin, courtesy of Penguin Random House

Adam Rubin’s madcap read-a-loud about a pizza-obsessed raccoon and his quest for a broom-free night of pizza indulging will have kids laughing from Raccoon’s first wistful look to his final triumphant dash. Rubin’s conspiratorial tone makes readers active participants in Raccoon’s covert operation to secure a pizza without a sweeping disaster, ramping up their level of involvement and enjoyment. The text—from the secret handshakes to the broom-bots to words such as “bonk,” “booyah,” “crispity crunchity,” and “happy screams”—is silly, kid-friendliness at its best and is as enticing as the aroma of hot-out-of-the-oven pizza.

Daniel Salmieri’s noodle-armed, broom-wielding humans and animated, fanatical raccoon amplify the humor that infuses every scene in Rubin’s tale. A slice of pizza hanging between two masterpieces in a museum or being devoured in a bubble bath, an intertwining handshake, a ridiculous disguise, and two types of raccoon-sniffing broom-bots are just a few of the images that make Secret Pizza Party a kid’s dream come true. In addition there are plenty of sly details, such as a pizza-shaped lampshade, projectile brooms, and Raccoon’s fairy-tale imagination. My favorite laugh-out-loud moment shows Raccoon blending into the secret pizza party outside his tree house by simply holding up a twig to his natural “mask.”

Full of pizza, playfulness, and a persevering raccoon, Secret Pizza Party is a book that kids will want to hear again and again.

Ages 3 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803739475

Find out more about books by Adam Rubin on his website!

Daniel Salmieri has a gallery of his work and books on his website for you to see!

 Pizza Month Activity

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What’s Your Favorite Topping? Word Search

 

Pizza is so delicious, but everyone has their favorite kind. Find the names of 18 different ingredients in this printable What’s Your Favorite Topping? Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

 

August 5 – It’s National Peach Month

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About the Holiday

Is there anything as delicious as a perfectly ripe peach? Native to China and classified with the almond, the peach is peachy in pies, tarts, fruit salads, and just on its own. To celebrate today pick some peaches from a local farm, farmer’s market, or grocery store and enjoy!

Each Peach Pear Plum

By Janet and Allan Ahlberg

 

This perennial children’s favorite “I spy” nursery rhyme book is a perfect read any time, but especially during the summer when it can be tucked away in a travel bag or picnic basket and enjoyed on the go. After the first introduction of “Each peach pear plum / I spy Tom Thumb,” in which readers are invited to find Tom who is happily reading high in a peach tree nearly hidden by leaves and fruit, every page offers another double challenge.

Building on the discovery in the preceding page, kids are given a hint as to the current whereabouts of the previous character and are also urged to find another nursery rhyme or literary favorite: “Tom Thumb in the cupboard / I spy Mother Hubbard” followed by “Mother Hubbard down the cellar / I spy Cinderella.”  This structure creates anticipation in even the youngest readers as they begin to recognize the pattern and wonder who is coming next.

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Copyright Janet and Allan Ahlberg, 1999, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

Besides Tom Thumb, Old Mother Hubbard, and Cinderella, the Three Bears, Baby Bunting, Little Bo-Peep, Jack and Jill, the Wicked Witch, Robin Hood, and a deliciously plump Plum Pie are hidden in the book. What makes Each Peach Pear Plum a classic is the Ahlberg’s artistic magic, which is on gorgeous display in every illustration. The vivid, fine-line drawings spare no details in bringing the short text fully to life.

Humor abounds, especially in the depiction of the “hidden” character or characters, whose only appearance is an arm dusting a shelf, faces at a window, feet sticking out of tall grass, a camouflaged archer, and more. And perhaps the clumsy baby bear could use a bit of assistance! Kids will love pointing out the birds and bunnies, dog, cat, and other animals that also follow from page to page.

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Copyright Janet and Allan Ahlberg, 1999, courtesy Viking Books for Young Readers

Each Peach Pear Plum is also a wonderful introduction to the literature alluded to and will entice kids to hear all the stories contained in this forever favorite. Each Peach Pear Plum makes a fantastic gift for new babies or young readers and belongs on every child’s bookshelf.

Ages Birth – 5 and up

Viking Books for Young Readers, Penguin, 1999 | ISBN 978-0670882786 (Board Book Edition)

It’s National Peach Month Activity

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Peachy Picnic Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These two friends are enjoying a picnic and took two selfies. Can you spot the 12 differences between the two pictures in this printable Peachy Picnic Find the Differences Puzzle?