January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to give parents, grandparents, and caregivers a nudge to step back and look at our children and grandchildren as the unique individuals they are. Each child has a special personality and innate talents that combine to make them who they are. Today, celebrate each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life!

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466

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

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

Star Bright Books publishes fiction nonfiction, and bilingual “great books for great kids” and provides literacy resources for readers.

Celebration of Life Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

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

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

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

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

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About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to just take a relaxing outing with the family. What better place to go than the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park? Don’t let the cooler (or cold) weather deter you! The meandering paths, opportunities to learn about the world’s creatures, and chance to get some fresh air all add up to the perfect way to spend the day!

There’s a Giraffe in My Soup

By Ross Burach

It seems that in such a fine establishment ordering the Special of the Day—Sonia’s Tomato Soup—would be easy, but for one little boy it is anything but. “Excuse me, waiter?” The boy politely summons the red-tuxedoed attendant, who is polishing crystal to a diamond sheen. “There’s a giraffe in my soup!” Offended, the waiter pokes his verrrry long nose in the air and says, “That simply cannot be.” But when he comes nose to teeth with said errant ingredient, he speeds off with the giraffe on his tray through the kitchen door.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Ah, a new bowl of soup is delivered post haste! But as soon as the bowl is set on the table, a little frog pokes its bulging eyes over the rim. Only it’s not a frog, but an alligator with its chompers ready to reverse the dining experience. It’s even seasoning the poor boy with pepper! Once again the waiter comes to the rescue.

Before the waiter even lifts the cover from the next bowl of soup, a suspicious blue trunk emerges. The elephant flails in the small bowl of soup as the boy yells for help. “Save her! Save her! Please hurry!” Before the elephant drowns, the waiter is on the scene. The next bowl fares no better. “Yak! Yak! Yak!” the boy shouts. “Yuck? Yuck? Yuck?” the waiter thinks, insulted by the young food critic. But no, indeed a hairy, horned yak has invaded the soup.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Bowl after bowl is delivered and bowl after bowl the boy encounters a walrus (that balances the chair and the boy on his nose), an ostrich (with its head in the soup), a koala bear (shhh…it’s sleeping), a snake (burp…it swallowed the boy!), and a whale (well…you can imagine). The bruised and sweating waiter slumps on the table with his last offering. “Here, huff at last. Your soup, huff roaring with flavor.”  “Lying? Lying? Lying?” the waiter hears from the boy’s chair. He has had enough and loses his cool. “Sure, I made a minor gaffe with the giraffe. Maybe I overlooked a whale. But when it comes to taste, I am a professional. Do not dare accuse me of…LION!! Why didn’t you say something!”

Trying to tame the lion with his platter and a fork, the waiter runs for the kitchen. He returns bandaged and on crutches to reveal to the boy that there has been a mix up. It seems the zoo was sent the restaurant’s food and the restaurant was sent the zoo’s animals. The little boy is magnanimous and ready to let bygones be bygones. “Let’s skip the soup. Maybe dessert?” The waiter agrees.

He wheels out the dessert cart to present “one mousse…with a cherry on top!” And while the whipped cream and sprinkles look appetizing, the hooves and antlers? Not so much. “Never mind!” says the boy. “I’m eating somewhere else!” He quickly hops on his Big Wheel tricycle to follow the parade of animals on their way back to the zoo.

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Image copyright Ross Burach, courtesy of rossburach.com

Just as it’s impossible not to laugh at the perennial favorite restaurant joke—“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!” / “What’s a fly doing in your soup?” / “The backstroke”—There’s a Giraffe in My Soup creates giggles on every page. Ross Burach creates a great comedy team in the little boy who only wants a bowl of soup and the snooty waiter who aims to please. Their dialogue crackles with puns, misunderstandings, and witty banter. Mixed in to the recipe are the creatures—some clueless, some dangerous, and some just out of their element—that act as the catalyst for the animated facial expressions and frenetic action that propel the story. Vivid colors, a variety of typography, and some of the cutest zoo animals ever complete the entertaining effect.

There’s a Giraffe in My Soup is sure to be asked for again and again and would be a very welcome addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062360144

Learn more about Ross Burach and view his illustrations on his website!

Reader! There’s a book trailer in this blog post!

Visit the Zoo Day Activity

 

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In the Soup! Animal Card Game

Play this fun and easy game to fill your bowl with a variety of animals!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print out the bowl and playing card templates, one of each for every player
  2. Color the cards and bowl if you would like to
  3. Roll the die to see who goes first
  4. Each player takes turn rolling the die to collect animals to fill their bowl:
  • 1 = Elephant
  • 2 = Giraffe
  • 3 = Seal
  • 4 = Lion
  • 5 = Alligator
  • 6 = Whale

The first player to fill their bowl with all six animals is the winner

Picture Book Review

December 21 – Winter Solstice

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About the Holiday

At exactly 5:44 a.m. today winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. This also means that today offers those living there the least amount of sunshine—only 9 hours, 15 minutes, and 6 seconds. While the earth’s tilt in relation to the sun at this time of year brings cold and snowy weather to the World’s northern half, the Southern Hemisphere is basking in longer days and warm temperatures. For those of us just beginning to enjoy another winter’s chill, the onset of snow brings special beauty, outdoor adventure, and the fun explored in today’s book!

If Snowflakes Tasted Like Fruitcake

By Stacey Previn

 

Snowflakes gently fluttering down from a gray winter sky seem to tease “catch me if you can!” Perhaps it’s their similarity to coconut shavings or confectioners’ sugar sifted over a delicious cake that inspires us to stick our tongues out to taste those little white flakes. But what do they really taste like? And what if they tasted like other yummy foods? Stacey Previn explores that idea, starting with a winter favorite—“If snowflakes tasted like sugar plums…they’d be dancing in my head.” Or perhaps they are better for breakfast—“If snowflakes tasted like oatmeal…they would get me out of bed.”

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maybe snowflakes would be better in a mug—“If snowflakes tasted like cocoa…they would warm me to my toes” Or if they came in whipped cream dollops, “they would tickle me on my nose.” Imagine “if snowflakes tasted like apples…” you could “bake them in a pie.” And “if snowflakes tasted like peppermint…” we’d “wish more fell from the sky.”

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sometimes snowflakes twinkle like diamonds, but what if they were as shiny as gumdrops? Or imagine if they were as warm and soothing as noodle soup. Still, there is that title question: what “if snowflakes tasted like fruitcake?” Well, then, I’m afraid we “would give them all away.” So what is that special flavor that makes us stick out our tongues? “Winter,” of course!

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Stacey Previn offers up a whimsical, culinary menu of various taste sensations that might entice readers to eat up winter’s delicate, white morsels, including those above as well as honey, figs, chestnuts, gingerbread, popcorn, and marshmallows. Accompanying each verse are richly colored and wood-grain-textured folk-art illustrations that enhance the homey nature of the book. From verse to verse, a red-snowsuited child, joyful to wake to falling snow, imagines shaking snowflakes from tree branches, building a snowman and a snow choir, roasting snowflakes in a pan, catching snowflakes in a spoon, a net, a ladle, and more.

Kids who love playing in the snow—and for whom snowflakes are a delicacy—will delight in curling up with cup of hot chocolate and enjoying the sweet ideas and fanciful humor in this cozy wintertime book. Its sure to inspire kids to think up their own taste comparisons.

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801804

Discover more about Stacey Previn and her books on her website!

Winter Solstice Activity

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Snowy Day Mind Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid

White glitter glue,

Light blue glitter glue,

Fine white and/or blue glitter

Large white and/or blue glitter

Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

Picture Book Review

 

 

December 18 – Bake Cookies Day

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About the Holiday

Winter and the holiday season just doesn’t seem right without cookies. Baking those traditional morsels passed down from generation to generation makes the house smell yummy, creates family bonds, and provides delicious gifts for parties, neighbors, friends, and even you! To celebrate, bake up a batch or two of your favorite cookies, and discover fascinating facts in today’s book!

The Way the Cookie Crumbled

Written by Jody Jenson Shaffer | Illustrated by Kelly Kennedy

 

You might love lemon cookies, chomp chocolate chip cookies, and munch macaroons, but do you know where cookies came from or their perhaps less-than-delicious beginnings? Well, one of our fav snacks most likely got its start on a hot rock around 10,000 years ago. Ingenious farmers created a paste of wheat and water and baked this concoction by the heat of the sun. Convenient? Sure! Tasty? Maybe not so much.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

Fast forward to the 600s and the Persians began making improvements to the recipe. “They added things like eggs, butter, cream, fruit, honey, and eventually sugar. By this time hot rocks had been replaced by clay ovens. But the temperature was hard to determine, so “bakers dropped a bit of batter in them as a test.” While the batter went on to be used for cakes, these “tiny test cakes became treats themselves—what we would now call cookies.”

As time went by and people began traveling more, new ingredients, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered deer horns were introduced. Wait!…What? That’s right…ground up deer horns were used like baking powder and baking soda are used today to make baked goods rise. It wasn’t until 1850 that those conveniences came around; and not until the early 1900s that ovens and refrigerators made baking and storing foods easier.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

English and Dutch immigrants brought these hand-held treats to America, and while everyone enjoyed them, during the Revolutionary War Americans didn’t want anything to do with British things. This might have been when we adopted the word “cookie” instead of the English “biscuit.” Whatever they were called, though, they were still mostly made in home kitchens. That changed when a New York company imported machines to make crackers in factories and cookie companies followed suit.

But why are cookies so popular at this time of year? It seems that long, long ago, fruit and nuts were considered party food. I know, right? As time went on people rethought their party platters, and cookies won out. Even Queen Elizabeth I got in on the fun, having “gingerbread men made in the shape of her favorite advisors. Sweet!” Of course, she’s not the only famous person to get special cookies—how about that jolly old elf in the red suit? You’ll have to read the book to see how that tradition got started. Let’s just say that around the same time, another tradition took off—that of putting chocolate chips in cookie batter.

Of course cookies kept evolving by adding different flavors, changing shapes, including filling and in other ways. Today, stores shelves and bakeries are loaded with a vast variety of cookies, and home bakers are inventing new recipes all the time. Cookies are favorites the world over, and lucky for us they have a very bright future!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-the-cookie-crumbled-vendors

Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

After becoming a “history of fun stuff expert on cookies,” readers can learn even more with pages dedicated to traditional cookies from around the world, the science behind baking cookies, and of course a recipe. There’s even a quiz so kids can test their newly acquired knowledge.

In her History of Fun Stuff: The Way the Cookie Crumbled early reader, Jody Jensen Shaffer introduces kids to the fascinating origins of one of their favorite snack foods. With tidbits sure to amaze and even raise giggles, Shaffer reveals not only the history of cookies, but facts on the development of cooking, the changes in baking methods, and the beginnings of automation. Her breezy, conversational style is perfectly aimed at her young audience, and the inclusion of facts on well-known favorites makes history relatable, relevant, and entertaining.

Kelly Kennedy infuses her cartoon-inspired illustrations with humor and realism to creatively depict the concepts in the text. Her full and half-page vibrant and dynamic scenes of people baking in various types of ovens, shopping for ingredients, selling cookies, and more excellently bridge the transition from picture books to chapter books for developing readers. Images of clay ovens, Colonial homes, early-model refrigerators, factory assembly lines, and others bring the text to life is ways that kids respond to.

For developing independent readers or as a read-to for kids interested in history, baking, and the origins of one of their favorite snacks, The Way the Cookie Crumbled dishes up a winning gift or addition to a child’s library.

Ages 6 – 8

Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481461801

To learn more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her other books, visit her blog!

A gallery of illustration work for kids and adults as well as video awaits at Kelly Kennedy’s website!

Bake Cookies Day Activity

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Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages

 

It’s fun to whip up a recipe together and then enjoy the results! With these two printable Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages, you can do both!

Boy and girl baking together | Delicious baked cookies

Picture Book Review

December 17 – Maple Syrup Day

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About the Holiday

Pancakes and waffles are great, but they’re even more delicious with maple syrup! That sweet, golden slooow-pouring topping that makes for a perfect breakfast (and breakfast-for-dinner meal) deserves its own holiday! Before you get out into the hustle and bustle of the weekend, why not celebrate a little with a tall stack and lots of maple syrup?!

Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book

Illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

 

Sometimes a novelty book comes along that transcends the “kid” category and provides fun and “Ooooh!’ moments for readers of all ages. Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book offers just this kind of delicious excitement. Opening the cover is like walking into a cozy kitchen, finding your favorite recipe and gathering all the necessary ingredients. The first two-page spread presents in visuals and words the recipe and the utensils and other cooking items needed to make pancakes.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

With the second two-page spread, cooking begins! A scoop of baking powder, two tablespoons of sugar, and half a teaspoon of salt are added to the bowl. But what about the cup of flour? Readers get to add that themselves with a pull tab that simulates the flour joining the other ingredients in the green mixing bowl. The clever cut of the opening and the mottled and powdery appearance of the illustrated flour gives the sensation of actual pouring.

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

Next readers get to measure out the cup of milk with the help of a pull tab that gives kids control over the amount being served. Four marks on the side of the measuring cup provide an opportunity to talk about fractions and the ¼, ½, and ¾ lines that are also incorporated into real glass measuring cups or the separate cups that come as part of a set. Once the milk is ready, it goes into the mixing bowl with the melted butter and the egg.

Grab your whisk and get stirring! A wheel on the side of the page lets kids “combine” these wet ingredients from their individual parts into a cohesive yellow batter. Now that the batter is ready, it’s time for “STEP 4: Ladle the batter into separate circles in the hot, buttered frying pan.” Readers will love pulling the tab that releases the batter into the pan—leaving just a drop of batter to sizzle on its own (and you know how good those crispy drops can be!)

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Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

The batter is bubbling—which means it’s time to flip the flap jacks! As the spatula appears from the top of the page, kids can lift one of the little round yellow pancakes from the fry pan and turn it over. Ingeniously, the reverse side is delectably browned. A turn of the page invites by-now-hungry readers to follow “STEP 6: When both sides are browned, stack the finished pancakes on a plate.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pancakes-an-interactive-recipe-book-on-plate

Image copyright Lotta Neiminen, courtesy of phaidon.com

A pancake-sized round indentation on the plate just begs to be filled with the browned pancake from the previous page. Adding the pancake to the sunny plate, kids will feel as if they are holding the spatula and carefully slipping it atop a stack ready to be eaten. The last page encourages readers to “add butter, syrup, fruit, jam, lemon juice, honey, or whipped cream and taste what you’ve made! Delicious!”

Lotta Nieminen’s Pancakes! is so wonderfully conceived in its bold vibrant images and simple recitation of a pancake recipe. The crisp lines and absence of labels on the ingredients packages, puts the focus on the shapes, providing a chance for discussion of concepts such as rectangle, circle, half-circle, cylinder, oval, and triangle; flat and round; and bigger and smaller. Ideas such as hot and cold, measuring, pouring, mixing, stacking and others can also be introduced. The brilliant interactive elements invite kids and adults alike to play with this book over and over.

The sturdy board pages and convenient size make this a perfect take-along for trips to the market, picnics, appointments, sibilings’ activities, or other outings where waiting is required. For kids and adults who like to help out in the kitchen, love to cook, or are attracted by all things culinary, Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book makes a terrific gift and must have for home bookshelves. 

Ages 2 and up

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872834

To view a gallery of graphic design and illustration work by Lotta Nieminen, visit her website!

Maple Syrup 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:

To Play Pancake Toss

  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!

To Play With Dice

  1. Choose a number of pancakes that each player must add to their plate—say, maybe, a baker’s dozen.
  2. Take turns rolling the dice and adding the number of pancakes rolled to the plate. The first player to reach the agreed-upon number is the winner.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print enough copies of the Pancakes and Breakfast Plates for the game you choose and cut them out. Playing pieces can be printed on card stock or on paper. 
  2. If printing on paper, you can 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

December 15 – Lemon Cupcake Day

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About the Holiday

Seems particularly specific, doesn’t it? But I have to admit that lemon cupcakes—especially the ones my daughter makes—are my favorite too. Of course, today’s holiday gives you license to enjoy any kind of cupcake you like! Looking for a little cupcake history? Here it is! The first mention of cupcakes was in 1796 in Amelia Simmons’ first American cookbook titled American Cookery. She recommended using small cups to create a small, light cake. The first published mention of “cupcakes” came in 1828 in Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats by Eliza Leslie. We all know that cupcakes have long been a snack and party favorite and how they have exploded in popularity over the past few years. To celebrate, whip up a batch of your favorite cupcakes!

Peanut Butter & Cupcake

By Terry Border

 

Peanut Butter bread got a soccer ball for his birthday—there was just one problem. While he could balance the ball on his head, he was pretty bad at kicking it. Besides, it “wasn’t much fun playing with a ball all by himself.” Peanut Butter was new in town and hadn’t made friends yet, so he asked his mom if she’d play with him. But she was busy with the laundry and suggested he go outside and find someone to play with.

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Image and text copyright Terry Border, courtesy of Philomel Books

Off Peanut Butter went, and “it wasn’t long before he found a someone.” Peanut Butter enthusiastically went right up to this someone who was walking his Hot Dogs, and gave him a winning appeal. “‘Hello. I’m new here and I’d like to play. / Maybe now, maybe later—or even all day. / I’ll make you chuckle deep down in your belly. / And we’ll go together like Peanut Butter and…Hamburger.’” Hamburger was flattered but too busy with his dogs to play. Peanut Butter thanked him anyway, and kept on walking.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-cupcake-sprinkle-castles

Image and text copyright Terry Border, courtesy of Philomel Books

Soon Peanut Butter noticed Cupcake playing by herself with her pail and shovel in the nonpareil box. “He thought she looked sweet, and might make a good friend.” He launched into his spiel and finished up, “‘And we’ll go together like Peanut Butter and…Cupcake!’” Cupcake had some stern words for Peanut Butter. She was building sprinkle castles, she told him, and if he knocked them down with the ball, she’d be mad. Not wanting to upset Cupcake, Peanut Butter moved on.

Next Peanut Butter met Egg rolling along on his unicycle. He started his rhyme and finished with a flourish, “‘And we’ll go together like Peanut Butter and…Egg!’”  Egg thought this was funny. “‘You’re cracking me up!’ Egg laughed. And then he really did crack.” Peanut Butter was afraid to make Egg laugh anymore, so he went on his way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-cupcake-sprinkle-egg

Image copyright Terry Border, courtesy of Philomel Books

Farther down the path Peanut Butter found Meatball jumping a strand of spaghetti. He got through his welcome only to be shushed by Meatball because he was interrupting his counting. Finding a friend was proving harder than Peanut Butter had thought. He was getting tired and wanted to sit down. Under a tree he found French Fries. After hearing Peanut Butter’s request, however, French Fries begged off, saying that he was late in helping “‘Hamburger with his Hot Dogs’” and now needed to “‘catch up.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-cupcake-sprinkle-meatball

Image and text copyright Terry Border, courtesy of Philomel Books

Ever persevering Peanut Butter saw Alphabet Soup standing nearby and approached, but before he could even get a word out, Soup dipped in his spoon and came out with “two letters, an ‘N’ and an ‘O.’” Feeling dejected Peanut Butter sat on a bench and thought about giving up. But then he saw a new kid coming his way. “‘Hello,’” the kid said. Peanut Butter brought out his poem one more time. “‘Um…Hello. I’m new here and I’d like to play. Maybe now, maybe later—or even all day. I’ll make you chuckle deep down in your belly. And we’ll go together like Peanut Butter and…Jelly!’”

Jelly thought this sounded great—there was just one thing. While she was good at kicking a ball, she wasn’t good at balancing it on her head. So the two new friends taught each other their special talents and “made each other chuckle deep down in their bellies.” All this laughter attracted the other kids, who came over to play together!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-peanut-butter-and-cupcake-sprinkle-playing-together

Image copyright Terry Border, courtesy of Philomel Books

Terry Border has mixed the culinary and the cute to create this one-of-a-kind recipe for friendship. Peanut Butter’s endearing self-introduction establishes his sweet personality, and its rhyme scheme ensures that kids will be held in suspense waiting for Peanut Butter to meet Jelly. With visual wit and plenty of puns, Border serves up a unique picture book that offers surprises and laughs on every page. Kids will also empathize with Peanut Butter’s dilemma and cheer when he finally makes a friend.

Border’s vibrant photographic illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to his story. Peanut Butter, slathered on bread and sporting wire arms and legs, is an immediately loveable hero. The other kids he meets, especially hamburger walking his two Hot Dogs and Soup, are inspired characters, and the background props make playful use of kid-favorite items.

Peanut Butter & Cupcake is a wonderful addition to kids’ bookshelves for story time, playtime, or any time a laugh or the inspiration of creative art is needed.

Ages 3 – 7

Philomel Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-0399167737

Discover the very original world of Terry Border on his website!

Lemon Cupcake Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcake-wrapper-tree-craft

Cupcake Wrapper Tree

 

Today’s paper cupcake cups are so pretty that it’s a shame they just get thrown away. Here’s a way to use cupcake liners to make an attractive winter decoration. You can use various sizes of cones to create a multi-tree decoration.

Supplies

  • Styrofoam or cardboard cone, available from craft stores
  • Cupcake wrappers with a winter or favorite design
  • Straight pins (for Styrofoam cones), glue dots, or small clear mounting squares (for either Styrofoam or cardboard cones)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Cut the bottoms out of the cupcake wrappers
  2. Using the ribbed sides of the cupcake wrappers, start from the bottom of the cone and attach the cup to the cone with the straight pins, glue dots, or mounting squares, putting them along the top rim of the wrapper
  3. You may need to use two or more wrappers to cover the cone. Fill in gaps by overlapping with smaller cuts from the cupcake wrappers
  4. Overlap the first row of cupcake papers a bit with the second row of cupcake papers. Attach at the top rim
  5. Continue moving up the cone, overlapping and attaching cupcake wrappers
  6. At the top, overlap the sides of the wrapper to cover the tip of the cone and make a sharp point. Glue seam together if needed
  7. Attach the top wrapper to the layer below near the bottom of the wrapper

Picture Book Review

December 12 – Gingerbread House Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-christmas

About the Holiday

Yummy, warm gingerbread and winter just go together. And one of the best ways to enjoy gingerbread is by making a gingerbread house decorated with icing and candy. Gingerbread houses can be elaborate—like those made by professional bakers for competitions—or simple, but they all have one thing in common—they are so tempting to nibble on! To celebrate today’s holiday, grab the mixing bowl, flour and spices, bag of gumdrops, peppermints, and hard candies and get creative!

Gingerbread Christmas

By Jan Brett

 

Matti and the Gingerbread Baby are excited about the coming Christmas Festival. Gingerbread Baby even has plans to sing with his Gingerbread Band. There’s just one problem—there is no Gingerbread Band. But then Matti has an idea. As he rushes off to find the cookbook, he tells Gingerbread Baby to start practicing his song. “In no time Matti had mixed the ingredients, rolled out the dough, and popped the Gingerbread into the oven.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-christmas-matti-baking

Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Even though the recipe specifically says not to open the oven for a full eight minutes, after six minutes Matti can’t wait another second. He opens the oven door ever so slightly to peek, and out pop the musical instruments made of gingerbread. The instruments hop onto the table and begin playing immediately. But Matti knows they need a bit of icing before they’re ready to make an appearance in the village.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-christmas-decorated-cookies

Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

After they are decorated in their party best, the Gingerbread Baby leads the procession of instruments—“a violin, cello, double bass, French horn, clarinet, and trumpet, tooting and zumming to the beat of the big bass drum”—to the village. The band jumps on stage, tunes up, and begins playing. People hurry from all over tocome and listen; even the woodland animals stop to watch from behind the trees. The villagers can’t help but tap their toes and dance to the band’s sweet music.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-christmas-band-playing

Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

When the animals join the crowd, the Gingerbread Baby conducts the band in ‘The Wild Animal’s Waltz.’ No one is left on the sidelines as the band plays faster and faster and everyone joins in the dance. Suddenly, young Ann-Sophie calls out, “‘I think those instruments are really cookies. And I so want one!’” Everyone else takes a closer look, and they all so want a cookie too. The Gingerbread Baby notices the hungry looks on the villagers’ faces, and begins singing an entrancing melody. While the people stand listening, the instruments quietly tiptoe offstage.

Matti meets each one and cleverly disguises them—covering them in snowballs and decorating them as snowmen. As soon as all of the instruments are safe, the Gingerbread Baby somersaults off the stage with a playful taunt for the villagers to try to catch him but also teases, “‘you’ll never guess where I’ll be.’” The chase is on. Zigging and zagging the Gingerbread Baby dashes toward the enormous decorated Christmas tree—where he suddenly vanishes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-christmas-dancing

Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Although the villagers search everywhere, they can find neither the band nor the Gingerbread Baby. While Matti waves goodbye and takes off with his sled full of snowmen, the Gingerbread Baby is being as still and quiet as possible, hidden in the boughs of the Christmas tree. Finally, all the villagers give up the game and go home—all except Ann-Sophie, who may or may not hear “a tiny voice singing” in the now silent air.

Jan Brett’s mischievously loveable Gingerbread Baby is back, wanting to participate in the Village Festival. With her signature storytelling that includes danger, mystery, and clever shenanigans surrounding Matti and his special gingerbread creations, Brett creates a holiday adventure that kids will love. Her well-known intricate illustrations, in a rich palette, offer vivid action as the Gingerbread Baby and instruments play onstage while the villagers dance below. Brett’s beautiful details and cozy settings make Gingerbread Christmas a feast for the eyes, and readers will also like to linger over the musical instruments in the margins of each page that reveal more snapshots of the story line. A dazzling fold-out Christmas tree, decorated from top to bottom will occupy and delight kids as they search for where the Gingerbread Baby is hiding.

For winter fun and especially those days when the house fills with the delicious aroma of baking cookies, Gingerbread Christmas is great book to have on hand.

Ages 4 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399170713

Discover more about Jan Brett and her books as well find activities, coloring pages, contests, and more on her website!

Gingerbread House Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-house-coloring-page

Gingerbread House Coloring Page

 

You may not be able to nibble on this printable Gingerbread House Coloring Page, but you can still have fun decorating it!

Picture Book Review