September 23 – Hug a Vegetarian Day

Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Instituted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA),which was established by Ingrid Newkirk in 1949, Hug a Vegetarian Day promotes awareness of a meat-and animal- products-free diet. Over the years millions of people world wide have embraced the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, giving rise to alternative diets and products that support this healthy choice. To celebrate today whip up a vegetarian meal – why not Rainbow Stew?! 

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids—his granddaughter and two grandsons. The kids are excited to be visiting their grandpa where they can play outside all day long. On this particular day, however, rain spatters the windows, and the kids are disappointed: “Whimper, sigh, / cloudy sky, / is it too wet to play? / We don’t want to stay inside / because of rain today.” But their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he suggests.

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Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Out to the garden they run in their raincoats and hats. “Splish, splash, / puddle dash, / We bounce right out the door. / We’re off to find some red and green, / some yellow, orange, and more. / Grandpa shows us how to move / Between each garden row. / Lifting up the drippy leaves, /  we see what colors grow.” They collect green spinach, kale, and zucchini; yellow peppers, purple cabbage and eggplant, red radishes and tomatoes; brown potatoes; and orange carrots. After some muddy fun among the plants, the kids go inside, get dried off, and begin to prepare their colorful stew.

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Image copyright Catherine Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Peel, slice / chop and dice, / colors fill the pot. / Stir in herbs and water / and then wait till it gets hot.” While the pot simmers on the stove, Grandpa and the kids snuggle on the couch with favorite books, reading together until the stew has simmered to perfection. The family then sits down to a homemade, colorful, delicious lunch of Rainbow Stew. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-playing-cooking-together

Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels, offering opportunities for learning as well as playing. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store. The rhyming verses each begin with an energetic couplet that kids will enjoy repeating or acting out. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables, and young readers may enjoy matching the vegetables to items in the kitchen, living room, and more. 

Children will identify with the disappointment of the three siblings when they learn it’s too wet to spend the day outside as well as their glee at squishing in the mud. The close bond between the kids and their grandfather as they cook and read together is a strong anchor for this story and promotes early literacy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-reading-together

Image copyright Cathryn Falwell, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Reading Rainbow Stew, preparing the delicious dish, and doing the puzzle below makes for a fun rainy – or sunny – day!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476

Learn more about Cathryn Falwell and her books and art on her website!

To discover more about Rainbow Stew as well as activities to accompany the book, head over to rainbowstewbook.com!

Hug a Vegetarian Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vegetable-garden-word-search-puzzle

 

Plant a Vegetable Garden! Word Search

 

Find the names of 20 vegetables in this printable Plant a Vegetable Garden! Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 29 – Learn about Composting Day

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About the Holiday

Composting is a wonderful way to use organic waste to help the environment. Whether you keep a small composting container in your kitchen, set aside a pile in the corner of your yard, or invest in a compost tumbler, letting non-meat or dairy kitchen scraps, outdoor vegetation cuttings, and even hair or dryer lint decompose into nourishing soil additives will make your garden grow bigger and better!

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

 

“Environmental chefs, / here’s a recipe for you / to fix from scratch / to mix a batch / of Compost Stew.” This clever alphabet book reveals the ABCs of gathering the perfect ingredients for a compost pile, which creates a nutritious meal for gardens, flower beds, and the environment:

“Apple cores / Bananas, bruised / Coffee grounds with filters, used / Dirt clods, crumbled / Eggshells, crushed / Fruit pulp left behind, all mushed / Grass clippings / Hair snippings / and an Insect or two / Just add to the pot / and let it all rot / into Compost Stew.”

The catchy rhymes and easy-to-follow directions will make kids excited about saving left-overs, raking up fallen leaves, and shredding paper to add to the pile. Readers may also be surprised by some of the other items that will decompose to make rich soil, such as seaweed, laundry lint, and teabags. Three simple steps for cooking up compost stew follow the alphabet, and create a refrain that kids will love to repeat.

Mary McKenna Siddals brings the science of composting and recycling to kids in a fun, interactive way. Children may even like to think of their own ingredients for each letter of the alphabet. The author’s note at the end of the book reveals substitute ingredients as well as items that are not appropriate or safe for composting.

Ashley Wolff’s brilliant, textured collage artwork depicts four multicultural kids (along with their helpful Dalmatian and goose) gathering the ingredients for their compost bag wherever they are—in the yard, in the kitchen, at the hair salon, at the beach, and more.

Kids interested in gardening and environmental issues will love to have Compost Stew on their bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385755382

Learn about Composting Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-composting-word-search

Creative Composting Word Search

 

Composting takes individual ingredients and combines them to create nourishing soil. Can you find the words that relate to this environmental science in this printable Creative Composting Word Search? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

April 24 – It’s National Garden Month

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About the Holiday

April is the month when the earth comes alive again after a long winter! Flowers bloom in brilliant colors, trees bud and blossom with pale, green leaves, and the birds and animals prepare for new life to come. Today enjoy the warmer weather, plan a garden or flower bed, or visit a nursery or park and take in the sights and smells of spring!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

Snow still blankets the ground as a little girl and her Nana survey their garden plot. The girl’s head is full of dreams of the bounty to come. As the days warm and the wind whistles, the girl and her Nana dig in the mud. “’It’s not quite time,’” says Nana. “’Down in the dirt, things need to dry out and warm up.’” Her granddaughter is curious about what’s below.

Down in the dirt, Nana tells her, a whole world of insects are already working. Up above, the two gardeners are working too—gathering scattered twigs, removing weeds, and spreading compost.

Down in the dirt, pill bugs chew dead leaves, rolling into tight balls when poked. Up in the garden planting is taking place, the seeds carefully snuggled into beds and watered. As peas and other early plants sprout, bees pollinate and wasps hover.

Down in the dirt earthworms tunnel, enjoying the cool soil. Up in the garden the girl and her Nana rest in the shade then play in a sprinkled shower. Down in the dirt the water soaks deep, feeding the squash plants’ roots.

The summer is progressing and up in the garden tomatoes and beans are ripe for eating. Down in the dirt a robin finds a meal too. Up in the garden there’s so much to harvest. Nana and her granddaughter work until dark, sharing the garden with bats and June bugs. With nightfall a skunk finds grubs and cutworms down in the dirt.

The air is turning cooler up in the garden. Pumpkins turn orange under towering sunflowers while down in the dirt a spider weaves her sticky web. As Autumn wanes it’s time for the final garden harvest. Down in the dirt the insects know it too; they scurry to gather food.

Up in the garden and down in the dirt everything is prepared for winter. As snow once again blankets the garden plot, the girl and her Nana, the earthworms and pill bugs, the bees, and the skunk are all waiting for spring to come again.

Kate Messner’s lyrical paean to gardening is a wonderful way to introduce children to the changing seasons and how nature works together. Comparing and contrasting what gardeners do up above as they plant, tend, and harvest their crops to the work insects and animals perform down below emphasizes the interconnectedness contained in even a small plot of land. Messner’s language is beautifully evocative—the snow is sleepy, brittle stalks snap and are rustly when gathered, chickens squabble and scratch, newly planted seeds snuggle in the dark, pumpkins blush orange, and sunflowers bow to September.

Christopher Silas Neal illustrates the changing garden with striking up-close, ground view images of the plants and creatures that call the garden home. Vibrant green grasshoppers, brilliant yellow sunflowers, deliciously red tomatoes, soft pink worms, scruffy backyard animals, and more join a sprightly Nana and her curious granddaughter in soil so dark and fertile that any gardener would be envious.

The final pages include more information on the creatures found in the book, a list for further reading, and an author’s note. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt would be a welcome and special addition to any budding gardener’s or outdoor lover’s library.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452119366

National Garden Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-reviews-garden-word-search

 

Plant a Flower Garden! Word Search

 

Whether you like to plant your flower bed in horizontal or vertical rows or just scatter the seeds for a wild burst of color, you’ll love this word search planted with favorite spring and summer blooms. Print your Plant a Flower Garden! word search and the Solution here!

February 4 – Homemade Soup Day

 

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About the Holiday

On a cold February day (or even a warm one if you live in a southern climate!), there’s nothing more satisfying than a steaming-hot bowl of your favorite soup! While there are many tasty canned soups, in honor of today you may want to try creating your own concoction. Why not check out recipes from your heritage, geographic location, or even your favorite book? Bon appétit!

Soup Day

By Melissa Iwai

 

This is the perfect book for a cold winter day that celebrates the warmth and deliciousness of soup! In author-illustrator Melissa Iwai’s delightful book, the white flakes are falling and the sidewalks are piled high with snow as a little girl and her mother make their way to the market to buy ingredients for their homemade soup. At the store they fill their basket with celery, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and more.

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Copyright Melissa Iwai, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Back at home the little girl and her mom chop the vegetables, put the ingredients in a pot, and simmer the soup until its steamy. While they wait they play games and read together. Later the girl and her mother add spices and alphabet pasta to the bubbling soup. When Daddy comes home they enjoy the delicious meal.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-soup-day-cutting-veggies

Copyright Melissa Iwai, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Smoothly integrated into the story are lessons in counting and shapes, which makes the book one that would be fun to replicate with older children—in fact there is a recipe for soup on the last page!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-soup-day-eating-soup

Copyright Melissa Iwai, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Iwai’s bold, vivid images are tantalizing. As you turn through the pages you can almost taste the fresh vegetables and wish you could grab some of that produce for yourself. The sweet expressions of the girl and her mother show how much they enjoy spending time together making this special meal.

Ages 2 – 6

Henry Holt, Christy Ottaviano Books, New York, 2010 | ISBN 978-0805090048

Homemade Soup Day Activity

Make Silly Soup

 

You can create Silly Soup from anything but the kitchen sink in the kitchen sink! Just gather a bunch of fun “ingredients” and stir them together to make soup fit for a…monster? Ogre? Fairy? Your favorite stuffed animal? Who would you like to feed?

Note for Parents: This can be a fun way to teach your child about different foods and kitchen tools. Let your child see and smell different spices as they add them to their soup. Explain the different shapes of pasta. You can even teach about color by combining food colorings to see what happens. Add a science-based experiment by letting your child watch what happens to butter, sugar, or salt when they are placed in warm water.

When all the ingredients are added, use a variety of kitchen tools to stir it up! Show your child a big serving spoon, slotted spoon, whisk, spatula, ladle, teaspoons, and whatever other tool they may like to use.

*Remember, Silly Soup is just for making, not for eating!

Supplies

  • Big pot or bowl
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles
  • Glitter
  • Spices
  • Small pasta pieces
  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Anything of your choice

Directions

  1. Add water to pot or bowl
  2. Add ingredients
  3. Stir
  4. Make up a story about who will eat your soup!