November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Most People

Written by Michael Leannah | Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

 

The world is full of people, and if you look around and really look, you’ll notice something amazing: most people are the same! Do you like to smile? Do you like to laugh? Yeah, me too. So do most people! In fact, “most people love to see other people smile and laugh too.” But how about when someone’s sad? Well, “most people want to help when they see someone crying” or when someone is in trouble. “Most people want to make other people—even strangers—feel good. Most people are very good people.”

Sure there are some people who do bad things, but the good people far outnumber the bad people. And bad people can change if they allow the “seed of goodness inside them…to sprout.” Actually, people are a lot like a garden. They love the Earth, and they love being warmed by the sun. Sometimes people “feel like a sour grape in a bunch of sweet grapes.” But you can help make them feel better just by being nice.

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Image copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, text copyright Michael Leannah, 2017. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishing.

When you walk around your neighborhood or play at the park or go to the store, you see people doing the same things. They run and dance and hug their dogs; they read and sing and talk. When people like what someone is doing or wearing or saying, they compliment them. And it’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t “smile when they see a baby.”

Most people even like to hear the same words. I bet you know what those are. Right! “Most people glow when they hear or say ‘I love you.’” So when you’re out and about, it’s good to remember that you’re really among “very good people.”

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Copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, courtesy of Tilbury House Publishing.

In today’s world with so many media and social media outlets, bad news often overshadows good news. It can be easy to begin thinking the worst—of things, places, and people. Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris provide a reality check with their book that encourages children and adults to look around and make up their own minds about what they see. In his straightforward text, Leannah gives children easy-to-identify examples of emotions and behavior that they have themselves and can see in other people. He understands that shared experiences and feelings go beyond different clothing, hairstyles, or language to unite us.

This is where Jennifer E. Morris’s detailed and cheerful illustrations of a diverse community come in. Each spread offers a glimpse into a home or neighborhood to see what people are up to. The first pages invite readers into an apartment, where a mom, a little girl, and her baby brother are having breakfast. Out the big picture window, the sun is just creeping over the rooftops of other nearby apartment buildings. On the windowsill a mitten-shaped cactus seems to wave at the world.

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Copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, courtesy of jemorris.com.

The next spread shows a little boy laughing with his grandpa and grandma. The third spread takes these two families out into the neighborhood and reveals that the little girl and boy are friends. This is a busy community where many different people are engaged in various examples of kindness and inclusion. As the story progresses, children follow these characters as they go about their day. In this way, readers may have preconceived notions challenged—that biker with the tattoos? He’s really just a softy who watches out for an elderly woman—and they’ll see plenty of thoughtfulness deeds that make a difference.

In the evening, it’s time to go back home to the boy’s apartment, where the décor includes a stone sculpture of a face that reminds readers of our common human history, Finally, up on the rooftop, the two friends’ families eat dinner together, while in the illuminated windows of the apartments below, the neighbors are seen enjoying their night.

Most People is an inspiring choice to start a discussion on diversity, empathy, and kindness as well as on analyzing what we hear and see in and on the news. The positive perspective is welcome and provides young readers with comfort and examples of how people in general and they specifically can make a difference with even simple heartfelt gestures. Most People is an excellent book for home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tilbury House Publishers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0884485544

Learn more about Michael Leannah and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration art by Jennifer E. Morris as well as activity pages on her website.

World Kindness Day Activity

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Share a Smile! Cards

 

Being kind to someone is as easy as sharing a smile. With these printable Share a Smile! Cards, you can give someone a smile that they can carry with them all day long!

Picture Book Review

October 3 – It’s National Go on a Field Trip Month

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About the Holiday

As the leaves start turning red and yellow and the air becomes crisp and cool, thoughts turn to…field trips? Sure! Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy a bit of travel. For kids a field trip is a fun day away from the classroom, and for adults a little get-away can be refreshing and rejuvenating. With fall festivals, apple-picking, leaf-peeping, and other fun autumn activities, it should be easy to plan a family or group field trip.

South

By Daniel Duncan

 

Out on the rolling sea, there was once a fisherman who sailed alone. His only company was his banjo and a small leafy plant. But one day the fisherman heard an unfamiliar noise and discovered an injured seagull taking shelter in the corner of the boat’s deck. The fisherman saw that the seagull’s wing was broken. He attached a splint and bandaged the wing, then “all that was left to do was wait.”

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Copyright David Duncan, 2017, courtesy of dunksillustration.co.uk.

The seagull slept in a cozy nest fashioned from one of the fisherman’s shirts and gently placed in an open drawer. Now the fisherman had a companion, and he “loved how the bird sang along with his banjo.” For his part, the bird loved the continuous supply of fish. But winter was coming, and the fisherman knew that the seagull could not live on his boat forever. 

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Copyright Daniel Duncan, 2017, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

With the seagull perched on his shoulder, the fisherman hoisted anchor and “set sail on a new course: SOUTH.” The vast ocean stretched out in every direction as the little boat chugged along day and night. At last, peering through his telescope, the fisherman spied an island. The bird’s wing had healed, and “the fisherman knew that their journey together had come to an end.” With one last gentle stroke on the seagull’s head, the fisherman let his friend fly away to join the throng of other seagulls on the beach. Then “he set sail on a new course: HOME.”

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Copyright Daniel Duncan, 2017, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Daniel Duncan’s heartwarming story of friendship and letting go is a tender reminder that life is made up of short-term and long-term relationships, and that sometimes people (and animals) are brought together for a particular purpose. Even if some relationships are temporary, the memories and the feelings live on in our hearts. While Duncan’s story is focused on the seagull, readers must also wonder about the fisherman. At first he seems to be a loner, playing his banjo far out to sea without another soul around. But as the story develops through Duncan’s gorgeous detailed illustrations, the theme of family begins to take shape: the boat sails over a school of fish, is carried past a whale and her baby, and finally comes within sight of an island teeming with seagulls.

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Copyright David Duncan, 2017, courtesy of dunksillustration.co.uk.

Early on, as the burly, bearded fisherman bandages the seagull’s wing, alert readers may notice a photograph tacked to the wall of the tidy cabin. Later, as he hangs a framed seagull feather on that same wall, readers can see the photo better and will realize that it is a picture of the fisherman, his wife, and his child. This realization gives the final line more significance, resonance, and joy. Like many families separated for long stretches by a parent’s job, the fisherman’s family is also waiting for him to come home so they can be together again.

Ages 5 – 7

Harry N. Abrams, 2017 | ISBN 978-1419722998

View a gallery of illustration work by Daniel Duncan on his website and blog!

National Go on a Field Trip Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-maze

Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These kids are ready to go on a field trip, but first they have to get in the correct car! Help them find their way in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze.

Picture Book Review

October 2 – World Day of Bullying Prevention

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to raise awareness of the pervasive and growing societal problem of bullying and to bring people together to change the culture that allows for it to exist. It’s up to every individual to speak out against bullying in all its forms and for kindness and acceptance. For more information on what you can do or how you can find help, visit the STOMP Out Bullying website.

Come With Me

Written by Holly M. McGhee | Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

 

A little girl watches the television news, taking in all the “anger and hatred—people against people.” She was “frightened by everything she heard and saw and felt.” She wanted to make “the world a better place,” and asked her papa what she could do. He told her, “‘Come with me.’” They went outside and down the stairs to the subway platform. There, as they waited for the train, her father tipped his hat to those passing by. Seeing this, the little girl did it too.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

As they rode the train they were kind to the people around them. The little girl felt brave as she and her papa “won a tiny battle over fear for themselves and for the people of the world.” But the little girl continued to see stories of hatred on the news, so she asked her mother for advice. Her mama said, “Come with me.”

They walked down to the international grocery store on the corner with its bins full of fresh fruit and vegetables. There they met people from all over the world buying food for their meals and products for their homes. The little girl understood that “one person doesn’t represent a family or a race or the people of a land.” At home, while her mother cooked dinner, the little girl set the table as she always did.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

As they ate, the girl scratched her puppy behind the ears and thought about what she had seen and done with her parents. She wanted to do something by herself and asked if she could walk the dog. Her parents looked at each other and decided to let her go to show their child and the world that “they would not live in fear.”

Just as the little girl was leaving her apartment, the boy across the hall opened his door. He wondered where she was going. “‘Come with me,’” she said. The two children were happy to be outside, and they began to understand that if they were “brave, gentle, strong—and kind…to one another and all living things,” the world would be a better place.

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They smiled at a mother and her young son as the little boy pet her dog. Then the boy shared his box of chalk, and the three kids drew pictures on the sidewalk. The single flowers and hearts became a garden as more and more children joined in. From all around, doors opened and children and adults approached. They took a piece of chalk and bent down to add their own flowers to the growing picture.

What you do matters too—even if your part seems small, it makes a difference. Listen! The little girl is calling, “‘Come with me.’”

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Amid all the noise and fear that children are exposed to comes Holly McGhee’s quiet and powerful book that shows them that even small gestures have great reach and make a big impact. Like self-seeding gardens, one small act can take root and grow, displacing the weeds of fear, anger, and misunderstanding. McGhee’s honest, lyrical text is refreshing as it demonstrates the role of adults as well as children in changing not only outward behavior but inner feelings as well. Young readers will want to accept the little girl’s invitation to change the world they live in.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Pascal Lemaître’s colorful line drawings on white backgrounds provide a sense of openness and clarity that is the perfect accompaniment to McGhee’s story. Lemaître’s city is vibrant and diverse, and as people go about their business, they smile at one another, happily interact, and are excited to join in the fun of chalk drawing. At home, members of the family watch TV, cook and eat dinner, and take care of their pet, just as families do around the world. Careful observers will note that as the little girl sets the table, she studies the fork—a single utensil made up of many tines that work together. Each of Lemaître’s pages likewise invites readers to take another look at their own homes and neighborhoods to see the goodness there and to work with others to make the world a better place.

Come With Me is a moving story that can comfort and inspire children who have questions and want to help. The book would be a welcome addition to classroom and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1524739058

Discover the world of Holly M. McGhee and her children’s and middle-grade books on her website

View a portfolio of illustration work for children and adults by Pascal Lemaître on his website.

View a portfolio of illustration work for children and adults on his website.

World Day of Bullying Prevention Activity

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Friendship Chalk Garden

 

Just like the little girl in today’s book, you can make a positive change in the world through simple acts of kindness and cheer. Drawing a Friendship Chalk Garden is a great way to show your love, compassion, and courage—and to make your home, neighborhood, or school a better place!

Adults and kids, join in making a positive change! Draw a garden—or even just one flower— and post a picture on Twitter using the hashtag #FriendshipChalkGarden. Adults can help children post their pictures.

Here are some ideas:

  • Create your garden by yourself
  • Gather your friends
  • Invite other kids and adults in the area to draw with you
  • Ask your teacher to make it a class—or school—project

Places to Draw

Outside:

  • Find a spot in your driveway
  • Draw on the sidewalk outside your home or school
  • Use the school playground
  • Go to the park

Inside:

  • Use black or white poster board attached to the wall
  • Draw on the school blackboard or white board
  • Make flowers for a classroom or hall bulletin board

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

What’s so great about punctuation? Everything! Using correct punctuation allows you to express exactly what you mean. You’ve seen—and no doubt laughed at—examples of misplaced or misused punctuation: “Let’s eat John” versus “Let’s eat, John” and the random placement of quotation marks when no one’s talking or referencing another source. And while in the grand scheme of things the series comma may not make that much difference in some cases, but lawsuits have been won and lost on just this detail. Texting has changed the way punctuation is used—or not, and while a smiley face may be a substitute for the exclamation mark or a frowny face an emotive period in casual communications, knowing the rules of punctuation for school and business is still important. Today, why not pay more attention to the way punctuation is used to make formal communications as well as books clearer and more meaningful.

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesExcellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids love to write and know their punctuation! Can you find the twelve differences in this printable Excellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review 

September 23 – International Rabbit Day

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About the Holiday

With their little pink noses, long ears, and soft fur, rabbits make your heart melt. Today’s holiday was established to promote the protection and care of rabbits—both domestic and wild. Found in almost all types of environments—with more than one half of their total population living in North America—rabbits need protection from habitat destruction and predators. They are also a popular gift in spring, and families are encouraged to learn all about their needs and behaviors to determine if a rabbit is the best fit for the household. Because of their sweet, innocent nature, bunnies are often featured in children’s books. To celebrate the holiday, read a few of your favorites—including today’s book!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-letting-rabbit-go

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

International Rabbit Day Activity

Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages

 

Bunnies are such loveable little creatures that you just can’t help but say “Awwww!” when you see one. Here are two printable Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Bunny Coloring Page | Three Bunnies Coloring Page 

Picture Book Review

July 16 – National Personal Chef Day

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About the Holiday

National Personal Chef Day pays homage to all of the professional chefs and bakers who provide tasty and nutritious meals to families, organizations, and institutions around the country. Through their education, skills, and talent, these chefs enrich the lives of those who can’t cook for themselves and provide comfort for the people who love and care for them. If a professional or personal chef cooks meals for someone you love, take a moment to thank them today.

The Bake Shop Ghost

Written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn | Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

 

For all intents and purposes, Miss Cora Lee Merriweather is Merriweather’s Bake Shop and the bake shop is Cora Lee. “Her Mississippi mud pie was darker than the devil’s own heart,” and her sponge cake was as light as angels’ wings. Her bakery case is stacked with fluffy pies, flaky strudels, and cakes of every size and flavor. In fact, no one’s birthday is complete without a Merriweather cake to celebrate with.

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

When Cora passes away, the congregation at her funeral weeps when the preacher reads the bake shop menu and everyone realizes that “all those luscious desserts were now only sweet memories.” It doesn’t take long, however, for a new baker to buy Cora’s business. Gerda Stein stocks the shelves with the ingredients for her strudels and cakes and starts baking, but the ovens burn every dessert, the refrigerator goes on the fritz, and Gerda hears ominous footsteps overhead and frightening clanking behind her. She slowly turns around and finds herself staring straight into the eyes of a ghostly Cora Lee Merriweather who shrieks, “Get out of my kitchen!”

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The bake shop goes back on the market and is sold to Frederico Spinelli who is not afraid of ghosts—until the next day when he emerges from the front door drenched in powdered sugar and never returns. Sophie Kristoff, the marzipan queen, takes over next, only to be chased out by flying eggs, three pink marzipan pigs, and a bunch of marzipan grapes.

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

After her departure the shop stands vacant for years, growing dim and dusty. One day Annie Washington, fresh off her stint as a cruise ship pastry chef, strolls by the dilapidated storefront. She falls in love with it as soon as she steps through the door. Annie buys the old bakery and scrubs and polishes everything until it shines.

That night Annie goes straight to work on a puff pastry. Around midnight footsteps creak overhead, a cold wind sweeps the room, and mixing bowls topple to the floor. Annie keeps working. When she’s finished she dusts off her hands, turns around, and finds herself staring into ghostly eyes. “‘Miss Cora Lee Merriweather, I’ve been expecting you,” she says.

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Get out of my kitchen!” Cora says. But Annie is not intimidated. “This is my kitchen now,” she tells Cora. And what’s more, even though Cora may have been the best baker in the state, Annie tells her that she was the best pastry chef to ever sail on the Sea Star cruise ships. Come typhoon, tsunami, or shipwreck, she never left a kitchen until she was finished.

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Cora tries every trick in the book—she shrieks, flings utensils, rises up through the dough Annie’s kneading, shatters eggs, and as dawn breaks scatters a 50-pound bag of flour across the kitchen. All right, Annie says, “What can I do so you’ll leave me in peace?” Cora has a ready answer: “Make me a cake so rich and so sweet, it will fill me up and bring tears to my eyes. A cake like one I might have baked, but that no one ever made for me.” “Piece of cake,” replies Annie.

Annie makes every cake she knows and Cora critiques them. But none fill her up or bring a tear to her eye. Annie grows to respect the ghost’s advice, but she wants her kitchen back. After a month and hundreds of cakes, Annie is out of ideas. She goes to the library to research more recipes. There she finds a small book on town history, and after reading it, she knows just what kind of cake to bake.

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

That night at midnight Cora appears, and Annie is ready. She lifts the cover on a very special cake. “Across the top, in piped icing, it read, ‘Happy Birthday, Cora Lee.’” The ghost looks at Annie with tears in her eyes. “‘How did you know?’” Cora asks. Annie reveals the secrets of her research then adds, “Besides, who ever makes a cake for the baker?” With tears streaming down her face, Cora eats her slice of cake. When Annie offers her another, she declines. “‘I do believe I’m full.’”

Now everyone in town enjoys Washington and Merriweather Bake Shop, where the cakes are almost as good as Cora’s. But they never suspect that Cora Lee helps out in the kitchen. And the most beautiful cakes? Those are the birthday cakes Annie and Cora make for each other.

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Image copyright Marjorie Priceman, 2008. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A recipe for Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake follows the story.

The Bake Shop Ghost was first published in 2005 and made into a short film in 2009 starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Despite its age, however, this is a story that seems fresh every time it’s read. Jacqueline K. Ogburn plays out the story with such excellent pacing and details that the twist ending is a true surprise. Her descriptions of Cora Lee’s delicacies are mouthwatering and her metaphors just as downhome and tantalizing. Ogburn’s Annie will inspire young readers with her confidence, kindness, generosity, and enduring friendship. 

Marjorie Priceman illustrates The Bake Shop Ghost with verve and delicious colors that will make readers wish they could visit Merriweather’s to sample the desserts in the well-stocked cases. The sophisticated shop is no less inviting, with its delicate chandeliers, French café chairs, and homey details. Priceman infuses her pages with humorous details as well: as Cora is distracted with a sale, a dog licks icing off a wedding cake, and at Cora’s funeral the preacher, choir, and congregation shed copious tears as ethereal visions of the cakes they will miss float in the air. The scenes in which Cora’s ghost menaces the new shop owners are cleverly depicted with swoops of white that bear Cora’s face and hands floating above the disaster she causes.

Ages 4 -9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Paperback edition, 2008 | ISBN 978-0547076775

National Personal Chef Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Cora Lee Merriweather—and they’ll become one of your favorite confections too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

Picture Book Review

June 20 – World Refugee Day

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About the Holiday

On World Refugee Day, first celebrated in 2001, we commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

The Journey

By Francesca Sanna 

 

A child begins the story with a place—the family’s home in a city by the sea. The family used to visit the beach often, but not anymore, “because last year our lives changed forever,” the child reveals. “The war began,” the narrator says, turning their once-peaceful life into “chaos.” Not only was their city torn apart, the family was also, as “one day the war took [their] father.”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

The child’s mother is afraid of the darkness that has descended on them. One of her friends told her that many people are leaving, escaping to another country with high mountains. The two children ask their mother where and what this place is. She answers that “‘it is a safe place’” an then shows them pictures that contain unfamiliar trees and animals. She sighs and tells her son and daughter, “‘We will go there and not be frightened anymore.’”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Even though the children don’t want to leave, they pack up all their belongings and say goodbye to their friends. They leave at night so they won’t be caught. They travel for many days, taking various modes of transportation. With each change the family must leave more and more of their things behind.

When they reach the border, they are met by an enormous wall that they must climb over. But before they can, a guard stops them and tells them they cannot cross, that they must go back. The family has nowhere else to go, however, and they are very tired. They find a spot in the woods to sleep, but the strange noises keep the children awake. Their mother tells them not to be afraid, and in her arms they finally fall asleep as she cries silent tears.

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Suddenly, they hear shouting and see that the guards are looking for them. They run and run until they meet a man who takes them over the border. They come to the shores of a huge body of water that stretches far into the distance. The family must cross this water to be safe. They board a ferry loaded with other families and sail for days. On the way, they tell stories of the creatures who lurk in the waters below, “ready to gobble [them] up if the boat capsizes.” Other times they tell stories about magic fairies who live in the land they are going to—ones who have “magic spells to end the war.”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

In the dawn light, the children and their mother finally see land. They are close to the place where they will be safe, the mother says, but it requires many more days of train travel across many more borders. On the journey the child watches birds migrating just as they are and hopes that one day, like the birds, they will find a new home where they “can be safe and begin our story again.”

Francesca Sanna’s moving compilation of true immigrant stories into a powerful narrative that speaks for so many provides a compelling and sensitive way to discuss the world’s refugee crisis with children. Sanna’s straightforward storytelling allows children to understand the cause and effect relationship of the war on those it displaces. Her focus on the length and difficulty of the family’s journey gives young children—for whom even short times and distances can seem long—a starting point for deeper comprehension. Sanna tempers frightening aspects of the story with her calm delivery and peppering of courage on the part of the mother and children along the way.

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Sanna’s stunning and emotionally resonant artwork deftly presents the experiences of loss and love the story contains. Her use of the amorphous, seeping black images demonstrate the movement of the war and the ravages it imposes. Collage-like aspects to the illustrations gives readers much to talk about at varying age-appropriate levels. As the family’s journey begins, their suitcases and trunks filled with belongings are piled high, but as it continues, their luggage dwindles until only the most precious valuables remain—the two children and their mother. Sanna’s color pallet of oranges, reds, yellows, and greens are eye-catching and convey the urgency of the family’s plight. The final image of the mother, son, and daughter carried on the wind by a majestic bird offers the opportunity to talk about hope with young readers.

Ages 3 – 8

Flying Eye Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1909263994

Learn more about Francesca Sanna and her work on her website!

World Refugee Day Activity

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Learn to Say “Welcome” in Different Languages

 

With this printable Welcome sign, you can learn how to greet others in their native language!

Picture Book Review