February 25 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Whether you and your family have always liked to bake together or you’ve found a new hobby in the past year, February is a great time to scour cookbooks or find recipes online and add some new taste sensations to your traditional favorites. Baking together teaches valuable cooking skills and is a creative way to engage with math. It can also bring your family closer as you talk about old memories that revolve around baking or cooking and make memories for the future. Of course the best part of baking together is eating the delicious treats afterward!

Ginger and Chrysanthemum

Written by Kristen Mai Giang | Illustrated by Shirley Chan

 

Ginger has come to visit her cousin Chrysanthemum. “They’re as close as two beans in a pod,” but they don’t always see things the same way. Today is their grandmother’s birthday, and they want to make it perfect. Chrysanthemum has made a list of things they must do. First, she says they must dress up. While Chrysanthemum puts on the tidy checked dress she brought along and slips on a matching headband and cool, white sandals, Ginger tries on everything in her closet.

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Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

When Ginger’s ready, Chrysanthemum consults her list again and finds it’s time to shop for decorations and a gift and then head to Grandma’s New Asian Kitchen restaurant to decorate. Ginger doesn’t want to take time to read a list, though, and pulls her cousin out the door. They hurry to the market to do their shopping. Ginger finds paper lanterns in every color and thinks it’s fun to balance a stack of them on her head. Chrysanthemum knows Grandma loves flowers and chooses ginger and chrysanthemum flowers for the party. For Grandma’s gift, they buy a jade pendant.

One thing the cousins do agree on is that they love to help out at the grandmother’s restaurant. While each girl has their own favorite job to do, today they are decorating together. Ginger is running around hanging lanterns and Chrysanthemum  is carefully placing flowers on the tables when Grandma asks which of them would like to bake the birthday cake. Ginger has visions of making “an AMAZING cake with BLAZING candles” while Chrysanthemum says, “‘I’ll make a cake light and cool as a cloud.’” Grandma suggests they work together to make her green tea cake.

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Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Ginger rushes around the kitchen, banging pans and rattling bowls; Chrysanthemum makes another list and patiently lays out all of her utensils and ingredients. Ginger is mixing the flour, eggs, and sugar with such vigor that the batter splashes everywhere. “‘Ginger, you’re too messy,’” Chrysanthemum tells her. Ginger is upset with how slowly Chrysanthemum is working. “Chrysanthemum steams like a teapot.”

Both girls reach for the green tea powder at the same time, but Ginger’s faster and dumps it in the bowl. Chrysanthemum yells at her cousin that she’s not following the recipe, but Ginger grumbles that “‘a recipe is just a fancy list.’” With the cake ruined, the girls take a break and decide to make another cake. But there’s no more green tea powder. They mull over the problem then Ginger suggests using chrysanthemum tea instead of green tea, and Chrysanthemum thinks of using ginger ice cream for the frosting. Ginger cleans up the mess while Chrysanthemum measures out the ingredients. “Ginger mixes. Chrysanthemum pours.” When they lick the spoon, the batter tastes delicious.

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Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

At the party, Chrysanthemum and Ginger take Grandma by the arms and lead her over to show her their cake. “The cake looks a little lopsided, the color slightly strange…. Ginger and Chrysanthemum hold hands – and their breath” as Grandma takes a bite. “She loves it!” She hugs her “little soybeans.” Then Ginger and Chrysanthemum share a slice. “Warm cake, cool icing. Perfect together. Like two beans in a pod.”

An Author’s note explaining the traditional Chinese belief that foods have warming or cooling characteristics and should, ideally, create a balance follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-party

Image copyright Shirley Chan, 2020, text copyright Kristen Mai Giang, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

In her entertaining story of two cousins with opposite personalities, Kristen Mai Giang cleverly uses the Chinese concept of warm and cool foods to create impulsive Ginger and precise Chrysanthemum. As the girls dress and shop for Grandma’s party, readers will be charmed by the cousins while giggling at their differences. When mishaps while baking Grandma’s cake fray their nerves and lead to angry words, Giang introduces a gentle lesson on how to get back on track and cooperation. While taking a break, Ginger and Chrysanthemum rely on their close relationship to come up with a solution that pleases them both. Kids will appreciate the ingenuity in their new recipe that combines both of their personalities and may be inspired to try making up a cake recipe of their own.

Shirley Chan clearly sketches out Ginger and Chrysanthemum’s opposite personalities in the first pages as Ginger stands in the middle of her messy room sporting a mix-and-match outfit appropriate for a rock star while Chrysanthemum channels a runway model in her perfectly accessorized dress. Spontaneous kids will identify with Chan’s depictions of Ginger playing around at the market while careful children will admire Chrysanthemum’s thoughtfulness in choosing just the right flowers. Chan’s images of the two spirited girls in the kitchen will enchant young readers, and the party scene is vibrant and inviting.

A creative and relatable story to inspire teamwork and a celebration of individuality, Ginger and Chrysanthemum would be an engaging addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Levine Querido, 2020 | ISBN 978-1646140015

Discover more about Kristen Mai Giang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shirley Chan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ginger-and-chrysanthemum-cover

You can find Ginger and Chrysanthemum at these booksellers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 26 – International Dog Day

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About the Holiday

International Dog Day was established in 2004 by Colleen Paige to raise awareness of all the dogs who need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. This month is also National Family Fun Month, and as pet owners know, the special times we spend with our furry, feathered, or other friends add up to lots of family fun. 

This Old Dog

Written by Martha Brockenbrough | Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

 

In the morning, old dog opens his eyes and greets the sun. “His bones are sore but his heart is strong.” He leaves his bed and stretches. He has breakfast and then asks for a walk. But there’s a new baby in the house, and while old dog likes to take things slow, “the speed of life since the girl was born is fast, fast, fast…” and his walks are too.

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Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

When he gets home, he “drifts to sleep in a stripe of sun and dreams of days gone by….Of long walks and deep sniffs.” When he wakes up, he wishes he had a friend who saw grass and leaf piles and stones the way he did; someone he could go on nice long walks with. But there is no one. Until…the girl takes one shaky step and then another and another “all the way to him.”

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Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Now “old dog and small girl walk side by side.” They stop in the grass and “roll down the hill.” She plays with old dog and makes him feel young again. His heart and his tail go “THUMP-THUMP!” Her feet go “THUMP-THUMP!” That night they fall asleep in the same strip of moonlight and “meet in a dream…” where they “walk side by side through the world, the wonderful world.”

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Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

You don’t need to own a dog for Martha Brockenbrough’s story to melt your heart. Her short, straightforward sentences are carried on a leisurely, dreamy rhythm, giving them emotional impact and allowing readers to relive the good days, when there was all the time in the world, with old dog. Her lyrical language is endearingly dog-centric, but when the girl comes on the scene, readers will see that each example of old dog’s favorite things also applies to toddlers and young children. That old dog gets to slow down and enjoy life at his speed with the little girl may bring a tear to adult readers while kids will embrace the spontaneity and unspoken understanding between these two kindred spirits. Perfectly paced and with specific details borne of love for dogs and children, Brockenbrough’s This Old Dog offers the comfort of enduring friendship and the joy of discovering—and rediscovering—the world with a loved one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-side-by-side

Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Gabriel Alborozo’s small, long-haired dog, gray and slowed by age yet still lively in spirit is as cute as they come. The front endpaper, which shows a dog’s-eye-view of a man and a very pregnant woman setting up a nursery gives children a hint of the changes to come in old dog’s home. As old dog is introduced, scattered toys and a photograph of a little girl on the windowsill show the progression of time. From the adults’ rushing legs to the first glimpse of the girl walking, each spread depicts old dog’s perspective, mirroring the emotional pull of the text.

What old dog wants in a walk and what he dreams of in his afternoon nap are contrasted with his new reality with images of his collar being tugged by the leash left, right, and forward as he stops to sniff the grass or listen to the breeze. In his sweet remembrances of past carefree days, old dog has no leash. Readers will be cheered to see that as he and the little girl play together he once again is let off the leash to share his old and her new favorite activities. Alborozo’s delicate lines and cartoon-inspired images are just right for portraying old dog’s dreams, emotions, and special times shared with the little girl. Humorous touches and old dog’s expressive face add visual depth and understanding to this special tale.

Moving, sweet, and reaffirming, This Old Dog is a must and will quickly become a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Levine Querido, 2020 | ISBN 978-1646140107

Discover more about Martha Brockenbrough and her books on her website.

To learn more about Gabriel Alborozo, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Dog Day Activity

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I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you love dogs, you’ll have fun discovering the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Dogs! Word Search Solution

For younger kids, here’s a matching puzzle!

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find This Old Dog at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound | The Neverending Bookshop (preorder before September 1 to receive a signed book and special dog tag necklace)

Picture Book Review