June 2 – National Leave the Office Early Day

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About the Holiday

Would you like to spend less time at the office and more at home with your kids or just relaxing with a good book or favorite hobby? Employee productivity expert Laura Stack thought most people would say yes, so in 2004 she established today’s holiday to raise awareness of adjustments and strategies workers and management can take to make the work day more efficient and productive so that people can leave on time. A better balance between work and home life has benefits for people’s health, happiness, relationships, and their job itself. 

Somewhere in the City

Written by J. B. Frank | Illustrated by Yu Leng

 

The sun has set and it’s growing late. “Somewhere in the city,” Lucy peers out her window hoping to hear her dad’s footsteps amid the “bustle of the street below.” A dog across the street barks, and Lucy calls out “‘Daddy’s coming home.’” Across town Lucy’s father turns off his computer, grabs his briefcase and jacket and says goodbye to his coworkers. He rushes through the office lobby and “Swish, Swish” spins through the revolving door and onto the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-Lucy

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

While she waits, Lucy watches the baker mixing dough through the plate glass window. She stirs and stirs in a big bowl. “Somewhere in the city,” Daddy hurries past a musician “playing a lullaby to the people passing by.” Some friends who are listening invite Lucy’s dad to stop and chat, but he begs off, telling them he needs to get home to tuck his little one into bed. At home, Lucy yawns and puts on her pajamas. At the bus stop, a woman also yawns after a long day. The bus finally comes, but Lucy’s dad does not get off.

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

“Somewhere in the city” Daddy’s been delayed. When the path finally clears, he runs toward home. He passes a street performer and thinks how much Lucy would love it. Meanwhile, Lucy stretches out her time getting ready for bed, but her mom finally taps her watch and tells her it’s time for bed. But how can Lucy go to sleep without “hearing that special something?”

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Finally, Daddy is on the train and although Lucy is in bed, she’s not sleeping. She dances to the music floating through her window from the radio in the grocery store below, she plays with her cat, and at last she hears the door open. Snuggled up with Daddy as he reads her a story, Lucy rests “her head on his chest…hears that special something,” and sighs with contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-waiting

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Steeped in the sights, sounds, and pop-up events of a city and enriched by the urgency of a parent-child reunion for a daily tradition, J.B Frank’s story will delight kids and adults alike. Frank’s repeated phrase “somewhere in the city” makes the story universal while playing with pacing and enhancing Lucy’s and her father’s feelings. Children will love the back-and-forth storytelling that keeps tabs on Daddy’s progress through the city and Lucy’s attempts to delay bedtime. When Daddy finally makes it home, what Lucy has been waiting for will melt readers’ hearts.

Yu Leng’s realistic portrayals of the city share space with dreamlike whimsy in clever transitions that young readers will adore. As Lucy’s father rushes through the city, he meets up with surprising performers, a humorous delay that’s just right for little readers on their way to “counting sheep,” and other fun-living city folk. Just as charming is the view from Lucy’s window of the bakery, grocery store, bus stop and the rooms of her apartment home, all washed in a sleepy blue, punctuated by the welcoming golden glow of Lucy’s bedroom light. Lucy and her father’s facial expressions clearly show their changing emotions, and the final spreads of them sharing a special moment is heartwarming.

Enchanting, smart, and touching, Somewhere in the City would make a wonderful gift for dads anytime and especially for Father’s Day or for new dads. The book  is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2021| ISBN 978-1641702607

Discover more about J. B. Frank and her books on her website.

You can connect with Yu Leng on Instagram.

National Leave the Office Early Day Activity

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Briefcase Craft and Dream Job Application

 

Kids will have fun pretending to be dad or mom going off to the office with this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application! 

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Somewhere in the City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 4 – It’s National Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to gather with family and friends and spend those cold, indoor day baking your favorite recipes! Baking together is a great way to teach valuable cooking skills and a little math. Talking with kids while baking cane fun too! Tell old family stories, favorite recipes, and funny or memorable culinary experiences at school, home, or while eating out. Of course, the best part of baking together is eating the delicious meals or treats afterward!

There Are No Bears in This Bakery

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Muffin, the “whiskers” of the neighborhood assures readers that “there are no bears in Little Bear Bakery.” After all, he works the nightshift and knows everything that goes on. He knows the scratchy sounds of the mice, the clanging that means the raccoons are raiding the trash, and the flip flap of the bats. But he has to admit that last night there was a new sound: “grrrrrrrrrrr.” He went to investigate.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

“The air was cool and wet like a dog’s nose.” None of the regular creatures were in the alley, but “the bakery’s back window was open like a crooked smile.” And, again, Muffin heard, “grrrrrr.” He entered the bakery thinking that maybe the intruder was a mouse looking for sprinkles. Then he saw it. Was it a huge mouse? No. It was a tiny bear. The bear was surprised; Muffin was surprised; and Muffin’s tale? It “was the most surprised” of all. The “grrrrrrrr” was coming from the bear’s stomach.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Muffin knew just what to do. He gave the cub a slice of cake, let her choose a doughnut from the bakery case, and toppled over a canister of cookies so she could nibble a few. The bear’s belly stopped grumbling, but then the bakery seemed quiet – too quiet. Muffin looked around and saw something in the darkness. It turned out to be a huge bear, and suddenly Muffin was in the dark as he was enveloped in a big hug. “It was warm, like a bath mat in the sunshine. It smelled like that bath mat needed a bath.”

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The mama bear was a bit hungry too and scarfed down some sprinkles. As the sun came up, the bears crept out the window and down the alley toward the forest. With the nightshift over, Muffin headed home to wake up his sleeping human and tell his heroic tale. “It was a messy job,” he said, “but I handled it.” And as Muffin curled up on his pillow, he just happened to mention, “By the way, we’re out of donuts.” Among other things….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-are-no-bears-in-this-bakery-baked-goods

Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, 2019, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Julia Sarcone-Roach’s storytelling is as frisky as a kitten and full of hilarious and oh-so-apropos similes from a cat’s point of view. Sarcone-Roach imbues her little feline security guard with the supreme confidence and guilt-free consciousness that cat lovers will recognize. Kids and adults will enjoy the noir-tone of this wry narrator, and like the best parodies, the suspenseful buildups give way to laughs. Sweet moments abound during the off-hours snackfest, and as readers gaze into Muffin’s wide, “who-me?” eyes, they’ll know that after the clean-up there will still be cuddles for this adorable cat.

Sarcone-Roach’s nighttime illustrations are rich with humor and shadowy atmosphere as Muffin relates her suspenseful tale of how she rid the bakery of bears. Clever perspectives immerse readers in Muffin’s experience while also allowing them to laugh at the feline expressions that make these pets so beloved. The little bear cub is as cute as a mini-cupcake and as endearing as any child. Those readers with a cat “alarm clock” will appreciate the morning scene, and the final spread of the bakery will elicit an “Oh!” or two.

If you love any of these: cats, bears, bakeries, mysteries, or a story wonderfully told that kids will want to hear again and again, you’ll want to add There Are No Bears in This Bakery to your home, classroom, or public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399556654

Discover more about Julia Sarcone-Roach, her books, and her art on her website

National Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection 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!

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You can find There Are No Bears in This Bakery at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review