August 22 – National Bao Day

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About the Holiday

National Bao Day, established as an annual holiday in 2017, was founded by Wow Bao to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of their first restaurant in Chicago on August 22 and to honor the ancient Chinese tradition of bao. To celebrate today, order dinner from your favorite Chinese restaurant or make this delicious meal at home.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Written by Kat Zhang | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Amy can do lots of things well. She can even multitask. But when it comes to making the perfect bao—the thing she wants to do most of all—she has no luck. “Sometimes they come out too small. Sometimes they come out too big.” Sometimes the filling is oozing from the top; sometimes the bao is empty; and then there are the times when the whole bao crumbles before she can even eat it. Everyone else in the family can make a perfect bao. “Their bao are soft and fluffy and so, so delicious.”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Today, Amy has decided, is the day she will do it. “She’s going to make the world’s most perfect bao.” Her dad helps her mix up the dough. Then they knead it and pound it and leave it to rise. Soon the little lump of dough fills the bowl. Amy’s dad squashes it, rolls it, and cuts little rounds while Amy’s mom makes the filling on the stove.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Now it’s time to make the bao. Amy’s mom, dad, and grandma gather at the table and start filling the dough. Amy fills a round too, but turns out a little lumpy, so she tries again. This one is too full and no matter how much she pinches the top, it just doesn’t close right. Her dad, mom, and grandma are all making perfect bao. They try giving her advice, but it doesn’t help. Amy feels dejected. Then she has an idea. She looks at her hands, she looks at the grown-ups’ hands. She looks at the dough. “She whispers her idea into her grandma’s ear.” In a moment she has two “Amy-size pieces” of dough in her hands. She rolls out the dough, fills it just right, and “pinch, pinch, pinches it shut.” Amy holds up her “perfect bao!”

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

Amy makes perfect bao after perfect bao. Now it’s time to steam them. Inside the bamboo steamer are all of Amy’s bao—the good and the bad. When they’re done, the family sits down to munch. Amy eats two of her perfect bao. Then she eats one of her lesser attempts and discovers that it tastes just as good as the perfect ones. The next day she takes her bao to school to share at lunchtime, and her classmates think they are just perfect.

Amy’s family recipe for bao follows the story.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2019, text copyright Kat Shang, 2019. Courtesy of Aladdin.

In her charming culinary tale, Kat Zhang introduces a little girl who dreams of perfection. In Zhang’s straightforward storytelling, kids will recognize their own desires to reach perfect heights—whether in art, music, sports, or other activity. Kids will be captivated by the step-by-step process in making bao—especially if their own family has joined the bread-making phenomena of recent months. As Amy begins assembling her bao, only to have them turn our lumpy or empty once again, suspense builds. Amy’s realization of problem and solution is an empowering lesson for children struggling to achieve their own goals while her discovery that both perfect and imperfect bao are just as delicious is a reminder that perfection isn’t everything.

Charlene Chua’s Amy Wu is a powerhouse of enthusiasm and personality who tackles tasks with everything she’s got, and she has her heart set on making the perfect bao. Chua depicts Amy’s imagined perfect bun floating above her, surrounded by light and celebrated by a dragon and a fenghuang, humorously portraying the lofty goal Amy, like many kids attempting to achieve a goal, has given herself. As Amy sets her plan in motion on the appointed day, Chua realistically illustrates each step. Readers will empathize with images of Amy struggling to fill and close her bao, and a clever close-up illustration of Amy with her family behind her reflects the way people, advice, and even one’s own thoughts can intrude. When Amy realizes that the size of her hands in relation to the amount of dough is the problem, savvy readers may think back to the first spread, where Amy has similar problems with a toothpaste tube and her shoelaces. 

An empowering story, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao inspires children to keep striving to achieve their goals while including comforting reassurance for the journey along the way. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534411333

Discover more about Kat Zhang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bao Day Activity

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Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

 

Try your hand at making perfect – or not so perfect – bao. Either way, you know they’ll taste delicious! You can find Amy Wu’s family recipe at Simon & Schuster.

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

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You can find Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

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About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

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Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

National Apple Day Activity

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Apple Turn Over! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 7 -World Chocolate Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of World Chocolate Day is simple! Most likely instituted to celebrate the introduction of chocolate to Europe on July 7, 1550, the day gives people everywhere the perfect excuse to indulge in this favorite flavor sensation. You know what to do! Bake some brownies, order a double scoop of your favorite chocolate-based ice cream, make a chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting, of course), or whip up a batch of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, and enjoy!

Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family

By Elizabeth Zunon

 

It’s a little girl’s birthday, and she and her daddy are making her “family’s special celebration cake” while her mom “goes to pick up another treat.” While they bake, the girl’s father reminds her that “‘chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao.” The girl has never met her grandfather since he lives in Africa and she wonders if she is like him. Her father begins to tell her the story of his growing up on her Grandpa Cacao’s Ivory Coast farm.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As they add flour to the bowl, Daddy explains how her grandfather knew just when the fruit was ripe for picking. “Just like the way I can spot the end of summer from tinges of orange at the tips of treetops,” the girl thinks. Then, her father goes on, Grandpa Cacao expertly sliced the pods without damaging any of the beans inside. “‘Did you ever help?’” the girl asks as they melt the chocolate and butter for the cake. Her daddy says that everyone in the village worked together and that when he turned seven, he was allowed to help but only after he’d finished his homework and chores.

The white beans were put into pits lined with banana leaves and stirred periodically until they became light brown. Then they were moved to a cement floor to dry in the sun. The beans had to be taken in each night, and when storms came the beans had to be covered. The girl imagines her grandpa could smell the rain coming the way she could “smell a cold day.”

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

While they crack and add the eggs, the girl’s father tells her how the beans sounded and tasted when they were ready to sell. The story is making her hungry, and she wonders what Mommy could be bringing home. When he was older, Daddy says, he helped bag the beans to sell to the cacao buyers, who would send them to factories to be made into chocolate. With the money from the cacao beans, they bought “food, school supplies, uniforms, books, and fabric to have out special occasion clothes made.”

The cake batter is ready to pour into the pan, and she carries the big bowl to her daddy. She reminds him of Grandpa Cacao carrying a big basket of cacao pods. The thought makes them both smile. Then the girl’s thoughts return to what her mother is bringing home. Perhaps it’s a new dress or the puppy she wants. Daddy dips his finger in the chocolate batter and the girls licks the spoon. It makes him think of how he and the other kids snuck tastes “of the pulp from the cacao fruits or the candy-sweet drink” they made.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Baking in the oven, the cake smells delicious. Just as the timer rings, the doorbell chimes. When the girl opens it, she sees her mommy with an older man she’s never seen before. “‘Happy Birthday!’” he says, and the girl recognizes his voice from their phone calls. He hugs her and then gives her a big orange pod. It’s her birthday present, he tells her. But being with her Grandpa Cacao is “the best birthday present ever in the world.”

An Author’s Note following the text describes Elizabeth Zunon’s childhood in Abidjan, the realities of the cacao trade and Fair Trade products and a bit about how the illustrations were created. There are also brief discussions on the science and history of chocolate as well as a page on how cacao goes from bean to treat. Bakers will also be pleased to see the recipe for the special Chocolate Celebration Cake made in the story.

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Copyright Elizabeth Zunon, 2019, courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Elizabeth Zunon’s celebration of family and pride in one’s heritage is a compelling read that shines with a strong father – daughter relationship, shared memories, and the joys of working together. The warmth shared by the girl and her daddy is evident as she revels in hearing the story of Grandpa Cacao and identifying with him even though he lives far away. Zunon’s smooth delivery of Grandpa Cacao and Daddy’s story imparts fascinating details of how cacao is grown, harvested, and prepared for sale. While the little girl may wish for a new dress or a puppy, she is happier with the surprise of meeting her grandfather at last.

Zunon’s mixed-media, collage style illustrations beautifully meld the world inside the family kitchen with the girl’s imagining of life in Africa on Grandpa Cacao’s farm. The opaque screen-printed images of Grandpa Cacao, the girl’s father as a child and young man, and the other villagers, are powerful reminders to readers that their family and family history is always with them and supporting them.

A unique book to share during family story time, in the classroom, or during a library program, Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family would be a much-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections. And don’t forget to include cake!

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1681196404

Discover more about Elizabeth Zunon, her books, and her art on her website.

World Chocolate Day Activity

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My Kids’ Favorite Brownies from Cookies & Cups, copyright Shelly Jaronsky, January 29, 2019. Courtesy of cookies&cups.com.

Cookies & Cups My Kids’ Favorite Brownies

 

If you’re looking for a scrumptious chocolatey brownie that melts in your mouth, look no further than Shelly Jaronsky’s My Kids’ Favorite Brownies recipe on Cookies & Cups. While you’re there, you’ll want to look around at all of Shelly’s delicious recipes! 

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You can find Grandpa Cocoa: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 9 – It’s National Sandwich Month

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About the Holiday

Did you know there are regulations to determine just what is and is not a sandwich? I didn’t either! It seems that the US Department of Agriculture has determined that for a… thing… to be considered a sandwich, it must contain at least 35% cooked meat and no more than 50% bread. So what about peanut butter? Or grilled cheese? Have we been playing fast and loose with the word “sandwich?” Oh well…. This month is dedicated to those delicious meals between bread that kids and adults take to school and the office, to picnics, and for quick noshes any time. To celebrate, there’s only one thing to do: build yourself the perfect sandwich—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of one copy of the book. See details below.

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich

Written by Linda Vander Heyden | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

“When Hannah was hungry and wanted to munch, / She’d stop at McDougal’s to order some lunch. / Now Hannah was tiny (in fact, quite petite), / But don’t let that fool you. Oh boy—could she eat!” When McDougal saw Hannah come through the door and order an “A to Z sandwich,” he wondered. And then, as Hannah recited the ingredients for her sandwich, he started to chop, mince, peel, and grate.

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The first six ingredients were prepared and laid on the bread, then Hannah inspected it closely. “‘Green peppers,’ said Hannah. ‘Sliced thin, if you please. / And drizzle on lots of sweet honey from bees. / “‘Add ice cream and jelly—then ketchup (two plops), / A freshly squeezed lemon—just ten tiny drops.’” The sandwich grew taller and wider as Hannah looked around McDougal’s for more ingredients. She wanted a dollop of this, and “lots of nuts, too,” but she wasn’t too hungry, so she told him “one olive will do.”

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

She directed more layers be added on top that included “‘a ride red tomato picked fresh off the vine. / And ugli fruit chopped up especially fine.’” Poor McDougal was working up such a sweat that he ended up with food in his hair. Was it done? the chef wondered, but Hannah wanted more. Just three little more additions for X, Y, and Z. Could McDougal do it? Could he finish that treat and give Hannah a sandwich she’d love to sit down and eat? You’ll see!

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Linda Vander Heyden’s hilarious tribute to the sandwich—and the alphabet—will delight kids who love to experiment with food, kids who will eat anything, and even kids who are a little more discriminating in their diet choices. Heyden’s bouncy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and kids will giggle and laugh out loud as each of the 26 ingredients are added to the towering sandwich. The combination of ingredients will produce plenty of fun “ewwws” as well as cheers as favorite foods are mentioned. A few foods that fill out the alphabetic order and are perhaps unfamiliar to readers will have kids doing a little research. The surprise ending will have kids and adults laughing, and you can bet that post-reading activities will include building a unique sandwich of their own.

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Kayla Harren’s red-haired, freckled Hannah is a mischievous cutie who knows exactly what she likes. As Hannah points out ingredients on the chef’s well-stocked shelves or “helps out” in the kitchen, McDougal’s skills are put to the test as he chops, minces, and grates with intensity surrounded by flying ingredients. As he adds just the perfect dollops of condiments to his masterpiece or gingerly places one olive on the slippery slope the sandwich has become, his eyes grow wide. Taking center stage, of course, is Hannah’s sandwich—an abstract work of art of various colors and textures. Watching this most unusual order come together is a full house of diverse customers, including a girl in a wheelchair. Various perspectives, the use of motion, and the exaggerated-but-spot-on facial expressions add to the exuberant fun.

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich will be happily devoured by young readers. The book makes a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves and would be a rib-tickling back-to-school gift for kids or teachers.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363827

Discover more about Linda Vander Heyden and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sandwich Month Activity

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Scrumptious Sandwiches Word Scramble 

 

Sandwiches are fun to build and delicious to eat! The only hard part is trying to figure out which kind to have. Maybe this list will help! Print this Scrumptious Sandwiches Puzzle and unscramble the names to pick your favorite. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 17 – Homemade Bread Day

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About the Holiday

As the holiday season approaches and with Thanksgiving Day right around the corner, it’s time to think about homemade goodies. One of the most satisfying treats is homemade bread, with its dense and yeasty deliciousness. Served warm out of the oven with a bit of butter or sliced for sandwiches or toast later, homemade bread is a luxury worth making. Celebrate today’s holiday by checking out some bread recipes and spending a bit of time in the kitchen with loved ones baking bread. It may be all you knead to make this Thanksgiving and holiday season the best ever!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

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My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe-box-label

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe-cards

Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

Picture Book Review

September 5 – Cheese Pizza Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pizza!-an-interactive-recipe-book-cover

About the Holiday

If you’re wondering what you should have for dinner or lunch…or…heck—even breakfast!—ponder no longer. It’s Cheese Pizza Day, which gives you carte blanche to indulge in this hot, bubbly favorite any time today. And even though the official holiday only mentions cheese, I don’t think anyone will mind if you add a few toppings!

Pizza! An Interactive Recipe Book

Illistrated by Lotta Nieminen

 

Out of the frying pan and into the oven, Lotta Nieminen cooks up another delicious “cook in a book” offering. This time kids are making pizza! The first two pages lay out all the ingredients and utensils they will need to create a scrumptious cheese pizza. Once the flour, yeast, sea salt, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, sugar, and water are assembled, it’s time to get out the bowls, spoons, measuring cup, knife, and damp dishtowel.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pizza!-an-interactive-recipe-book-ingredients

Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

In Steps 1 and 2, little chefs combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl. As they “let it sit for a few minutes until bubbly,” they grab the large bowl. With the magic of a pull tab, the dusty flour and tiny salt crystals flow into the bowl. Next it’s time to “drizzle in the olive oil” and add the yeast mixture. The pull tab makes sure nothing spills! Now, push the spoon back and forth to mix it up into one “big clump of dough!”

Step 4 is even more fun! Kids get to knead the squishy dough before putting it in the bowl and covering it with the cloth. One to two hours later—or with the turn of the page!—the dough is ready to be placed on cooking sheets. Now, preheat the oven to 500 degrees! Just roll the wheel and watch the numbers rise. When you get to 500, you can stop! Open the oven door and pop those pans right inside.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pizza!-an-interactive-recipe-book-adding-flour

Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

When the crusts are ready, take them out of the oven and use the wooden spoon to swirl on the tomato sauce—Ooo! It’s kind of mesmerizing! Step 9 is where the toppings come in. Would you choose peppers, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms, garlic, basil, olives? Or maybe a bit of everything!? Now that all the toppings are…on top, it’s time for “Step 10: Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown.”

Hmmmm! The pizzas look sooo delicious! Quick, get the pizza cutter and cut a slice! Lift it out with your fingers…and eat! (Well, pretend to anyway!)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pizza!-an-interactive-recipe-book-slice

Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Lotta Nieminen’s Cook in a Book board books for kids (and anyone who enjoys cooking and playing) are fun from yummy beginning to delectable end. The text of Pizza! is a recipe that young and adult readers will be tempted to try themselves, but the true joy resides in Nieminen’s smart, sophisticated illustrations. Each page entices readers to interact with the directions with delightfully sequenced actions that invite repeat play. The yellow kneadable “dough” is an ingenious inclusion, and is as much of a stress reliever as it is fun.

Throughout, Pizza! offers plenty of opportunities for children and adults to talk about cooking, utensils, ingredients, and even memories of times spent together. The wheel on the oven is a great way to teach kids about rising temperature and counting by twenty-five. The final page fulfills the promise of the book with a sturdy slice of pizza that can be removed and enjoyed.

Pizza! makes a wonderful gift for children and a unique hostess, new home, bridal shower or other gift for adults. It would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 6 and up

Phaidon Press, 2017 |ISBN 978-0714874098

Discover a gallery of graphic design and illustration work by Lotta Nieminen on her website!

Cheese Pizza Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pizza-toppings-word-search

 What’s Your Favorite Topping? Word Search

 

Cheese pizza is great on its own! It also makes the perfect canvas for lots of toppings! Can you find eighteen delicious ingredients in this printable What’s Your Favorite Topping? Word Search? 

 

Picture Book Review

April 3 – National Find a Rainbow Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-cover

About the Holiday

It’s not often someone wishes you a rainy day. Today, though, I’m doing just that because you can’t see a rainbow without a little of the wet stuff. This early spring month was chosen for this special day because, as we all know, April showers bring May flowers. Those same April showers lead to beautiful rainbows—even double rainbows sometimes! So, I hope you have a bad (weather) day and good luck finding a rainbow today! By the way—what do May flowers bring? Right! Pilgrims!

Rainbow Stew

By Cathryn Falwell

 

Grandpa’s making pancakes for his three favorite kids, and his granddaughter and two grandsons are excited to be visiting where they can play outside all day. Through the window the kids see that it’s a rainy day. Does this mean they’ll have to stay inside? Their grandpa knows just what to do! “Let’s go and find some colors for my famous Rainbow Stew!” he says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-picking-vegetables

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, 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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-stew-interior-art-in-the-garden

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, 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-interior-art-cooking-together

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

Cathryn Falwell’s Rainbow Stew is a wonderful book to share with young children on many levels. The bright colors of Grandpa’s house mirror the vividness of the garden vegetables in his stew, which could be made into a matching game for extra fun. The rhyming verses—each begun with an energetic couplet that would be fun for kids to repeat or act out—draw listeners into the story. Introducing colors through familiar and delicious vegetables can get kids excited about gardening, cooking, even going to the grocery store.

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.

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

Image copyright Catherine Falwell, 2013, courtesy of rainbowstewbook.com

A recipe for Rainbow Stew follows the story. Combined with the craft below, the book and recipe could make for a fun rainy-day get-together!

Ages 4 – 7

Lee & Low Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1600608476 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1643790572 (Paperback, 2019)

National Find a Rainbow Day Activity

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 3

Crayon Rainbow Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 2

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 1 (2)

Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. Glue the crayons with their tips facing down to the board with the hot glue gun
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the poster board shape onto the corrugated cardboard, let dry
  8. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons
  9. Set up a space to melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  10. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  11. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  12. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter
  13. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  14. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  15. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  16. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  17. Hang or display your art!