June 2 – National Trails Day

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About the Holiday

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of America’s National Trails System Act as well as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. National Trails Day invites people of all ages to discover the joys of hiking. With over 200,000 miles of trails to explore, there’s sure to be an adventure waiting for you! The American Hiking Society organizes events across the country to bring together hiking enthusiasts, introduce new hikers to this fun outdoor activity, and encourage people to become trail advocates and stewards of the land. To learn more about the day and fine an event near you, visit the American Hiking Society website.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com.

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel, 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, 2016, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel., 2016. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her work as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

National Trails Day Activity

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We Love Hiking! Coloring Page

 

These kids are having fun discovering nature along a beautiful hiking trail! Enjoy this printable We Love Hiking! Coloring Page then get out on a trail yourself!

Picture Book Review

November 8 – Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day

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About the Holiday

Hmm-mmm! Nothing satisfies quite as much as tangy, spicy dishes. Garlic, red pepper, ginger, mustard, cumin, and many other spices and flavors bring a tantalizing tingle to taste buds. Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to explore all the savory sensations of bold cuisine. You know how to celebrate! Visit your favorite restaurant or cook up your own zesty meal.

Tacos! An Interactive Recipe Book

Illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

 

Do you have all your ingredients? The tortillas, black beans, chicken, avocados, ears of corn, cabbage, radishes, lime, scallions, cilantro, cumin, ancho chili powder, and salt? How about mixing bowls, cutting boards, a pot, a skillet, and an array of utensils? Get ‘em! Got ‘em? Good! Now… “use the first cutting board and knife to cut the chicken into cubes and toss them in a bowl with the spices.” Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to one hour.

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Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon.

Next, cook the chicken in the skillet “until the pink color disappears.” While you’re waiting for the chicken to finish, grab the big knife and cut the vegetables. Now it’s time to use that avocado—plus the lime, salt, and a bit of cilantro—to make guacamole. Mash and stir all the ingredients until you’ve made a smooth, green paste.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tacos!-guacamole

Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon.

You can set the guacamole aside while you heat up the black beans in a pot and slice the corn kernels off the cob—zip! zip! zip! Now comes the building part! Gather all of your ingredients, plus any others you may like to add, like sour cream, cotija cheese, or pico de gallo and set to work! Warm your tortillas by “wrapping them in a damp paper towel and then in foil, and placing them in the oven for 10 minutes.”

Ahhh! Lay the warm tortillas on a plate and add the chicken, beans, corn, guacamole, and your favorite toppings. All that’s left is to fold your tortilla in half and take a bite. Hmm-mmm!

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Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon.

Lotta Nieminen’s Cook in a Book series of interactive cookbooks for kids (and fun-loving adults) are smart, refreshing, and addictively playful. Nieminen’s sophisticated art and color palette invite kids (and did I mention adults?) to play around with cooking through clever tabs flaps, wheels, and pull outs. In Tacos! readers sizzle up chicken through a pull tab that turns pink cubes to golden brown. On the next page, children can remove the cardboard knife and pretend to chop as the pull tab creates slices and dices of scallions, cabbage, and radishes.

Kids can put the knife back in its slot or use it on the next page to divide the avocado, which opens like a little book. By turning the wheel, children mix the guacamole ingredients from a light green to a rich green texture. The same wheel allows readers to stir the black beans on the stove when they turn the page. The mechanics at work between the thick board book pages make removing the corn kernels a joy. Slide the top of the ear down and kernels “fly” to each side accompanied by a rippling feel and sound.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tacos!-guacamole-mixing

Copyright Lotta Nieminen, 2017, courtesy of Phaidon.

With all the ingredients prepared, children come to Step 8, where a round of foil awaits. On the facing page a tortilla is ready. With just a pop of the finger hole, kids can lift the tortilla from its place, turn it to the plain side, and lay it on the foil. After a bit of waiting for it to “warm,” children (or adults!) can turn it over to where all the delicious toppings mingle, fold it in half, and…enjoy!

The text consists entirely of the recipe, with the directions described in easy-to-follow steps that are sprinkled across the pages, adding a jaunty energy to each spread.

Tacos!—as well as the other books in the series, Pancakes! and Pizza!—would make a fantastic gift for foodie kids and for children who love playing with toy kitchens or in the real thing. Tor the HGTV crowd, the book would be a happy surprise as a housewarming or holiday gift.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

To learn more about Lotta Nieminen and view a gallery of her graphic design and illustration work, visit her website.

Phaidon, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875057

Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day Activity

 

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Spice Bottle Penguins

 

After you’ve used all the spicy goodness, make some cold-weather friends from those little bottles with this fun craft!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

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You can find Tacos! An Interactive Recipe Book at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review