November 15 – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

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About the Holiday

The holidays are coming, and today’s holiday offers the perfect opportunity to really look deep into your fridge and toss any of those leftovers or nearly empty jars to make way for the special dinners and treats to come. This season of favorite foods won’t be complete, though, without the newest book in the beloved Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series to share!

Thanks to Josh Funk for sharing a digital copy of The Great Caper Caper with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Great Caper Caper (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #5)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

It was still nighttime “deep in the fridge” when Sir French Toast woke Lady Pancake with a scream. When she sleepily meets him in the living room, Toast tells her that the Great Light has disappeared. She doesn’t believe him at first. “‘Nonsense,’ said Pancake. ‘Crack open the drapes.’ / But as she gazed out, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, my crêpes!’” It was true. “All of the fridge was consumed by the dark. / From Lentil Soup Springs up to Passionfruit Park.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Then Pancake noticed a light shining in the distance. They hurried toward it and found themselves in Las Veggies, where a gleaming Tower dominated the landscape. As soon as Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake entered the door, they demanded to know who was in charge. “A salty green bud with an odor of brine, / Answered the question: ‘This tower is mine!’” He introduced himself as Count Caper, “the richest, most powerful food” and mocked Pancake’s idea that he had stolen the Great Light. Then he threw them out of Las Veggies Tower. On the way home, French Toast seemed distressed, but Pancake told him she had a plan all figured out.

Back in their rooms, Pancake and Toast assembled a team of eight friends they’d made through their many adventures together, and Pancake explained the scheme she had in mind. The crew set right to work, infiltrating Count Caper’s inner sanctum for reconnaissance, gathering the supplies they’d need, and devising a creative diversion. At last the time came to put their plan into motion, and the team descended surreptitiously on a Las Veggies Tower showroom. Disguised as audience members, Croissant, Tofu, Pancake, and Toast took their places close to Count Caper’s table as the Beets took the stage. In a moment they had unboxed a commotion of animal crackers that sent Count Caper’s guards running, and Pancake’s plan progressed without a hitch.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

They had just gained access to Count Caper’s office and discovered the hidden Great Light when Count Caper appeared. When confronted with his crime he caved, relating that he’d been scorned all his life and left in the shadows. He’d decided he’d had enough and wanted to bask in the star-making glow of the Great Light. Having confessed, he then ordered his guards to capture Pancake, Toast, and their friends.

But before they could, one of Pancake’s team member from Caper’s own inside circle stepped forward and gave his boss with an alternate scenario—and future. Count Caper looked around at the ten he had captured. They were smiling and hopeful, true friends all together. Again Caper relented and told them to just take the light. He “…then let out a moan. ‘Leave me to sulk in the dark all alone.’” This time, it was Lady Pancake who had an offer to make, and she invited Count Caper to help them reinstall the Great Light to its proper place. Now with the light safe and secure, it was time to go on with the show.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Returning to Josh Funk’s imaginative world with this fifth book in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is just like peering into your own refrigerator with a bad case of the munchies and finding your favorite dessert waiting just for you. The first glimpse into Funk’s fridge immediately welcomes readers back to the clever food-inspired landscape and the promise of a surprising adventure to come. This time, Pancake and Toast team up in a buddy heist escapade that spools out with the same charm, humor, and camaraderie that makes this genre a favorite.

Funk’s nimble wordplay and smart rhymes give the story a brisk energy that will keep kids guessing at how Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast will resolve their dilemma while staying true to the series’ focus on friendship and welcoming new pals to the fold. And all wrapped up with the eagerly anticipated group party at the end.

Speaking of that party, Brendan Kearney once again gets everyone out on the dance floor with a twinkling disco ball, shining spotlights, and VIP tables sprinkled near the stage where a very special guest gets ready to sing. Leading up to this celebration, Kearney takes kids back to this one-of-a-kind fridge, with its rolling hills, wide lakes, deep valleys, and—who knew?—the glitz, glamour, and Great Light of Las Veggies! Count Caper’s office is, appropriately, furnished with others of his ilk, including jarred pickles, peppers, and pearl onions. And his desk? A tin of “extra briney” anchovies.

Kids will have fun joining in on the subterfuge as disguised (but still recognizable to young readers) Croissant, Fruitcake, Brie, and the others spy on Count Caper. When he’s caught, the cheerful group dynamics extends companionship not only to Count Caper but to readers—who will enthusiastically accept—as well.

Shining a light on friendship and second chances, The Great Caper Caper provides lively, high-style hijinks entertainment and will be a favorite read aloud on home bookshelves, whether you’re adding to the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series or discovering it for the first time. For school and public library collections, this book and the others in the series are a must.

Ages 4 – 8

Union Square Kids. 2022 | ISBN 978-1454943631

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Josh Funk Headshot-Credit Carter Hasegawa

Josh Funk is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. His other works include, How to Code a Sandcastle, Lost in the LibraryAlbie Newton, and more. Josh lives in Massachusetts and invites you to learn more about him by visiting joshfunkbooks.com.

About the Illustrator

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Brendan Kearney is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. Brendan also is the author-illustrator of ForestThe Night the Moon Went Missing, and Fish. He currently lives in the UK with his family and invites you to learn more about him by visiting brendandraws.com.

Snack on this book trailer for The Great Caper Caper

There’s no expiration date on all the fun in these fantastic blogs! See what’s inside!

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Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day Activity

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Friendship is Illuminating! Maze

 

You can solve almost any dilemma with friends! In this maze these two friends want to shine together! Can you help the lightbulb at the top find a way through the maze, while picking up some pals along the way in this printable puzzle?

Friendship is Illuminating! Maze and Solution

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You can find The Great Caper Caper at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 10 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

I must confess that this is one of my favorite holidays. To me there’s nothing better than waking up with a well-steeped cup of tea, writing while a favorite mug brimming with hot tea sweetened with honey sits nearby, enjoying scones with clotted cream and jam and a hot cuppa…well…you get the picture. People have drunk tea since earliest times for its soothing and medicinal properties. Mellower than coffee and available in endless varieties and tastes, hot tea is just the thing for relaxing moments. Today, enjoy your favorite tea or try a new kind! There’s a world of tea to be discovered – as today’s book reveals!

Thank you to Greystone Books for sharing a copy of Teatime Around the World with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Teatime Around the World

Written by Denyse Waissbluth | Illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne

 

Two women sit at a table with steaming cups of tea in front of them, talking. “Tea for one. Tea for two.” To the side sits a teapot, its contents still warm. At their feet a child is having a tea party with a bear, jauntily clad in a feathered hat. Cookies, strawberries, and croissants fill out this feast served from a special tea set. “Tea for me. Tea for you.” Tea time continues in Morocco, where a father and child kneel on pillows. The father pours out three cups of mint tea. Made with green tea, mint, and sugar, each cup of tea will have “a slightly different taste.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

In India a street vendor sells a cup of masala chai to a woman, who’s looking for a peaceful break during her day. The “strong tea and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper…boiled with milk and sweetened” will hit the spot. Hot tea is relaxing, but on a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of iced tea. In Thailand, locals and tourists enjoy cha yen, sold from street vendors’ carts. This “strongly brewed sweet tea is poured over ice and drunk from a bag through a straw. Indigenous people in North America soothe fevers, colds, sore muscles, and even sleepless nights with tea made from “berries, plants, and roots.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Special tea times—like chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony during which matcha, a powdered green tea is served, and afternoon tea, enjoyed with trays of treats world wide—bring people together for comforting respites. You’ll be interested to discover the origins of afternoon tea too! Tea can be served quietly or dramatically, like “teh tarik, or pulled tea…the national drink of Malaysia,” is “poured from up high, or ‘pulled’ between two mugs, to make it frothy.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Tea is as old as its discovery thousands of years ago in China and as new as bubble tea, created in Taiwan in the 1980s. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, yerba maté tea is served in hollowed-out gourds with a “special straw called a bombilla,” while in Jamaica sorrel, made from roselle hibiscus buds, “spiced with ginger, cloves, and sugar,” is perfect for any festive occasion. No matter where you live, what flavors of tea you enjoy, or how you serve it, you can always count on “tea for one. / Tea for two. / Loved by all / the whole world through.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

With a lilting poem that flows from page to page, Denyse Waissbluth introduces unique flavors, special brew methods, and the comforting feeling a cup of hot or iced tea infuses into a day. The shared experience of tea drinking provides a fascinating touchstone for Waissbluth’s travelogue that takes kids around the world to experience the rituals, recipes, and traditions from each country that make their tea unique. Waissbluth’s conversational style will appeal to kids looking to learn how global cultures are similar to and different from their own.

Chelsea O’Byrne’s lovely matte illustrations take children to cities, the countryside, and the seaside around the globe, revealing not only diverse scenes of how tea is made, served, and enjoyed, but homes, food, and clothing as well. Children will be excited to see such homey and intimate portraits of their peers around the world.

Sure to spur readers to learn more about the countries featured and entice them to try their signature teas, Teatime Around the World would enhance geography, history, and multicultural lessons for school and homeschooling and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Greystone Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1771646017

You can connect with Denyse Waissbluth on Instagram.

To learn more about Chelsea O’Byrne, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Hot Tea Month Activity

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Tea for You! Word Search

 

Can you find the names of eighteen delicious teas from around the world in this printable puzzle?

Tea for You! Word Search Puzzle | Tea for You! Word Search Solution

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You can find Teatime Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 23 – It’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Sweet potatoes are yummy and satisfying—and they’re healthy! Full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, sweet potatoes make delicious side dishes for almost any meal. Sweet potato fries, muffins, pies, and—of course—casserole are just a few of the ways you can enjoy this natural treat. To celebrate today’s holiday, cook up your favorite recipe and discover some new ones!

Little Chef

Written by Matt Stine & Elisabeth Weinberg | Illustrated by Paige Keiser

 

Lizzie is a little girl who has always loved to cook. In fact, her mom and dad call her “their Little Chef.” She has her own chef’s uniform, complete with hat, and doesn’t mind the long hours a chef has to keep. Today, Lizzie is extra excited because “Grandmas is coming over for dinner!” Lizzie has learned all of her cooking skills from her Grandma, and tonight she is going to prepare a special dinner just for her.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Lizzie knows she’ll need extra energy today, so she’s starting off by making her “famous scrambled eggs.” She whips eggs in a bowl with a fork and adds salt and pepper. After breakfast, Lizzie and her mom get ready to go to the farmers’ market to buy the ingredients for “Grandma’s Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.” Lizzie wants Grandma to see that she “can cook just like her.” At the farmers’ market, Lizzie picks out the freshest sweet potatoes she can find. Back home, Mom and Dad peel and chop the potatoes and help Lizzie put them into the big pot of boiling water. When the potatoes are soft, it’s time for “the best part about making Smashed Sweet Potatoes. Smashing them!”

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Then “it’s time to add the secret ingredient! Grandma says every great recipe has one. It makes a chef’s food taste extra special and delicious.” But when Lizzie consults the recipe, no secret ingredient is listed. Lizzie decides she will just have to add one of her own. She looks in the spice cabinet and after going through bottle after bottle, she finds the perfect one. Lizzie gives her finished Smashed Sweet Potatoes a taste and waits for Grandma. Finally, Grandma arrives and everyone sits down to dinner. When Daddy tastes the sweet potatoes, he says, “‘Mmm!’” Mommy says, “‘ Mmmm!’” too.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

But what will Grandma say? Grandma takes a bite and exclaims, “‘These are even BETTER than my own Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.’” Then Grandma wants to know what Lizzie’s secret ingredient is. But of course Lizzie can’t tell her that! Grandma picks up Lizzie and gives her a big hug. “‘…being with you is the best ingredient of all,’” she says. And as Lizzie lies in bed later that night, reading her cookbook by flashlight, she wonders what she’ll cook tomorrow.

A recipe for Chef Lizzie’s (Grandma’s) Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes that encourages young chefs to experiment with their own secret ingredient follows the story.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Kids who love to cook or help out in the kitchen will be delighted by Matt Stine and Elisabeth Weinberg’s story of a little girl who wants to impress the grandmother who inspires her. Lizzie’s enthusiasm for cooking and her confidence in her skills make this an uplifting tale for children of all talents. Lizzie’s special bond with her grandmother adds a tender family element to the story and her big-hearted nature makes her a sweet companion for little readers. The recipe included in the back of the book invites children to make Lizzie’s Smashed Sweet Potato recipe and find their own secret ingredient—an invitation few will be able to resist.

Adorable little Lizzie, with her wild frizz of hair is energetic, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and a free spirit. With dashes of humor, Paige Keiser follows her through a day of creating the perfect dinner for Grandma. Dressed in her chef’s uniform, Lizzie splashes her dog with egg, sends him sneezing in a cloud of pepper, and turns him orange as she whacks away at the soft chunks of sweet potatoes. Images of Mom and Dad happily encouraging and supporting Lizzie in her cooking are heartwarming, and Grandma’s big hug is as sweet as it gets.

A charming and inspiring story, Little Chef is a fun read for culinary kids and any child experimenting with their talent and striving to do their best. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and a great gift for grandmothers and grandkids to share.

Ages 2 – 6

Feiwel & Friends, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250091697

Discover more about Elisabeth Weinberg, executive chef and owner of Miss Elisabeth’s Catering in New York and a Food Network “Chopped” Champion, on her website.

Find out more about Matt Stine and his work as a music producer and composer for Broadway and Off-Broadway on his website.

To view a portfolio of artwork by Paige Keiser, visit her website.

Sweet Potato Awareness Month Activity

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We Love to Cook! Coloring Pages

 

Add your secret ingredient and get cooking on these printable coloring pages!

Baking with Grandma | Cooking with Dad

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You can find Little Chef at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 5 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit in many ways from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s a terrific time for adults to share family history and their own stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started. 

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

Written by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence | Illustrated by Yuko Jones

 

This true story opens with an invitation to listen as Niki Nakayama talks about her journey to becoming a chef in thirteen bites. “Come. Sit. Taste…” Bite 1: Niki was born in California but her parents were born in Japan. “Outside of Niki’s house was Los Angeles. Inside of her house was Japan.” While the two cultures often felt disparate, in Niki’s family’s kitchen “they became one.” Niki’s mother always put a Japanese twist on American dishes, with soy sauce or rice or teriyaki.

Bite 2: Close to New Year’s Eve, Niki’s grandmother took her to the grocery store to shop for the holiday dinner. Niki was excited. She loved buying all the ingredients for the feast to come: an opportunity to share “a table of love and laughter” in addition to the food. As Niki grew older, she created her own recipes and determined that she would get away from her family’s seafood-selling business and do her own thing.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Niki’s dreams seemed to get little attention from her parents, who doted on their son and encouraged his success. But Niki new she could be successful too. “Kuyashii! Niki thought. ‘I’ll show them!’” After high school, Niki traveled to Tokyo, Japan, tasting all the delicious food on offer. Later she took the train to where her cousins owned an inn. There she was served a meal comprised of many dishes, each “a work of art” and each with a delicious memory attached or story to tell. “Niki learned this storytelling feast had a name: kaiseki.”

When Niki returned home, she told her mother she wanted to go to school to become a chef. Her mother discouraged her, but Niki went anyway. “She began to see food as art—a carrot as a mountain.” And while her family thought her cooking was just a hobby, Niki thought “Kuyashii! ‘I’ll show them!’” Niki got a job at a sushi restaurant. “Female sushi chefs were rare,” and the head chef didn’t think she could handle the work. “‘You’re just playing chef,’ he joked.” But Niki told him she wasn’t playing.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

After working there and learning all she could, Niki decided to travel back to her cousins’ inn to study kaiseki. But there was a big obstacle. “As far as she knew, female kaiseki chefs didn’t exist. In Japan recipes and training was only handed down to males. People told Niki her dream was impossible, but she thought she could do it. Niki studied for three years and then returned to Los Angeles to open a sushi restaurant of her own.

Instead of being happy for her, her family was dismissive. At last she convinced them to give her a loan—but it came with the stipulation that “if the restaurant failed, she would have to close it and say goodbye to her dream forever.” Instead of the kaiseki dishes she wanted to serve, her mother thought sushi would be a better choice. Against her own wishes, she agreed. In a year, customers were lining up for her food. But making sushi was not what she really wanted to do.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

She closed her restaurant and wondered what to do next. Then, after much thought and exploration, she had her answer. She wanted to serve kaiseki that told her story—both Japanese and Californian. “Niki called her new restaurant n/naka. Naka means ‘inside’ in Japanese. Finally, Niki was inside her dream.” Through thirteen courses she told her stories—never serving customers the same meal twice. Now, every night tables are full of love and laughter, and Niki showed everyone that she could be a master chef.

Back matter includes a timeline of Niki Nakayama’s life from her birth in Los Angeles in 1974 to the awarding of two Michelin stars for her restaurant n/naka in 2019; a discussion of the words kuyashii and kaiseki; and a recipe for wonton pizza.

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Image copyright Yuko Jones, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, 2021. Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence’s biography of Niki Nakayama is an enthralling story of self-confidence, obstacles overcome, and success that will inspire readers to stay true to the voice inside themselves. Telling Nakayama’s story through thirteen bite-sized vignettes that reveal formative moments in her life that informed her journey is a captivating and effective way to show Niki’s growth as a chef as well as to explain the meaning and experience of kaiseki.

Readers will respond to Michalak’s and Florence’s straightforward text and the details of the hurdles placed in her way. One take-away for adult readers is the importance of recognizing, encouraging, and supporting their children’s dreams and talents—an awareness that can lead to ongoing discussions with kids as they grow, learn, and get involved in activities.

Yuko Jones’ lovely illustrations take readers into Niki Nakayama’s home to see her interacting with her family and the foods that so inspired her life’s work. Jones’ images of Japanese delicacies are particularly beautiful, giving kids a strong understanding of the courses served during a kaiseki meal. Niki’s self-assurance in the face of her family’s protests and her male-dominated culinary school class as well as the rarity of female sushi chefs is stirring for all readers. Jones’ final page spreads reveal the gorgeous dishes Niki serves and the inviting atmosphere at her restaurant n/naka.

A captivating and impactful biography of a contemporary chef and role model, Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections to inspire all kids who are contemplating their place in the world now and in the future.

Ages 4 – 10

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2021 | ISBN 978-0374313876

Discover more about Jamie Michalak and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Debbi Michiko Florence and her books on her website.

To learn more about Yuko Jones and see a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

You can learn more about n/naka and view a gallery of Niki Nakayama’s spectacular dishes on the n/naka website.

Family Stories Month Activity

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Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites Activity Kit

 

Educators and families can find an extensive Activity Kit and coloring pages to accompany classroom or homeschool lessons or just for fun on Jamie Michalak’s website and Debbi Michiko Florence’s website.

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You can find Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s Family Meals Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday got its start in 2015 and was designed as a way to support families in enjoying more meals made with fresh ingredients together. Over the years National Family Meals Month™ has gained recognition and grown into a social movement that promotes family bonding and education. Studies show that children who eat meals as a family are happier, less likely to get into trouble, and do better in school. To learn more about the Family Meals Movement and how you can celebrate this month and all year around, visit the Family Meals Movement website.

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore | Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

 

A little girl stands at the stove watching her Nanni stir a big metal pot. She asks her Nanni what’s in the pot and learns that there are seeds inside. How can that be? She wonders. They are the “‘seeds that grew up to vegetables,’” Nanni tells her and then reveals that “‘there are also gardeners in the pot.’” That seems impossible the girl thinks. How can that be? So her grandmother tells her about the gardeners that raised the vegetables, the soil and rain, and the sun, the moon, and the stars that are also in the pot.

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

The little girl is catching on. She sees them all too and can hear the buzz of the bees that “pollinate the flowers, that grow up to be vegetables, planted by the gardeners, with their gentle hands.” She stands on tiptoe to see what else is in the pot. It swirls with the farm workers who “make footprints in the rich soil, carrying boxes full of vegetables to the, delivery trucks, boats, and trains.”

You might think that’s all the pot can hold, but there’s more. There are the merchants who “work in teams to bring the baskets of farm vegetables to the market” and the onlookers, “‘curious to see what they bought.’” The little girl thinks that must be everything, but Nanni takes another look and discovers a bus inside the pot. “‘A BUS, Nan! How can there be a bus inside the pot?’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

This is the bus Nanni took to the market. And what’s more, the bus driver, all the passengers, and everything they passed in all the neighborhoods they drove through on their way to the market are inside the pot too. “‘Wow, Nan!’” the girl exclaims. Could there be anything else? Nanni thinks and then a beaming smile crosses her face. Her granddaughter catches her excitement and asks “‘What, Nanni? What else did you see inside the pot?’”

“‘Love,’” Nan answers. The love of all the grandmothers and mothers who passed the recipe down through the generations just so she could make the soup for her own granddaughter. The little girl wants to learn the recipe too. But Nan tells her she must be able to remember everything that goes into the pot. I do know, the girl assures her. “‘The whole world.’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

Little ones will listen wide-eyed to Hunter Liguore’s whimsical tale that gently educates while building page upon page to a tender climax with plenty of humor along the way. The sweet and playful relationship between the girl and her Nanni will charm children and the idea of how the world is connected will resonate with kids beyond the soup pot and inform their view of the world. Liguore’s dialogue-rich text that reflects the cadences of real conversations with kids makes the story a perfect read aloud.

Juxtaposing illustrations with a retro vibe next to lovely fanciful drawings, Vikki Zhang mirrors the intergenerational theme of the story while more than satisfying readers curiosity about all of the quirky ingredients in Nanni’s soup. Kids are first invited into Nanni’s kitchen, a wonder that combines both old world and modern touches. In three clever illustrations, Zhang imagines the gardeners and a café inhabiting stylized cooking pots, and other “ingredients,” such as farm workers, modes of transportation, and nearby neighborhoods are presented in intricately detailed fantastical watercolors that kids and adults will want to linger over. A final image of Nan and the little girl’s heritage told through photographs, fine china, and jewelry is a loving look at all of the Nan’s, mothers, and daughters who have left a lasting legacy in their recipe.

A beautiful and fun book for adults—and especially grandparents—to share with children, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup would make a meaningful gift and a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Yeehoo Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1953458063

Discover more about Hunter Liguore and her books on her website. You can find a Teaching Guide and Lesson Plan Activity Kit for teachers, homeschoolers, or just to enjoy at home on Hunter’s site here.

To learn more about Vikki Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Meals Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable puzzle?

Souper Maze Puzzle  | Souper Maze Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-whole-world-inside-nans-soup-cover

You can find The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 2 – It’s National Farmers Market Week

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About the Holiday

In 1999, first National Farmers Market Week was held after the U.S. Department of Agriculture established the holiday to promote the idea of a direct farm-to-consumer way of selling the fruit, vegetables, meat, and other products grown and or made by farmers, ranchers, and other suppliers. The first week of August was chosen for the bounty that is available at this time of year and leading into the fall season with its delicious squash, root vegetables, leafy greens, apples, and more. Farmers markets are growing in popularity due to the freshness of their offerings and the community spirit they engender. According to the USDA, more than 85% of farmers market vendors travel fewer than 50 miles to sell at a farmers market, with more than half of farmers traveling only ten or fewer miles. To celebrate today, visit a farmers market near you and see what delicious bounty they have to offer. You can find a farmers market near you with this USDA listing.

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market

Written by Michelle Schaub | Illustrated by Amy Huntington

 

Come spend a day mingling with the farmers, crafters, musicians, kids, dogs, and customers who make shopping local a fun community event—after all, “It’s market day. / Hooray, hooray! / Spy the wonders / on display: / rainbow carrots, / herb bouquets, / heaps of berries, / sample trays.” So “join the party; / don’t delay! / Come celebrate; / it’s market day!”

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Image copyright Amy Huntington, 2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

For the growers, the day starts before you are even awake. They are Early Risers who “toil by silver light. / Harvest, sort, / wash, and load. / Hop in trucks, / Hit the road. / Just as dawn / pinks the sky, / they arrive, stretch and sigh.” The farmers put up their booths and Pile Up their displays with meticulous care. Take Farmer Rick whose “cauliflower towers / take him eons to align. / His pyramids of peppers / show impeccable design….But when Miss Malory arrives, / Rick sports a wary smile— / she always picks her produce from / the bottom of the pile!”

In addition to fruit and vegetables, there is often a booth that entices with homemade bread and Delightful Bites. “Alluring aromas float over tent tops—a whiff of vanilla, a whisper of spice. / A hint of some cinnamon dusted on cupcakes, a sniff of plump blackberries tucked into pies.” There are loaves and croissants and muffins and more all waiting for you to try.

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Image copyright Amy Huntington, 2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Part of the fun of a farmers’ market is the Necessary Mess. “It clings to boots / and radish roots / and smudges mushroom caps. / It likes to hide / tucked deep inside / all crannies, grooves, and gaps….This film of dust, / a thin brown crust— / a mess you can’t avert. / But don’t you know? / No crops would grow / without a lot of dirt.”

Sometimes it’s just too hard to wait to eat the goodies at the market. One nibble…well…maybe two or three—no one will ever know. Except perhaps for those telltale Clues in Blue: “Blue splatters on our T-shirts. / Blue speckles on our shoes. / Blue splotches on our baskets. / Our footprints? They’re blue too…. ‘Who gobbled up the berries?’ / We both were reprimanded. / We tried to hide the evidence— / but we were caught… / BLUE-handed.”

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Image copyright Amy Huntington,  2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

With twilight the market closes. The farmers pack their trucks, the honey sellers say good-bye, and “the musician’s notes have hushed.” The shoppers have gone home where their “cupboards brim with bounty, / while families dream away, / imagining the wonders / to come / next market day.”

An Author’s Note on “Fresh-picked reasons to spend a day at the market” follows the text.

In eighteen humorous, insightful, and evocative poems, Michelle Schaub takes readers to a farmers’ market to experience the sights, sounds, aromas, and fun of a day spent with a community of people in the open air. From the transformation of a vacant lot to checking off the traits of summer to an imagined conversation between a Green Zebra Tomato and Dinosaur Kale, Straub’s light touch and jaunty rhythms will make readers smile from the first page to the last. Kids and adults alike will be inspired to visit their local market again and again—in person and through these delicious poems.

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Image copyright Amy Huntington, 2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

As envisioned by Amy Huntington, this farmers’ market is alive with gorgeous vibrant and subtle colors that invite readers to explore the crates of vegetables and fruit, drool over the home-baked pastries, dance along to the banjo and fiddle players, and follow the dogs who enjoy a day out as much as their humans. A diverse community of adults and children enjoy the fun in each illustration that will have readers lingering over every page.

A perfect way to celebrate farms, community, and delicious eating all year round as well as a terrific take-along on a day’s outing to a farmers market, picnic, playground, or other jaunt, Fresh-Picket Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market should find a welcome spot on any classroom, public library, and home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 9

Charlesbridge Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580895477 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1623541705 (Paperback, 2020)

Learn more about Michelle Schaub, her books, and her poetry on her website!

Discover more about Amy Huntington and her books on her website!

You’re going to dig this Fresh-Picked Poetry book trailer!

National Farmers Market Week Activities

 

Celebrate all the fresh vegetables that farmers markets have to offer with these activities!

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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Plant a Vegetable Garden Word Search

 

There are so many kinds of vegetables to plant in your garden and add to your diet! Can you pick out the names of twenty veggies in this printable Plant a Vegetable Garden Word Search? Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Fresh-Picket Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 16 – It’s National Blueberry Month

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About the Holiday

Farmers’ Markets are bursting with fresh produce during the summer months, and that is especially true for blueberries, those little round morsels of sweetness. The United States Department of Agriculture recognized July as National Blueberry Month in 2003, and it’s been delicious eating ever since! Blueberries are the perfect accompaniment to muffins, pancakes, bread, fruit salads, and of course they’re delectable just on their own! So visit a farmers’ market today and pick up a peck.

Blueberry Cake

By Sarah Dillard

 

A little bear comes into the kitchen and tugs at his mother’s apron strings. When she turns her head, her cub asks shyly, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks thoughtfully at her little one and sends him outside with a bucket. The cub dashes through the back yard and into the forest. Playfully, he wears the bucket like a hat and then does cartwheels until he comes to the edge of the woods. Peeking through the trees, the cub exclaims, “Oh!”

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

What meets his eye is a wide-open field, a sea of blueberries. The little one sits down in the middle of a patch of delicious berries and begins filling the bucket with a concentrated, “Blueberries.” But it’s just so hard not to take a taste. Maybe just a handful. “Blueberries!” he exclaims. Then something else catches the little bear’s attention. It’s a butterfly – a monarch wanting to play chase. The cub runs after the butterfly, swinging the bucket and spilling the blueberries little by little along the way.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

The game brings the cub to another field – this one dotted with black-eyed Susans and queen Anne’s lace. They’re so pretty that the cub can’t help but pick some. Into the bucket they go. At home, the little bear holds the bucket out for Mama and asks, “Blueberry cake?” Mama looks at the offering and asks, “Blueberries?” The cub offers the flowers, but Mama still wonders where the blueberries are. The little bear inspects the bucket and quietly says, “No blueberries.” Mama crosses her arms and delivers the bad news: “No blueberry cake.”

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

That night in bed, the cub dreams of what might have been and just as the sun begins rising over the horizon, he’s ready to try again. The cub dashes back to the blueberry field and fills the bucket until it’s brimming with delicious berries. The sun is still dawning when he gets home and puts the bucket on the kitchen counter and returns to his room. When Mama gets up, she’s surprised to find the blueberries. When the little bear comes downstairs again, he skips into the kitchen, his eyes alight, and he exclaims, “Blueberry cake!” The flowers, arranged in the bucket, decorate the middle of the table, and Mama lays out a placemat and plate for her little cub. He eagerly watches his mama cut a slice of cake and serve it. He gazes at the cake, and has just one thing to say: “Applesauce?”

A recipe for blueberry cake that’s easy enough for “little cubs and other small people” to make with some help “from a mama or papa bear” follows the story.

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

With just six words, a darling cub, and a loving mother, Sarah Dillard creates a story that will charm kids. Dillard’s sunny illustrations are infused with poignant moments of childhood that are fanciful, disappointing, surprising, humorous, and always full of love. An expressive reading of the simple dialogue brings out all the feeling of the gentle ups and downs of the story and can also serve as a lesson in recognizing emotions for young readers. Kids will also have a blast joining in and reading along.

Ages 3 – 8

Aladdin, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534451346

Discover more about Sarah Dillard, her books, and her art on her website.

National Blueberry Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-maze

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze

 

Can you help pick blueberries to make some delicious treats in this printable puzzle?

A Bounty of Blueberries Maze | A Bounty of Blueberries Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blueberry-cake-cover

You can find Blueberry Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review