May 24 – National Escargot Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a fan of French cuisine—and who isn’t?—today is a day to celebrate! Escargot, or an edible snail, is a dish that has been enjoyed since at least Roman times. In fact, the oldest known cookbook, which dates from the first century B.C. to the second century A.D., contains a recipe for snails. To commemorate the day, you could head out to your favorite French restaurant or enjoy the sweet culinary caper in today’s book!

Escargot

Written by Dashka Slater | Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

 

Escargot is a beautiful French snail. Of course, he says, you can see that for yourself. But, he wonders, what part of him do you think is the most beautiful part? His shell, his neck, or his antennae? Escargot will give you time to think about it, but he acknowledges that it is a very tough choice. “That is because all of Escargot is magnifique!” And if you want to kiss him, that’s ok too.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Escargot is on a mission to reach the beautiful salad “with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette” at the end of the picnic table (and the book). You are lucky enough to be invited along. As you accompany Escargot, he asks you a question. It seems simple enough: “What is your favorite animal?” Perhaps you’ve already started considering all the possibilities. But wait. Escargot has a sad story for you. A story, he says, that is “so sad I might cry.” He asks you to stroke his shell as he reveals “the very sad thing: Nobody ever says their favorite animal is the snail.”

Could it be they think Escargot is too slimy? He counters that the trails he leaves are not slime, but “shimmery stuff.” Could it be that snails are too shy? Escargot demonstrates the fierce face he uses to scare away “a lion or a wild boar or a carrot that sneaks into my salad.” And just then he comes upon such a carrot and asks you to make a fierce face and roar at it too. Yikes! You’ve scared Escargot into his shell. Escargot knows that you want him to come out again. All you have to do is ask him…and offer him a kiss. Don’t forget now, and he will “kiss you back: Mwah!” Now is the snail your favorite animal?

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Don’t say that snails are too slow to be your favorite animal. Escargot just likes to relax “before enjoying salad with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette” like any French snail. He “could run faster than the cheetah” if he wanted.

Don’t believe it? Escargot will race you to the salad—and whoever wins will be your favorite animal. Escargot takes off like the wind. Just a minute—he needs a rest, and if you could just blow on him to cool him off…. Now he’s ready “for the final sprint.” Ah ha! Escargot’s antenna is the first to touch the salad bowl. Wait…you’re there too? Escargot is generous and willing to share the victory with you. Now it’s time to celebrate by eating the salad “with a few croutons and a light vinaigrette.” Escargot climbs atop a crouton and surveys the greenery.

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gasp! Among the croutons and the light vinaigrette lurk carrots! Escargot makes his fierce face, but the carrot does not run. Then Escargot remembers you; perhaps you would like to try the carrot. In fact, Escargot will try it with you. Just an itty-bitty nibble. Oh dear! The carrot turned out to be delicious, and Escargot forgot to leave you any. Now you’ll never choose him as your favorite animal.

“But that is okay. C’est la vie.”  In fact, Escargot thinks YOU are beautiful and magnifique. You are his favorite animal and he happily gives you a kiss. “Mwah!

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Image copyright Sydney Hanson, 2017, text copyright Dashka Slater, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Dashka Slater’s instant classic features the sly stylings of a cunning French snail who wants nothing more than a lot of love and a little salad. Escargot’s wily ways include a pinch of boasting, a stir of the heartstrings, a dash of hyperbole, and a whole cupful of charm. Adults with little ones in their life will recognize all of them, and young readers will certainly identify with this sweet snail. Slater even sprinkles French phrases throughout the story to set just the right tone. Escargot’s gentle humor and wide-eyed entreaties to play along by pushing him, commenting on his most beautiful feature, stroking his shell, making a fierce face, kissing him, racing him, cooling him off, and trying a carrot will enchant kids and have them eagerly participating in reading. Escargot’s turn-about and Mwah! kiss at the end will also be familiar to adults as it presents the perfect ending for a perfectly beautiful story time.

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Escargot certainly has one thing right: he is beautiful. Sydney Hanson’s adorable French snail with his striped T, red neckerchief, teeny-tiny beret, and needle-thin antennae will steal readers’ hearts and will, of course, become their favorite animal. Escargot’s picnic-table race track, rendered in fresh, soft hues, is appropriately laden with French delicacies that serve as well-conceived and clever props for highlighting this one-of-a-kind snail. Hanson captures the big, innocent eyes, winsome looks, and generous kisses that little ones often use to beguiling effect to make Escargot absolutely oh là là magnifique

A perfect pairing of story and art, Escargot is a charmer for any story time, and would be a fun take-along for picnics and other outings. The book would be a smile-inducing, feel-good addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374302818

Discover more about Dashka Slater and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Sydney Hanson, visit her tumblr.

National Escargot Day Activity

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Happy Snail Coloring Page

 

This little snail will slither right into your heart! Have fun decorating this printable Happy Snail Coloring Page! You may even want to add a dash of glitter!

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You can find Escargot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 23 – It’s Mystery Month

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About the Holiday

The month of May is dedicated to mysteries! Established ten years ago by Booklist, part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations and more! Mysteries, with their unusual situations, puzzling clues, suspect suspects, and plenty of unexplained phenomena, are great for getting kids—even reluctant readers—to fall in love with books. With so many classic and new mysteries to investigate, this month’s celebration may just last all summer! And if you like your mysteries funny, you’ll love today’s book!

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Mystery Month Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

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

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

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Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 20 – National Pick Strawberries Day

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About the Holiday

In warmer climates the strawberries are ready to be picked, ushering in one of the delights of summer. For those who live in cooler regions, the fun of going strawberry picking and the delicious treats to follow are being eagerly looked forward to. Strawberries are grown in all parts of the world except for the most frigid areas and are enjoyed alone or in delectable desserts, salads, and other recipes To celebrate today, pick some strawberries—at a farm, in your own garden, or at the market—and enjoy!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Written by Don and Audrey Wood | Illustrated by Don Wood

 

It’s quite curious what Mouse is doing with that ladder at this time of day. In fact, it might be worth asking. “Hello little Mouse. What are you doing?” Ah! It seems that beyond the hammock and the huge gnarled tree, there’s a strawberry plant. And on that strawberry plant is an enormous strawberry. Mouse seems very pleased with himself that he’s found it and has the ladder set up to pick it.

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Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

But there is some disturbing news. Even though Mouse is half way up the ladder, it might just be good to ask if he’s heard about “the big hungry Bear.” His shocked reaction would say he hasn’t. Maybe it would be good to emphasize just “Ohhh, how that Bear loves red, ripe strawberries.” The Mouse wants to protect his find, but there’s no time to lose. After all that Bear “can smell a red, ripe strawberry a mile away….”

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Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

Oh! The Mouse already has the strawberry off the stem. Well, this does pose a problem. You see, that only helps the Bear smell it more easily. Run, little Mouse! That Bear will soon be tromping through the forest on his huge feet with his huge appetite and find that strawberry. Burying it won’t help. Putting it under lock and key won’t help. And there’s no disguise the Bear can’t see through.

In fact… “There’s only one way in the whole wide world to save a red, ripe strawberry from a hungry Bear!” That’s right, so…get a knife… and… “cut it in two.” Then “share half with me. And we’ll both eat it all up!” And the Bear? Well, he’ll have to find another red, ripe strawberry.

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Copyright Don Wood, 1984, courtesy of Child’s Play.

This classic story by Don and Audrey Wood was a favorite in my house and continues to excite gasps and giggles in kids today. The enticing storyline, teased along through innocent-sounding questions and “helpful” suggestions, leads to a twist ending that begs the question: Was there ever really a bear? Young readers will be thrilled to discover that they, too, get to share in that delicious red, ripe strawberry.

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Don Wood’s pleased-as-punch, surprised, worried, hurried, and ultimately satisfied Mouse is the star of the story and as cute as his readers, although the strawberry, dressed up in a glasses-and-moustache disguise, may get the biggest guffaw. The forest, with its gnarled trees and overhanging vegetation, offers a suspenseful obstacle course for the fleeing Mouse, and the Mouse’s home is a cozy spot for a snack.

A perfect book to jump-start gardening with kids, as a take-along on outings, as a lead-in to snack time, or for any spirited story time at home or in the classroom, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is a perennial charmer.

Ages 2 – 5

Child’s Play, 1984 | ISBN 978-0859530125 (Paperback); 978-0859531825 (Hardcover, 1997); 978-1846434037 (Board book, 1998); 978-1846434051 (English/Spanish edition, 2011)

To learn more about Don and Audrey Wood and their books and find activities, secrets, and more, visit their website.

National Pick Strawberries Day Activity

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Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle

 

It’s strawberry-picking day! Can you match pairs of strawberries before you put them in the basket in this printable Let’s Go Strawberry Picking! Matching Puzzle.

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You can find The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 24 – National Tortilla Chip Day

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About the Holiday

If the tortilla-making machine had produced perfect rounds every time back in the 1950s, the world may never have known the crunchy deliciousness of tortilla chips. Back in the day, Rebecca Webb Carranza and her husband owned the El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles, California and were one of the first to automate tortilla production. Instead of wasting the odd-shaped ones, Carranza cut them into triangles, fried them, and sold them in bags.They were a hit! People all over began enjoying them dipped in salsa and guacamole and smothering them in cheese. In 1994 Carranza was honored with the Golden Tortilla Award for her contributions to the Mexican food industry, and in 2003 Texas named the tortilla chip the official state snack!

Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes

Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong | Illustrated by John Parra

 

“Round are sombreros. / Round is the moon. / Round are the trumpets that blare out a tune. Round are tortillas and tacos too. / Round is a pot of abuela’s stew. / I can name more round things can you?” With wonderful, lyrical verses, Roseanne Thong introduces children to the shapes—circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, ovals, stars, and more—that make up their multicultural world.

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Image copyright John Parra, 2013, text copyright Roseanne Thong, 2013. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Here are round chiming campanas and nests full of swallows, square ventanas for peering through and clocks for telling time. Rectangles are cold paletas to eat on a hot summer day and the ice-cream carts that deliver them, and triangles make tasty quesadillas and gliding sailboats. Each verse ends with an invitation for kids to find more shapes around them—an invitation that’s hard to resist!

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Image copyright John Parra, 2013, text copyright Roseanne Thong, 2013. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Rebecca Thong’s bright, fun-to-read verses shine with evocative words that create a concept book that goes beyond the introduction of shapes to celebrate the sights, sounds, and sensations that make up readers’ lives. Helping children find shapes in household objects, food, and other familiar places, makes them more aware of the math all around them. They will be excited to point out the squares, triangles, circles, and more that they encounter every day. Spanish words sprinkled throughout the story are defined following the text. 

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Image copyright John Parra, 2013, text copyright Roseanne Thong, 2013. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

John Parra’s beautiful folk-art illustrations, which are sure to put a smile on kids’ faces, immerse readers in the daily life of a Latino town. People dance, cook, play games, walk in the park, attend a festival, and more—all while surrounded by colorful shapes. Kids will love lingering over the pages to find all of the intricate details and may well want to learn more about what they see.

Round is a Tortilla is not only a book of shapes, it makes shapes exciting! The book is a wonderful stepping stone to discussions about early math concepts as well as the places, celebrations, symbols, and decorations found on each page. The book would be a welcome addition to any classroom or child’s bookshelf

Ages 3 – 6

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2013 | ISBN 978-1452106168 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1452145686 (Paperback)

Learn more about Roseanne Thong and her books for children and adults on her website!

View a gallery of books and artwork by John Parra on his website!

National Tortilla Chip Day Activity

CPB - Tortilla chips (2)

Homemade Baked Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

 

It’s easy to make these yummy tortilla chips at home! Why not invite your friends over and bake up a batch or two to enjoy while playing or reading together?

Ingredients

  • 2 10-inch flour tortillas
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine the cinnamon and the sugar in a bowl
  3. Butter the tortillas
  4. Sprinkle the tortillas with the cinnamon sugar mixture
  5. Cut the tortillas into 8 pieces
  6. Place pieces on a baking sheet
  7. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes
  8. Chips will become crispier as they cool.

Makes 16 chips

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You can find Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes at these booksellers

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

February 9 – National Bagel Day

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About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast, lunch, and snacks! Bagels come in all sorts of flavors and varieties and with toppings for every taste, there’s no denying that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

The Bagel King

Written by Andrew Larsen | Illustrated by Sandy Nichols

 

“Every Sunday morning Zaida went to Merv’s Bakery for bagels.” Sometimes his young grandson, Eli, went with him. When he did, Mrs. Rose always gave him a pickle from the big jar behind the counter. When he didn’t, “Zaida delivered his bagels right to his door.” Zaida went to Merv’s every Sunday no matter what the weather. The “warm, chewy, salty bagels were the best thing about Sunday.”

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

One Sunday, though, the familiar knock on the door never came. Later, Zaida called Eli and told him he had “slipped on some schmutz at Merv’s” and had gone to the doctor. Zaida had hurt his tuches and was ordered to relax at home for two weeks. Eli ran right over. As they sat together, both Eli’s and Zaida’s stomach rumbled with missing the usual bagels.

Pretty soon there was a knock on the door and three of Zaida’s elderly neighbors came in. All three were just as hungry as Eli and Zaida. It turned out that Zaida had been hosting a bagel feast for the four of them for years. When Zaida told them about his tuches, they said “‘Oy! Are you all right?’” But they were all disappointed about the bagels.

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

As the week went on, Eli visited his grandfather every day. He brought chicken soup one day, another day he brought chicken soup and a book, and on yet another day, he brought chicken soup and a canine friend for company. On Saturday night, though, it wasn’t chicken soup Eli was thinking about, but bagels. “Even the moon looked like a bagel all smothered with cream cheese.”

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The next morning, Eli woke up early and walked down to Merv’s with a list in his hand. When he reached the counter, he handed Mrs. Rose the list. As she read it, she said, “‘This looks very familiar. Except for the last item.” Eli told her that it was a surprise. With the big bag hugged close, Eli left Merv’s and went to Zaida’s. When Zaida saw the big bag of bagel, he was surprised! His friends were delighted. “‘The boy’s a prince,’” said Mr. Goldstck, but “Zaida proudly declared, ‘He’s the Bagel King!’”

Then Eli reached in and brought out his surprise—a jar of Merv’s pickles. As Eli ate his “warm, chewy, salty” bagels, he knew “bagles were the best thing about Sunday. The best thing, that is, except for Zaida.”

A glossary of the Yiddish words used in the story and a bit about bagels and chicken soup precede the text.

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Image copyright Sandy Nichols, 2018, text copyright Andrew Larsen, 2018. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

With a sprinkling of Yiddish words and an old neighborhood atmosphere, Andrew Larsen depicts a close relationship between a grandfather and grandson who bond over bagels, pickles, and a deep love for one another. While Zaida is the one who begins the Sunday bagel tradition, this is Eli’s story as he takes it upon himself to help his grandfather recuperate and makes sure that he, Zaida, and Zaida’s friends don’t miss their favorite day for a second time. Young readers will find in Eli a peer role model for showing care and concern for family members and friends. Larsen’s straightforward storytelling peppered with realistic and humorous dialogue is as warm and cozy as sitting down to a Sunday family breakfast.

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Sandy Nichols’ fresh, retro illustrations stylishly bridge the generations while also reveling in the friendly city neighborhood feeling that provides a backdrop and context for Eli’s emotional growth within the story. Images of Eli hanging over the arm of his grandfather’s sofa in boredom and disappointment, wistfully dreaming of bagels on Saturday night, and proudly making his list, buying the bagels, and delivering them—complete with a surprise—to Zaida and his friends will delight readers.

The Bagel King is an uplifting, joyful for all kids coming into their own and desiring to make a difference. The book would make a sweet gift for grandparents or grandkids, a snug family story to add to home libraries, and a terrific choice for classroom or library storytimes.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1771385749

Discover more about Andrew Larsen and his books on his website.

National Bagel Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

Do you have an old CD that could use an upgrade? With this easy craft, you can turn it into a cute doughnut (or bagel) hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find The Bagel King at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

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

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About the Holiday

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

There Are No Bears in This Bakery

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

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

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

National Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

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

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

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

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

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s National Pear Month

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About the Holiday

In 2004 the United States Department of Agriculture declared December National Pear Month to highlight the flavor of this delicious fruit. Whether you enjoy them fresh off the tree or baked into a delicious treat, pears brighten up any meal or snack! To celebrate this month try one (or more) of the 10 varieties grown in the U.S. and discover a new recipe that makes pears the star!

Are We Pears Yet?

Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Carin Berger

 

A pair of pear seeds—one brown and one green—are celebrating what they will become. “Hooray! I love pears!” says the smaller seed as the two dance on stage. The little seed wonders if they are pears yet, but the bigger seed tells her, “not yet.” First, they have to find soil. Just then a quirky fellow appears rolling a wagon mounded with dark, fertile dirt. Perhaps now they’re pears, the little one thinks, but—no—they must wait for rain.

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At that, a stagehand holds up a raincloud overhead and a shower of nourishing droplets falls. Surely, they’re pears now, the small seed thinks, but the bigger seed knows that after rain, they need the sun. The sun answers the call, and the little seed is ready to become a pear. “Are we pears now?” she asks. Her friend furrows his brows. “Be patient. We’re waiting for the cold,” he tells her.

Brrr! The tiny seed doesn’t like being cold, so her friend suggests she “take a nap.” The two lie still and snooze—and what a snooze! Two years later, they wake up, but they’re still not pears. Waiting is so hard! But there’s more waiting to come…. First, these two little seeds have to grow into trees. The small seed can’t believe it! “A-pear-ently you need another lesson,” her pal reveals—and another nap.

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One year later, they wake up again. The little one hardly wants to ask, but she’s so curious…. Are they pears yet? No. And the waiting seems to be taking a toll on the second seed too. He’s tired of all the questions and says, “You know what? I lied. We will never be pears. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER.” But is something happening to these seeds? They seem to be sprouting—and growing tiny leaves!

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Two more years go by and it’s time for a “costume change.” They’re trees! But are they pears? The little tree doesn’t even want to hear it. She runs away covering her ears. But—“Hey, look!”—the big tree is holding a brown pear by the stem, and then the little tree discovers a green pear of her own. “We are pears!” they shout happily. “A pair of friends?” the green pear asks as the two hold hands and dance around. The brown pear agrees and adds, “With something very special inside.” What is it? An x-ray reveals two tiny seeds—that are going to be pears!

Five “peary” interesting facts and a bibliography for further reading follows the story.

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Image copyright Carin Berger, 2017, text copyright Miranda Paul, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Quirky and fun, Miranda Paul’s story of two pear seeds will delight kids who know what it’s like to wait and wait to grow up. Through her simple, but evocative dialogue, Paul reveals the amazing facts of the life cycle of pear trees while entertaining readers with humor and sowing the seeds of friendship.

Carin Berger’s clever collage-style illustrations are perfectly aimed at young readers familiar with school plays and animation that often bring favorite foods to life. Berger’s carnival-inspired stagehands are charming additions that lend a comical flair to the pages.

A fun and memorable way for kids to learn the life-cycle of pears and spark interest in other crops, Are We Pears Yet? makes a great addition to classroom bookshelves as well as terrific read aloud for little gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017  | ISBN 978-1626723511

Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books on her website

To learn more about Carin Berger, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Pear Month Activity

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Delicious Pears! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you like pears, you’ll want to discover all nine types in this printable puzzle!

Delicious Pears! Word Search Puzzle | Delicious Pears! Word Search Solution

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You can find Are We Pears Yet? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review