January 19 – National Popcorn Day Cover Reveal of Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!

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Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!

Written by Cynthia Schumerth | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

Have you ever wondered what happens to your popcorn before it lands in the bowl? Kernel-by-kernel, step-by-step, this story takes readers through the process of growing, harvesting, and finally popping delicious popcorn! However you take it – salted, buttered, or caramelized, every variation of America’s favorite snack begins in the same place. 

Backmatter includes STEM-related discussions about corn kernels and why these kinds of kernels pop when heated, a science activity, and an art project.

With Cynthia Schumerth’s exuberant and educational rhymes that bounce like bursting popcorn and Mary Reaves Uhles’s vibrant, action-packed illustrations of a group of kids planting, harvesting, shucking, cooking (KABOOM!), and eating this favorite snack, Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! makes the perfect reading treat for any movie night or story time! 

I’m excited to be talking with Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles to discover how they turned America’s favorite snack into a book so deliciously fun!

Meet Cynthia Schumerth

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Cindy grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where kids played outside from sun-up to sun-down. Much of her writing reflects her love of nature, animals, and family. Cindy believes the power of words is magical and if even one child can find something they can relate to in a story, then that story just might change their world. Cindy lives with her husband and their rescue dog Chance in the same small town she grew up in. Together they raised two amazing children. You can connect with Cynthia on Twitter.

I’m really looking forward to learning more about popcorn when your book’s released! What inspired you to write Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!?
 

My love of popcorn! Growing up, popcorn was a special treat. It was something that got our entire family sitting together, sharing stories, and having a lot of laughs. This is something I’ve shared with my own children as they grew up. The truth is that I’d been having a bit of writer’s block before I came up with the idea for Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! I knew I needed something new, something fresh, but I was drawing a blank.

Then I got to thinking… at writing conferences and workshops there is one comment that you hear over and over—write what you love. Well, I love popcorn, so I thought why not write about that? Thoughts about popcorn floated around my head for a few days (maybe weeks).  I considered different ideas about how to use popcorn in a book before I came up with the idea of a farm-to-table story. I grew up in a gardening family and it seemed like a great idea to share the entire process—from seed to the end product of a fluffy, tasty treat—with young readers in a fun way.  

From planting to popping, so much goes into creating the popcorn we love to munch. Can you talk a little about how you decided on the structure of your book—which combines nonfiction with lyrical storytelling?

Initially, I wrote it as a basic farm-to-table story. I wanted it to be fun while still having an interesting takeaway for kids. During a critique, it was suggested that I bring more of the specific popcorn terms into the story instead of having them only in the backmatter. I really liked that idea, but I had worked very hard to get the rhyme and rhythm just right. I had a tough decision to make—keep the story written in rhyme and somehow figure out how to incorporate words like: germ, endosperm, and pericarp into it, or rewrite the story an entirely different way.

I don’t usually write in rhyme. Rhyme is hard because it has to be perfect, but I decided to stick with it because I really liked the flow of the story. I knew I had to make sure the rhyme worked perfectly while still keeping the story factually accurate, and that was a bit of a hurdle. However, I think it’s true that if you write what you love, things work out. When the final manuscript was accepted, my editor surprised me by saying, “Don’t change a thing. I think it’s perfect just the way it is!  In the end, we did change three words, but having to change only three words in the entire manuscript is something I am very proud of!

Did you learn anything surprising about popcorn while writing this book?
 

I was surprised by how simple the process of going from popcorn seed to popped popcorn actually is. It’s both fascinating and something that kids (and adults) can easily understand. How cool is it that after reading Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, the reader will be able to impress their friends with scientific knowledge about popcorn and how it pops?! It’s surprising how many people don’t know how the hard, little popcorn seeds turn into puffs of white yumminess.

Another thing that I found surprising is that some folks will pour milk over a bowl of popcorn with a little sugar and have popcorn as a breakfast cereal. I haven’t tried that myself, and to be honest, I’m not sure I will.

Mary’s cover is so enticing. What were your first thoughts when you saw the art for the cover and the interior illustrations.

When our editor told me Mary had been chosen as the illustrator, of course I searched out her work. I was so excited because I think she does great work and she was already an accomplished picture book illustrator! I had to wait over two years before I got to see the cover art, and then longer to see the inside pages, but it was well worth the wait. I think her drawings and her choice of color palette for Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! are vibrant and inviting. And those kids in the story—I want to be friends with all of them!

I feel very lucky to share this book with Mary. I think this cover will stand out on the shelvesI know it would catch my own eye and I’d pick it up. I think kids will really like it, too.

Have you ever tried to grow popcorn?
 

Actually, one summer my kids and I did try growing popcorn!  Not all the plants made it and the ones that did, didn’t produce as much as we had hoped. After we harvested, dried, and shucked the ears, we were able to get enough kernels to make one pot of popcorn. You know what? It was the best popcorn we ever had! Growing something with your own hands is so satisfying. I hope after reading Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, kids will want to give growing their own popcorn a try.

Of course, I can’t let you go without asking—what is your favorite type or flavor of popcorn?
 

I like caramel corn, kettle corn, and I’ve sprinkled parmesan cheese on my popcorn, but if I have to choose a favorite, I’m a salt-only popcorn girl. There are yellow and white types of popping corn, and I prefer white. I think it has more crunch to it. I like my popcorn cooked the good old-fashioned way, in a pot on top of the stove. I have my grandmothers popcorn pan from when I was growing up—it’s over 75 years old! That pan has probably popped thousands of bowls of popcorn. Recently, I’ve started using coconut oil when I pop my corn, and I really like the flavor you get. If you’re worried about the taste, don’t be! It doesn’t taste like coconut; it’s just healthier than using other oils.

Meet Mary Reaves Uhles

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Mary Reaves Uhles has illustrated several children’s books, including The Little Kids’ Table, by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle; The Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee, by Alice Faye Duncan; and the poetry collection Kooky Crumbs, by Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. Before illustrating books for children, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. A graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, Mary lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Find her online at maryuhles.com.

What were your first thoughts when you received the manuscript for Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!?

My first thoughts werewell this is great, I LOVE popcorn! I truly don’t think I could have done as good a job with the book if I didn’t love EATING popcorn and even tried growing it myself when I was about 9 or 10. I was excited about the concept of the cutaway pages where we see the seeds in the dirt, I always loved that kind of thing in illustrations when I was a kid.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And finally, I wanted to have a page or two to draw an environment that looked like where I grew uphuge fields dotted with trailers or houses. Kids and animals of all kinds would spill across the fields as if we owned them! While I didn’t have that many interiors to show in the book, the details of the inside of the blue trailer, such as the green fern curtains, are taken directly from memories of my friends’ houses.

Your cover illustration is so much fun! Did you go through many iterations and revisions before deciding on this final image? Could you take readers through the cover’s journey?

Thank you! I’m really happy with how it turned out. I knew I wanted the cover to have a lot of energy, with popcorn popping everywhere but how to get there? I went through several different thumbnails, some with characters on the cover, some with just popcorn.

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Image copyright Mary Uhles, 2021

Finally I decided on having just one of the child characters. I picked the little girl with glasses because, well, I liked her glasses! Then it was a matter of getting her close to the pot but not so close it might feel a bit dangerous to have all that popcorn (and the lid) flying at her face.

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Image copyright Mary Uhles, 2021

I did popcorn kernels on lots of different Photoshop layers so that, in the final design, the art director could move them to work around the final type. Since there was a lot of action with the popcorn I wanted the background behind the character to be a fairly flat color. I liked the idea of using the blue from the kitchen juxtaposed with the copper pot.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Now, I’m sure readers would love a little sneak peek into the interior. I’ve been lucky enough to see that they can certainly look forward to lots of action and different perspectives! Can you talk a little about how you translated Cynthia’s story into such dynamic illustrations?

Well I used to be an animator so when I begin laying out a book I do it like a film storyboard, with each page turn being a new camera angle. I really think so much of our emotional journey in a book (or movie or TV show) happens with how the camera makes us feel in proximity to the subject. As the plants start to grow I wanted to bring readers close to the tiny stalks and then move them farther and farther back as the plants get bigger and bigger.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

 I did the same thing with the kernels in the pot.. I wanted to actually bring the camera down inside the pot so the readers were right next to the POP when it happened.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2021, text copyright Cynthia Schumerth, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In some of the illustrationslike the image of the kernels being pluckedI wanted the reader to feel like they were doing it… so the perspective is from over the bowl. Art director Felicia Macheske and I discussed having lots of different kids doing different tasks throughout the book but waiting until the very end to show all the kids together on a spread. I really liked that idea as it feels very celebratory but it was also a lot to keep track ofwhich kids were appearing on which pages so it stayed balanced. I actually had a visual spreadsheet at one point so I could keep track. I had to laugh that this is now my third book to have a big crowd at the end! In The Little Kids’ Table a huge family gathers around the table and in A Tuba Christmas we see the whole tuba orchestra.

Did you learn anything new about popcorn while working on this book?

Well I actually did not know there were only two kinds of popcorn! Also I looked at lots of different pictures of popcorn to get the details correct and I found it interesting how much smaller popcorn kernels are than ‘corn on the cob’ kernels. A friend of mine gave me a couple of popcorn cobs with the kernels still on when I started sketches and I kept them in my studio the whole time for reference.

In your dedication, I noticed that you give a shout out to Jackson (Team Popcorn) and Grace (Team Chex Mix). Is there a competition for favorite snack in your family?

Ha ha! I don’t know that there is a competition, but I knew from the beginning that this book’s dedication would have to say something about my son’s love of popcorn. Any time there’s family movie night he’s so excited because I’ll make popcorn. For the record I make it the stovetop way, just like in the book. But my daughter is not a fan of popcorn! So I always have to come up with alternate snacks. Her favorite is Chex Mix.

Now that we know Cynthia’s favorite popcorn, I know readers would love to hear what your type or flavor of popcorn is.

I do love just good, old-fashioned stovetop popcorn with a dash of butter and a few more dashes of salt. But I also love kettle corn! It’s my favorite ‘fair food’ as in, getting it at the state fair in giant greasy bags.

Thanks so much! You two have made me hungry! While readers check out where they can preorder Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, I’m going to go cook up some nice buttery, salty popcorn for myself! But first, I’d like to invite everyone to enter my giveaway of the book! You’ll find the details right here!

Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, written by Cynthia Schumerth| illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of popcorn for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from January 19 through January 25 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 26

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

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You can preorder Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 15 – International Tea Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2005 in New Deli, India, International Tea Day was created to raise awareness within the governments of tea-growing countries of the rights of tea workers, their conditions, and their economic contributions. Today, the holiday is commemorated widely in tea-growing nations. Some of the issues the day focuses on include wages, medical care, and education for women tea workers, who make up fifty percent of of the workforce on tea plantations. Following water, tea is the most widely drunk beverage in the world. To celebrate today, enjoy a cuppa with a cookie, a scone, or another favorite treat. 

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 makes 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.

International Tea Day 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

October 28 – It’s Eat Better, Eat Together Month

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About the Holiday

National Eat Better, Eat Together Month encourages families to gather for at least one meal a day. When families gather for a meal, they tend to make more balanced food choices. Uninterrupted time together also allows each member of the family share stories about their day and lets everyone laugh, commiserate, and build strong bonds. Spending more time together this year provides families the opportunity to get everyone involved in everything from choosing recipes and shopping to preparing and cooking the food to cleaning up. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics he benefits of eating together are wide ranging and can include better grades, better health, and fewer behavioral problems. To celebrate this holiday, make your own plans for family meals and discover how families from around the world enjoy their meals with today’s book!

Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World

Written by Lynne Marie | Illustrated by Parwinder Singh

 

If you’re raising a culinary conscious and curious kid satisfies that gnawing hunger for more information on world cuisine. Visiting families around the globe at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, Lynne Marie offers up tidbits about what kids eat plus other interesting food facts. The first stop is China, where Yu Yan is enjoying a bowl of congee—or rice porridge—before heading out to school. This morning, the congee includes squid that her father has caught. Yu Yan “slurps loudly to show how much she likes it.”

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

High in the mountains of Peru, Luz is bundled up in the early morning air as she gets ready to help out with her grandfather’s llamas. First, she warms up with chuño cola—a soup made from freeze-dried potatoes. For Luz, breakfast usually consists of leftovers from dinner the night before. Hospitality is so important to people in the Philippines that one of the most common greetings is “‘Kumain ka na?’ meaning ‘Have you eaten yet?’” If not, you may be invited to join in a breakfast of spamsilog—a dish of fried SPAM, fried eggs, and garlic rice.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In Jamaica, Zhade and her mother make savory pastries filled with spicy ground beef. These can be eaten on their own or wrapped in coco bread—a soft, sweet bread—to make sandwiches. For Camille, living in France, lunch is a four-course meal served at school. Today, Camille and her friends are having “a cucumber and tomato salad, then a main course of roast beef with cooked broccoli. Next, a small plate of cheese, finished with apple tart for dessert.” It must not be Wednesday, though. In France, there’s no school on Wednesday afternoons. “Instead, many attend on Saturday mornings.”

It’s dinnertime for Priya, who lives in India. She and her family are at their favorite restaurant, where Priya has ordered Tandoori chicken. “Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices then roasted in a tandoor, a round clay oven.” After dinner, she and her family go home to watch cricket on TV.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

For many families in Sweden, Thursday dinners follow a tradition that goes back to the fifteenth century. Tonight, Hugo is having “pea soup and pancakes with lingonberry jam. Perfect for keeping warm on a cold winter night.” Lingonberry jam isn’t just for pancakes. It can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

At last! It’s time for dessert! In Egypt, Mandisa and her brother are enjoying basbousa—a coconut cake. They especially like it with a topping of rose-blossom or orange-blossom syrup that makes it taste extra sweet. In Nigeria, Chetachi can’t wait to dig into the bowl of tropical fruit sprinkled with coconut. It looks like his sister would like some too! All over the world, people sit down to meals with foods they love. Learning more about these dishes and trying them is a great way to feel a sense of community with other kids.

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Image copyright Parwinder Singh, 2019, text copyright Lynne Marie, 2019. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

In her conversational tour around the world, Lynne Marie invites readers to sit down with their peers and enjoy a variety of meals and snacks while also learning a little about the history, culture, environment, and animals of each area. A question prompting readers to think about their own connection to food accompanies each two-page spread and offers an opportunity for classroom or home discussion and exploration.

Parwinder Singh populates his illustrations with enthusiastic kids dipping into soups, dishing up a plateful around the family dining table, helping out in the kitchen, and licking their fingers to enjoy every drop of a delicious treat. Singh’s colorful backdrops give kids a glimpse into the homes that nourish each child and the landscape that often influences the ingredients that make up their favorite foods.

Sure to spark children’s interest in tasting foods from around the world and learning more about the cultures of the thirteen countries represented here, Let’s Eat! Mealtime around the World makes for a deletable lead-in for social studies and geography lessons, events highlighting international foods, and multicultural explorations at home.

Ages 4 – 8

Beaming Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1506451947

Discover more about Lynne Marie and her books on her website.

You can view a portfolio of artwork by Parwinder Singh on ArtStation.

Eat Better, Eat Together Month Activity

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Pancake Flip-Out Game

 

A favorite family breakfast is pancakes! If you can’t get enough of pancakes at breakfast (or that other treat: breakfast for dinner), you can play this Pancake Flip-Out Game to fill your plate.

Supplies

You can play this game several ways:

  1. Print and cut out the pancakes and plate (or use your own paper plate or other dish) and glue them to the heavy paper, poster board, or foam sheet
  2. Place the plate on the floor
  3. Draw 3 concentric circles around the plate about 12 inches apart.  For younger children make the circles closer together.
  4. Give each player the same number of pancakes and choose someone to go first
  5. Each player takes turns tossing or flipping their pancakes, trying to get them onto the plate
  6. When a player has used all of their pancakes add up their score:
  • Hitting the target can earn you 20 points
  • Getting your pancake in the first circle around the plate earns you 15 point
  • Hitting the second circle is worth 10 points
  • Pancakes landing in the third circle are worth 5 points

Rotate through the players as many times as you like and add up the points at the end. The player with the most points wins!

Try this Option:

Instead of tossing the pancakes with your hands, try flipping them with a spatula!

Or: Make up your own rules—and have fun!

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You can find Let’s Eat! Mealtime 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

September 5 – National Cheese Pizza Day

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About the Holiday

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

Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster

By Claire Lordon

 

Lorenzo is one adventurous lobster! Not only does he like exploring new places, he loves getting his claws on new foods. One day while at the beach, Lorenzo meets a seagull who has found a tasty slice of pizza to nosh on. “‘What’s that?’” Lorenzo asks, “‘It smells amazing!’” The seagull tells him and invites him to try it. Lorenzo takes a nibble…and then a bigger bite. He loves this pizza thing so much that he eats it all up.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

On his way home to tell his friends about his discovery, Lorenzo runs into Kalena, his turtle friend, and tells her all about the triangular food that is “‘crispy and chewy at the same time; salty, tangy, and full of flavor, too!’” Kalena is intrigued and suggests they try to make one themselves. At Lorenzo’s house they begin gathering the ingredients, but when Kalena asks what was in the pizza, Lorenzo can’t remember. Kalena looks in the cupboard and pulls out seaweed cake and kelp paste. “‘Perfect!’” agrees Lorenzo. For the “stringy” part, Kalena suggests eelgrass, which also has the benefit of being extra salty. And the “round things on top”? Sand dollars sound delicious!

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Image and text copyright Claire Lorden, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

So the pair bake up their green concoction, and when the timer rings they dig in only to find that it “‘isn’t quite right.’” Not one to give up, Kalena offers a new set of ingredients: “‘kelp dough, squid ink, algae, and coral rings.’” This pizza isn’t right either—in fact, Kalena says, “‘This tastes icky! And the algae is stuck in my teeth!’” Suddenly, Lorenzo has a brainstorm. He remembers that the pizza was made of “‘sponge patties, jellyfish jelly, seaweed noodles, and seashells.’”

Listening to that recipe, Kalena isn’t so sure, but they make it anyway. When this creation comes out of the oven, one small nip convinces Kalena that this one is “‘gross.’” Poor Lorenzo—he so badly wanted to make a delicious pizza with his friend. Kalena leaves Lorenzo’s house with the distinct impression that pizza is terrible. But as she heads up the beach toward home, she smells a delicious aroma. Coming closer she spies a “round food,” and buys one.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With one bite, she’s smitten! This round food is “‘so chewy, and salty, and…wait a minute.’” It dawns on Kalena that this might be the very pizza Lorenzo was talking about. There’s just one thing—why is it a circle? Even though Kalena wants to devour the whole thing, she thinks about how sad Lorenzo was and hurries back to his house with the steaming box. Sure enough, Lorenzo is moping about the afternoon’s debacle.

“‘Hey Lorenzo, look what I found!’” Kalena calls. “‘Holy anchovy!’” Lorenzo exclaims when he tastes it, “‘This is exactly like the pizza I had earlier, but this time it’s big and round!’” They are excited to dig into their treat, but they carefully study the pizza’s ingredients before eating it all up. One pizza just isn’t enough, so Lorenzo and Kalena make another…and another…and another—and share them with all their friends at a huge pizza party.

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Image and text copyright Claire Lordon, 2016, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Who knew pizza and the ocean had so much in common—the same salty tang, the same appealing aromas, the same recognizable shapes? Claire Lordon, that’s who! In her funny culinary adventure, Lordon captures the enthusiasm children have to share and replicate a new discovery  but also presents the moments of disappointment when reality and memory don’t match. Kids will “ewww…ohhh…yuck…and yuck it up at the alternative pizza ingredients Lorenzo and Kalena combine in their attempts at a “normal” pizza. These two friends are sweetly supportive of each other through kelp paste and pepperoni and know how to share life’s ups and downs.

Lordon’s adorable sea creatures populate vibrant underwater and beach environments that will be as familiar to kids as their own homes and playgrounds, but with an oceanic twist. Images of the alternate ingredients are clever adaptations of the elements of a normal pizza as Lorenzo remembers the shapes but not the names of the fixings.

Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster is a delicious ingredient to add to any child’s bookshelf, and kids will no doubt want to build their own pizzas just like Lorenzo—a crustacean who really knows his crust!

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802283

Learn more about Claire Lordon and her work on her website!

To read my interview with Claire, click here!

Cheese Pizza Day Activity

CPB - Pizza Day Toppings

Create Your Pizza Game

 

Play this fun game to build your pizza ingredient by ingredient before the others! For 2 – 8 players.

Supplies

Directions

Object of the Game: to fill a pizza slice with 5 delicious ingredients

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first. Play
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places an ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play passes to the right
  6. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board for each player. The first player to complete the whole pizza is the winner

Each number on the playing die corresponds to one ingredient or other instruction, as noted below:

1: Sauce (red x)

2: Cheese

3: Green peppers (green squares)

4: Garlic (white half moons)

5: Pepperoni

6: Remove one ingredient and pass the playing die to the next player

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lorenzo-the-pizza-loving-lobster-cover

You can find Lorenzo the Pizza-Loving Lobster at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

 

August 24 – National Waffle Day Short & Sweet Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m thrilled to join the Long & Savory Book Tour for Short & Sweet, the fourth book in the Lady Pancake & Sir French series. The fact that today is National Waffle Day makes it doubly sweet as Baron von Waffle has played an integral part in each story. And just how important are waffles to the world? Well, waffles and waffle irons have been around since the 14th century, and today’s holiday celebrates the day in 1869 when Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York received the first patent for a waffle iron. Fortunately for us, this favorite breakfast treat has also helped to inspire one of the most innovative kidlit series around.

I received a digital version of Short & Sweet courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Short & Sweet (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Volume 4)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

Back in the old familiar fridge, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are getting ready to host a tea party. After all the preparations, though, Pancake is achy and Toast felt quite pale. “Pancake then screamed, ‘Are we both going stale?’” One friend at the party didn’t mince words. “Baron von Waffle, their guest, said, ‘You’re gruesome. / I’ve never seen such a hideous twosome.’” But the news wasn’t all bad, he had a solution and handed them a brochure for Professor Biscotti’s Laboratory, where she promised rejuvenation with her “DE-spoiling ray.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast hurried on over and took their seats. Biscotti aimed her laser and…poof! When the smoke cleared Pancake and Toast had become kids. “‘Explain what you did to them!’ Waffle demanded. / Professor Biscotti said, ‘Hmm. I’ll be candid. / I over de-spoiled them with my device. / I’m ever so sorry. I’ll charge you half price.’” But while the Baron was arguing with the professor, Toast and Pancake had grown alarmed.

They ran quickly away from the monster waffle. But the pair’s fear left Waffle a blubbering mess. They’d all just become friends, but now he was afraid that fun was all over. Professor Biscotti, though, said she could fix it; they just needed a plan. By this time, the two pint-sized companions had reached the city. They raced to “Limes Square” and then to “Pasta Playground,” where they joined the little noodles on the see-saw, the swings, and the slide. Until they saw the library and scampered inside. Meanwhile, Waffle was cooking up bait to capture them and “Biscotti kept working in her laboratories, / while Pancake and Toast sat enraptured by stories.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-biscotti

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

There was only one thing that could tear them away. Then they smelled that sweet scent and “they followed their noses past fjord, wall, and hill / and then kept on running and running until… / ‘The old syrup trick,’ Waffle said with a smirk. / ‘Professor, I’ve got ‘em. So now will it work?’” With hope, Biscotti put them back in the chairs and fired up her laser. But it just wouldn’t work. Waffle offered some syrup to make the gears stick, and this time when the laser went Zap! the tiny duo grew up! Pancake and Toast were glad to be back.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-bran-canyon

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they learned that the Baron was the monster they’d feared, they were ashamed and apologized. Waffle was relieved, and as the three headed back to finish their tea, Pancake assured Waffle, “‘we’ll always be chums.’ / ‘Exactly,’ said Toast, ‘till we wither to crumbs.’”

Fans of the series know to expect a party at the end of the story, and this time out, they’re invited to Food Fest, where Juice Springsteen is the headline act. Kids will love picking out their favorite characters from the other three books from among the adoring—and adorable—crowd. Another perk is the fold-out poster that depicts a map of the route Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast took from Crust Boulevard and Professor Biscotti’s Lab all the way to Limes Square, the playground, and the library.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-waffle

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Like fine grape juice, Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series gets better with age. In Short & Sweet, Funk’s talent for clever rhymes and jaunty rhythms is on full frolic as Pancake and Toast’s quest to feel young again goes a little too far. His robust storytelling takes comical aim at current fads as well as something that never goes out of style—friendship. When Pancake and Toast learn they’ve mistaken Waffle for a monster and inadvertently hurt his feelings, Funk reveals that the best way to smooth things over is with heartfelt apologies and reassurances. Readers will appreciate Baron von Waffle’s sweet throwback to the book that introduced us to this most magical of refrigerators along with the hiding place of choice of these two cutie-pie protagonists, who live large in our hearts even when they’re tiny.

Opening the door to Brendan Kearney’s fridge is always a treat. Each page offers new visual puns, hilarious foodie takes on furniture, décor, and technology, and even a few clues to the concert acts that close out the fun. Adults will smile wryly at Professor Biscotti’s frosted chocolate hair and white lab coat while kids giggle at the book titles Pancake and Toast devour at the library. Biscotti’s avocado laser is an ingenious touch. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and Baron von Waffle, with their signature toppings, remain as charming as ever, and the theme of friendship is baked into every page.

Fresh, funny, and as heartwarming as reuniting with a best friend, Short & Sweet is a must addition to home, school, and public libraries. If you’re new to the series, check out  the first three books

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast | The Case of the Stinky Stench | Mission Defrostable

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454934271

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books on his website

To learn more about Brendan Kearney, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Don’t shrink away from watching the Short & Sweet book trailer!

And don’t miss the Virtual Launch Party at An Unlikely Story bookstore September 1

Short & Sweet Virtual Launch Party with An Unlikely Story bookstore

National Waffle Day Activity

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Waffle Tic-Tac-Toe

The grid of a waffle makes a perfect tic tac toe board! With this special breakfast-inspired tic tac toe set you can cook up some sweet fun! With all the choices of squares in a waffle to fill, you can play 3-by-3, 4-by-4, 5-by-5, even 6-by-6 games! 

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-waffle-game-pieces

Directions

  1. Play 3-by-3 games as you always do
  2. For the other options each player tries to build rows of 4 pieces down, across, and diagonally
  3. The player with the most 4-in-a-row rows wins!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-short-&-sweet-cover

You can find Short & Sweet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound (Shop IndieBound for exclusive Short & Sweet swag! Learn more here!)

Short & Sweet Preorder Swag

Don’t miss the rest of the Long & Savory Book Tour! Follow along here!

CPB – Short & Sweet Long & Savory Virtual Tour

DoPicture Book Review

August 22 – National Bao Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-cover

About the Holiday

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

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Written by Kat Zhang | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-perfect-bao

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-failures

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-plan

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

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

Amy’s family recipe for bao follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-bigger

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Aladdin, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534411333

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

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

National Bao Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Amy-Wu's-family-bao-recipe

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

 

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

Amy Wu’s Family Bao Recipe

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-cover

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 31 – It’s National Hot Dog Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-cover

About the Holiday

Since 1956, hot dogs have been top dog throughout July. Independence Day, summer picnics, and camping trips are just a few of the events that are more fun with this versatile favorite. Enjoyed throughout the world, hot dogs even get their own special days in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Australia and other countries. A favorite of kids and adults alike, hot dogs can be enjoyed plain or loaded with everything from mustard to chili. While Hot Dog Month may be winding down, there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy this simple meal.

Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Victor Juhasz

 

Before Eleanor Roosevelt became the first lady of the United States, she loved to grill up hot dog roasts for her family and friends. You see, Eleanor loved hot dogs! But after her husband Franklin became President, Eleanor had important duties. “Things were tough in the United States in the 1930s,” and since Franklin “couldn’t walk or move about easily, he counted on Eleanor to travel around the country for him” talking to people to see how the government could make things better. “Soon Eleanor was as popular as the president.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-kids

Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Not only was the United States suffering through a depression, it looked like the world would soon be at war. Eleanor presided over many fancy dinners in the White House given in honor of important people. These dinners, complained Eleanor, were “always hot dog-less.” Then, in 1939, the king and queen of England decided they would visit America to commemorate the 150th anniversary of our country’s independence from Britain. No English monarch had visited America in all that time.

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Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eleanor did a little research and discovered that Queen Elizabeth was a distant cousin of George Washington. “‘She’s practically a member of the American family!’” Elizabeth exclaimed. “‘So to celebrate the first royal visit,’ Eleanor continued, ‘we need an all-American picnic.’” But first, came a fancy dinner. Following that, the Roosevelts and the king and queen drove to Hyde Park, New York, where the Roosevelts had an estate.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-fancy-dinners

Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eleanor planned her picnic to be held at a simple stone house on the property owned by the president, where the scenery was as pretty as it gets. Eleanor packed the menu full of traditional American favorites, including turkey, ham, cranberry jelly, baked beans, strawberry shortcake—and, of course, hot dogs. When the details of the menu were released, the White House was inundated with letters from all over the country protesting that hot dogs should not be offered to the queen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-spinach

Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Eleanor answered the protesters in her daily newspaper column. She reassured them that there would be “plenty of other food, and…the more important guests will be served with due formality.” On June 11, Eleanor finished her morning routine and rushed to the cottage to prepare for the picnic. As the king and queen arrived—driven by the president himself in a specially outfitted car—Eleanor could see from the expressions on the royal faces that Franklin hadn’t resisted the temptation to show off, “racing their majesties up bumpy roads, through the woods, and around steep, twisty turns to the picnic site.”

When it came to eat, King George picked up a hot dog and “ate it with gusto … and mustard!” He even had seconds. And the queen? She daintily cut hers up with a fork and knife. After dinner, King George and Queen Elizabeth began their trip back to England with a train ride. Townspeople flocked to the station and stood along the banks of the Hudson River to see them off.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-first-lady

Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Three months later, World War II began. England and America fought side by side to defeat their enemies. The Roosevelts had promised to visit Queen Elizabeth and King George, but Franklin died before the war’s end. Eleanor later made the trip alone. On June 11, 1989 another picnic was held at Hyde Park in remembrance of that other picnic fifty years earlier. Some of the guests had been children at that first memorable party, and Queen Elizabeth “sent a special message: ‘The memory of the picnic was a source of strength and comfort to the king and me through the dark days of the Second World War….’” And what did the guests enjoy at that second picnic? The menu was “exactly the same—right down to the hot diggity dogs!”

An Author’s Note adding a bit more information about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and King George IV and Queen Elizabeth follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-king-and-queen

Image copyright Victor Juhasz, 2014, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2014. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman’s engaging and smoothly paced story captures Eleanor Roosevelt’s warm-hearted personality and down-home friendliness that made her one of American history’s most beloved first ladies. Details of Eleanor’s White House duties juxtaposed with humorous anecdotes about her love of hot dogs, reaction to her choice of menu, and Franklin’s penchant for driving create a well-rounded portrait of a particular time in history. Including 1989’s 50th anniversary picnic reminds readers of the ongoing friendship between America and Great Britain.

Victor Juhasz uses lush, caricature-style art to great effect in representing the 1930s to ‘40s time period, the lavish trappings of the White House, and Eleanor’s larger-than-life personality and influence. Her wide smile and can-do attitude as well as her self-confidence are on display for young readers to appreciate and emulate. Other character’s facial expressions clearly spotlight the humorous incidents but also the seriousness of the times. And, of course, those hot dogs that Eleanor loved so much look good enough to eat!

For young readers interested in history, culinary arts, and biographies, adding Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic to their reading menu would be a treat. Teachers will also find the book an engaging inclusion to lessons on the historical time period, women in history in general, and Eleanor Roosevelt in particular.

Ages 8 – 11

Sleeping Bear Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1585368303

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Victor Juhasz, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Hot Dog Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-maze

Grab Those Hot Dogs!

 

There are delicious hot dogs scattered throughout this maze! Can you collect all nine on the way from start to finish in this printable puzzle?

Grab Those Hot Dogs! Maze | Grab Those Hot Dogs! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hot-dog-eleanor-roosevelt-throws-a-picnic-cover

Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic can be found at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop| IndieBound