August 2 – It’s National Farmers Market Week

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About the Holiday

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

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

Written by Michelle Schaub | Illustrated by Amy Huntington

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 9

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

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

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

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

National Farmers Market Week Activities

 

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

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

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

Supplies

Directions

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

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

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Plant a Vegetable Garden Word Search

 

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

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 16 – It’s National Blueberry Month

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About the Holiday

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

Blueberry Cake

By Sarah Dillard

 

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

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

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

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

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

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

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

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

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Copyright Sarah Dillard, 2021, courtesy of Aladdin.

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

Ages 3 – 8

Aladdin, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534451346

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

National Blueberry Month Activity

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A Bounty of Blueberries Maze

 

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

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

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You can find Blueberry Cake at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 1 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

There’s a true art in putting together a delicious meal from seemingly disparate parts, and this month’s holiday honors those with a talent for combining tastes, flavors, and textures. With fresh ingredients available at farm stores, farmers markets, grocery stores, and maybe even your own garden, July is a great month for celebrating the culinary arts. This month spend time with your kids in the kitchen. It’s a terrific way to learn new cooking skills and practice practical math while creating experimental or favorite recipes. And, of course, be sure to remember to make a few treats! Today’s book should get you off to a great start!

Thanks to Little Gestalten for sending me a copy of We Love Pizza for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Gestalten in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

We Love Pizza: Everything you want to know about your number one food

By Elenia Beretta

 

A spritely poem opens this compendium of all things pizza and invites readers to learn about this world-favorite dish, from its origins in Italy to a trip into outer space. First up, though, you’ll learn that “pizzas can be round or square, / In different shapes and sizes, / And sometimes what is in or on them / Is full of big surprises.” For instance, if you (or you and your friends) are super hungry, you might want to try a pizza al metro from Sorrento, Italy. “‘Metro’ means ‘meter’ (39 inches)—not the subway!—and that’s how long it is.”

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Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Or you might like a slice of New York pizza, which is so big “you’ll need to fold it before you can hold it.” If you like your pizza ingredients inside the pizza, try a calzone or a lahmacun from Turkey and Armenia, which is “rolled up like a sleeping hedgehog, with minced meat on top and some super spicy vegetables inside, like onions, peppers, and garlic.”

So we know that people all over the world love pizza, but who invented it? That honor would go to some creative chef (or chefs) in Naples, Italy, who began selling pizza in 1738. At first, pizza was considered “a simple food for the poor,” but when Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba opened its doors in 1830 “as a proper restaurant,” pizza went upscale. Pizza became so popular that kings and queens even began enjoying it. One particular style of pizza was even created for a queen and was named after her. Can you guess which one? You may have even eaten one yourself!

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Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Since you like to eat pizza so much, maybe you’d like to learn how to make it—from scratch, of course. Including the crust. When the pizza is bubbly, cheesy, and HOT, there’s only one thing left to do—eat it! But how you eat it is up to you. Is your way described in the next pages?

You may wonder when pizza came to America. When Italian immigrants moved to the US in the late 19th century, they brought their love of pizza with them. “When the first pizzerias in the USA were opened, more and more toppings were introduced, and more and more people became pizza fans.” In fact some of today’s best loved pizza places once housed much different businesses.

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Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

By now, you’re probably pretty hungry, so you’ll want to check out the fifteen very different types of pizza from around the world. One costs $2,000; one comes in a box made of pizza; and another is probably the sweetest pizza you’ve ever heard of. Of course, no book can celebrate pizza without mentioning all the people who have a hand in growing the ingredients, baking it, and serving it. You’ll be impressed with how much care goes into just one pizza!

Along the way, you’ll also learn fascinating facts about where in the world the most pizza is eaten, the video game character inspired by pizza, some incredible pizza records, and delivery options for every pizza lover.

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Copyright Elenia Beretta, 2021, courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Elenia Beretta pairs her engaging and educational text about pizza with bright, whimsical images that introduce kids to a plethora of pizza styles and flavors as well as the people who created them long ago and those who gobble them down today. A highlight for any would-be pizza baker is the step-by-step illustrated tutorial on making a pizza starting with flour and yeast and ending with “Yum!” Depictions of pizzas enjoyed by readers’ peers around the world may inspire some kids to try something other than their usual order.

For kids who love pizza, history, cooking, and learning more about the world’s cultures, We Love Pizza is a smart and fun addition to any book collection.

Ages 5 – 9

Little Gestalten, 2021 | ISBN 978-3967047059

To learn more about Elenia Beretta, her books, and her art, visit her website.

We Love Pizza Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Little Gestalten in a giveaway. There will be two (2) lucky winners – One entrant and a friend they have tagged. Each winner will receive: 

  • One (1) copy of We Love Pizza by Elenia Beretta

To enter:

This giveaway is open from July 1 to July 5 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on July 6. 

Prizing provided by Little Gestalten

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Culinary Arts Month 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

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

Directions

  1. Print a Pizza Crust Game Board and Ingredients Cards on regular paper or heavy stock
  2. Each player picks a slice on the board to fill
  3. Roll the dice to choose who goes first 
  4. The first player rolls the dice and places the facing ingredient on their slice according to the numbers below
  5. Play then passes to the right
  6. After the first round of play, when players roll an ingredient they already have, the die is passed to the next player
  7. The player who fills their slice with all 5 ingredients first, wins

Alternative for older kids: Print a game board and ingredients cards for each player. The first player to fill all the slices on the pizza is the winner

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

1: add sauce (red x)

2: add cheese

3: add green peppers (green squares)

4: add garlic (white half moons)

5: add pepperoni

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

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You can find We Love Pizza at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 15 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m excited to be celebrating the Book Birthday of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!, a story that makes delicious fun of learning about nature, science, and one fantastic treat! 

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn!

Written by Cynthia Schumerth | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

A group of kids plants rows of seeds, which with rain and sun grow unseen until “Surprise! Like magic sprouts appear! / Green and tender, finally here.” The kids help their plants grow by pulling weeds and watching out for pests. The seeds grow and grow until they are taller—much taller—than the children. What are the kids growing? Corn, but not just any corn…. Can you guess?

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

When the ears are picked, shucked, and dried, the kernels are ready to be tossed “Plink, plunk, plink” into a pot and heated up. Do you know what kind of corn it is now, or do you need another hint? Okay… “Steam builds around each kernel’s germ, / puffs the starch called endosperm.” A bit of science brings about explosive results then “first one pop! Then pops galore!” You know now! The kids grew their own popcorn! When the pot is overflowing it’s time for “butter, salt, then give a swish. / Lick our fingers—Mmm! Delish!”

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

Fascinating backmatter reveals the science behind this favorite treat. Diagrams and photographs let kids see inside a popcorn kernel and view the progression of a kernel as it is heated. They also learn about the two different shapes of popcorn and how they are used. A science activity gives readers the steps for growing their own popcorn from seed to sprout and reveals what transformations take place inside the kernel as the little plant grows. A popcorn art project fills out this STEAM lesson that’s sure to be a favorite.

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

There may be no more universally loved snack than popcorn, and Cynthia Schumerth makes learning about the science of growing the plants, preparing the ears for popping, and what happens when the kernels are heated lots of fun. Her bouncy rhyming storytelling will engage kids and get them excited about all the lessons these tiny kernels have to teach. Schumerth’s storytelling builds to its “kaboom” moment, mirroring the suspense popcorn lovers listening for that first Pop. Teachers and homeschoolers will love the resources following the story, which provide for a full lesson appropriate for science, nature, or cross-curricular lessons.

Mary Reaves Uhles’s action-packed illustrations will enthrall kids with their close-up perspectives and relatable details, like the little girl who’s wearing a cat’s ears headband as she digs up the ground for planting. Readers go underground to get a worm’s eye view of the kernels sprouting roots, get down in the dirt to pull weeds, and peek into the pot to make sure there’s going to be enough popcorn for the whole crowd. Images of the kernels pop, pop, popping show the process and will make kids plenty hungry. The final spread of all of the kids enjoying their harvest together is a celebration of popcorn and friendship.

An exuberant story that will spark enthusiasm for science learning and gardening, Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! will be a quick favorite and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110427

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Want to know more about Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn? You can read my interview with Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles 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 March 15 through March 22 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 23

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

Let’s Pop Pop Popcorn! Book Birthday Activity

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Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

 

The popcorn’s jumpin’! Can you match the six pairs of kernels so you can enjoy a tasty snack in this printable puzzle?

Popcorn Toss Up! Matching Puzzle

You can find 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

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-let's-pop-pop-popcorn-kernels

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!

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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