April 13 – National Make Lunch Count Day


About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage American workers to get away from their desk and eat lunch out with friends and coworkers. Taking a break from the office and spending lunchtime having a little fun or over a stimulating conversation can rejuvenate you for the rest of the day. Many people have also embraced the holiday as a way to remind themselves and others to eat healthy and make what they make (or order) nutritious and beneficial. To celebrate, make lunch an adventure today. You might even decide to try something new—like the little girls in today’s book!

The Sandwich Swap

Written by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa 


Salma and Lily were best friends. At school they did everything together in the classroom and on the playground. They also ate lunch together every day. They loved all the same things—until it came to what was packed in their lunchboxes. Lily always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Salma always had a hummus and pita sandwich.

While Lily never said so, she thought Salma’s sandwich looked yucky, and Salma kept quiet about her opinion that Lily’s sandwich seemed gross. But one day, Lily did say what she’d been thinking. Salma couldn’t believe her ears. She frowned and “looked down at the thin, soft bread. She thought of her beautiful smiling mother as she carefully cut Salma’s sandwich into two neat halves that morning.” First she felt hurt; then she felt mad.


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Salma let Lily know just how gross and icky-smelling she thought Lily’s sandwich was. “Lily looked surprised. She sniffed the thick, squishy bread, and she thought of her dad in his silly apron whistling” as he cut her sandwich into triangles. After that the two girls did not play or draw together. And the next day, they ate at separate tables. The story of Salma and Lily’s argument had spread, and the other kids chose sides. In the cafeteria, they lobbed insults, calling each other “jelly heads” and “chick pea brains.”

Pretty soon there were shouts of “you’re weird” and “you dress dumb.” It wasn’t long before someone yelled “Food Fight!” and peanut butter, hummus, and all types of sandwiches flew through the air. “They stuck to the walls. They stuck to the ceiling. They stuck to the lunch lady.” Before anyone knew it, pudding cups and applesauce and carrot sticks were soaring through the air.

Lily and Salma gazed at each other across the mess and “felt ashamed by what they saw.” After they helped clean it all up and were sent to the principal’s office, they felt even worse. The next day, Lily and Salma once again sat across from each other during lunch. At last Lily said, “‘Would you like to try a bite of my peanut butter and jelly?” Salma said that she would and offered Lily a nibble of her hummus sandwich. Lily agreed.

On the count of three, Lily and Salma tried each other’s sandwiches. “Yummy! Mmmmm!” they both said, and then they traded sandwiches. After lunch they met with the principal again to tell her an idea they’d had. And on a sunny day, the school held a picnic where everyone shared their favorite lunch from their native country.


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The school lunchroom with its unique dynamics is a perfect setting for Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPuccio’s story that highlights the kinds of prejudice children can encounter whether for food choices or other differences. The inclusion of Salma’s and Lily’s thoughts about their parents is a poignant reminder of how profound and complex children’s emotions are. The humor and honesty in the girls’ relationship, thoughts, and argument as well as the food fight will resonate with readers. Salma’s and Lily’s decision to renew their friendship and try each other’s lunches and to share their revelation with their classmates leads to the kind of growth we all want for our kids.


Tricia Tusa’s delicate and soft-hued mixed-media illustrations portray the joys of being best friends as Lily and Salma draw, swing, jump rope, and eat lunch together in beautiful two-page spreads. When their true feelings about each other’s sandwiches comes out, the girls are clearly reflective and then hurt and angry as they scowl nose to nose. The food fight is a double-spread free-for-all that will make kids laugh as the lunch lady seems to take the brunt of the flying food. The final gate-fold scene of the multicultural picnic is heartwarming.

The Sandwich Swap is a terrific read at home and in the classroom, especially near the beginning of the school year. The book is also a wonderful prelude to a classroom or school-wide multicultural day or food fair.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2010 | ISBN 978-1423124849

Learn more about Queen Rania Al Abdulla of Jordan and her global advocacy on her website.

Discover more about Kelly DiPucchio and her books on her website.

Get to know Tricia Tusa and view a portfolio of her books and art on her website.

Make Lunch Count Day


Personalized Lunch Container


Take your lunch to school or work in style with this quick and easy craft! All you need is a plastic sandwich or food container, some permanent markers, and your creativity!

Picture Book Review

May 22 – National Buy a Musical Instrument Day


About the Holiday

Each year on May 22 we celebrate music and the personal relationship musicians have with their instruments. Some musical artists even consider their instrument such a friend or part of the family that they give them names. Whether you are just starting out on your journey with music or are a seasoned professional, today may be a good day to think about buying your first instrument or adding to your collection.

A Violin for Elva

Written by Mary Lyn Ray | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa


While out on a springtime jaunt, little Elva came upon a garden party. There were the sounds of voices and rustling clothes, but Elva heard none of this. Instead, her ears were trained on the music the violinist was playing. Later that night she told her mom and dad that she wanted a violin. She even said please, but they said no.

So Elva found violins elsewhere. She practiced with a tennis racquet and stick; she rehearsed with her toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. When she was called to the board in math class, she wrote more notes than numbers, and when she “should have been going to sleep, she was playing music only she could hear.” Years passed; she grew, made friends and pursued other activities. Soon she was an adult with a job, appointments, and meetings. “But if she saw a page tremulous with music, she remembered what she once had wanted.”


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of hmhco.com.

She told herself she was too busy to learn to play the violin now, but she began borrowing records from the library. When she listened to them, she felt as if she “had picked up her violin again” and was playing in an orchestra or performing a solo. At the end of the record, Elva filled the silence and empty feeling with all the other things she had to do.

More years passed, and “Elva had many satisfactions and achievements,” but something was still missing. She told herself that she was too old now, “but more and more she kept imagining what might have been—” Then one day she took some money, went to the store, and bought “a shiny, fragile, varnished violin.”  She hugged it tightly on the way home and once there—without even taking off her coat—she removed it from its case, placed it under her chin, and “pushed the bow across a string.” The violin squeeeked and squeeeeeeeeeeked. But then “she drew the bow back toward her—and the string sang.”


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of hmhco.com.

She tried other strings without success, but that one, clear note encouraged her. “‘I will improve,’ she said. But she didn’t” Playing the violin was difficult; she had to hold the bow just right, land on the correct notes, and figure out the fingering for sharps and flats. It was all so confusing that Elva put away her violin.

Then one day she read that “Madame Josephina was accepting beginning students.” Again, Elva took some money and signed up for lessons. Twice a week Elva went to Madame Josephina’s house, and on the days in between, she practiced. At the end of the year, there was a recital. Elva was nervous as she took the stage with the other students. But when she drew the bow across her violin’s strings, Elva realized she “was making music.” That night at home she played her piece again and again. “At last, Elva kissed her bow and went to bed, imagining all the tomorrows. And all the music there was to make.”


Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of hmhco.com.

Mary Lyn Ray’s story of a little girl whose lifelong love of the violin is only satisfied in old age reveals to readers that while they may grow and change throughout the years, childhood passions often remain strong. While they may be rejected or forgotten for one reason or another, these interests sometimes indirectly guide career choices or reappear when the time is right for them to be fulfilled. Although it is a violin that captures Elva’s heart, Ray could have chosen from a long list of creative, daring, or professional pursuits that niggle at one’s brain to be acknowledged and expressed. A Violin for Elva offers encouragement and inspiration not only for those who feel that it’s too late to achieve their dreams but for those struggling to overcome the fear of trying.

Tricia Tusa’s watercolor and ink illustrations are as light and graceful as the music that captivates Elva. In lovely vignettes, a garden-party attendee wears an enormous flower hat, Elva’s pet cat swipes a paw at her imaginary music, Elva stops on her way to work to admire a street musician, and Elva hugs her dog close while having tea in sunny window. When Elva finally buys her own violin, all the hustle and bustle of her life stops for a moment and love fills the page as she hugs the instrument while her dog leans affectionately against her leg and both are bathed in a glorious spotlight. Seeing Elva on stage at her first recital surrounded by children half her size, readers will understand that true love never fades and is always attainable.

Ages 4 – 7 and up (adults will also appreciate the book’s message)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0152254834

Discover more about Mary Lyn Ray and her books on her website!

You’ll find a gallery of art work by Tricia Tusa on her website!

National Buy a Musical Instrument Day Activity


I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle


There’s an orchestra of instruments in this printable I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle. Can you find all eighteen different instruments? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review