Only EIGHT DAYS left until the release of my picture book! It is not happening the way I had dreamed– no big “book birthday” parties and signing tours– but I am still excited. And while I spent last month looking at picture books written by fellow “K” authors, this month I have explored fellow “foodies!!” With one exception, all of these books have a recipe in them (and that exception has plenty of food!) Since my book also has recipes, I loved seeing how they were woven into all these other joyful and tasty books!
Title: Holy Squawkamole!
Author: Susan Wood
Illustrator: Laura Gonzáles
Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books (March 5, 2019)
The “gist”: In a twist on the traditional tale, the little red hen wants to make guacamole and asks animals for help, but ultimately gathers all the ingredients herself and serves it to her friends.
My favorite part: I loved the extra ingredient she added at the end!
My response as a reader: I am a language teacher, so the cultural references, and the little bits of spanish (like calling the red hen “gallinita roja”) were fun and educational. And of course I am a sucker for a book with a recipe in it!
My “take-away” as a writer: I love the idea of taking a traditional tale and setting it in a new culture. I have always wanted to do a fairy tale/folk tale retelling, so now I have some brainstorming to do!
Title: Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie
Author: Jack Bishop
Illustrator: Michelle Mee Nutter
Publisher/Date: America’s Test Kitchen Kids; Illustrated Edition (September 1, 2020)
The “gist”: Peyton is determined not to be picky this Thanksgiving, so she is trying hard to keep an open mind when deciding which pie to try. There are so many!
My favorite part: I don’t make many pies, but I do love them! It was fun to learn about a few of the unique pies such as Lemon Chess (which I did NOT know was originally called “cheese” pie) and the Greek ruffled milk pie.
My response as a reader: This book reminds me a lot of THE GREAT HOLIDAY COOKIE SWAP — a holiday feast and competing desserts! Just too bad the only recipe is for the apple pie! (Thanks to my mom, I already make a killer apple pie…)
My “take-away” as a writer: Making Peyton the central character helps us learn about the foods through her eyes– I have another manuscript with foods and will be making sure my descriptions flow as naturally as these.
Title: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Author: Kevin Noble Maillard
Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal
Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press; Illustrated Edition (October 22, 2019)
The “gist”: It can be flat, fluffy, white, brown, every family may make it differently, but fry bread is an important family dish to the Native American culture!
My favorite part: The back matter is not to be missed– so much extra cultural information!
My response as a reader: I have a friend in Wisconsin who is Native American and used to talk about making fry bread, but I had never heard of it. This gave me a really great insight into the importance of it.
My “take-away” as a writer: There is a special music to this writing which is almost like poetry– each page begins with a statement: “Fry bread is food…Fry bread is sound…Fry bread is shape…” with sensory descriptions after each. The style fits beautifully with the magical picture the story paints. If I taught writing, I might use this to get students to explore writing about all the senses using a favorite food from THEIR culture.
Title: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast: Short & Sweet
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books (September 1, 2020)
The “gist”: In this, the fourth installment of the Lady Pancake/Sir French Toast series, our heroes are turned into children and experience quite an adventure trying to get back to normal.
My favorite part: Brendan Kearney’s illustrations make for mega re-readability! So many adorable little food bits!
My response as a reader: Josh always brings great creativity to his work and it is great to see these baked goods are not getting stale! I love that the fridge contents are different in each book, so the fold-out map at the end gives you a whole new set of topographical features to explore! (My fave: limes square!)
My “take-away” as a writer: I have to think long and hard when I start a new manuscript– is this one going to be rhymed or not? Even though THE GREAT HOLIDAY COOKIE SWAP is a rhyming picture book, many I have written more recently are prose. Rhyming books are HARD to do well and while I really love to do it, I think sometimes I shy away from it– but then I read Josh and realize it is totally worth it!
Title: Every Night is Pizza Night
Author: J. Kenji López-Alt
Illustrator: Gianna Ruggiero
Publisher/Date: Norton Young Readers (September 1, 2020)
The “gist”: Pipo loves pizza so much she can’t imagine any other food could compare, but she tries a variety of foods from the neighborhood (from bibimbap to guacamole) and discovers some amazing new tastes!
My favorite part: I am in love with this book because it is SO ME! As you might have picked up from my own upcoming book, international food exploration is totally my jam!
My response as a reader: I love how the author describes how each new food looks and tastes. The illustrations are so happy and colorful it is a real celebration of food!
My “take-away” as a writer: Repetition!! I always note it when I see it done well, because kids love a good “refrain” in a book, but I am always forgetting to tie them into my own. With each day of trying a new food, Pipo notes “I do not need it. I do not want it. But I will try it.” I can imagine this book and refrain working great with kids who are picky eaters!