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Stories about runaway food — whether pancakes, bannocks, rice cakes, latkes, tortillas or gingerbread men — have long delighted children of all ages. Though Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped gingerbread cookie, portraying the Gingerbread Boy as a story hero is a uniquely American invention. The cheeky, spicy guy first appeared in print in an 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, and he’s been running and taunting readers ever since.

In the charmingly clever interactive mystery Catch that Cookie (2014), which was inspired by author Hallie Durand’s son, young Marshall doesn’t believe gingerbread men can walk or run. Sure, he’s heard all the stories his teacher Mrs. Gray has shared with the class, but Marshall doesn’t buy any of it. Cookies are for eating, period.

When it’s time for them to make their own gingerbread boys, Marshall enjoys mixing the dough (Mrs. Gray tells him he “rocked” it), and decorating his little man with “good stuff”: six raisins for eyes and a special silver-ball belt. But later when Mrs. Gray unlocks the oven to retrieve the baked cookies, they’re gone!

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What do you get when you combine one part Gingerbread Boy with one part “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”?

A delightful recipe for a joyous, rollickingly suspenseful foodie-licious story, of course!

Cleverly riffing on Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” Oregon-based author Stephanie Shaw has cooked up an original adventure featuring our favorite iconic Christmas cookie, who narrowly escapes becoming Santa’s midnight snack.

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And there on a plate,
Was a Gingerbread Boy
Awaiting his fate.

The children had baked him
And dressed him with care,
Using currants for eyes
and icing for hair.

They knew that St. Nick,
With his overstuffed pack,
Would be sorely in need
Of a fine midnight snack.

As the Gingerbread Boy nervously awaits his not-so-sweet fate, two rambunctious puppies bound into the room and begin to pounce, paw, and tear the holiday decorations apart. The plucky Gingerbread Boy knows he must do something to save Christmas, so he quickly distracts those frisky pups by dancing and spinning atop a big red ornament. Employing all his best moves, he’s able to get them to settle down until Santa arrives. After he helps Santa straighten things up, he’s extremely relieved when instead of being eaten, a highly impressed St. Nick asks him to be Night Watchman at his North Pole toy shop.

Stephanie’s bouncy rhyming text scans beautifully and will keep kids rooting for this adorably smart cookie, who ultimately gets his one Christmas wish. The narrative gambols right along and her spritely rhymes and turns of phrase never lapse into predictability.

‘Come Rascal! Come, Rowdy!’
He called them by name.
‘I’ll show you a much better
Christmas Eve game.’

‘A biscuit,’ they barked
With howling dog joy,
‘And one that can talk.
It’s a Gingerbread boy!’

And what he did next
Made those naughty pups stop.
‘Look at me!’ Cookie cried.
‘I can spin like a top!’

Bruno Robert’s bold, action-packed illustrations effectively capture all the fun and frolic of this clamorous caper. Close-ups of the Gingerbread Boy’s worried facial expressions and his overall body language elicit reader empathy, while the perky, playful pups are suitably frenetic but quite lovable. Kids will enjoy the focus on the cookie’s point of view, and appreciate that such a small little guy was able to put aside his big fears without hesitation to save the day.

When the work was all done
Cookie climbed on the dish.
He looked to the stars
And made one Christmas wish.

Then he heard Santa say . . .

A Cookie for Santa has received glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal and Kirkus, and has earned a Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine. It begs to be read aloud in the classroom or at family Christmas gatherings. What a wonderful addition to the holiday book shelf, especially for those who like their classic ingredients served up with a refreshing twist! Who could resist this tasty tale, a lovingly baked gem sure to be welcomed in all the best (and politically correct) cookie circles. :)

Though I can’t personally guarantee that fewer gingerbread boys will be consumed as a result, I’m pretty confident kids of all ages will clamor for repeated readings. :D

Stephanie reading at Sleighbells Gift Shop (Sherwood, Oregon).

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C – O – O – K – I – E – S ! ! !

Cornelius tries to comfort a worried Gingerbread Boy.

I asked Stephanie to share her favorite Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and she pointed me to this gluten-free one using Pamela’s Bread Mix. Seems more and more people are going gluten-free these days and this recipe sounds like it’s definitely worth a try. Thanks, Stephanie!

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 3-1/2 cups Pamela’s Bread Mix
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 12 tablespoons butter or margarine, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Use HEAVY DUTY STAND MIXER and paddle. In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add butter and mix well. Add molasses and milk, mix to combine thoroughly.

Divide dough and roll to 1/4 inch between two layers of parchment paper. Freeze for 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of each and cut out cookies and remove excess dough. Bake on parchment on cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown for soft cookies.

For crispy cookies, roll thinner to 1/8th inch and bake for 14 to18 minutes. Scraps can be rolled and cookies cut out again.

© Pamela’s Products, Inc.

He feels much better after reading the book!

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A COOKIE FOR SANTA
written by Stephanie Shaw
illustrated by Bruno Robert
published by Sleeping Bear Press, 2014
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Cool themes: holidays, Christmas, baking, food, Santa Claus, animals, rhyming fiction

*Check out the cool Activity Guide at Stephanie’s website!

ETA: Read this fun interview with Mr. Pig at The Little Crooked Cottage and enter for a chance to win a signed copy!

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poetryfriday180Paul Hankins is hosting today’s Roundup at These 4 Corners. Scamper over and check out the full menu of poetic treats being served up in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend, a good time to make Gingerbread Boy Cookies. :)

 

 

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Put on your best bibs and come join the fun!

 

 

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* Spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Stephanie Shaw, illustrations © 2014 Bruno Robert, published by Sleeping Bear Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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“The best way to make pie is to learn how to trust yourself and follow your nose — and the rest of your senses. That’s a poet’s advice too.” ~ Kate Lebo

Some of you may remember when Seattle pie poet Kate Lebo visited Alphabet Soup back in January to talk about A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press, 2014) — a delightfully quirky collection of prose poems, recipes, baking tips and ephemera. *licks lips*

In essence a fantasy zodiac that upends our assumptions about what poetry is and can be, her pie poems invited us to look at ourselves, face our fears, and articulate our desires.

Now we can delve even further into our tantalizing pie obsessions with Kate’s brand new cookbook, Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter (Sasquatch Books, 2014), a between-the-covers sampling of her popular Pie School pastry academy classes. Oh, what a beauty it is!

Sure, there are many good pie cookbooks out there with tasty recipes and advice about how to fashion the perfectly tender flaky crust. But how many of these contain chapter intros and recipe header notes that read like prose poems? How many that serve up pie making process, social history, personal anecdotes, gorgeous photos, vintage chic, sass and class with such verve and heart?

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Today I’m pleased to welcome Kansas City-based artist, illustrator, and hand letterer Sarah Walsh to Alphabet Soup!

Pictured above is a collage she created this past summer called “Aqua Daydreams.” I loved it the moment I saw it — mermaids, jellyfish, the different shapes, lines, colors, and overall composition of the piece with its touches of whimsy and playfulness. It feels childlike and sophisticated at the same time, definitely invites a closer look, and much like the rest of her work, elicits unabashed joy and happiness.

“Horsie Love”

A graphic design major, Sarah worked at Hallmark for 12 years, has also illustrated for other card lines, helped Crayola create a character-based tween girl brand (Pop Art Pixies), and has designed typefaces and surface patterns (client list includes Usborne, Peaceable Kingdom, Land of Nod, Perseus, Red Rooster Fabrics). She and her artist husband Colin (love that name!) share a basement studio in their home and sell prints and other goodies via their Etsy shop Petit Reve.

Artists and illustrators Colin and Sarah Walsh of Petit Reve

Most recently, Sarah published three awesome coloring books for Rockport’s Just Add Color Series: Day of the Dead, Carnival, and Circus. (Have you read the recent HuffPo article about how coloring books help adults combat stress? I think we should all order Sarah’s coloring books ASAP! ):)

I know you’ll enjoy learning more about Sarah and feasting your eyes on her charmingly quirky, fun and vibrant creations. She counts among her major influences 50’s and 60’s illustration, family, friends and love in general. It’s so easy to see the ♥ in her work. :)

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Put on your aprons, raise your wooden spoons:

It’s baking day!

It’s baking day!

It’s baking day at Grandma’s!

In this charming new picture book by Anika and Christopher Denise, three spirited young bears tromp through the snow to spend a fun, cozy day at Grandma’s.

After a round of hugs and kisses, they get down to the delicious business of baking a cake together:

Pass out aprons, “One-two-three.”

Grandma reads the recipe:

flour, sugar, butter, eggs.

Stand on chairs with tippy legs.

The eager cubs add big spoonfuls of joy and anticipation to the batter as they help measure, mix, and stir in Grandma’s warm and welcoming cabin kitchen. And why not lick the spoon? :)

Love the way Chris plays with light in his illos, a nice way to underscore the theme of warm hearts and show the passing hours.

While the cake’s in the oven, they sip hot cocoa and dance to the sounds coming from Grandma’s Victrola:

Old-time music, soft and sweet.

Skippy notes and tapping feet.

Learning songs that Grandma sings –

when the kitchen timer rings!

Then it’s time to cut and frost the cake and add a few sprinkles before gift wrapping each piece and heading home by moonlight.

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