[Review, Author Chat + Giveaway] Pat Zietlow Miller on Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

Is it that steamy mound of creamy mashed potatoes, begging for a generous splash of savory gravy? Grandma’s candied sweet potatoes or Aunt Beverley’s green bean casserole? Maybe for you it’s all about the turkey itself with its golden brown crispy skin — moist when you slice into it, even better with cornbread stuffing and fresh cranberry sauce. Can’t forget the pies — homemade pumpkin or apple? Yes, please!

Safe to say, this traditional holiday meal wouldn’t be quite as delicious without all the sharing — the sharing of cooking, baking, and serving tasks, and of course, having family and friends sitting around the table to devour every last bite.

Pat Zietlow Miller’s delectable new picture book, Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story (Schwartz & Wade, 2015), invites us to step back into the 19th century to feast with a lively family of 10:

Mama, fetch the cooking pot.
Fetch our turkey-cooking pot.
Big and old and black and squat.
Mama, fetch the pot.

An enthusiastic young boy coaches each member of his family on a specific task: Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads the dough, Brother bastes the turkey, Grandpa boils the cranberries, Grandma bakes pumpkin pie, Auntie mashes potatoes, Uncle pours cider, and even Baby’s got a job — to “be a sleeping mouse.” With his brother and sister, the boy also makes paper pilgrim hat placemats, and when all is finally done, he calls everyone to the table. Yum!

Pat’s pitch perfect jaunty rhyming verse pulls the reader right into the middle of the action and captures the happy bustle, rising anticipation, fun and spirit of the holiday. Paired with Jill McElmurry’s charming gouache paintings that brim with captivating period detail, this heartwarming story is sure to become a perennial favorite.

Young readers will enjoy trying to identify the old-fashioned cooking utensils and watching how the family pulls off this well-orchestrated meal. There’s ample time to feel the roaring heat of the cast iron stove, watch the clouds of flour rise from the kneading table, smell the heavenly aromas of the different foods cooking, and keep a careful eye on the family dog and cat, who are every bit as anxious to taste the spoils.

Ultimately, this family feels like our family; Sharing the Bread serves up a nice continuity with the past. Good food, loving family, give thanks. Some things never change, as we remind ourselves that love is the best seasoning of all.


We will share the risen bread.
Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.
Grateful to be warm and fed.
We will share the bread.

I’m happy Pat is here today to tell us more and share a favorite Thanksgiving recipe. Take your place at the table and enjoy (save some cranberry sauce for me)!

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Pat with the Golden Kite Award she won for Sophie’s Squash (2014).

Why is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday?

It’s the food. I love all traditional Thanksgiving favorites – turkey and potatoes and stuffing and pumpkin pie.

And, it’s the relative lack of stress. Compared to Christmas, Thanksgiving is peaceful.

Please share a favorite Thanksgiving memory from your childhood.

My grandparents would come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner when I was a child. And, they always brought my brother and sister and me king-size bars of Hershey chocolate. I’m not sure how big the bars really were, but when I was a child they seemed IMMENSE. We’d break off pieces and eat for weeks.

Did you have the 19th century specifically in mind when you wrote this story? If so, how did that affect the way you crafted the rhyming text?

I did not. I just pictured an old-fashioned family. I was very glad Jill McElmurry and Schwartz & Wade nailed down the exact timeframe. And Jill did a ton of work to get the visual details just right.

Pat at the Bettendorf Public Library in Bettendorf, Iowa, where her aunt Faye Clow served as director for many years.

Do you find rhyme easier or harder to write than prose for a picture book? Did you go through many drafts for this one?

I find rhyme to be much harder than prose. I’ve even been known to write myself notes that say. “No rhyming!” on manuscript ideas. But sometimes, like with this book, it happens anyway.

In this case, I was at work when two lines popped into my head:

Mama be a cooking pot, cooking pot.

Big and round and black and hot.

I think my initial reaction was, “What am I supposed to do with THIS?”

But, I typed them out and emailed them to myself at home and started playing around with them. Eventually, Mama stopped being a cooking pot and just had to find a pot.

I went through a lot of drafts of this one. It started out as a family cooking a regular, everyday dinner. Then, an editor who didn’t acquire the piece suggested that it needed a stronger hook to give it shelf space. Maybe they made a holiday meal, she suggested?

So I rewrote it around Thanksgiving, finding out along the way that there’s not much that rhymes with turkey. Or cranberries. Anne Schwartz of Schwartz & Wade was very helpful shepherding me through the revision process.

What do you like most about Jill McElmurry’s illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?

I love how she shows the family bustling around the kitchen and how their aprons get dirtier and dirtier as you turn the pages. But then, when it’s time to eat, they take off the aprons, put on a few fancier jackets and bows and sit down at the table.

My favorite spread is when the whole family is sitting around the table holding hands and saying grace.

Does your family all pitch in to make Thanksgiving dinner like the characters in the book? Have there been any kitchen disasters to speak of or any especially memorable triumphs?

We each have our own thing. My brother makes the classic green-bean casserole. I make a mushroom dish. My mom is the queen of pie-baking – apple and pumpkin – and my sister and her family have made a variety of salads and stuffing.

We haven’t had any disasters I can recall. My mom keeps things on track and usually is in charge of the turkey. One year, I made the pies and the crusts were too salty, but they were edible. (I mean, really, it was still PIE!) And, another year, I made homemade cranberry sauce only to learn some family members strongly preferred the canned variety.

As for the triumphs, every year we can sit down happy and healthy and together is a triumph.

Plus, Thanksgiving leftovers are also a triumph. Yum.

What are your favorite side dishes and desserts? Please share your favorite Thanksgiving recipe. 

My favorite side dish is the potatoes – mashed or riced. My side of the family rices the potatoes using a contraption called a potato ricer that many people have never heard of. My husband’s family mashes them. I like them both ways.

My favorite recipe is the mushroom casserole I make every year. It’s a great recipe because it can be adjusted endless ways. So it never turns out the same way twice, but it always tastes good.

Mushroom Casserole

  • 2 pounds fresh, whole mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 4 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs or stuffing
  • Soy sauce to taste

Clean mushrooms and slice off ends. Place in a buttered two-quart casserole. Set aside.

Melt butter and bouillon cubes in hot water. Blend in flour, half and half, salt and pepper and soy sauce. Pour over mushrooms. Mix cheese and bread crumbs or stuffing; add to mushrooms and toss gently. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.

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SHARING THE BREAD: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story
written by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
published by Schwartz & Wade Books, September 2015
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
**Starred Review from Publishers Weekly**

♥ Cruise over to Curious City for a Read Aloud and Food Drive Activity Kit, and Thanksgiving Place Card Craft!



For a chance to win a brand new copy of Sharing the Bread, please leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite Thanksgiving side dish is no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, October 14, 2015. You may also enter by sending an email with “BREAD” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Winner will be announced on Friday, October 16. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

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Check out this wonderful interview with Pat and illustrator Jill McElmurry at Picture Book Builders. Leave a comment there for another chance to win a copy of this scrumptious book!

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Please send me your snail mail address so we can get the book out to you pronto.

Thanks, Everyone, for all your wonderful comments!

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poetry fridayLaura Purdie Salas is hosting today’s Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Take her a turkey drumstick and a piece of pumpkin pie, and check out the full menu of tasty poetic goodies on this week’s menu.



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 aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!



*Interior spreads from Sharing the Bread posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2015 Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrations © 2015 Jill McElmurry, published by Schwartz & Wade Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


74 thoughts on “[Review, Author Chat + Giveaway] Pat Zietlow Miller on Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

  1. This looks like a really lovely book! I’m adding it to my tbr shelf now–thanks, Pat and Jama! My favorite Thanksgiving side dish at a traditional dinner is probably sweet potato casserole. Hmmm. Or rolls with butter! But we usually go out to eat on Thanksgiving and don’t necessarily have traditional food. I’m fine with that, but I do miss having leftover turkey!


  2. I love kids books that involve history and food – what a great combo! And I haven’t seen a potato ricer in years! I remember how much I hated cleaning them! I would have to say my favorite Thanksgiving side dish is a casserole of sweet potatoes, butter, cream, and maple syrup. Okay, more of a dessert than a side dish, but if we didn’t call it a side dish, then we couldn’t ALSO have pumpkin pecan pie!


    1. Another sweet potato casserole lover! I’ve never seen a potato ricer in person, nor have I ever eaten riced potatoes. Clearly I need to get out more. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mushroom casserole! New to me & must try, Pat Miller – appreciations. (Good photo by the L I B R A R Y sign & so cool about your family connection.)

    Those pesky rhyme couplets buzzing in the ear must be listened to – appreciations for the process notes here that are so nourishing,

    This interview & article is a savory salute to writing, research & enjoying the p.b. process. Plus pouring on the LOVE of family traditions.

    (excuse me from the drawing, Jama, but so glad you’ve put this title on the menu!)


  4. What a cozy story! Nice interview, too. LOVE the recipe. Must try. Thanks for sharing it, Pat! I can relate to the crime of messing with the cranberry sauce 😉 My favorite side dish is the stuffing, which I always helped my mom to make before we stuffed the bird. It didn’t smell like Thanksgiving until that intense aroma of sauteed thyme and onion and brown butter wafted through the house, Thanksgiving morning! Ooh, just got an idea for a new PB … 😀


    1. I’m always surprised when I hear that people like the canned version more than freshly made cranberry relish. Just goes to show how much we cherish the associations we have with foods, especially the foods we grew up with.


  5. My favorite picture (although I haven’t seen them all) is that cover, a family so proud & excited for Thanksgiving. It looks like a wonderful book. We do share our cooking skills too, & now my daughter is the host most years. My favorite dish is the stuffing. We say every year why don’t we have it more often! But I guess that’s what makes it so special. Thanks Jama, delicious book, interview, & recipe from Pat.


    1. All of Jill’s pictures are wonderful! Wish I could have Thanksgiving with that family in the book. 🙂 You’re right about stuffing — I think we appreciate it more when it’s only on the table for special occasions.


  6. Looks like a book that begs to be read again and again!
    Cornelius did a nice job with the hats.
    Mushroom casserole sounds delicious.
    I don’t think I have a favorite dish. My favorite is having all those tastes together.


    1. Definitely begs to be read aloud again and again. Would be a nice tradition to adopt — read this story every Thanksgiving just before the meal. 🙂 Mr. Cornelius is pleased you noticed his pilgrim hat placemat. It was tricky using scissors but he managed.


  7. What a beautiful book! I appreciate all the behind the scenes information on the writing, editing and illustrating. My favorite ‘side dish’ is the ‘after meal’: once the dishes are done, I make a turkey sandwich and plate it with some potato chips. It is amazing that so soon after swearing that I will never eat again, well, I eat again!


  8. So much to love about this book! I remember at a conference years ago an editor saying Thanksgiving was a holiday that still needed more books. (Great tip in general to tie something to a holiday to get that hook!) Something I love about this book is how everyone has a job — not so in my family where the women rule the kitchen! Several years I followed my mother-in-law around to get her dash o this dash o that recipe for chicken and dressing JUST RIGHT. Now she’s gone, and I do my best to honor her every Thanksgiving by making her amazing recipe. We all look forward to it every year. Thanks, Jama (and Cornelius) and Pat! xo


    1. My mouth is watering for your MIL’s chicken and dressing! What a wonderful way to honor her memory by making it every year. And kudos to you for thinking of watching her make it enough times to remember it! There are many things my mother made that I now miss — and as far as I know, no one in the family has the recipes.


  9. What a charming,warm, and lovely book! I love the rhythm of the poetry – so lively. And, as always, I appreciate your author interviews, Jama. I always learn something new about the craft of writing. That mushroom casserole looks yummy – I am committing myself to making it this year. 🙂


    1. Pat’s lyrical text is perfection — rhyming but never predictable. This really is a lovely book — and it sounds like several of us will have mushroom casserole on the Thanksgiving table this year. 🙂


  10. My copy of this book arrived via some friends who shipped it to me from Michigan to Montana. I, as always, love your reviews and interviews Jama. I will tweet this out on Twitter.


  11. So much warmth in this book family! My favorite Thanksgiving dish is Indian pudding, hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have a copy or two coming to me, so please don’t enter me in the draw. Thanks for your lovely review.


    1. I think I’ve only had Indian Pudding once in my life and it was so good! Keep meaning to make some — it takes a long time to bake it at a low heat, right?


  12. I am so anxious to read this book. I’m a huge fan of Pat’s books and this one looks especially delicious. I’ve already requested it for purchase at my library and will probably have to have my own copy. Thanks for a great interview, Jama and Pat.


    1. Pat’s an amazing writer — I love all her books too. Sophie’s Squash inspired me to make butternut squash soup, and now of course, I must make mushroom casserole. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a wonderful book! My favorite Thanksgiving dish is cranberries! We grind fresh cranberries and an orange in a grinder that has been in our family for years. We add sugar to taste and let it sit overnight. It’s a dish the family works on together.


  14. As a former children’s librarian, I know the hunt for good read-aloud-able Thanksgiving picture books is ongoing. I think this one will be a hit in libraries’ story hours!

    Please enter my name in your raffle. If I win I will send the book to my daughter’s 4th grade class. Her school is in an urban neighborhood of recent immigrants to the U.S. I doubt if many of the families have had time to develop Thanksgiving traditions. The book will go a long way to explaining the holiday to the kids.

    And by the way, if anyone else is looking for an additional read-aloud-able Thanksgiving picture book, I think I can come up with a suggestion! 😉


    1. I’ve also heard that there is an ongoing need for good Thanksgiving books. This one has a classic feel about it and it’s definitely great fun to read aloud.


  15. Thanks for the interview and peek inside SHARING THE BREAD, Jama and Pat. I have been curious about this book since it seemed so different from Pat’s other work. Even the rhyme structure seems “vintage” and lends itself beautifully to the feel of the book as a whole. Really nice! At our house, Thanksgiving dinner is really just about potatoes and pie.


  16. Can’t wait to see and read Sharing The Bread. My favorite Thanksgiving dish is the star- turkey!


  17. What a great holiday book. I love the illustrations and see why Miller likes the spread with the family around the table. Bread! I actually love the oversize dinner rolls I make for Thanksgiving — they have honey in them and are perfect for making sandwiches with the leftovers. Now I’m hungry.


  18. Wow – I feel so warm and happy just reading this post; I can’t imagine how much better the book is in person! Such wonderful writing and to-die-for illustrations. I can see why Mr. C. was compelled to “assist” in all the preparations. (Tell him great job.)
    I’m thankful for books like this, and for you, Dear Jama!


    1. The bread baking sequence does make you want to get into the kitchen and bake a loaf — nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread from the oven. Yum!


    1. I kind of know what you mean, Carole. When I lived in England, they didn’t have Thanksgiving either — we had a hard time finding a turkey bigger than 3 pounds!


  19. What a fun book ahead of the holiday! My favorite side dish is stuffing. My mother’s was good with sausage, but I go for a healthier version now with apples and pecans.


    1. The apple and pecan stuffing sounds good — these days I’m finding a sausage stuffing too heavy as I’d rather save my appetite for the turkey itself.


  20. Oh now I can’t wait! Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the entire year – to eat, that is! I won’t even eat turkey all year long, in anticipation of the feast 🙂


  21. This book looks like a great addition to the limited list of Thanksgiving stories. I’m another sweet potato fan, but since I bake one most nights (white sweet potatoes), they’re not quite as special as they used to be. For a holiday disaster I can only remember the day my poor mom slid the turkey out of the oven right onto the floor!


    1. A sliding turkey! Sounds like the stuff of movies. 🙂

      I’ve never had a white sweet potato. Do they taste the same as orange ones?


      1. Better! I used to like orange, but now I’ll never go back. There are many varieties. My favorite is almost regular potato color, but more of a yam shape. The purple skinned ones are good, too.


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