[Author and Illustrator Chat + Giveaway] Eat Your U.S. History Homework by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez

Huzzah, Fine Friends, Huzzah!

Put on your deerskin skirts and mantles, your finest waistcoats and breeches, your linen aprons, your three-cornered cocked hats and buckle shoes.

‘Tis a banner day for those of us who like to eat our homework. 🙂 Yes, the third book in the popular Eat Your Homework series by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez officially hits shelves today!!

You may remember how these clever, ravenous ladies tessellated our taste buds (Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds (2011)) and cooked up culinary magic in the kitchen lab (Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds (2014)). With their lip smacking recipes, easy-to-digest info and fetching illustrations, these books quelled math phobia and demonstrated scientific principles at work in our everyday lives.

And now, with Eat Your U.S. History Homework: Recipes for Revolutionary Minds (Charlesbridge, 2015), Ann and Leeza serve up six chewy slices of America’s early history by highlighting events and food from 1620 – 1789. That would be from the time the Pilgrims landed in America till George Washington became our first President. 🙂

Wrap your lips around some Thanksgiving Succotash while reading about the arrival of the Pilgrims and how the Wampanoag people taught them to hunt and grow food in the New World. Sweeten your understanding of the thirteen original colonies while getting down with some Colonial Cherry-Berry Grunt. Nosh on Lost Bread while considering what was behind the French and Indian War.

No lesson on slavery and Southern plantation culture would be complete without a tall stack of Hoe Cakes, and when there are rumblings of discontent about unfair British taxation and 45 tons of tea get dumped into Boston Harbor, you’ll want to fortify yourself by joining the patriots for coffee and Honey-Jumble Cookies in the taverns where they’re making big plans. Finally, when it’s time for full-out war and signing the Declaration of Independence, nothing better to get you riled up than an Independence Ice Cream food fight!

I daresay this might be my favorite title in the series so far, as I especially enjoy studying times past through the lens of food. Talk to me about George Washington’s love for ice cream, European honey being brought to America in 1622, the first Thanksgiving feast with the Native Americans, or soldiers chipping teeth on hardtack and I’m there.

Each of the six delectable recipes (“based on original descriptions or on what historians believe early colonists were eating at the time”), is bookended with an event overview and fascinating Side Dishes to whet the appetite for further study and discussion. Ann seems to know precisely the kind of chewy details young readers are hungry for, and her lively, engaging prose will surely dispel any fears of history being a dull and boring list of names and dates. Besides, there’s nothing like scrumptious, multi-sensory hands-on activities to truly make a subject come alive. All but one of the recipes are of medium difficulty, with the ice cream rated as easy (ready your warm gloves!). As before, this book also includes a spiffy History Review, Glossary, and Index.

Colonial Cherry-Berry Grunt Recipe

Naturally I loved Leeza’s illustrations — her rabid rabbits are back in the kitchen whipping, stirring, sautéing, mixing, and taste-testing with their trademark high energy and love of fun.

There’s ample licking of chops and adorable looks of sheer bliss while they munch on cookies and suck in that succotash. The mixed media illos brim with delightful details of kitchen utensils, recipe ingredients and those bits of mischief that make these bunnies so irresistible. Love the spot illos for each recipe step, and the overall layout of text and pictures makes each page turn a singular pleasure. Kids will also love following the honeybees that hover, buzz, flit, and flutter from page to page. Sweet! 

Since I already interviewed both Ann and Leeza for the first book, then featured a review and sample recipe for the second, this time we thought we’d do something a little different and have Ann and Leeza interview each other. Ann is also sharing the recipe for Southern Plantation Hoe Cakes (your homework assignment for this weekend)! 🙂

Thanks for visiting today, Ann and Leeza!


*   *   *


Ann and Leeza


How did you get into illustrating and writing children’s books?

Back in the early 2000s, I worked as a designer but it wasn’t a particularly creative job, so I sought out ways to stay creative in my spare time. I was doing a lot of editorial illustration and stumbled across Illustration Friday (illustrationfriday.com) so followed the weekly prompts to create new work for myself. As a result, one link online led to another and I discovered the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and my children’s book illustration journey began there. The writing didn’t happen until a few years later.

What did you enjoy the most about illustrating the Eat Your Homework books?

The bunnies! They’re super energetic creatures who love to study each of the topics in the books but do it in a way to make sure they are having fun at the same time.

Revolutionary Honey-Jumble Cookies sketch

What is your favorite recipe from Eat Your History Homework?

Oh that’s easy—Independence Ice Cream!

How long does it take to illustrate one of these books?

From start to finish—including sketches, revisions, final art, plus final revisions—can take anywhere from six to 18 months.

Final art for Revolutionary Honey-Jumble Cookies

 What writers and illustrators have inspired you?

I’m constantly inspired by other artists (way too many to list here) but I grew up reading Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake, Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, Eric Carle, and Roger Hargreaves, as well as comics such as Dandy, Whizzer & Chips, and The Beano. All of the books and comics that I read have influenced my work in some way or other over the years—whether it’s line art, humor, texture, or color.

Lost Bread recipe

This or that:

Popsicle or ice-cream cone?

Ice cream

Snowsuit or bathing suit?

Bathing suit

Sunrise or sunset?

Both, but if you’re going to make me pick, I’d have to say sunset

Sneakers or flip flops?

Flip flops




What inspired you to become a teacher? 

I love learning myself, for one. Also, I love making learning meaningful and enjoyable for others. I now teach high school and it is not only meaningful and fun, it is never boring! When I was a little girl, I used to make miniature books and worksheets for my stuffed animals. So, I guess I practiced being a teacher from my earliest experience with going to school myself.

Ann’s diaries

How did you end up writing books for young readers?

I didn’t consider the possibility of writing a book until I had kids of my own. Before that, I used to write in a diary (I have a stack of them). Also, I own a puppet collection that I’ve had since I was in elementary school. In seventh grade, I used to write my own puppet plays and perform them for the kindergarten kids every Friday. I basically took existing fairytales and made them into plays. This was probably the first inkling I had that I wanted to write books. Later, I came up with the idea of teaching kids math through food and that led to my first book The Secret Life of Math and later the Eat Your Homework series.

Thanksgiving Succotash

 You have written a few math books now; was that your favorite subject in school?

Surprisingly, not at all. I didn’t start loving math until I was an adult. I’d say my favorites in school were reading and writing. I also took some archeology courses in college which I loved—does college count? I’m really sad that it took so long to find out how amazing math really is.

Which of the three Eat Your Homework books was the easiest to write and which was the hardest?

Hmmm… well, I think the first time you try something new it’s always the hardest. I loved the idea of eating your math homework, but I wasn’t sure how exactly to go about it so that it was a fun, entertaining book for kids. Once I figured out the format (with the amazing people at Charlesbridge Publishing, of course), it was smoother to write the follow-on books Eat Your Science Homework and Eat Your U.S. History Homework. I’m not going to use the word “easy” though, because writing books is rewarding, but also very hard work.

Early Southern Plantation Hoe Cakes sketch
Leeza added a bunny to the final Hoe Cakes recipe page.

What’s your favorite recipe of all out of the three homework books and why?

The fun thing about all the recipes is that they are the results of my experiments in the kitchen. One of my hobbies is to make up food that tastes great. I like all the recipes in the books, obviously, but the one that comes to mind is for Invisible Ink Snack Pockets. They were quite tricky because I wanted to create a delicious food where invisible writing suddenly appeared on pizza dough after being exposed to the heat of an oven. It took many tries to get it right!


This or that:

Apple or pear?

Pear, but only the Bartlett variety

Stairs or elevator?

Stairs, definitely

Sail or fly?


Read or write?

Reading. No, writing . . . no, reading. No… um, both?




Before You Begin

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 2 minutes per hoecake

Total time: 30 minutes

Oven temperature: n/a

Yield: 10 hoecakes

Difficulty: medium


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/3 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • Optional: butter or jam for serving


  • Nonstick skillet or griddle
  • Spatula
  • Large mixing bowl


  1. Heat a skillet or griddle and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the egg and milk, stirring briskly.
  4. Form a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour in the melted butter and then the egg mixture. Stir well, but do not beat.
  5. With adult help, slowly pour about a quarter cup of batter onto the hot skillet or griddle. Repeat with more batter, but make sure that the hoe cakes are not touching.
  6. When slight bubbles form in the dough, turn each hoe cake over with the spatula. Cook the other side, about 30 seconds to a minute, or until browned.
  7. Remove from pan and serve warm, with butter or jam.


*   *   *


EAT YOUR U.S. HISTORY HOMEWORK: Recipes for Revolutionary Minds
written by Ann McCallum
illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
published by Charlesbridge, October 2015
History-themed Recipe Book for ages 7-10, 48 pp. 
*Available in hardcover, paperback and eBook

♥ Check out Ann’s website blog for additional recipes and updates

Click to visit the Eat Your Homework series webpage.



For a chance to win a brand new copy of Eat Your U.S. History Homework, please leave a comment at this post mentioning your favorite flavor of ice cream no later than midnight (EST) Tuesday, October 20, 2015. You may also enter by sending an email with “HOMEWORK” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced on Friday, October 23, 2015.  Good Luck!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2015 Ann McCallum, illustrations © 2015 Leeza Hernandez, published by Charlesbridge. All rights reserved.

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


47 thoughts on “[Author and Illustrator Chat + Giveaway] Eat Your U.S. History Homework by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez

  1. I love the sheer messiness of the illustrations in these books – they just ooze fun from the pages and remind me a great deal of Arthur and his friends. The nephews clearly need the whole set of these books (but I’ll let someone else win them).


    1. This is a great set to own. Leeza’s illustrations definitely ramp up the fun factor and really make you want to try the recipes.


  2. Yay for presenting history in a fun (and tasty) way!
    Mint or coffee, s’il vous plait, although nothing can really compare with my grandfather’s homemade peach.


  3. I know this is for a much older audience, but your book post today reminded me of this cookbook I found at our public library. If I can find a less expensive version, I’m thinking it’ll be a good gift for MiniPlu’s social studies teacher – he’s been talking about the pre-western-civ denizens of the Americas and what they ate.

    The artwork in the book YOU’VE written about, however, is absolutely adorable, and sounds like a lot of fun, to boot. 🙂


  4. Great concept and illustrations! I can imagine my nephew eating this book up. My favorite ice cream is Mocha Chip.


  5. I have two granddaughters as you know, Jama, & they do have a few children’s cookbooks already, but these are delightful, & I’ll keep them on the list for when the girls are a little older. I did have students who were studying U.S. history cook some of the recipes they discovered in their research, so will pass these on to colleagues too. Thanks for a lovely post. Favorite ice cream – anything with caramel.


  6. What better way than through the stomach! Always wondered what hoe cakes were. Love, love cornmeal any way. Favorite ice cream flavor has to be chocolate.


  7. I’d have to say cookie dough, or now maybe, salted caramel. But re hoe cakes, I have tried them EVERY DARN YEAR for Washington’s birthday, and can’t get them to come out right. Then, last time we were in the D.C. area, we went to Mt. Vernon for brunch, and I ordered hoe cakes, and they weren’t so great either! Nevertheless, I’m convinced from reading the original recipe with the bit about “swimming in butter and honey” that somehow, someway, there is a recipe that is great. This one does not look like the ones I have tried, so I’m going to give it a go this year!


    1. It depends on whether you’re looking for an all cornmeal recipe or one with cornmeal + flour (which is more common). I’ve tried making them both ways, and find the all cornmeal ones are okay — you just have to not expect them to be light and fluffy like buttermilk pancakes or something.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a fun, fun series. I’m so glad to learn about this one. Those hoecakes look awesome! Coffee ice cream is my go-to flavor.


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