[review + recipes] The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles

The holidays are here and you know what that means: fun and “interesting” gatherings with family and friends, a time when we’re especially happy to hear these two little words: LET’S EAT!!

When all your favorite dishes magically appear on the table, where will you sit?

I love when we visit my grandma Mabel.
I get to sit at the little kids’ table!

The young narrator in this hilarious new rhyming picture book, The Little Kids’ Table, couldn’t be happier. After all, he knows he and his cousins are in for a rollicking good time. Unlike his parents, who must sit at the grown-ups’ table (“so shiny and fancy,/and has pretty flowers from my aunt Nancy”), they will, among other things, get to fiddle with their flatware:

Next to our forks we have spoons at our places.
We try to get them to stick to our faces.

First you breathe on the spoon, then press it on tight.
It’ll hang from your nose if you do it just right.

Sound familiar?🙂

But, uh-oh.

When the dreaded broccoli casserole makes an appearance, munchable mayhem becomes the order of the day, prompting unanimous yucks, goofy faces made with plated food and ketchup, hysterical laughter, chewing with mouths open and milk squirting from noses. Once grandpa’s dog comes bounding into the dining room, all hell breaks loose as Daisy only-too-willingly takes her place at the little kids’ table too.

None of the adult tsk-tsking or warnings to behave fools the kids one bit. They all know that deep down, the grown-ups would gladly trade their fancy dishes for a chance to sit at the table that always has the most FUN!

Mary Ann McCabe Riehle’s lively rhyming couplets are suitably seasoned with lots of humor, action, warmth, and spot-on child-centric commentary. The reader is immediately pulled into the middle of the all-too-familiar chaos, aptly described in these lines:

Giggle, gulp, clatter, and munch.
Icky, sticky, crash, and crunch!

Mary Reaves Uhles captures all the palatable pandemonium in delightfully diverting, laugh-out-loud, highly emotive illustrations. Her pictures are quite a study in comical facial expressions, from all those tongues sticking out in protest of icky food, to wide eyes displaying bewildered horror at the thought of eating it, and the cuckoo cross-eyed expressions that are part and parcel of going completely wacko.

 

Even the stern looks of the adults with fingers pressed to their lips hold no sway over these rambunctious eaters, since we all know who’s really calling all the shots. The mischief-making twin girl cousins are especially enjoyable to watch, for they are champion silverware balancers, ketchup decorators, and peas-in-the-milk pranksters.

Ultimately, the unbridled joy of this multiethnic family gathering proves contagious, as both Riehle and Uhles do a convincing job of portraying this universal experience. You can take that spoon off your nose now.😀

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As it sometimes always usually happens when I read a good book, I get hungry and wonder about the foods mentioned in the story. I was intrigued by the infamous broccoli casserole and asked author Mary Ann Riehle if this was a dish that was actually served at her family gatherings, and if so, would she please share the recipe with us. She generously agreed, and sent not one, but two! The first was included in a collection of recipes she received from her fellow teachers as a wedding gift some 30 years ago.

Broccoli casserole just seemed to me to be one of those dishes that might be disliked by children at first glance…before they even took a bite…and if one kid said it was “gross” then, of course, the other kids were not going to give it a chance. We have had it at family dinners but it’s not the most popular side dish at the kids’ table. We all love a frozen cranberry gelatin and pretzels with whipped cream “salad” though! Go figure🙂

SUPER SIMPLE BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Put 2 large bags of chopped broccoli, cooked and drained, into a medium size buttered casserole dish. Grate 8oz. of Velveeta cheese on top. You may also add one small chopped onion…or not. Crumble and mix 35 Ritz crackers with 3/4 stick of margarine. Put on top of casserole. Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

*

FANCIER BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook according to package directions 3 boxes of frozen broccoli spears. Drain.

In a mixing bowl combine 1 can of cream of celery soup, 1/2 cup of milk, 1-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of marjoram. Mix with a fork.

Place broccoli in ungreased casserole dish, then layer with cheese mixture. Top with 1 can of Durkee onion rings. Repeat layers and add some extra grated cheese and onion rings on top.

Bake for 25-35 minutes. Yields 6-8 servings.

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So, do you dare make one of these casseroles and serve it to the little kids’ table on Thanksgiving? And have you decided where you’ll be sitting? I kind of wish I could shrink myself small enough to join Mr. Cornelius and his friends, who have mastered the fine art of mealtime fun.

*

THE LITTLE KIDS’ TABLE
written by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle
illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles
published by Sleeping Bear Press, September 2015
Picture Book for ages 5-8, 32 pp.

*Read an excerpt at the publisher’s website

*Check out Coloring Pages for this book

*   *   *

poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Bridget Magee is hosting the Roundup at Wee Words for Wee Ones. Skip on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on today’s menu. I wonder if she likes Broccoli Casserole?🙂

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*Interior spreads from The Little Kids’ Table posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2015 Mary Ann McCabe Riehle, illustrations © 2015 Mary Reaves Uhles, published by Sleeping Bear Press. All rights reserved.

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

42 thoughts on “[review + recipes] The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles

  1. Mr. Cornelius, and friends, looks like they’re having as much fun as the kids in the book! In the final days at my husband’s mother’s dinner, the ‘kids’, all grown, still wanted to be with each other at the kids’ table, a tradition that didn’t stop. Our ‘hold your nose’ dish is brussels sprouts, which all the adults love, but never at the kids’ table. The book looks terrific, Jama. Thanks!

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    1. So nice to hear about the grown up kids still wanting to sit together🙂. Brussels sprouts have traditionally been something that kids consider yucky. I’m thinking they probably weren’t cooked correctly. I don’t remember my mother serving them very often, but if she had known to roast them I think it would have been a different story.

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  2. Thanks for the memories and those yet to come. Fun for all! That broccoli casserole just might be delicious for the little ones!

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  3. I’ve never tried broccoli casserole, but I may now that I have Mary Ann’s recipe! I have this book on hold at my library! So much fun in this post, Jama! Your bears have quite the knack for spoon balancing. =)

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  4. Animated tv series, calendars, book series w/character props…I agree with others who envision your lively characters coming into their own within the commercial-literary world. Thank you for the service you provide–clean, crisp, colorful photos, plus, lively book review commentary. You are as amazing a creative genius, as you are a generous sharer of practical information! God bless you! Thank you! …p.s. In celebration of your button post, I was inspired to buy some button Christmas cards from our church craft fair. When I send them out, I’ll be thinking of your post!

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    1. I am humbled by your very generous and kind comment. You are the kind of blog reader who makes blogging worthwhile, so thank you very much!! Tickled to hear you bought some button Christmas cards.🙂

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  5. Wait a minute! I’ve got to ask: is that little fireman bear studying to be a proctologist? I see his practice is being closely supervised by a real doctor. Or, as a firefighter is he simply easing the chicken’s burning hemorrhoids?

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    1. LOL! Only you, Diane, only you would come up with something like that. I asked the fireman what the story was — and he said that though he was just doing his job, it looks like he’s the butt of the joke.😀

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  6. Ha! You really do have far too much fun with some of these posts, Jama. (Never!) And why should I be surprised that you have a rubber chicken? It reminds me of certain relations who actually had a rubber chicken take part in their nuptials. (A story for another day.) Alas, I never much liked the little kids’ table at events… too bad I didn’t have this book to see just how much fun it could be!

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    1. I remember an age when I felt I was too big to be at the little kids’ table. As for the rubber chicken, it belongs to Cornelius, of course. He claims you can eat as much of it as you like and never gain any weight. Bawk bawk!

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  7. This looks like a precious book, Jama. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! I still rebel at sitting at the “grownups’ table” and usually manage to slip in beside my boys at the kids’ table. What a great idea for a picture book!

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  8. Sometimes it’s like the grass is always greener at the table you’re not sitting at! Thanks for sharing this playful book and funny photos with us (Diane’s comment, omg!)

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    1. Each family has its share of interesting dining adventures. Our family usually had potlucks during the holidays — very informal, no sit-down dinners. The little kids’ table mostly came into play when we ate out in restaurants.

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