[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!

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[review + recipe + giveaway] A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall

Once, when we were living in England, Len and I discovered some wild blackberry bushes growing in Wimbledon Common across the street from the school where I was teaching. I was excited because I’d never even seen a blackberry in person before, let alone eat one, and I remembered that famous last line from The Tale of Peter Rabbit:

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

The ones we picked were a little sour, but good with sugar and a dollop of cream. Because of that fond memory, I’ll always associate blackberries with England. I also like to tell the story of how because we didn’t have a whisk or rotary beater in our little flat, Len whipped the cream with a fork! I knew then I had to marry that man with his power arm. 🙂

Thus enamored of blackberries, I recently devoured a gorgeous new picture book by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall featuring A Fine Dessert called blackberry fool, a decadent English sweet dating back to the 16th century consisting of blackberries, cream and sugar.

In this wholly delectable story, we are treated to not one, but FOUR servings of blackberry fool prepared by four families from four different centuries. Such a tasty slice of food and social history! The families all follow the same recipe steps, but of course ingredient sourcing, methods, tools, and technology change through time. They’re united by their love of this dessert and the joy, anticipation and satisfaction that come with making it. No surprise — they all love to lick the bowl — viable proof that some things never change. 🙂

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[Author Chat + Giveaway] Mara Rockliff on Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution

All art ©2015 Vincent X. Kirsh

There’s nothing more delicious than learning something new about a well-loved food.

When I think of gingerbread, I think of Emily Dickinson lowering basketfuls to the neighborhood children, Laura Ingalls Wilder setting out a pan to cool at Rocky Ridge Farm, or Emily Brontë baking a family parkin. I’d read about gingerbread’s long and interesting history, marveling that Queen Elizabeth I was essentially responsible for the gingerbread boy cookies we now bake every holiday season. But I never imagined a gingerbread baker could be an unsung hero in Revolutionary history.

Officially hitting shelves today, Mara Rockliff’s Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution (HMH, 2015), introduces young readers to Christopher Ludwick, a German-born American patriot living in Philadelphia, who as Baker General of the Continental Army, fed General George Washington’s troops and even snuck off on a secret mission.

Deemed too old and fat at 56 to enlist as a soldier, Ludwick was nevertheless determined to champion the cause of liberty, independence and freedom with his culinary skills. His gingerbread was the best around, but he was also known for his generosity and philanthropic work, especially on behalf of poor children. His motto was, “No empty bellies here, not in my America!” This tantalizing bit of little-known history is brought to life with Vincent X. Kirsch’s whimsical cut-paper illustrations resembling iced gingerbread cookies, and is a wonderful example of finding creative ways to utilize one’s talents. What a great reminder that one person can make a big difference, and that heroes can sometimes be found in unexpected places.

Lucky for us, Mara is here today to tell us about catching her first whiff of Ludwick’s spicy gingerbread, researching his colorful life, and making his story accessible to picture book readers.  Of course I also asked her to share a favorite recipe, so ready your rolling pins. 🙂

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biting into hot dog!: eleanor roosevelt throws a picnic by leslie kimmelman and victor juhasz

When is a hot dog more than just a hot dog?

When it’s served on a silver tray to the first reigning British monarchs to ever set foot on American soil!

Yes, that’s precisely what happened when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the United States in June 1939.

The King and Queen arrive at Union Station (June 8, 1939).

To celebrate this momentous occasion, Eleanor Roosevelt decided to host an all-American picnic at Top Cottage, their beautiful countryside retreat overlooking the Hudson River Valley in Hyde Park, New York.

Art © 2014 Victor Juhasz

In Hot Dog!: Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014), Leslie Kimmelman recounts how the indefatigable First Lady planned the picnic and why she felt it was important for both our countries. With Europe on the brink of war and the U.S. in the throes of the Great Depression, this would be a good chance for Americans to set aside their cares for awhile to welcome these special guests. Such a personal gesture of friendship would also allow Americans to see a more human, accessible side to the Royals.

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friday feast: keeping cool with calvin coolidge and his wife’s crunchy cookies

Since moving to Virginia, I’ve become quite the Presidential buff. It’s easy to do since eight Presidents were born here, and I bump into fascinating history wherever I turn.

That’s why I get excited whenever a new children’s book comes out profiling a single President, or, as in the case of Marilyn Singer’s fabulous new poetry collection, all 43 of them.

In Rutherford B., Who Was He?, Marilyn introduces our fearless leaders in chronological order via succinct, thought-provoking poems, blending critical facts, historical references and fascinating human interest tidbits.

All but eight (grouped together for spirited discourse) are featured in single poems. With just a few masterful strokes, she highlights the subject’s claim to fame and illuminates character and personality, so we can better understand the why’s and wherefore’s. She does not shy away from foibles, failings, controversy or scandal, and I love the sense of continuity from one administration to the next, giving us a broad sweep of Presidential history from Washington to Obama.

Paired with John Hendrix’s witty, exuberant caricatures and crackerjack hand-drawn typography, these verses pulse with verve and vigor — a showcase of poetic forms (a Nixon reverso!) with clever, innovative rhymes that truly bring our Presidents to life.

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