Hello Baby!

     Mem Fox’s Hello Baby! offers a simple, yet effective first look at animals through colorful illustrations set against a clean, white backdrop.  Direct questions to the reader are followed by rhyming responses on adjacent pages.  Without a doubt, the cadence of this story engages the young reader.
     Initially, the zoo comes to mind as a means of experiencing this children’s book.  However, with 91 degree weather looming outside, Momma decides to come up with a cool plan B.  Thus, The Painted Zebra, an air-conditioned pottery studio, works since the striped zebra is one of the animals discussed in Hello Baby!.  Here, each squirt including Momma picks a piece of pottery in the shape of an animal of her choosing and then paints the piece to her heart’s desire.  In a week’s time, we pick up our fired objets d’art creating the perfect opportunity to revisit Fox’s Hello Baby! for reading reinforcement.  For snack, animal crackers appease rumbling tummies after an intense painting session.  Mem Fox

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Silly Snacks: Family Fun in the Kitchen

 
     Children’s cooking classes using child-friendly recipes such as those found in Silly Snacks is yet another way to encourage the love of books.  The squirts and I “oohed” and “aahed” through the mess-friendly board book pages and decided on the Mud Hole Dunks on page 16.  Needing prepared chocolate frosting, a staple in our pantry to help soothe Momma’s late-night cravings, and fresh fruit.  Ding . . . ding . . . ding!  Strawberry season is here;  let’s go picking to not only experience the cookbook, but also to learn the direct route of the strawberries from farm-to-table.

     Off we went to Eckert’s Farm.  Loaded onto a trailer, we rode the roughly quarter mile to the fields and began picking.  The girls ran to the end of the row, our designated starting point, with much enthusiasm, and picking ensued.  Although not playing on any loudspeaker system, I found myself humming The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” as I chased them down the row (my first experience picking strawberries, too). 

    Two flats or roughly ten pounds later, we loaded ourselves and our bounty back on the trailer so that we could head home and Mud Hole Dunk our ruby red prizes.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

     Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain reaches beyond the animal lover or racing lover.  Instead, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a consuming read for men and women alike.  Creatively, narration is provided by Enzo, the terrier/lab mutt chosen at twelve weeks by the protagonist, Denny.  Enzo welcomes the reader into the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of his own life as well as the life of his master.  Without giving too much away,  the majority of Stein’s novel is a realistic tearjerker causing one to evaluate the treatment of his own life as well as others which then concludes on an almost fairy-tale note.
     Problems for me, the reader, ensued with the late introduction of Denny’s parents.  Their physical presence in the novel occupying only one chapter read as an afterthought.  Further explanation surrounding the parents only reaffirmed the notion that either more elaboration was needed, or the interjection of the parents should have been deemed unnecessary and distracting during editing.
     In regards to book club, this is one where man’s best friend should be not only welcome, but master or mistress of ceremonies.  The ideal setting would be a dog park such as Rock Springs Park in O’Fallon, IL.  If book club members are not owners of the four-legged friend, simply being near these canines at the park would set the mood.  Plenty of dog biscuits must be brought along to share with the dogs, and a fresh batch of oatmeal raisin cookies made in the same manner as Denny- plopped onto the cookie sheet- to share with the humans completes the ambiance and hopefully gives chase to a conversational treat.  Garth Stein
   

Learn More about Cookbook Author Nancy Baggett

Describe your first kiss.

Not the least bit romantic, my first kiss was during a spin-the-bottle game when I was in the fifth grade. Neither I nor my “boyfriend” for the party were really the least bit smitten, but went along with our smooch anyway. I can still recall feeling awkward, and bet my guy does, too.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .  

I love The Lorax. The message is so important and eloquently presently, yet so readily grasped by even young children. The illustrations are also enchanting.  

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .  

Finding a cure for cancer. Too many family members stricken far too young.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?  Nancy Drew.

E
xplain the worst job that you’ve held.  

The most tedious data entry job-literally-ever. Every day, all day I copied random series of numbers from one ledger to anoither. No explanation of why was ever given–I only lasted a week  Had to quit to save my sanity.  

A quote that motivates you . .

.You never know what you can do until you try.

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island .

You Were Always On My Mind

Three Wishes
  1.That my grandchildren grow up to live healthy, happy lives.
  2  That world hunger is eradicated..  

3.That humans can learn to live in peace.

Favorite game you played as a child . . .

My cousin and I climbed trees in the woods and pretended to be bears. (It was more fun than it sounds!)

Nancy Baggett

The All-American Cookie Book Book Club Ideas

     As mentioned in my profile, I am a recreational baker at best.  I enjoy baking, enjoy eating baked goods, but can never guarantee my results with the oven.  One day I may hear rave reviews, and the cookie jar is soon empty and in need of washing.  Other days, all who come in contact with my baked goods seem to be “full,” “stuffed,” and “couldn’t eat another bite” with that same forced smile on their faces.
     Yet, without fail, every time I attempt a recipe with Nancy Baggett’s The All-American Cookie Book, my cookies are uniform in size (the flattened-pancake-burnt-at the-edges look is out) and scrumptious in taste.  What ensues in my household is no longer polite, forced enthusiasm, but rather a fussing of sorts over whom is entitled to the last cookie on the plate.  In addition, Baggett places each cookie into a historical context which further justifies my incessant baking.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie

     The All-American Cookie Book is an ideal book club choice to be accompanied with a cookie exchange for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or simply to celebrate the cookie itself.  An assortment of flavored milks- strawberry, chocolate, soy, almond-  would definitely work with this snack of choice. 

Nancy Baggett

Molly’s Magic Pencil Book Club Ideas

     It comes as no surprise that the vivid images composed of rich colors by illustrator, cartoonist, designer, and author Peter Davies engage the emergent reader.  In fact, my three-year-old snatched the book from my hands and proceeded to tell the story in her own words using only the bold pictures as guidance.  With a sprinkle of Harry and the Purple Crayon mixed with a dash of Aladdin’s magic carpet, Davies’ words add a memorable tale with a positive message to Molly’s Magic Pencil.
     The English teacher within could not help but notice the run-on sentence on page one as well as some missing commas throughout.  Distracting for a thirty-something, but ignored by the target audience, three-year somethings.  In addition due to editing, a picture of Grandpa looks as if he is missing part of his left arm, but I assured my toddler that Grandpa was completely intact.
     For book club regardless of weather, definitely incorporate a flying carpet into the storytelling area.  This may be a sheet, rug, or blanket.  Allow the kiddos to take a ride with their minds as they listen to Molly’s Magic Pencil.  Snack may be the creation of a flying carpet using graham crackers, peanut butter or icing, and various colored sprinkles in order to create the carpet of his/her choice.   To conclude “baby” book club, give each book club member a “magic pencil” and paper allowing the creative juices to flow and to review Molly’s Magic Pencil.

Peter Davies

Learn More about YA Author Jan Blazanin

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
ET—Being a sucker for the underdog, I can’t resist his big, sad eyes. Poor guy. I want to cuddle his slimy-looking little extra terrestrial body and make him feel better.

Describe your first kiss.
I was sixteen. His name was Ron, he had dark brown hair and glasses, and he was a grade behind me in school. Shocking! A group of us were driving around town after a football game. Ron and I were in the backseat. I didn’t hear bells or music, but the kiss was thrilling enough to convince me that I liked kissing. I still do.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .
THE GIVER—Long before the current wave of dystopian fiction Lois Lowry created a practical, realistic world where horrifying occurrences are commonplace. Her ability to reveal each inhuman event in a matter-of-fact way increased the shock value. And who could not root for Jonas?

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
Protecting animals from cruelty and preserving the environment because we must.


If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Scarlett O’Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND, with all her spunk and determination but without that ridiculous infatuation over Ashley Wilkes. I’d take Rhett any day.

Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
My worst job was also my first job—detasseling corn at age fourteen. The day began with climbing into an open truck at 5:00 a.m. and riding into the Iowa countryside where twenty other girls and I were dumped at the edge of a monstrous cornfield.
Our mission: To pull the tassels from the tops of six-foot cornstalks. We wore long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid being cut by the corn leaves, and our clothes were soaked with dew within the first 5 minutes. By afternoon, we were drenched with sweat and peeling off whatever we could. All of us were sunburned, stinky, and covered with cuts.
At the time—several decades ago—we were not supposed to talk, sing, or listen to music. We broke all of those rules. The water jug was to be used sparingly. Our bathroom was any finished row. We brought our own lunches and ate sitting on the ground. Some girls quit after the first day. I lasted the whole two weeks, but I never did it again.

A quote that motivates you . . .
Never, never, never quit—Winston Churchill

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
Rockstar by Nickelback—cleverest lyrics ever!

Three Wishes
  1. That malignancy will die and not kill
  2. That kindness and compassion will wipe out cruelty
  3. That people will respect their connection with all living things

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
This is going to make me sound completely crazy, but I narrated my own life. I turned whichever chore I was doing—cleaning my room, raking leaves, helping to paint the house—into a story. Sometimes I’d been kidnapped and forced into labor, or I was in disguise hiding from evildoers. Whenever I wasn’t reading a book I passed the time by narrating my life in third person to an imaginary audience.

Duck! Rabbit! Book Club Ideas

     Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Duck! Rabbit! engages the young reader through simple illustrations and text while teaching them to compare and contrast.  Giggling youngsters will inevitably engage in friendly debate regarding the identity of the main character.
     To further experience this children’s read, access Duck! Rabbit through the Tumblebooks Library where the sound effects are provided much to the emergent reader’s delight.
     For snack, a nice carrot cupcake would please not only the rabbit supporter, but also fulfill the bread-loving needs of a duck.  You may have the kiddos ice the cupcakes with white icing using Popsicle sticks and place the one eyeball on the cupcake using either a raisin, m&m, or chocolate chip.  For the ears/bill, place white-chocolate-covered potato chips into the icing.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Learn More about Children’s Author Peter Davies

A film that brings tears to your eyes – This has got to be the squirrel in the animation film “Ice Age” his antics as he tries to save his acorn had me laughing so much it brought tears to my eyes. Brilliant!
Describe your first kiss – In a romantic context I don’t remember much about it as I had my eyes closed at the time.
Your favorite children’s book and why – “Mr. Ben” by David McKee I read these stories to my son Richard when he was young and then made up adventures along the same theme that we called “The Magic Cupboard” where Richard was the main character which he thoroughly enjoyed.
A cause that is closest to your heart and why – The prevention of cruelty to animals the reasons why are obvious.
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be? – Agatha Christie’s “Poirot”, I would have loved to experience the genteel life of the 1920’s traveling on the Orient Express, visiting Europe and Africa when the pace of life was slower and you took time to enjoy the pleasures of exploring places before mass tourism was possible and beautiful remote locations were spoilt by the development of ‘resorts’. Add to that the challenge of solving the many mysteries of murder and you have (for me) the sublime lifestyle.
Explain the worst job that you’ve held – Being a “cold call” salesman. You have to have a particularly resilient personality to be able to walk in unannounced and try to sell someone something they don’t really want when your earnings are dependent on commission from sales. I don’t have that sort of personality and so I wasn’t successful.
A quote that motivates you – “Do or do not, there is no try!” (Yoda)
The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island – Anything by Roy Orbison but probably “Pretty Woman”
Three wishes – Health, wealth and happiness takes a lot of beating.
Favorite game played as a child – Hide and Seek I loved the suspense and the challenge of trying to out think the other kids.

Peter Davies

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse Book Club Ideas

     Rebecca Janni’s Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse is an ideal choice for not only teaching kiddos that what one may want is not actually what one may need, but also to motivate a young reader to learn to ride his/her bicycle.
     In order to experience this children’s book, attempt to find a park complete with a paved path for bicycle riding and a lake for the book club meeting.  After reading through Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse, have children first complete  the “chore,” similar to the main character, of feeding the “free-range chickadees”( with bread or crackers) or in the case of the park, ducks and swans.  After chore-time, gather tricycles, big wheels, and bikes from the car so that the kiddos may enjoy riding their horses of choice.  Just when the kiddos are running out of steam, announce snack-time complete with cherry tomatoes (since Nellie Sue ended up in Mama’s tomato patch) and mozzarella mini-balls on Popsicle sticks.  For the pickier eater (ahem, like my kiddos), use maraschino cherries- to mimic the look of tomatoes- and banana slices.

Rebecca Janni