We Love Fishing! by Ariel Bernstein

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Ariel Bernsteins’s newest picture book, We Love Fishing!, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, debuted on February 23, 2021.

Perfect for fans of Mo Willems, this hilarious picture book explores feeling like the odd one out with bright and engaging art by New York Times bestselling illustrator Marc Rosenthal.

It’s a beautiful day, and a group of friends are excited to spend it together. The woodland creatures can’t wait to pile into their boat and go fishing! Or, at least, Bear, Porcupine, and Otter can’t wait. They love fishing. Squirrel…does not.

Squirrel tags along with his enthusiastic friends, but is there anything they all love? Or is this fishing trip already sunk? 

Goodreads

Check out Interview With Author Ariel Bernstein on Ellwyn Autumn’s Blog to find out what she finds most challenging about writing picture and chapter books, a common theme in her stories, and what she’d do if approached by an elf.

Other books by Ariel are I Have a Balloon, Where Is My Balloon, and Warren & Dragon chapter books. @ArielBBooks

Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by Robin Newman

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Robin Newman’s newest picture book, Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!, illustrated by Susan Batori, debuted on March 15, 2021.

Bear is tired. It is time for his long winter nap. He will sleep for 243.5 days. But Bear is a very light sleeper. The slightest thing will disturb him, so he knits ear muffs and posts signs and even chops down trees to make a sturdy front door for his den, and then he goes to sleep. Meanwhile, Woodpecker is working on the houses he builds, but he notices several of the houses have disappeared. He sees bits of them scattered on the ground and follows the trail of bits to the new front door Bear built for his den. That is where the houses went. Woodpecker tap-tap-taps on the door. Bear wakes up and is not happy about having his nap disturbed. The two get into a shouting, name-calling match. Can they resolve their differences?

Robin Newman has written a laugh-out-loud story that little ones will want to hear over and over. It is funny, sweet, and hopeful. The illustrations by Susan Batori are so much fun and filled with details that will keep little eyes on the pages. This is a real winner. Don’t miss it.

San Francisco Book Review

Check out “Interview Alert: Robin Newman” on Lauri Fortino’s Frog On A (B)Log to find out how she started writing for kids, where she finds inspiration, and why she believes picture books are important.

Other books by Robin are The Case of the Bad Apples, No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, Sesame Street: Breathe, Think, Do with Elmo: Problem Solving for Little Monsters, and more. @robinnewmanbook

Dylan’s Dragon by Annie Silvestro

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Annie Silvestro’s newest picture book, Dylan’s Dragon, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse, debuted on April 1, 2021.

Dylan loves playing, drawing, dreaming, and, best of all, dragons! But his days and weeks are so full–with piano lessons, science club, baseball practice, karate class, and more–that when the dragon of his daydreams shows up, there’s never any time to play. How can Dylan let his family know that his busy schedule needs room for dragon time? 

Goodreads

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz–Interview with Annie Silvestro” by Maria Marshall to find out a common theme in her picture books, what she advice she’d give children, and insight into her journey as an author.

Other picture books by Annie are Mice Skating, Bunny’s Book Club, The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, and more. @anniesilvestro

Let Liberty Rise, How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save The Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Chana Stiefel’s newest picture book, Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, debuted on March 2, 2021.

On America’s 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen — and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America’s millionaires were willing to foot the bill.

Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer’s campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!

Chana Stiefel’s charming and immediate writing style is perfectly paired with Chuck Groenink’s beautiful, slyly humorous illustrations. Back matter with photographs included.

Scholastic

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Chana Stiefel” by Maria Marshall to find out what inspired Chana to write this book, where she did research, what she wants kids to take away from the story, and which illustration contains a surprise historical coincidence.

Chana is an author of over 25 books for kids, including My Name Is Wakawakaloch!, Animal Zombies…& Other Real-Life Monsters, and Daddy Depot. @chanastiefel

Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Katey Howes’ newest picture book, Rissy No Kissies, illustrated by Jess Engle, debuted on March 2, 2021.

A lovebird who doesn’t like kisses?!

Rissy’s friends and family wonder if she’s sick, confused, or rude. But kisses make Rissy uncomfortable. Can one little lovebird show everyone that there’s no one right way to show you care?

Rissy No Kissies carries the message that “your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share.” A note at the end provides further information for kids, parents, and educators about body autonomy, consent, and different ways to show affection.

“This is an artistic gem for consent discussions, sensory-processing contexts, and anyone who champions children’s agency and bodily autonomy. Radiant.”―starred, Kirkus Reviews

Amazon.com

Want to know why Katey chose to address the important topic of consent? More about her writing process? See a printable lesson plan that pairs with her book? Like the sound of Sunflower Love Cookies?

Check out an interview by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, “Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PB: Rissy No Kissies.”

Other picture books by Katey are Grandmother Thorn, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, and Be a Maker.

“Sonnet” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Poems enter my mind in words and phrases, begging me to concentrate on how to make language sing. April is National Poetry Month. Hon, hope you enjoy the history behind it and a “Spring song.”

National Poetry Month

Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and, of course, poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives. In 2021, the Academy of American Poets looks forward to celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of this annual celebration!

“SONNET” BY ALICE DUNBAR-NELSON

I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.

Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata

Shout out to my daughter Morgan and her new cookbook Eating Out Loud, Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day by Eden Grinshpan. I love it when Morgan cooks dinner!

Of the cauliflower– ‘Its deep, roast-y deliciousness is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, herbaceous date-parsley gremolata. You are going to be blown away by how much brightness you get from the preserved lemon and how the dates balance the tartness with their dense texture.”Of the cauliflower– “Its deep, roast-y deliciousness is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, herbaceous date-parsley gremolata. You are going to be blown away by how much brightness you get from the preserved lemon* and how the dates balance the tartness with their dense texture.’

Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan

Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata

Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Gremolata

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 5)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • approx. 1/2 lemon juice, squeezed from fresh lemon (*The recipe calls for preserved lemon, but Morgan used freshly squeezed lemon juice.)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and salt. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet (or two-you want to make sure the florets have room to breathe so that they get cartelized and crispy instead of steamed) and roast until the cauliflower is golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes.
  3. Make the gremolata: In a large bowl, mix together the dates, sparsely, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. If making this ahead, leave out the vinegar until just before you serve.
  4. Scatter the gremolata over the roasted cauliflower and serve.
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Passover Apple Cake

Passover starts Saturday, March 27, 2021 and the entire holiday is focused on food! There’s what we can’t eat:  bread and anything that can rise bread-like, such as corn. And there’s what we can eat:  matzah, better known as crunchy cardboard (unless it’s soaked in eggs and milk and fried into Matzah Brei). Recipes that turn matzah meal, cake meal, and other Passover products into something edible–maybe even delicious–are coveted and shared. I substituted flour for matzah meal and converted an Apple Cake recipe to Pesadich, the term for food that’s allowed during the holiday.

If I have time in between cleaning out my fridge and cabinets and cooking for the holiday, I’ll post more recipes.

Hag Semach or Happy Holiday, Hon!

To make enough Apple Cake for 12 people, I tripled the ingredients, listed below, and added two batters-worth to a bundt cake pan and one batter-worth to the recommended 8″ x 8″ cake pan so that there will be enough dessert for 12 people.

Passover Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I divided this into 3/4 cup granulated sugar to be mixed with eggs and 3/4 cups combo granulated sugar and brown sugar to be mixed with spices.)
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice (It may have been redundant to add this, but I had it in the house, so figured why not?)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus more for baking dish
  • 5 medium apples, such as Golden Delicious or Crispin, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
  • 3/4 cup matzo cake meal (I ran out of matzo cake meal, so I added rice flour to make up the difference.)
  • 1/3 cup raisins (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the center. Lightly spray an 8-inch-square glass baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. (I used a metal, square baking dish.)
  2. Mix together walnuts, 3/4 cup sugar (combo granulated and brown sugar), nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom, and clover in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs on medium speed until well combined. Slowly beat in remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick and foamy. With the mixer running, slowly pour in oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in matzo cake meal.
  4. Pour half of the batter into prepared cake pan. Add a layer of apples (just add them haphazardly), sprinkle raisins and half of the walnut/spice mixture. Pour remaining batter in pan. Top with remaining apples and sprinkle remaining walnut/spice mixture over apples.
  5. Transfer cake to oven and bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the baking dish very slightly and topping begins to caramelize, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let stand for several hours until completely cool, before cutting. Keep cake covered tightly with plastic wrap for up to 2 days, as the flavor improves with age.

Yield: Makes one 8-inch square cake.

What is Storystorm?

STORYSTORM is the brain child of Tara Lazar, a children’s book author and mentor whose blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) is a source of information and showcase of personality. In Tara’s words:

The Storystorm challenge is to create 30 story ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don’t need potential best-seller ideas.

You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas. Your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass. Eventually, you will have a list of ideas to flesh out into concepts, premises and manuscripts in the coming year.

On this blog, daily posts by authors, illustrators, editors and other publishing professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories.

Tara Lazar

This year, STORYSTORM inspired me to start a new journal in which I’m collecting ideas. Some may turn into stories and some may not, but one of the takeaways from this year’s authors and illustrators is to see where your creativity takes you. I’m up for the challenge!

I create with clay, yarn, fabric and, of course, ingredients. I imagine worlds with words.

Hon, where does creativity take you?

Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America

I’m on a big screen.

Full Circle Circle Time

Opportunity: Read to students as part of  LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day.

Problem: How to engage kids over Skype?

Solution: Check in with middle-grade author Darlene Beck-Johnson who shared tips from her own Skype visits.

Full Circle: Being interviewed by Marilyn Ostermiller for an article in honor of Read Across America to be posted on Darlene’s blog, GOLD FROM THE DUST: Bringing Stories to Life!

Thanks, Marilyn and Darlene!

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago. 

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.

Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.