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Diverse Books, Picture books, Teaching Tips

Using Storytelling to Teach Math in the Primary Classroom

Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

No World Too Big Award News!

NO WORLD TOO BIG is a finalist for the Russell Freedman Award for Nonfiction for a Better World. This award is given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Ilustrators (SCBWI) “to a work of nonfiction that contributes to our understanding of how to make our world and society better.”

See the full list of finalists on the @SCBWIIMPACT post on IG. The winner will be announced in March!

Lindsay, Jeanette and I are grateful to the youth who trusted us to tell their stories and the poets inspired to write about them.

NO WORLD TOO BIG POETS

Aka Niviâna

Traci Sorell

Carlon Zachras

Sally J Pla

Vanessa Newton

JaNay Brown-Wood

Dalia Elhassan

David Bowles

Rajani Narasimhan LaRocca

Renée M. LaTulippe

Heidi Stemple

Teresa Robeson

History, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

The King Cake Ban

By the late 1700s, the mayor of Paris wanted to end Carnival and ban King Cake!

As early as the 14th century, historians have found documented evidence to show revelers baked King Cakes to celebrate the winter solstice. And the fève or fava bean hidden inside was associated with bringing good luck for fertility, or a bountiful harvest, and more. The holiday became quite popular across Europe and whomever found the bean, or fève, became the king or queen for the day. There was dancing in the street, lots of drinking, and other raucous behavior that accompanied the celebrations. This provided the lowest levels of society temporary relief from societal pressures imposed by the ruling class. And in the 16th century, French bakeries (boulangeries) and pastry shops (pâtisseries) both wanted the sole right to sell the cake. It was up to the king to decide.

As Christianity spread across Europe, the church prohibited the pagan festival and the worship of non-Christian gods. To assure this happened, the church influenced their followers to celebrate Three Kings’ Day or the Epiphany on January 6th which coincided with the winter solstice. And like the three wise men, Christians would celebrate and recognize the divinity of the baby Jesus. However, the fun, festivities and cake remained popular.

In fact, in France, there was a king cake war because the cake was so popular. So who won? What establishment did the king pick to make and sell their official kings’ cake, the boulangeries or pâtisseries?

Interestingly, even today, who can sell what—and where there—remains a matter of French law! You see, there’s a difference between a boulangerie and a pâtisserie. My son is in his third year at École Ducasse in Paris studying French Pastry Arts and he enjoys viennoiserie, which is like blending pastry and bread-making, but that’s a whole other topic. A boulangerie specializes in bread and other baked goods, whereas a pâtisserie sells pastries. That’s a very simplistic explanation. It’s far more complicated!

The king’s edict of 1794 granted pastry chefs the monopoly to make the Gâteau des Rois. This ring-shaped gâteau was made of a brioche with a dough using yeast.

How did the boulangers respond?

The bakers couldn’t sell the ring-shaped cake, so they created something new. They made Galette des Rois with a puff pastry in the shape of a pie! This Kings’ Cake has multiple thin layers filled with frangipane, an almond paste. And yes, a fève is hidden inside. Today, instead of a bean, there’s a trinket of some kind, perhaps a tiny porcelain or plastic figurine.

Fast forward to Louisiana, once a French colony, where the cake tradition continues. In France, King Cakes are sold from January 6th throughout the month of January. In Louisiana, the first King Cake appears on the same date, kicking off the Carnival season. But there, they are consumed until Mardi Gras Day—Fat Tuesday. The King Cake baby is the most popular fève hidden in Louisiana King Cakes. And the baby comes in many sizes and colors.

I’ve had my share of King Cake varieties from different bakeries over the years and I continue to experiment with making my own. This year’s Epiphany cake was filled with Valrhona chocolate from Tain L’Hermitage, that my son brought home and caramelized for me.

Whether you prefer a Galette des Rois, Gâteau des Rois, or a variety of the Louisiana King Cake, you have until February 13, 2024, Mardi Gras Day, to eat your share. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find the fève!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Uncategorized

First trade review of YUMBO GUMBO!

My first trade review of YUMBO GUMBO and it’s a good one! It’s from the CLCD, Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database used by public and school librarians and teachers. The review is quite comprehensive, and this quote sums it up. So grateful! 💕

I can’t wait to share this story with young kiddos! YUMBO GUMBO is available for pre-sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Hudson Booksellers and everywhere books are sold.

Nonfiction, Picture books

Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2023

Honored to see NO WORLD TOO BIG on Chicago Public Library’s Best Informational Books of 2023 list! And in such great company! Congratulations everyone! Follow this link to see the full list.

And I love to see it in libraries and bookstores, too!

A librarian friend shared this photo from the Wright Library in Dayton, Ohio
Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

New Book Deal Announcement!

I am so excited to announce there’s a third poetry anthology featuring fourteen incredible young neurodivergent activists in the works! Once again, it is such an honor that these young people have trusted us with their stories. And I am thrilled to teamed up with the uber talented Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, too.

NO BRAIN THE SAME: Young Neurodivergent Activists Shaping Our Future will be on bookshelves in 2026!

Louisiana, Picture books, Teaching Tips

What day is it today?

Ki jou çé ojordi? What day is it today? Chicken knows!

It’s National Gumbo Day! In this short video, I use use Kouri-Vini /Krèyòl Lalwizyàn or Louisiana Creole to share a little bit about YUMBO GUMBO, my Storytelling Math Book with Charlesbridge Publishing.

Chicken approves.

Enjoy!

 

 

Diverse Books, Teaching Tips, Writing Craft

Kidlit For Growing Minds October News

The October Substack newsletter is live! Teachers and librarians will find news you can use. And there’s another educator Book Bundle giveaway for subscribers.

October: Smells like pumpkin spice and book challenges

Bookish news, giveaways, a profile of Nancy Churnin, and new mini lesson on sensory language!

We are a group of children’s book creatives who write nonfiction and informational fiction books who are also dedicated to supporting teachers, librarians, and students to help them discover ways to use our books with students.

Also follow us on Twitter/X @ForGrowingMinds.

Diverse Books, Teaching Tips, Writing Craft

Introducing Kidlit For Growing Minds News!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read All About It! I belong to a group of children’s book creatives who write nonfiction and informational fiction books. We are also dedicated to supporting teachers, librarians, and students to help them discover ways to use our books with students.

We’re publishing a newsletter on Substack! And each month we will share news and teaching tips.

Read our first post written by moi and subscribe to win a Back-to-School book bundle to support a school of your choice! And please share with others.

Also follow us on Twitter/X @ForGrowingMinds.

Recipes

Baked Cherry Tomatoes & Cheese with Zoodles

What can you do with all the cherry tomatoes and zucchini coming from your summer garden? I have one answer! Because my garden and farm share has been so bountiful, I tweaked a cherry tomato & cheese with pasta recipe that went viral on TikTok. But after a couple attempts, I discovered I prefer goat cheese to feta and used zucchini to make zoodles instead of using pasta. And hands down, this recipe is not only easy peasy, it’s healthy and delicious! Recipe below.

Baked Cheese & Cherry Tomatoes with Zoodles

Ingredients:

5-6 cups cherry tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, minced

⅓ cup olive oil

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp dried basil, crushed

12-ounces goat cheese (or feta)

salt and black pepper to taste

Zoodles (zucchini noodles) or pasta

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 400°F (204 °C).

2. Add cherry tomatoes to a baking dish and poke a couple holes in each tomato.

3. Top tomatoes with olive oil, cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh basil. Mix well.

4. Add cheese to the dish.

5. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, stir. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow cheese to congeal a bit.

6. Boil a large pot of water to make Zoodles or pasta.

           Zoodles:

  • Peel the skin off 2-3 large zucchinis, cut into wide 1/8th inch strips add to the pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Diverse Books, Louisiana

Yumbo Gumbo Cover Reveal

YUMBO GUMBO cover reveal today on Vivian Kirkfield’s Picture Books Help Kids Soar blog! Read about and see the photo inspiration behind this story. I also share one of many funny exchanges with my editor during the editing process.

Comment to enter the giveaway!

Written by moi, illustrated by Katie Crumpton, and published by Charlesbridge, YUMBO GUMBO will be on shelves February 20, 2024. Available for pre-order today!

Diverse Books, Louisiana, Picture books

New book cover reveal coming soon!

I am so excited for you to see the cover of YUMBO GUMBO that will be on shelves February 20, 2024. My friend and fellow author, Vivian Kirkfield, will share it on her blog next week. Stay tuned!

Author visits, Nonfiction, Picture books

Storytime at Cover to Cover Children’s Books

Spending the morning with young readers and book lovers is something authors look forward to. Cover to Cover Children’s Books in Columbus, OH supports readers, writers, and illustrators, which is invaluable to book creatives and their communities.

Thanks to Bryan Loar, I had the pleasure of spending Saturday morning for their weekly storytime reading from NO WORLD TOO BIG. And Shelly from Green Columbus, a nonprofit focusing on the environment, talked about their work. See the video re-cap below.

Making memories!

Activism, Author visits, School Visits

Stevens Literacy Center Green Project Camp 2023

I’ve been busy as a bee connecting with kids, librarians, and teachers at book festivals, bookstores, and school visits since the March release of NO WORLD TOO BIG.

This month I had the honor of being an author-in-residence at the Ohio University Stevens Literacy Center summer camp for kids funded by the The Jeanne Horton Memorial Fund for the Green Project. We had fun reading, writing, and crafting. See the video re-cap below.

Fun memories. Happy summer!

Funded by the by The Jeanne Horton Memorial Fund for the Green Project.
Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

Celebrate Poetry Month & Earth Day!

April is Poetry Month and every April 22nd is Earth Day. For all you eco-warriors, this activity calendar using NO WORLD TOO BIG: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change is filled with ideas.

What will you do to help our planet, today?

Thanks to Lindsay for putting this together!

Author visits, Nonfiction, Picture books

No World Too Big Book Tour!

It’s almost tour time! Lindsay H. Metcalf, Jeanette Bradley and I are kicking off our NO WORLD TOO BIG book tour with my regional SCBWI Ohio Central-South chapter tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7pm/EST. Here’s the link if you’d like to register for this free event.

And we are all off to Washington, DC, where I will meet Lindsay and Jeanette in-person for the very first time after collaborating on two books together! Take that pandemic.

Then each of us will be on the road in different places to promote NO WORLD TOO BIG. Save the date if you’re in one of these cities on our tour. We’d love to meet you!

See my NO WORLD TOO BIG book page for free educational content.

Charlesbridge | ISBN: 978-1-62354-313-6
40 pages | ages 5-9

Bookshop  | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

There Is No Planet B: Ten Books about…

The Nerdy Book Club includes teachers and librarians extraordinaire who care about books, reading, and their students. It was an honor to contribute to their blog, where I shared ten current and forthcoming books about climate change for young readers. Because everyone can do something to fight global warming!

There Is No Planet B: Ten Books about Global Warming for Young Readers

Author visits, School Visits

World Read Aloud Day, 2.1.23

I am so excited to take part in World Read Aloud Day next week! This year’s virtual visits include schools in the US from coast to coast, and India! I can’t wait to connect with young readers. Let’s go!

There’s no world too big for books.

Click the image to open Google Drive to follow the links or click here!

Louisiana, Recipes

Pot-au-feu a la Creole

On this first day of the new year, I am sharing another recipe my mama passed on to me. Looking at her handwritten recipes fills my heart with warm memories and my tummy, too.

As the weather cooled in the fall, I wanted to use the last of my farm fresh garden veggies, so I looked for another old-world recipe from my childhood. I made Pot-au-feu (pot on fire in English). So worth the time it takes!

As always, I consulted The Picayune’s Creole Book to learn some of the food history about this dish and yes, for a good chuckle, too. Here’s what it says about Pot-au-Feu a la Creole…”This POT-AU-FEU, properly made, is truly delicious, savory and delicately odorous. It is important to have good beef, and that it be as freshly killed as can be had. Many of the Creoles add the beef spleen or brisket to the soup. This is rich and juicy, and gives nutritive value to the dish.” 😁

Check out how a chef makes the old-world French version of Pot-au-feu in this video.

Where American recipes brown the meat in veggie beef soup recipes, this one requires boiling the meat with soup bones, so first you make a stock. YUM.

Happy New Year! Wishing you health, happiness, and lots of good food to eat in 2023!

Mama’s Pot-au-Feu a la Creole

Ingredients:

1 gallon of cold water

6 pounds beef (boneless chuck roast and eye of Round)

2 lbs. beef soup bones

2 large yellow onions

3 stalks celery

½ tsp. thyme

3 bay leaves

1 8 oz tomato sauce

2 tomatoes

2 rutabagas

6 carrots

3 turnips

4 or 5 ears of corn

1 lb. green beans

2 bunches of green onion   

1 small cabbage

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 potatoes

salt & pepper

Louisiana Creole Seasoning:

  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp onion powder

Directions:

1. Dice fresh vegetables and beef into small bite-sized pieces.

2. Season boneless meat with salt, pepper and Louisiana Creole seasoning. Then add meat, tomatoes, tomato sauce, yellow onions, celery, thyme, bay leaf and soup bones to a large 12–16-quart stockpot with a gallon of cold water. Boil at least an hour or until the meat is tender. Do not stir. As the fat rises to the top, skim from the broth and discard or save for another dish. OPTIONAL: To reduce the need to skim, remove most of the fat from meat before boiling. However, leave some as the fat and marrow from soup bones to add to the taste.

3. When meat is tender, add rutabagas, carrots, turnips. Reduce heat to simmer and cook about 30 minutes.

4. When the root veggies are tender, add corn, green beans, green onion, cabbage and cook for 30 minutes.

5. Add potatoes and garlic. If needed, add more water to the pot to keep meat and veggies covered. Cook 20 minutes.

5. Add more Louisiana Creole seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Served with French bread.

Bon Appétit!

Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

SNEAK PEEK! A video about No World Too Big

My co-editors, Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley and I made this video, Discover Composting with NO WORLD TOO BIG!, when our publisher, Charlesbridge, invited us to take part in their Spring Preview ’23 book buzz event.

You can get a sneak peek at NO WORLD TOO BIG: YOUNG PEOPLE FIGHTING GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE and learn how we compost.

NO WORLD TOO BIG is available for pre-order wherever books are sold. It will be on a shelf near you in March, just in time for Earth Day in April!

Louisiana, Media, Picture books

Louisiana Book Award Nomination

I am thrilled to announce that Louisiana readers nominated OPENING THE ROAD for a Louisiana Readers’ Choice Award! This is such an honor, and I am beyond grateful to know this work of nonfiction is resonating with kids. Click here to find a list of other titles nominated for this award.

How exciting to know my book is hanging out with the Newbery Medal winning book by a fellow Kidlit For Growing Minds member, Rajani LaRocca.

Merci beaucoup to my home state!

Recipes

Summer Squash Casserole

Whatcha gonna do with all that summer squash? Here’s a yummy idea. NOM-NOM-NOM!

SUMMER SQUASH CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups squash (about 2 large squash), sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 sleeve of butter crackers (Ritz, Townhouse, etc.), crushed
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup Parmesan, shredded
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking dish.
  2. Sauté onions 2-3 minutes in olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the squash, ¼ cup water, cover and steam ~5 minutes until squash is tender.

Dry mix for the topping:

  • Put crushed crackers in a large bowl with cheese, toss.
  • Set aside half of the cracker-cheese mix in another bowl.

Dry + wet mix:

  • In the large bowl, stir in milk, beaten eggs and melted butter.
  • Add in steamed squash and onion. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour into a greased baking dish.
  • Top with ½ of the dry cracker mix and then with softened butter.
  • Bake about 25-30 minutes until top is lightly browned.
Recipes

Salata Baladi (Egyptian Cucumber & Tomato Salad)

What can we do with all the cucumbers and tomatoes our gardens are gifting us this summer? I made Salata Baladi, an old favorite I learned to make in Cairo. It’s healthy, quick to assemble, and most of the ingredients grow in our summer gardens and are staples on our kitchen shelves. You can make this easy peasy recipe or add more herbs and veggies as you like. Hope you enjoy. Afwan! You’re welcome!

Salata Baladi (Egyptian Cucumber & Tomato Salad)

  • 2 cups cucumbers, diced
  • 2 cups firm plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and parsley, add to bowl.

2. Add oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

3. Rub mint in the palm of your hands over bowl. Toss together.

4. Serve with tahini and warm Aish Baladi (Egyptian Flat Bread).

Tips:

  1. If preparing it well before serving, add the salt later because it draws out moisture. And refrigerate.
  2. Plum tomatoes are the sweetest, but cherry or grape tomatoes work, too.
  3. Add a touch of sumac or other spices, and veggies like bell pepper, carrots, etc.
  4. If you use more acidic tomatoes or like a sweeter salad flavor, add a bit of sugar.

Picture books, School Visits, Writing Craft

Author Visit: Aga Khan Academy, Kenya

I am thrilled to have had my first in-person school visit since the height of the pandemic at Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, in June. Aga Khan Academy – Mombasa is a primary through secondary dual language, International Baccalaureate World School, with a residential option. Student leadership and community service are important strands within their school programming. The school admin, teachers, and support staff are incredibly dedicated and hardworking. It was a pleasure to spend time with kids at this amazing school. The students made this visit so much fun!

I visited with Year 3, 4, 5 students in the primary school; read The King Cake Baby to the younger class and OPENING THE ROAD to the older classes. And they did some writing too. Students knew about Carnevale and one student even knew about Mardi Gras! They have also learned US history and that people are treated differently in America because of the color of their skin. And now they know more, soaked up that knowledge like little sponges. It was so good to be back among our future leaders. Some things are truly universal because one student asked how old I am! I told her old enough to be her grandmother. LOL!

My last visit was with Year 7 – middle school aged kids. The school asked me to discuss poetry. I promised they will love the poems I’d share from NO VOICE TOO SMALL. Then asked them to “show me” what mood they were in, because poetry is all about emotion and, at their age, they have experienced all kind of moods! HA. At first they were a little reserved, then I struck some poses, some cracked up, and joined in! Middle schoolers! I showed them the video of Charles Waters reading his spoken word poem about DJ Annie Red and they were hooked! They gasped at the story about Noah Barnes and were impressed with how Lindsay H. Metcalf followed rules to write a Tanka sequence about him. And of course I bragged about my friend Marcie Rinka Wessels, who writes beautiful and thoughtful Haiku, then shared my silly version “How to Haiku” when discussing voice. After the presentation, a teacher told me she saw a few boys chatting, walked over wondering what they were up to and they were engaged in a conversation about what is and isn’t poetry while discussing rap music. She was so happy! For the writing part, they started brainstorming and will write bio poems.

What a blast to be with kids again, and to visit with students at Aga Khan Academy – Mombasa.

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