In this delightful new picture book series from British author and illustrator William Bee, Stanley the hamster is very busy--building houses, working at a garage, even running a farm.
In Stanley the Builder, Stanley is building a house for his friend Myrtle the mouse. He'll need his orange bulldozer, his yellow digger, and his green crane. Step by step, he prepares the land and then builds the house. Together with his friend Charlie, he finishes the project by painting the house in Myrtle's favorite colors--red, white, and blue--before returning home for supper, a bath, and bedtime.
In this series, Bee uses very simple vocabulary and minimal text together with very appealing digitally-created images to craft a story that is equally appropriate for two distinct audiences: toddlers/preschoolers and beginning readers.
There are so many things to like about this book, but first and foremost are the illustrations, with their clean black outlines, flat bright colors, and simple shapes (not to mention adorable hamsters...) Bee's U.S. publisher for this series, Peachtree Publishers, has kindly provided some artwork so The Fourth Musketeer's readers can get a better sense for Bee's unique artistic style. I was especially interested to note that Bee trained as a designer (check out his quirky website, which gives little information on his books but tells you all sorts of interesting trivia about his passions for vintage cars and the Queen). His design flair can be seen in everything from the endpapers (see first image below) to the font chosen for the text.
While this series is a sure-fire winner with toddlers and preschoolers, it's also ideal for beginning readers, with simple sentences and minimal vocabulary. Even with the limited vocabulary, Bee uses correct words for different tools and parts of the house, such as "shingles" for the roof, thus providing a rich use of words for the earliest readers. The book will also allow young readers to practice sequencing, since the steps for building a house are clearly delineated, and they can even re-tell the story using just the pictures as well.
For more on Stanley, please see the following blog tour stops from earlier this week:
I began my day like all others, sitting down with the gynae who had just completed the previous 24 hours, sipping a black coffee and going over the previous shift’s admissions. It’s a sort of handover, debrief and case discussion rolled into one. Sharing the joys, and inevitable frustrations of... Read more
“My grandmother always told me: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re crippled, blind, or crazy. All this world cares about is how you survive. As long as you don’t do drugs or go to jail, you’re gonna be fine.’” “What do you mean by: ‘The world only cares about how you survive?’” “The only thing people care about is if you’re working, and if you’re paying your taxes. I worked for the city for six years. During the time that I was working, I was Mr. Matthew Phillips. The moment that I wasn’t able to work anymore, I became a social security number.’”
I don’t know how he did it, but this is an amazing piece of writing in the face of the worst news a parent could get regarding their own health. Sending all the best energy I have to Oren and his family. Cancer | A Blogger and a Father: “”
We’re huge fans of sweet potatoes at our house. And muffins. And Indian food.
When I saw this muffin recipe and noticed it had garam masala in it, I made a weird face. That’s the honest truth.
If you’re not familiar with Indian spices, garam masala is a spice blend commonly used in curries and other Indian dishes. Not something you’d find in a muffin, that’s for sure.
It sounded odd to me, but I really, really wanted to try it. (Story of my cooking life, much to my kids’ dismay.)
I won over all three of my picky little girls with these muffins, though! Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins, submitted by Tasty Kitchen member Kristin, are an exotic spin on a simple sweet potato muffin. They’re not only gluten-free, but they’re grain-free as well and easily made dairy-free!
And they have chocolate chips. Maybe that’s why they liked them so much?
OK, let’s gather ingredients. You’ll need cold, mashed sweet potatoes, almond flour, real maple syrup, nut butter (I used almond), chocolate chips, cinnamon, cocoa powder, garam masala, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract.
Here’s my garam masala. You can find it in most grocery stores nowadays in the spice section. I ordered mine online a while back and have been refilling this bottle with a homemade blend.
First crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and loosen them up with a fork.
Add the sweet potatoes, nut butter, and maple syrup.
Mix it up until you get something that resembles pumpkin pie filling. Speaking of pumpkin, you could totally use canned pumpkin in place of sweet potatoes in this! Just add an extra splash or two of maple syrup.
Add the almond flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.
Mix it well, and then fold the chocolate chips into the batter. The nice thing about not using wheat flour is that you don’t have to worry as much about over-mixing and ending up with cone-head muffins!
Scoop the batter into muffin molds. I used a silicone muffin pan, but you can use any type you like. I would recommend using paper liners if you don’t use a silicone pan so they come out easier. And in one piece.
Throw them in the oven …
… and out they come! I’ve consistently gotten 11 muffins out of this batch, and I’ve also double and tripled this recipe before with success. They also freeze and reheat nicely!
These tasty little grain-free morsels have become a staple in our muffin collection! I thought the spices blended beautifully with the sweet potatoes. And the chocolate chips were a nice touch. (They usually are.)
1. I omitted the yogurt to make them dairy free. Because it was only one tablespoon, I didn’t think it would make a big difference if I left it out.
2. Garam masala is a potent blend, and after making this recipe several times, I decided to cut the amount down by two-thirds. Any more than a 1/2 teaspoon gave the muffins a strange, “am I eating curry or a muffin” flavor. Perhaps my spice blend is more potent because I make it myself? Try it and see what you think!
A healthy and gluten free baked good that’s perfect for fall.
2 whole Eggs
1 cup Sweet Potato Puree (fresh Is Best, Or Canned)
¼ cups Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Plain Greek Yogurt
3 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
1 cup Almond Meal
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1-½ teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ cups Chocolate Chips Or Cacao Chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the two eggs with a fork until they are a bit frothy.
3. Stir in sweet potato puree, peanut butter, yogurt and maple syrup.
4. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the chocolate/cacao chips. Once all the dry ingredients are combined stir in the chips.
5. Line a 12-count standard size muffin pan with muffin liners (I used silicone muffin liners, which I love), and fill each muffin tin. These muffins expand some, but not a lot, so you can fill them almost to the top.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I rotate the pan once, halfway through the cooking. Remove pan from oven and set on a rack.
7. Let muffins cool in the pan before serving.
Be sure to check out Natalie’s own beautiful food blog, Perrys’ Plate, where you can see her growing collection of lovely recipes. There’s always something new to see there. Go visit now!
Recommended for ages 5 and up. Amy Novesky's most recent picture book, Mister and Lady Day, an ode to jazz great Billie Holiday and her pet dogs, just arrived at my library in time for Women's History Month.
This is Amy's fourth book on prominent female figures in cultural history; she has also penned Me, Frida (on artist Frida Khalo), Georgia in Hawaii (on artist Georgia O'Keefe), Imogen (on photographer Imogen Cunningham). She is currently working on a picture book on sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
Billie Holiday's tragic life. which included working as a prostitute, living in a workhouse with her mother, drug addiction, a prison sentence, and more, might not seem like a natural fit for a picture book for young children, and indeed, this side of Holiday's life does not appear in Novesky's book. Novesky focused instead on Holiday's love for her many dogs, and in particular for her boxer named Mister. Love for a dog, of course, is a theme that children identify easily with, as do many adults (OK, I'm a sucker for a good dog story).
We first meet Billie Holiday as a young girl, dreaming of being a star, singing on a borrowed gramophone. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, whose charming illustrations are done with gouache and charcoal with collage elements, depicts Billie in a beautiful setting on a fancy chair, dressed up with a bow in her hair (perhaps a bit fanciful given the realities of her childhood!). The next spread shows her already a star, the great Lady Day. (Illustrated 2-page spreads from the book can be seen on Novesky's website). Novesky introduces a note of melancholy in the text from the beginning, by explaining that even stars need someone to listen to them, and that's the role Lady Day's dogs played. We meet her small dogs, chihuahuas Pepe and Chiquita, her big dogs (a Great Dane named Gypsy, and finally her favorite dog of all, Mister, who we see in a fabulous illustration, walking with Billie on a leash wearing matching mink coats. Instead of a sidewalk, they are walking on a piano keyboard, with the buildings of New York in the background. Mister had the life of a star himself; he was so pampered he got to eat steak while she was performing in glamorous clubs, and he waited for her while she performed, even serving to keep eager fans at bay.
Novesky tells young readers that "Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn't come." In an afterword, she explains that Billie Holiday was in fact in jail during that time for drug possession. When she returned, Mister was there to welcome her, and even accompanied her to a grand concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. The story ends on a hopeful note, with Billie singing her heart out, and Mister listening in the wings.
An author's note gives some more background on Holiday's life, appropriately omitting some of the uglier facts, and provides additional sources and a web resource.
There's no CD with the book, but readers could easily find CD's of Holiday's unique singing style at the library or on YouTube, which would enrich the story.
This is a moving yet charming book about a difficult subject, and could be integrated into units on Black History Month, Women's History Month, or jazz.
On February 1, 2013, actress Sam Futerman got the most astonishing Facebook message. A French fashion designed living in London named Anais saw her in a Youtube video, and realized that they looked exactly alike. While messaging back and forth, the two also found out that they were born on the same day and in the same city in South Korea, before Sam was adopted by an American family, and Anais by a French one.
First up... The shortlist for the Cybils was announced this week and it is going to be a hard decision for 2ns round judges. All the contenders are just so good. This year, I am happy to be a 2nd round judge in the Middle Grade Fiction category and I am looking forward to [re]reading the books that were chosen by the 1st round judges. You can view the complete list of all the books in all the categories on the Cybils website.
Next... I wished it and now my wish has come true - Alyson Beecher has announced the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge but with a twist. This year you can read not just nonfiction picture book, but also middle grade and YA nonfiction. If you would like to know more about this or if you would like to participate, you can find the details over at Kid Lit Frenzy. This was a fun reading challenge last year and it got me to read more nonfiction than I usually do.
With George Zimmerman free from domestic violence charges thanks to his girlfriend changing her story so they can reunite and continue trying to find ways to get paid for TV appearances, he now has time to return to his true passion: pulling a gun at the drop of a hat painting! Apparently George Zimmerman is quite the artiste and his newest painting is already just shy of $100,000 on eBay because America is a shithole full of dumb and guns. And while I was at first happy that a moronic husk of humanity would be down $100 grand in three days, Mediaite reports that the “painting” was clearly Photoshopped from a Shutterstock stock image which could potentially negate the sale:
The best guess is that Zimmerman wanted to paint an American flag, so he searched for an image of one on Shutterstock or another site that features that company’s images and then just painted over it. While there’s no big art rule that says use of multimedia or even tracing is inherently “bad,” Zimmerman does not disclose the use of the foundation image, calling the piece “original” and “hand-painted.”
Seeing as Shutterstock’s images are copyrighted and are not free to use, things could potentially become legally complicated if Zimmerman did, indeed, crib the image from the stock photo company.
George Zimmerman has reportedly agreed to private negotiations with Shutterstock, but as of this post, all that could be heard from the room were a series of loud bangs followed by the sound of a window being opened. I’m sure it was nothing.
I have written papers on existential philosophy that is easier to bullshit which by the way is basically a class about a horny French philosopher by the name of Sartre who wanted to basically justify all the stupid shit he has done in his life.
Many thanksgivings have left my lips but none so full of truth than the day that I whispered it over you softly, so as not to overburden your yet unformed ears with the sound.
I am thankful for many things, not the least of which are tiny lungs that fill with air and expend all the energy she can muster, bursting forth with what we in the south call “a holler.” She screams now, in the background of my phone conversations is a constant screeching noise, distracting, and I am thankful for the irritation because remember when a machine breathed for her? Remember when they said the damage meant that sound might not come? Remember when her cries were miniature and trapped by the plastic of the box she lived in?
"Maybe in Portland, Krampus throws hipsters in his basket and takes them back to their crappy Midwest hometowns."
By now if you are a grumpy American who hates happiness, joy, and Christmas, you’ve heard of Krampus.
Wait! I haven’t. But I do hate all those things. Tell me more.
Krampus is the shaggy-haired. horned sidekick of St. Nicholas, who whacks bad children with this bundle of sticks, throws them into a bucket and takes them to…I’m not sure where exactly Krampus takes them to, and as long as it’s not my house, I really don’t want to know.
When does Krampus come calling?
December 5th is Krampusnacht, the night St. Nicholas and his pal parade through town scaring the bejeezus out of children. While a tradition in the Alpine countries, Krampus is relatively new to the United States. But he’s gaining popularity, which cheers my black little heart.
I have some rotten kids I need to shuffle off on someone. Where can I meet Krampus?
Here’s a not-totally-comprehensive list of krampuslaufen in the United States:
The third annual Krampuslauf Philadelphia encourages revelers to dress up like other terrifying pagan figures such as the Yule Lads. Here’s a bit from last year’s lauf (although I don’t think any of these kids look properly terrorized):
Then again, I don’t see any children at The PDX Krampusnacht Ball. Maybe in Portland, Krampus throws hipsters in his basket and takes them back to their crappy Midwest hometowns.
Speaking of which: you can also eat Breakfast with Krampus in Rochester, New York. I’ve long suspected that Krampus takes all those rotten kids to the Rust Belt, so this doesn’t really surprise me. You’re invited to bring an unwrapped toy for needy children, but “if it’s crap, Krampus is going to harrass you and drag you straight to hell.”
If you want to chime in with the name of a new kids' book that you can't wait to read, join me there.
In other news, if you don't follow me on FB or Twitter, you may not know of a free book offer that should interest you. For the first time ever, the National Book Foundation (bestower of the prestigious National Book Awards) is offering free e-book excerpts of all of the finalists for the National Book Award in all three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and young people's literature. The excerpts have been released as a three book series titled: The Contenders, with a book for each category. This is a wonderful tool for familiarizing yourself with the books, getting a "flavor" of each finalist, preparing booktalks for kids, or deciding what to read next. The free E-books are available in most formats. Full details may be found at http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2013_thecontenders.html#.UoF6cvmUTfU
And finally, a personal and totally non-book-related request:
My daughter is currently in an internship at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston (to say that she's thrilled would be an understatement). The intern and co-op students at JSC have a Twitter account and are trying to reach 3,000 followers. If you're on Twitter, please go there now and follow @NASAJSCStudents. They're all working very hard and would love to share their activities with you. Spread the word. Thanks.