The Thanksgiving season is the perfect time to share an appreciation for food and cooking with kids. It is a time to be grateful for the food we have that nourishes us, and to share with others who don’t have as much. If you’re looking for inspiration, I have a book recommendation for you! With his signature folk-art illustrations, Tomie DePaola’s picture book Pascual and the Kitchen Angels recounts the legend of San Pascual, known to many Catholics (especially in Spain and Latin America) as the patron saints of cooks and the kitchen.
Pascual was born in 16th century Spain and was very devout from a young age. After working as a shepherd for most of his young life, he left home to become a Franciscan friar so he could help feed the poor. Because he had no formal education, the friars accepted him as a lay brother and he was assigned the task of cooking for the brothers. The trouble was, Pascual knew nothing about cooking! According to the legend that DePaola recounts, Pascual prayed to God for help, and angels came down from heaven and cooked a delicious meal fit for the friars. So, Pascual was able to fulfill his kitchen duties while never ceasing to pray.
San Pascual is known for living a life of prayer, humility, and service to others. The legend of his miraculous cooking is inspiring – it reminds us that cooking and eating can transcend the ordinary and become something that truly nourishes our souls and allows us to give to others.
Posted by: Parry
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. One of my favorite Thanksgiving stories to share is Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes. This simple story is told in rhyme and features a boy and a girl sharing the things that they are grateful for. It is a great book to read before talking to little ones about the things they are thankful for in their lives. Preschoolers will enjoy looking at the beautiful, detailed illustrations and can relate to the children in the story.
Posted by: Liz
J. J. Tully certainly stays busy these days. One would think a retired search-and-rescue dog could laze around the yard and enjoy a peaceful afternoon nap. However, J. J. does not know that luxury. Sugar, Poppy, Dirt, and Sweetie make up the Chicken Squad and they always keep things interesting. These four fuzzy little chicks are constantly getting into mischief and it’s J. J.’s job to keep them out of trouble.
It seems like a normal day for the Chicken Squad until Tail the squirrel dashes into the chicken coop with a huge dilemma. Tail has seen something in the yard that is BIG and SCARY! What could this big and scary thing be? The chicks try to get more information from Tail but it is an extremely difficult task as the squirrel keeps fainting from being scared. Will the chicks learn what this big, scary object is and protect everyone in the yard? The Chicken Squad is certainly up to the task!
This is a comical delight for young children who are beginning to read longer books. The black and white illustrations by Kevin Cornell enhance the story by perfectly depicting the range of zany emotions that each character experiences. The drawings are also paced throughout the story to break up the text for readers just starting with chapter books. If you enjoy these wacky chicks you can read more about them in their next adventure called The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken, or check out some of their previous escapades in the J. J. Tully Mysteries.
Posted by: Katie
As someone who bears almost no resemblance to any members of my (awesome) family, I am fascinated by siblings who look alike, and by people who ‘look’ Irish or German or like they come from some other country. I’ve always wanted to find out that I look like someone.
Ruth Quayle isn’t really expecting to find out that she looks like anyone — she just using FaceTrace, an Internet bot that searches for pictures that match her own. What she doesn’t expect to find are several pictures of someone who looks exactly like her, but ISN’T her. The mystery girl is Ruby Starling, who lives in England, and, since Ruth is adopted, just might be Ruth’s identical twin sister.
Ruby isn’t sure who this crazy person sending her emails is, and her mother has DEFINITELY never mentioned that she gave away one of her babies. But her artist mother is kind of flighty . . . and Ruby’s birth DID take place in America . . . and maybe Ruby and Ruth really ARE identical twins!
Finding Ruby Starling is one of the most engaging, heart-warming — and HILARIOUS — books that I’ve read all year. Written entirely in the form of emails, letters and Tumblr posts, the book perfectly delineates the two girls’ separate lives, and shows how similar — and how different — they are. Ruth’s best friend Jedgar, with whom she makes YouTube horror movies, is contrasted with Ruby’s older, fashionable friend Fiona. Ruth’s zany-yet-loving parents (a paleontologist and a heart-surgeon) are contrasted with Ruby’s artist/sculptor mother, and her recently deceased, very English Nan.
Very few books can make you laugh uproariously while still touching your heart, but this book succeeds perfectly. It is, as Ruth would say, Totes Amazeballs!
Posted by: Sarah
“Wrrr,” this picture book begins with a carpenter ant in a hard hat drilling a hole in the log he lives in. The ant explains to the other ants (all in hard hats, of course) that he is drilling a peephole. Three of the ants are thrilled with the prospect of looking outside to see the world. The fourth is firmly against the idea as there could be any number or horrific things lurking outside, the worst of which would be an aardvark. But the first ant persists, and soon cuts out a peephole and orange light shines through the log. The other ants quickly point out to the nervous ant that there is no way that whatever is outside could be an aardvark because aardvarks are grey. But, our poor worried ant cannot be dissuaded and announces “It’s an orange aardvark!”
The story continues with the first ant drilling another hole that reveals the color blue and the terrified ant announcing “It’s an orange aardvark wearing blue pajamas.” Red causes him to exclaim “It’s an orange aardvark carrying a bottle of ketchup”; green is an orange aardvark wearing blue pajamas carrying a bottle of ketchup with gecko (geckos eat ants too, you know). The story continues this pattern of colors being revealed though tiny peepholes that leads the terrified ant into a ridiculously delightful conclusion and the other three to exclaim in a very repeatable chorus “goodness, gracious, yikes!”
Eventually, it is revealed that the ants are not seeing a hungry aardvark at all, but a beautiful rainbow. Told with simple die cut illustrations and extremely rich colors, this story would work for very young readers as a way to learn colors and older preschoolers and even kindergartners because of the escalating action and suspense. This story would also serve as a solid introduction for learning more about carpenter ants, aardvarks and geckos.
Posted by: Kelly
When children are about to embark on their first big mission – KINDERGARTEN – they must be prepared for their new experiences, and this book is up to the task! This imaginative story helps kids to think of Kindergarten from the countdown (the days leading up to school) to the splashdown (the bath at the end of the first day) in a way that is full of humor but also full of strength.
The book is written as if the boy is accepting a mission to travel into outer space all the way to PLANET KINDERGARTEN! His first day on Planet Kindergarten includes aliens from many galaxies, and crewmates that sometimes disagree over the equipment (recess). They run some experiments, and write in their logs, and capture images for their families (draw pictures). And even though he gets a little sad during his rest time and wants to abort his mission, he remembers what they say at NASA: FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. He gets back to work, and before you know it, his mission is accomplished, and it is time to go home. Hooray!
This book is just plain clever, and I think kids and parents will enjoy reading it very much.
Posted by: Mary
No one would ever call Donovan Curtis a gifted student. In fact, even average might be considered a generous label for Donovan’s academic abilities. However, when a seemingly harmless prank goes horribly wrong and there is a mix-up with some paperwork in the Superintendent’s office, Donovan Curtis finds himself on a very prestigious list of students who are being transferred to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. Not wanting to ruin a good thing (or face the consequences of his actions), Donovan does his best to skate by under the radar in his new school for as long as possible, but being ungifted in a class of geniuses is not easy to hide. As his teachers and fellow classmates grow more and more suspicious, Donovan must work harder to become an indispensible member of the robotics team and his class in general or face being found out as an impostor or worse. Along the way, Donovan’s new classmates, teachers, and even his family come to realize that people are gifted in a variety of ways, and sometimes it can be the least likely addition that can make all the difference. Donovan may not be book smart, but he knows plenty about being average, and average may be exactly what the students at the Academy really need.
Told from multiple points of view, Ungifted is more than just the story of Donovan trying to keep his head above water at the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. Unlikely friendships are formed, fences are mended, and stereotypes are smashed in this clever, funny and often heart-warming story of friendship and acceptance. Gordon Korman does a wonderful job giving each narrator a distinct voice. Donovan and his classmates are the stars of the story, but even among those stars, super-genius Noah Youkilis is a stand-out with his quirky fashion sense, obsession for trying to get kicked out of the Academy, and a newly ignited passion for wrestling. This is a fun, fast-paced read for middle school students looking for realistic fiction along the lines of Wonder without the heavy subject matter.
Posted by: Staci