A Bake Shop, a Ghost, and a Surprise! This Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I learned how to bake by watching and assisting my mom and my aunt. At first, I was only allowed to sit on a tall stool near the counter, watch closely, and call out the next step or ingredient from the recipe (and sneak a small finger-full of dough). In time, I was trusted to measure out the flour or the butter and learn the art of cracking an egg one-handed. Eventually the day I waited for came.

Mom said I could choose whatever cake or batch of cookies I wanted to bake–all by myself. I’m telling you, that moment was big for me. My first cake was a two-layered, strawberry shortcake filled with fluffy, whipped cream and thin-sliced strawberries. Yes, my cake leaned precariously to one side. Yes, some of the strawberries slid downhill. Yes, my parents made a beautiful fuss, telling me how delicious it was and asked for seconds.

The point of my mini-story is that the success, or lack thereof, of that first cake, didn’t deter me from baking more cakes until I was happy with the outcome. I’m rather surprised I don’t tip the scale, considering how much I love to bake and cook.

Today’s picture book is about a vacant bakeshop, once run by the best baker in the state who created many scrumptious delicacies. The story tells the tale of different bakers who come and flee from the shop, claiming the place is haunted by the ghost of the original owner until…

One day, a spirited chef named Annie Washington arrives who is not frightened off by a few flying bags of flour or countless eggs dropped over her clean floor by a cranky ghost. If Annie wants to stay and never again be bothered by the ghost, she must fulfill a curious request. You’re, no doubt, wondering what the ghost ask Annie to do. So, to that question,

I have a special surprise for you at the end of this post. 

Title –  The Bakeshop Ghost

Author – Jacqueline Ogburn

Illustrator – Marjorie A. Priceman

Published by –  Houghton Mifflin Books – 2005

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – Determination, friendship, and cake – Oh, yes! LOTS OF CAKE!

Opening – Miss Cora Lee Merriweather ran the best bakeshop in these parts–maybe even in the whole state! The chocolate in her Mississippi mud pie was darker than the devil’s own heart. Her sponge cake was so light the angels kept wishing it would float up to heaven. No Birthday was complete without a Merriweather layer cake without her special buttercream frosting.

Amazon Review HERECora Lee Merriweather had a lemon pucker mouth and hair scraped back into a hard little bun. Cora Lee also baked the best pies and cakes for miles. But now Cora Lee haunts the shop she used to own. When new bakers arrive to take over her empty bake shop, she scares them away. Then Annie Washington comes to town, and it seems Cora Lee has met her match.

Why I like this book— This is a story that, despite its high word count, will hold the attention of most children and delight them. In addition to the cast of colorful characters, strong plot, element of mystery, (and did I mention there’s a cake recipe on the last page?) the illustrations are off-the-charts colorful, emotional, humorous, and filled with scrumptious details.

Learn more about Jacqueline Ogburn’s books HERE.

Learn more about Marjorie A. Priceman’s books HERE.

And now for the special surprise I promised you.

I came across this lavish, short film, just over 17 minutes. that tells the story of The Bake Shop Ghost.

If you scroll down, you’ll find the comments box. Oh, how I love getting mail! I hope you’ll stop in to deliver a favorite baking memory or just say hello.

On Monday, if you visit, I’m sharing a bakery-inspired poem sure to please the most discerning sweet tooth!

I hope to see you then!

A Word Without Vowels that means a great deal – Today for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

For those of you who know me, this post won’t come as a surprise. You’ll probably say, “Yup! This is truly ‘Leslie’ because…

…the theme for today’s Perfect Picture Book review is about hugs.

I don’t remember the exact moment I realized the right kind of hug could fill an emotional need in me. Yes, there is a right kind and a substandard variety. More on that shortly.

Whether my day flew by perfectly or came with snags, my parents had at hug to give me, and they let me sink into it as long as I liked. Their hugs made me feel like everything in the world was right and that they would always be there for me. They called me their little hugabug.

I never cared if my dad’s clothes were covered in machine oil or sawdust. It didn’t bother me if my mom came inside from berry picking, sweaty from spending long hours in her garden. I didn’t mind if the cat padded inside after discovering every muddy puddle between the woods and our front door. “Get in these arms!”

I discovered the substandard variety the first time my parents invited friends over for coffee and cake. I received a quick embrace, a pat on my back, and an emptiness I didn’t care for. “Wait. What? Is that all I get?” It was then that I discovered a shocking truth… Some hugs aren’t magical! Don’t get me started on the A-frame variety.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the Welsh word for a hug. Frankly, the word means quite a lot more. It actually defines the hugs I love to give and find rare to receive. And no, there are no vowels in this baby.

Cwtch (pronounced ‘kutch’, the word rhymes with ‘butch’) And, as it turns out, you can find loads of items for sale online, sporting this fabulous word!

Keep Calm and Cwtch Mug Welsh Hug or Cuddle Wales Gift Ceramic Coffee Tea Cup and  Fun Welsh Saying T-Shirt - Fancy A Cwtch - Unisex and   VinMea Wooden Hanging Sign - Cwtch (N) Hug Or Snuggle; But More Than That. Home Decor Accessory Gift Plaque Wooden Sign

So, for today’s Perfect Picture Book Review, I’m sharing the book, The Giant Hug.

Title –  The Giant Hug

Author – Sandra Horning

Illustrator – Valeri Gorbachev

Published by – Dragonfly Books – 2008

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – sharing, hugs, kindness, love.

Opening –
“What do you want to send Granny for her birthday?” Owen’s mother asked.

“A giant hug,” Owen replied. He opened his arms as wide as he possibly could to show how giant the hug would be.

“Do you want to draw a picture of your hugging Granny?” his mother asked.

“No,” Owen said. “I want to send a real hug.”

Amazon Review HEREHow do you give your granny a hug when she lives far away? Send it through the mail, of course! This sweet story makes a perfect gift for Mother’s Day for the granny in your life, whether she lives close or far!

Owen’s hug travels across the country in a series of hilarious, sometimes awkward, always heartfelt embraces between animals of different shapes and sizes. Valeri Gorbachev’s adorable artwork pairs beautifully with Sandra Horning’s charming text, and makes for a fun, funny, and educational read-aloud. An unexpected twist at the end will delight readers and have kids asking for this book again and again.

Why I like this book— Like Owen in this book, I have friends that live too far away to hug. Owen’s solution to his problem of how to get a ‘real’ hug to his grandmother is beyond ingenious. Kids reading this story will anticipate what happens at each page turn and get a funny surprise when Owen’s hug finally reaches its destination.

Learn more about Sandra Horning HERE.

Learn more about Valeri Gorbachev HERE.

I hope to see you here on Monday when I share my cwtch-inspired poem.

I’ll also be sharing my father’s instructions to me for a good hug.

Before I sign off, I hope you’ll watch this video that is dear to my heart.

until Monday.

An Interview + Book Review with Chana Stiefel this Perfect Picture Book Friday!

This Sunday we’re celebrating Father’s Day! So, for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I invited my friend, critique partner, and author of over 25 books for kids, Chana Stiefel, to join us and share some of her writing life and history behind her picture book, Daddy DepotChana Stiefel

Welcome, Chana!
When did you know you wanted to write for children?
Way back when I was at NYU Journalism School, studying Science, Health, & Environmental Reporting, I got an internship at Scholastic, which was down the block. I immediately became hooked on writing for kids. The internship developed into a job editing Scholastic’s Science World, a hands-on classroom magazine that makes science fun for kids. When I left Scholastic, I continued to freelance and started writing books for kids. Writing for children makes me see the world in a whole new light. I love exploring new topics for every new project.

What inspired the idea for your picture book, Daddy Depot?
One night, I was putting my daughter to bed. She was 7 at the time, and for reasons I can’t recall, she was very mad at her dad. She said, “Let’s return him to the Daddy store!” We started to laugh and made up a story about a girl who returns her father to the Daddy Depot. After bedtime, I ran downstairs and started to write. Daddy Depot was my first fiction picture book. The first drafts were over 1,000 words, had too many characters, and were written in terrible rhyme. But I persisted and learned the ropes of writing picture books. And eight years later, Daddy Depot was published by Feiwel & Friends.

Daddy Depot-Chana
Were there any surprises along the way from the point when you started writing your book to the moment it was published?
Yes! Daddy Depot was my learning book. It was also the book that landed me my first agent. And I was surprised at how long the process took—four years from contract to publication! Now I’ve come to understand that that can be typical in this industry. Live and learn!

Can you share something interesting or unexpected most people don’t know about you?
I love nature adventures. I have hiked on glaciers, watched Kilauea erupt into the sea, snorkeled in Molokini Crater, and ziplined over a cloud forest in Costa Rica. 

Title –  Daddy Depot

Author – Chana Stiefel

and illustrator – Andy Snair

Published by – Feiwel and Friends – 2017

Suitable for ages – 3-5

Topics – Dads and humor

Opening –
Lizzie loved her dad, but he was always watching football.
“Dad! Check out my new ballet twirls.”
“You’re a star, Lizzie… TOUCHDOWN!”

Amazon Review HERE – Come to Daddy Depot! The Dad Megastore! From Acrobats to Zookeepers, we have the perfect dad for you! Exchange your old dad for a brand-new one. . . TODAY!

Lizzie loves her dad, but he tells the same old jokes, falls asleep during storytime, and gets distracted by football while Lizzie does her ballet twirls. When she sees an ad for a store called Daddy Depot, she decides to check it out―and finds dads of all kinds! Will Lizzie find the perfect dad? Join her on this sweet and silly adventure that celebrates fathers with lots of love.

“This father and daughter are a perfect match!” —Publishers Weekly Review
“This colorful, humorous tale is sure to be a read-aloud hit.” —School Library Journal

Why I like this book— Although I never thought to trade in my dad for a different or better dad, I loved the humor in Chana’s picture book, Daddy Depot, and understood why Lizzie wanted to exchange her silly dad for a “perfect” one. Lizzie goes so far as to load her dad in a wagon while he’s sleeping and pull him over to the Daddy Depot in hopes of trading him in on a better dad. Like Lizzie, I’ve thought that certain things in my life weren’t as perfect as they could be and considered exchanging them for replacements only to discover, as Lizzie did, that what I already have is exactly, perfect for me.

Follow Chana @chanastiefel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Learn more at https://chanastiefel.com/.

Until next Friday.




Just Listen This Perfect Picture Book Friday

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at the touching story, The Rabbit Listened. I dedicate this post to anyone who knows the struggle of an emotional challenge.  

Sometimes problems grow into overwhelming proportions to the point of blocking out all light and hope. There’s no way to see through them or look around them. Well-meaning family and friends reach out to make things better by offering up their own sad stories in an attempt to make your troubles appear small by comparison. They might even resort to acting silly, assuming a smile is a sign all troubles have been wiped away. In some cases, people offer generic suggestions before listening and taking the time to understand.

The worst advice I ever received came from someone who wasn’t equipped to help because they had never faced my situation.

“Let’s pretend it never happened and move on.”  

They moved on. I couldn’t.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice shares the story of Taylor, a child with an overwhelming problem. Many animals arrive to offer assistance, but only one friend takes the time to understand what Taylor truly needs.

I hope you’ll sit back for a moment (5 minutes and 42 seconds) and listen to The Rabbit Listened.

Title –  The Rabbit Listened

Author and illustrator – Cori Doerrfeld

Published by – Dial Books for Young Readers – 2018

Suitable for ages – 3-5

Topics – Empathy, kindness, and friendship.

Opening – One day, Taylor decided to build something. Something new. Something special. Something Amazing. Taylor was so proud. But then, out of nowhere…

Amazon Review HERE. When something sad happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen . . . which is just what Taylor needs.

Why I like this book—I connected to this story on all levels. I have been in Taylor’s shoes, dealing with an issue too big to keep inside and too big to share. I have experienced the well-meaning, but wrong, kinds of help Taylor received. I have been the friend who wanted to make everything better. Most importantly, I know the incredible feeling of receiving the support the rabbit offered.

The greatest gift we can give is to find out what someone needs…it’s as simple as listening.

Learn more about Cori Doerrfeld HERE.

Until next Friday.