I had the opportunity this past weekend to read my book Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born during an Author's Forum at the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival. I also got to ride in the parade! Thanks to everyone who came out for both.
I'm eagerly anticipating apple season. Are you? My story, Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story has inspired a bushel :) of creative people to create activities around the book when they read it aloud to children.
Here are some neat examples I found of activities to do to encourage fun learning/teaching moments with my Golden Delicious Book:
Art Activity Idea From the WVU Extension Service: Campers will hear the story of the Golden Delicious apple, snack on Golden Delicious Apples and complete artwork that details apple fruit structure. Carve a stamp into an apple.
Math Activity Idea From Scholastic: Purchase a selection of apples (including Golden Delicious) to have a taste testing and graph the results (favorites, sweetest, tartest, etc). Invite a neighboring class or two and compare their graph results. Bon appetit!
Cultural Activity Idea from Pinterest: Compare this Cinderella Story to other Cinderella Stories from around the world and from other periods of time.
Nutrition Activity from Healthy Choices: Use the book to encourage healthy eating in kids! Golden Delicious apples are the loveliest and sweetest.
Thanks for reading and please submit your own ideas in the comments section. I'll add them to the list.
I wanted to include a soft pretzel recipe in my book about the invention of the pretzel - Brother Giovanni's Little Reward. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen - often with my grandsons Daniel and Aaron - to find the best pretzel recipe. Give it a try using the instructions below, or better yet - get my book and learn about how the pretzel was invented!
Recipe yields 1 dozen
Prep Time: 2 hours Baking Time: 8 - 10 minutes
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/43 degrees C)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar (¼ cup if you’d like the dough sweeter)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup baking soda
2 cups hot water
sea salt for topping
melted butter to brush on pretzels when done
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl; place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water (almost boiling).
4. When dough is risen, punch it down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope (the diameter of your finger and 20 inches long) and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution for about 10 seconds each; then place on a non-stick or greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until browned.
5. Brush with melted butter, or dip in melted butter and coat with cinnamon and sugar or other favorites. Enjoy!
My friends at Eerdman's made a really cute video where they made the recipe too. Check it out!
Hello, everyone! My newest book, Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born is now available. The publishing company, Eerdman's interviewed me for a blog post on their website about how I came up with the idea for the book.
I read something about how the pretzel was invented several years ago, and it was something like this:
Most sources say the pretzel was invented around 610 A.D. by a monk in either northern Italy or southern France who twisted leftover bread dough into arms crossed in prayer. He gave it as a little reward (pretiola in Latin) to children who learned their prayers. As the years went by, the pretiola became known in Austria and Germany as bretzel. When it crossed the ocean to America it became known as the pretzel.
To write the story I had to first create the character of the monk who was the baker. I knew he would be a fantastic baker, a sweet kindly man I named Brother Giovanni . . . eventually. Read the full post to learn more about how I got to know Brother Gio and how the pretzel was invented to the delight of children and adults everywhere even centuries later.
You can order the book here.
Hello, all. My new book's publication date is nearing - 8/3/15. You can order it here.
Here's another review; this time from Publisher's Weekly. Thanks to the team over there for a wonderful synopsis and review!
"Drawing from the semi-apocryphal origins of the pretzel, which trace the baked good to a monk in medieval Europe, Smucker (Golden Delicious) introduces Brother Giovanni, "the best baker his monastery had ever had." With the bishop scheduled to visit the monastery, the children the monks teach must learn to recite their prayers before his arrival. Giovanni tries singing, making "mean" faces, and dancing with the children, but while these attempts bring him closer to the children....they don't help them learn their prayers. Taking inspiration from the medieval setting, Hall (The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau) ornaments her bright, playful paintings with filigrees and other decorative elements. When Brother Giovanni has his eureka moment—using the shape of two arms crossed in prayer to create a snack for the ages (and a delicious reward for the children)—he is flanked by two trumpet-playing angels, and a pretzel rests above his head like the flame of the Holy Spirit. It's a winning blend of the holy and the holey. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)"
Click here for the original review.
My newest book, Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel was Born will be officially released in about a month!
Here's a review from Kirkus that I was thrilled to see:
"A fanciful and inventive version of how those yummy big soft pretzels came to be. Brother Giovanni is a monk of inveterate cheerfulness and a most excellent baker. But the bishop is coming, and the children don't know their prayers: what to do? The abbot hopes that Brother Giovanni's youth and smile will coax the children into learning. Brother Giovanni sings to them and allows them to dance at lessons, but that doesn't work. He even tries Brother Jerome's advice to put on a stern face (the montage of Giovanni's attempts at stern faces is very funny). But after a night of sleeplessness and prayer, when he makes far too large a batch of dough, he folds and twists ropes of dough into the position of his arms at prayer and then offers the pretiolas as a reward....."(Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Click here to preorder the book.
And I’ll be celebrating the publication of my “pretzel book” this coming August! Titled Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born, it’s my telling of the origin of one of the world’s favorite snacks. To see some of the gorgeously exuberant
illustrations by talented British artist Amanda Hall just go to the publisher’s website and
take a peek.
This is going to be such a fun book to share with children (and adults)!
I was very honored to be inducted to my hometown of Weirton's Hall of Fame over the weekend. Weirton is where No Star Nights is set. As a special surprise, my brother Johnny flew my daughter Mary and my two grandsons down from Boston! I am so grateful to all the family and friends who showed up for this special day. You can see details of the event here.
Here are some photos of me at the ABLE Families Afterschool Program in Kermit, WV. The kids were great. They were so attentive and enthusiastic, and had lots of good questions about NO STAR NIGHTS. They had heard the story read aloud earlier in the week and had been doing art and writing activities inspired by the book. When I walked in they were being served Tabitha's homemade cabbage rolls! A little bit of Weirton in Mingo County, WV!! The program, with help from a WV Humanities Council grant, bought each child a copy of NO STAR NIGHTS. The afternoon ended with an autograph session that allowed me to talk to each child individually as I signed the books.
The ABLE Program works to "confront the systemic causes of poverty in northern Mingo County, WV. Check out their website at http://www.ablefamilies.org and you can't help but be impressed with their important and far-reaching projects.
My blog used to live at blogspot, but I've integrated it into my new site. I am an author and presenter. Thanks for visiting!