America’s Best Breakfasts…Who Doesn’t Love Breakfast?


To be perfectly honest, I have not always been a fan of breakfast foods.  I didn’t like bacon until I became pregnant with my oldest and then I couldn’t get enough of it.  Since then, I have been a huge fan of breakfast foods, especially when eaten at dinner time.  So when I saw America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2016), I got incredibly excited to see what this book could possibly teach me about making awesome breakfasts.

There was one recipe in particular that I wanted that this book contains: Shrimp and Grits from Hominy Grill in Charleston!  When we lived in Charleston I became incredibly fond of grits, it was a texture thing, basically it was love at first bite.  It is a food that has been refined for hundreds of years into this simple, rustic, down-home goodness – well, that is the food I want to be eating.  Living on the west coast now, it is a rarity and not a breakfast staple here, so having this recipe in my hot little hands was a must.

I do have to say the major complaint that I have heard about this book is that it does not represent every state…however, the states and restraunts they do cover…well yum.  Some of the cities that are heavily represented in this book are San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and New York.

Some of the recipes that I was most excited to read and add to our weekend breakfast menu are:

From the West Coast:

  • The Yolko Ono Sandwich from Fried Egg I’m in Love, in Portland, OR
  • Lobster Scrambled Eggs from Connie and Ted’s, West Hollywood, CA
  • Avocado Toast from Plow, San Francisco, CA

From the Midwest:

  • Fruit Crepes from Bluestem, Kansas City, MO
  • Graham Cracker Waffles from Jack Flaps, Cleveland, OH
  • Bacon Cheddar Potato Pancakes from Ann Sather, Chicago, IL

From the South:

  • Shrimp and Grits from Hominy Grill, Charleston, SC
  • Barbecued Brisket Breakfast Burrito from Elwood’s Shack, Memphis, TN
  • Brioche Cinnamon Buns from Honey Bee Bakery, Oxford, MS
  • Creole File Gumbo from Li’l Dizzy’s, New Orleans, LA
  • Frito Pie from Lambert’s, Austen, TX

From the Northeast:

  • Coconut Pancakes from Miss Lily’s, New York, NY
  • Cannoli French Toast fromCafe Lift, Philadelphia, PA
  • The Big Hot Mess from Heritage, Richmond, VA
  • Fried Chicken and Waffles from Birch & Barley, Washington DC

As if this cookbook wasn’t making you salivate just by reading these recipes then they go and add a Bloody Mary list!  Come on, this book is now my new travel guide, because I want to eat in just about every one of these places.

This is the first breakfast cook book that I have, and I am thrilled with it, I think that these are recipes that are accessible to most home cooks, the pictures are gorgeous.  Not to mention it is also a travel guide in a way, because you will want to add these breakfast spots to your next travel itinerary.

The downside, many states don’t get love – Washington is one of them…honestly, I was a little bummed.

Bloggers Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review, however, the opinions shared are my own.



Bloom…the mud fairy


Bloom by Doreen Cronin and illustrations by David Small (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2016), is a fabulous picture book for kids age 4 – 8.

This is the story of a mud fairy named Bloom.  She has a rather important job of keeping the castle in tip-top shape, however, her muddy tracks leave the King and Queen unhappy and she is released from her duties of keeping up the castle.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t go well for the King and Queen who live in a glass castle and now have to deal with it falling apart before their very eyes.  They have no idea what to do, so they go in search of Bloom to bring her and her magical skill set back to the castle.  However, they are not willing to look past the beetles in her hair, the mud caked onto her shoes to see her real magical skills.  When they King and Queen feel they have no other choice to save their castle they send a perfectly ordinary young girl, Genevieve who works at the castle, her job is to polish a crystal sugar spoon (which my petites thought to be pretty silly).  When Genevieve meets Bloom, she learns to true secret to her magic.

This is a perfect story for any petite who thoroughly enjoys playing in the mud and getting a little dirty all while wearing a princess dress and tiara.  I love that this story showcases an “ordinary” girl, who does extraordinary things.

Doreen Cronin is an author whose books I am guessing you have sitting on your shelves, she is the genius behind Click, Clack, Moo stories.  Perhaps if your petites have graduated from the Click Clack Moo books, Bloom might be just what you’re looking for.

Happy Reading!


The Octopus Scientists

Recently I was I reading news updates and one stuck out to me immediately, Inky the Octopus Escapes from a New Zealand Aquarium.  It is no secret that my family and petites are ocean loving people, so this is a story I cannot wait to share with my petite when she gets home from school today.  Basically what happened is a very smart octopus decided he wanted an adventure and that his current living situation was too small – why stay in an aquarium when you can roam the entire ocean?  So, Inky escaped from his enclosure making a daring escape crossing eight feet and into a drain where he slid down a 164 foot drain pipe to the sea.  Amazing, I love that these animals can be so sneaky and smart.  You may remember last year our own resident octopus attempted a jail break at the Seattle Aquarium.  Watch the video clip, here.  Hilarious.  I love these animals and so do my girls.  Which is why we’ve been reading this fabulous book about Octopus Scientists.

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Many of the books I share at The Petite Stag are fiction so I am really excited to be sharing this amazing non-fiction book.  The Octopus Scientist: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen.  Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 2015.  This book is perfect for the budding marine naturalist age range roughly 5th to 8th grade.  However, since I am reading it aloud and discussing the more academic scientific words as we read, this book can be made accessible to kids as young as six.  Through this book you learn about the scientists who are studying the octopus on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia.  This book is perfect for the budding naturalist or a kiddo doing a report on this most interesting mollusk.

The photographs by Keith Ellenbogen are gorgeous, there is a particular part that both the petites love where a photo series has captured the color changing process.  I find that introducing animals or honestly anything is always more fun with interesting facts and this book provides you with many interesting tidbits along the way.  In fact, this morning as Zoe raced to the bus stop I heard her telling a much older bus rider that “did you know that  an octopus has three hearts and they pump blue blood?  They do!”.  I love that this book delves deeply into the science, into the octopus and the role that they play in our oceans and what their health means for the oceans’ health.  The images that are in this book perfectly capture the scientific process and are quite exciting to curious minds.  This book really gets you thinking about this incredibly smart animal.

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For more reading about these delightfully intelligent and adventurous creatures check out this article interviewing the author of this book Sy Montgomery.  He wrote another book, which made him a finalist for the National Book Award and also the esteemed status of being a New York Times Bestseller, The Soul of an Octopus, Simon and Schuster, 2015.

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I think that these World Octopus Day fact sheets are perfect to get petites interested in the nifty octopus.  I know I certainly love the fun facts.  I hope you enjoy checking out these fascinating reads.

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Swatch…the color tamer

In a place where colors ran wild, there lived a girl who was wilder still.

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos (Balzer + Bray, 2016) is a vibrant story of a young girl named Swatch, who is a color tamer.  In this story color comes to life!

What we love about this book is that the colors are characters, you have Bravest Green, In-Between Gray, Rumble-Tumble Pink, Just-Laid Blue, and so many more.  Swatch is a voracious collector of colors.  Once caught they stirred restlessly in their jars in her room.  One day Swatch is searching for the one missing color Yellowest Yellow.  When she finally finds it, she asks if this color would like to come and live in her jars.  The answer surprises her, and she realizes that colors are wild.  What happens next is so lovely, so gorgeously illustrated, so perfect in ever way that I dare not spoil the surprise – you will just have to read it yourself.  What I will say is that throughout the reading of this story my almost three year old kept saying ohh, and lovely.  Which these illustrations are for sure.  

What I think is so special about this book is how it came to be.  I was recently listening to All the Wonders podcast (which is so much fun, if you are obsessed with kid lit like me I’m sure you’ll love it), and the host Matthew Winner (who has also fallen for this book, too) was speaking with Julia Denos about how this book came to be.  

Julia Denos, who seems completely delightful, talks about how Swatch is all about being yourself, being free and being inspired.  What more could you ask for in a book for children.  I know that I even felt inspired to use more color in my life, inspired to sit down and paint with my girls.  Another component of listening to the All the Wonders podcast is it gives you insight into what the author/illustrators process is – which I LOVE!  In this podcast, she talks about how the book was a three year long process, how her husband played a major role in the naming of this lovable character and how this book really comes alive.  

We have quite a few birthdays coming up and I think that Swatch, plus some paints and brushes would make for the absolutely most perfect gift.  It would be creativity in a box!  

Happy Reading!



If you enjoyed this post and think that this book sounds like perfection, you might also like this post and this book: Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light


Powell’s Books!

Powell's Books HaulLast weekend my family finally made it down to Portland to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends and of course had to stop in at Powell’s Books!  I mean can you even imagine going to Portland and not stopping there?  No, I didn’t think so.

I have wanted to go to Powell’s for years, but never seemed to be able to get there for one reason or another.  This time we finally we got to go and it was AMAZING!  If you’ve never been and love books this is a must stop bookstore.  It is huge.  My petite family spent almost three hours wandering around with our shopping cart, yes they have shopping carts!  We filled ours by the way with some amazing titles!

The Thank You Book, by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2016)

You simply cannot go wrong with owning an Elephant and Piggie book.  My oldest loves them and loves reading them to her little sister.  As a parent I love that these books are accessible to little ones, the lessons taught are so important, never pushy, always easy for little ones to understand and relate to.  As with all of Mo Willems books, this one does not disappoint.  There is even a cute Thank you surprise that made Zoe squeal when she saw it- I wouldn’t dare ruin your surprise.

Technicolor Treasure Hunt, by Hvass & Hannibal (Wide Eye Editions, 2016)

We love seek and find books, but at times they can be rather one note.  This book is perfect for teaching little ones colors, and lots and lots of new words.  This book is geared toward 12 months and up and with its little tabs on the side toddlers will adore looking at these brightly colored pages.  Vivi’s favorite page is the pink page, it has some of her favorites, lots of sea creatures as well as her favorite bird…the flamingo, or mingo as she calls it.  This book is perfect for learning colors as well as counting.  It is going to be my new go to board book gift for petites.

A Butterfly is Patient, by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 2011)

I’ve shared my love for Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long before, they have this amazing series of highly engaging, gorgeously illustrated nature books.  As budding naturalists my girls love pouring over the detailed drawings of their books.  This is a book we’ve checked out numerous times from the library and earned many fines for keeping it way too long.  We decided since we have painted lady caterpillars at home that recentently turned into chrysalis and any day into butterflies that this would be the perfect book to finally add to our library.  If you know a junior naturalist, I highly recommend any and all of their books.

Are We There Yet?, by Dan Santat (Little, Brown and Company, 2016)

Dan Santat is by far one of the most imaginative author illustrators out there.  After his Caldecott Medal win last year for Beekle, I was curious as to what he would put out next; well Are We There Yet? is absolutely spectacular.  For every petite who has ever had to endure the boredom that ensues when on a long car ride this book is the answer!  Some of our favorite aspects about this book are a surprise visit from Beekle and of course, the facial expressions that lead to the most amazing discussions about feelings.  The incredibly fun component of needing to turn the book to the side and upside down while reading is so unique and entertaining, we love a book with something new and novel.  I can only hope that the long road trip my family is planning in a few months is as entertaining as the trip Santat has depicted in the pages of this must have book.

A Ticket to the Pennant: A Tale of Baseball in Seattle, by Mark Holtzen and John Skewes (Little Bigfoot, 2006)

This is a hometown classic in the making.  Although I am not originally from Seattle, this book is certainly a treasure.  My husband grew up in the Pacific Northwest and loves baseball, so this was a book that he was incredibly excited to share with the girls.  I love that Mark Holtzen mentions places as Huey runs through the neighborhood, mainly because they are still in existence today, Borracchini’s Bakery and Mutal Fish Company (now in a new location) as well as the Barrel burger joint.  I personally think these little tidbits of history are really important.  This is also just a really fun story about a little boy, who misplaced his ticket to the biggest game ever – the Pennant we follow him as he runs around town looking for where he might have misplaced it.  But don’t worry it has a happy ending.

The Great Journey, by Agathe Demois and Vincent Godeau (Tate Publishing, 2015)

My oldest loves seek and find books, recently she fell head over heals for Pierre the Maze Detective, read more here.  This book brought so much enjoyment to our story time, we have been wanting to add a new seek and find and found this one.  What we love about this book, is the lens to look for the hidden items in the pages, it is too cute to watch the girls hold the little lens to their eyes as they look over the pages.  So much fun for ages 4-7.

Timeline: A Visual History of Our World, by Peter Goes (Gecko Press, 2015)

We have a thing for oversized books here at The Petite Stag, they are just so much fun to lay on the floor and really spend time pouring over the illustrations.  This book is perfect for the petite historian!  This book starts with a big bang…Dinosaurs, Mesopotamia, First Settlements, Viking, Incas, throughout the centuries, all the way to the 2010s and what has been happening this decade.  What I love about this book is that there is so much to see.  This book gives really great facts about key people, places and dates thoughout history.  This book is geared toward older kids 4th grade and up.  However, I’ve been reading it to my 6-year-old and looking at the pictures with her and we’ve been having the most interesting discussions.

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The Whisper: Inspiration in 40 Pages

Wow!  After just finishing reading The Whisper written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, (Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) I am completely inspired.  This book is by far one of my favorite picture books of all time.

The premise is a little girl who loves stories.  She notices a unique book in her classroom on a high shelf, the teacher lets the little girl borrow the book and take it home for the night.  As the petite rushes home in anticipation of reading this story, all of the words fall from the pages, once she has a chance to sit down and read she is devastated to the point of tears that the book is filled with wordless pages.  However there is a small whisper:

Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed.

You can imagine the words.

You can imagine the stories.

Start with a few simple words and imagine from there.

Remember: beginnings, middles, and ends of stories can always be changed and imagined differently.

There are never any rules, rights, or wrongs in imagining – imagining just is.

Pamela Zagarenski, The Whisper, 2015

The little girl looks at the enchanting mix media illustrations in the book and creates her own stories.  It is the perfect book to let your imagination run wild.  Zagarenski provides enchanting images that inspire you to create your own tale.  The color and vibrancy of the illustrations are what make this story so magical.  After a long night the little girl drifted into a dream filled slumber to awake the next day missing her newly created friends and almost missing school.  My petites loved the twist of the clever fox.

Enchanting, right?  As someone who aspires to write children’s books this book really spoke to me.  I do think that this story is for everyone who wants to tell a story, regardless of what age they are.  This book is the perfect stepping stone for thinking about writing to actually picking up a pencil and jumping in.

As a teacher, my wheels immediately started turning and thinking about ways in which this book could help students to build their confidence as writers in an incredibly fun and engaging activity.

Here are a few ways in which I would love to share this book with students.  

  • First, read the book aloud to the class.  Then have students choose one of the illustrations and story starters that speaks to them and have them start writing.  upper elementary – high school.
  • Read the book aloud and have students share their stories aloud to a partner using the illustrations as inspiration.  lower elementary and English language learners of all ages.
  • Another idea, read the book aloud, then group students in 3-5 groupings.  Have them choose a story starter they each write one line of the story and take turns passing the story around the group in 3-5 minute intervals so that they have a collaborative story.  Read it aloud when they are all done.  upper elementary – middle school
  • Finally, have the illustrations be the starting point without words and have the students create the hooks and then subsequent stories based on the illustrations.  middle to high school

If you use any of these ideas in your classrooms, I would love to hear how they turn out.

Happy Reading!





Food with Friends…almost too pretty to eat.

Food With FriendsFood with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings by Leela Cyd, is a gloriously beautiful cookbook that celebrates the marriage of food and friends.  The pictures in this book are stunning and swoon worthy.  This book has unique recipes that will not only impress your friends, but make your mouth water while doing it.  The foods have a rustic down-home, yet tea time inspired feel.  Perfect for just about an occasion be it a baby shower or book club meeting this book is perfect.
Another component of this book is that the ingredients are for the most part staples, the recipes are not going to send you on a wild goose chase trying to find some mysterious thing you only need 1/8 of a teaspoon.  I love that about this book, the recipes aren’t complicated, they have an effortless feel to them.  The recipes are delicious, I cannot wait to see what Leela comes up with next, because I am completely smitten with these recipes and possibly going to need to go on a diet if I keep eating all of her delicious creations.
To learn about the author:
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  However, the opinions stated are my own.

Normal Norman

There is nothing more exciting for me than reading about a book coming out and then finally getting my hands on it.  In March of this year,Normal Norman by Tara Lazar with art by Stephen Britt was published by Sterling Children’s Books.  Normal Norman is the story of a purple orangutan who is anything but normal.  Our very serious narrator, who just so happens to be a junior scientist, is working on a presentation to define the word: normal.

Allow me to introduce Norman.  He will help me demonstrate the word normal.  You see, Norman is EXCEEDINGLY normal.  In fact, we selected Norman because our scientists found Norman to be the most average animal on earth.  Regular.  Ordinary.  A common, everyday creature.

Throughout the story Norman reveals all the ways in which he is normal.  Whether it’s eating pizza, wearing glasses, sleeping in bunk beds and of course his stuffy Mr. Scruffles.  Norman is normal, but not a normal that our junior scientist is expecting.

I love that this book presents preconceived notions in such a kid friendly, bite sized way.  As a parent of a school age petite and a teacher, I know just how difficult it is for kids to stand out on their own, to be themselves and be cool with being who they are.  This book challenges readers to think about what it means to be normal, what it means to fly your own flag.  I love that Tara Lazar wrote this book, this is a book that truly needs to be in all elementary classrooms and libraries, this book needs to be put in the hands of kids who have ever doubted if they are normal or enough like everyone else.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might recall my daughter Zoe has epilepsy – so we know how important it is to fully embrace your own normal; not someone else’s version of what it should be.  I think that this book would be absolute perfection in a special education classroom as a read aloud.

This message is so critical and so important in building self confidence, in believing in yourself and not changing who you are in an effort to be like someone else.

Let’s do something special with this book:

  • I think a really cool exercise would be to have kids draw a picture of themselves and then list all the ways they are unique and special and normal in their own way.  lower elementary grades
  • Read it often and discuss what is happening and your petites views about this story; here are some questions we’ve been discussing when we read Normal Norman.
    • What did you like the best about Norman?
    • What does it mean to be Normal?
    • Is Norman normal?
    • How is Norman special?
    • How are you special?
    • What makes you normal like Norman?
    • Why do you think the scientist gets so frustrated with Norman not being normal?
    • What is your favorite part about being you?
  • Here is a really awesome activity packet to go along with Normal Norman from the brilliant Tara Lazar.  elementary grades

My petites love this book and I am certain that yours will too.

Happy Reading!