Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Little Crooked Bookshelf + A Bonus Literary Lunch!

Happy New Year!

How appropriate that our first "crooked bookshelf pick" of the new calendar year—is a marvelous story by Andrea Wang, written for the Chinese New Year. We love this book so much, we asked Nina from Mamabelly's Lunches with Love for a bonus Literary Lunch to celebrate its publication, and ring in The Year of The Rooster. (See Nina's brilliant bento creation below!)

The Nian Monster
by Andrea Wang
illustrated by Alina Chau

This week's pick is from cottager Anika Denise.

What it's all about...
The legendary Nian monster has returned at Chinese New Year, intent on devouring Shanghai, starting with Xingling! The old tricks to keep him away don’t work on Nian anymore, but Xingling is clever. Will her quick thinking be enough to save the city from the Nian Monster?

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf…
As a child growing up in New York, I was captivated by celebrations of the Chinese New Year. This is a book "little me" would have adored. ("Grownup me" is equally smitten.) It has everything I love: a mysterious monster, a feisty female protagonist, food you want to pluck from the pages and taste, and magical illustrations.

Favorite line(s)...
"Every monster has a weakness. Nian had three—loud sounds, fire, and the color red."

Most swoon-worthy illustrations...
It's hard to choose. All of Alina Chau's watercolor illustrations for The Nian Monster are lovely. But here are three particularly stand-out pages and spreads.

From The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang; Image (c) 2016 Alina Chau

From The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang; Image (c) 2016 Alina Chau

From The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang; Image (c) 2016 Alina Chau

Why kids will love it…

Because monsters! And paper lanterns! And long life noodles! And... and...

Why grown-ups will love it…
Everything I said above, plus it's a wonderful way to teach children more about the customs and traditions of the Chinese New Year.


The Nian Monster Literary Lunch

What would you do if a beast with horns, scales and wide, wicked jaws showed up in the midst of your family preparing a new year celebration? That is exactly the problem Xingling faces when the Nian Monster suddenly appears outside her kitchen. Will Xingling be able to tame the monster by feeding it traditional food? Find out in Andrea Wang's new book THE NIAN MONSTER!

Nina from packed a lunch to satisfy any mythical beast:
  • a helping of long-life noodles with fish for good fortune
  • a mini Xingling made of cheese and spinach
  • a sweet peanut butter "rice cake" made from bread and peanut butter
  • and sweet apples with firework sprinkles

* For more of Nina's Literary Lunch creations, visit:
--instagram: @Mamabelly
--twitter: @LunchesWithLove

* View The Nian Monster book trailer here.
* Click here, for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Nian Monster art.
* Want to use The Nian Monster in your classroom? Download the Teacher's Guide here.
* For more about Andrea Wang, visit:
* To explore more of Alina Chau's work, go to:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The 2016 edition of . . . THE CROOKIES!

Welcome to the second annual edition of The Little Crooked Cottage Book Awards — otherwise known as ...


The Cottagers have been busy considering all the brilliant titles on our Little Crooked Bookshelf, and we’ve carefully chosen winners for each respective category. Without further ado, the envelopes, please …

Most versatile protagonist: Apple from What’s an Apple? by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Coolest hair on a bear: Big Puff's afro in the Super Happy Party Bears series by Marcie Colleen

Most (eventually) lovable villain: The Snurtch from The Snurtch by Sean Farrell, illustrated by Charles Santos

Best one-liner: "Whishhhhh.” —Boggan from The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Chris Turnham

Most stylishly accessorized milk carton: Milk from Milk Goes to School by Terry Border

The MVP Award, for most valuable picture book element: The removable pancake from Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book, illustrated by Lotta Nieminen

Mr. Pig's Pig of the Year: Peddles from Peddles by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

BFFs we'd most like to invite us to a sleepover party: Penny & Jelly from Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Thyra Header

Squiggliest plot twist: I o U . . . .vvVVvv^ (translation: Oh, no! It’s a shark!) from A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lower

Most beautiful cover: Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Joanne Lew Vriethoff

Best soundtrack: Punk Skunks by Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan

Most adorable duo: Ella and Penguin from Ella and Penguin Stick Together by Megan Maynor,  illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet

Stinkiest protagonist: Smelly Baby from Lucy's Lovey by Betsy Devany, illustrated by Christopher Denise

Best adapted (from real life) picture book: Toby by Hazel Mitchell

Most gorgeously illustrated maps: Charles Darwin's Around The World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes

Loudest barker: Emerson from Emerson Barks by Liza Woodruff

And finally, the character least likely to have asked to be in this list: Snappsy from Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners, and to all the children's book characters, authors, & illustrators we’ve hosted at the Cottage this year. Keep up the good work, and best wishes to you and yours (and whatever amazing new books you’re working on) in 2017!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mr. Pig Live...with Super Happy Party Bears! And a Super Happy Literary Lunch!

Hello, friends! I don't know about you, but I'm ready to party. So who better to welcome to the Cottage than Jacks, the littlest bear, and Mayor Quill from...



The bears and Mayor Quill and their friends are the creations of super-awesome author Marcie Colleen and illustrator Steve James.

So, without further ado, let's get this party started!


MP: What are your full names?

Jacks: My name is Jacks.

the littlest bear: I’m the littlest bear.

Jacks: The littlest bear and I are lucky to be Super Happy Spokesbears for this fabulous
interview. We are so happy to be here! Yay Mr. Pig! Can we hug you?

Mayor Quill: Ahem.

the littlest bear: Quilly is here, too! Don’t worry, Quilly you can be in the hug.

Mayor Quill: I do not need a hug. I am Mayor Quill of the Grumpy Woods and let me be
clear, I am only here on very important, official business. It has been decreed that
interviews stay official and professional. So, I’m watching you, Mr. Pig.

the littlest bear: Silly Quilly. We’ll be professional.

Jacks: We even brought refreshments. Anyone want a doughnut?

MP: What one word best describes you?

Jacks: Cheerful.

the littlest bear: Giggly.

Mayor Quill: Mayor.

MP: Do you have a belly button?

Jacks: I have an emoji, does that count?

the littlest bear: My emoji is ticklish!

Mayor Quill: What kind of question is that? Of course, I have an emoji—I mean, belly
button. I have no idea how my belly button is any of your business.

MP: What is the best thing about being you?

Jacks: I’m a Super Happy Party Bear!

the littlest bear: Me too! And it’s the best!

Mayor Quill: I am mayor.

MP: If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring?

Jacks: The Party Patch, the Headquarters of Fun.

the littlest bear: It’s Super Happy Stranded Time! Super Happy Stranded Time!

Mayor Quill: You can’t bring a whole house with you!

Jacks: Why not?

the littlest bear: You could bring City Hall, Quilly.

Mayor Quill: I cannot bring City Hall to a deserted island.

Jacks: Ok. Then you can live at the Party Patch.

the littlest bear: Yippee! Quilly’s moving in!

Jacks: Wait until we tell everyone! This calls for a party!

Mayor Quill: Unbelievable.

MP: What is your idea of the perfect day?

Jacks: Doughnut preparation party. Breakfast party. Lunchtime party. Snack-time party.
Slumber party.

the littlest bear: And lots and lots of giggling.

Mayor Quill: Any day that is quiet. Peaceful and quiet.

MP: What is your favorite word?

Mayor Quill: That’s easy. It’s do—

Jacks: DOUGHNUTS!!!!!

the littlest bear: Yay! I that’s my favorite word, too.

Jacks: We didn’t know you loved doughnuts so much, Quilly.

the littlest bear: Would you like one? We brought a freshly-baked batch.

Mayor Quill: I was going to say “don’t.” “Don’t” is my favorite word.

the littlest bear: As in, “don’t forget the doughnuts?”

MP: If you could dine with three characters from other books, who would they be?

Jacks: Winnie-the-Pooh.

Mayor Quill: The Grumpy Woods does not need any more bears.

the littlest bear: How about Curious George?

Mayor Quill: The Grumpy Woods does not need monkeys.

Jacks: How about Quilly?

Mayor Quill: The Grumpy Woods does not need—wait a minute!
MP: If a genie gave you one wish, what would you wish for?

Jacks: Doughnuts.

the littlest bear: Lots of snuggles.

Mayor Quill: You already have those things. You are supposed to ask a genie for
something you don’t already have.

Jacks: But we have everything we want.

the littlest bear: What would you wish for Quilly?

Jacks: Doughnuts?

the littlest bear: Snuggles?

Mayor Quill: Is this interview almost over?

MP: What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

the littlest bear: A triple decker giggle and jelly sandwich

Jacks: And doughnuts!

Mayor Quill: The same thing I eat every morning. A bowl of twigs and berries.

MP: What is your pet peeve?

the littlest bear: We don’t have any pets.

Jacks: We should get one.

Mayor Quill: A pet peeve is not a pet. It’s something you find annoying.

Jacks: Why would we find anything annoying?

the littlest bear: And why would we name our pet after something annoying?

(Mayor Quill stomps his foot and his quills quiver signaling a possible quillstorm.)

MP: What was it like working with Marcie Colleen?

Jacks: We love Marcie!

the littlest bear: She gives us snuggles.

Jacks: And we make her special gluten-free doughnuts when she visits.

Mayor Quill: Personally, I think she is on a power trip. I’m the mayor of the Grumpy
Woods. Why is her name on the cover?

Weeeelllll, speaking of covers, I think that just about covers it — now it's time for Nina, from Mamabelly, to reveal your very own Super Happy Literary Lunch! While we roll the credits, follow me to the kitchen.  

Super Happy Party Bears: Gnawing Around
Super Happy Party Bears: Knock Knock on Wood
by Marcie Colleen
Publisher - Macmillan/Imprint
September 2016
Gnawing Around: ISBN 978-1250098078
Knock Knock on Wood: ISBN 978-1250098085
Marcie Colleen is the author of the Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series. She’s a former classroom teacher and current Educational Consultant for the Picture Book Month initiative. In that role, she presented at a recent New York Public Library Literary Salon, which focused on the Common Core. She also creates Teacher’s Guides for picture books and middle grade novels and is a huge advocate for using children's fictional literature in the classroom.

[Super Happy Party Bears Copyright © 2016 by Marcie Colleen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Macmillan/Imprint.]



Nina from made a lovable lunch to match:

Want more fun literary lunch ideas? Follow Mamabelly here:
* web:
* facebook:
* twitter: @LunchesWithLove

Monday, December 12, 2016

Little Crooked Bookshelf

Cook in a Book: Pancakes!

illustrated by lotta nieminen

This week's pick is from cottager Kara LaReau.

What it's all about
It's an interactive guide to making pancakes, featuring a real recipe, wheels and tabs so you can add the flour and pour the milk, and a pop-out pancake for flipping and serving!

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf…
My little one loves reading and cooking, so I can't wait to give him this delicious book for Christmas!

Sample illustrations…

Why kids will love it…
The wheels, tabs, and pop-out elements are super-fun and satisfying — it really feels like you're making your own pancakes!

Why grown-ups will love it…

It's a lovely introduction to cooking — and, best of all, it involves NO MESS!