Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous Fishes... and CAKES!

I have to share this amazingly fun project with everyone! Susan Stockdale, author of Fabulous Fishes, partnered with the Ritz-Carlton in a community outreach program. They had local kids come over to the Ritz in Naples, Florida to decorate cakes inspired by Susan's book. Besides being creative and fun, Susan had an amazing experience herself. Below, hear what she had to say about spending the day with local kids making fabulous cakes.

"This summer, I worked with the Ritz-Carlton as a guest speaker for its “Community Footprints” program, in which Ritz guests and employees help organizations located near its hotels. I participated in its Naples and Palm Beach, Florida, programs to share my bookmaking process with disadvantaged children.

For the Palm Beach outreach, I spoke to a group of children from foster homes. Most of them had never been inside a hotel before and none of them had ever met an author. I didn’t “present” so much as answer questions like “how do you find your words?” and “how long does it take you to make a picture?”

More interestingly, some extraordinary collaborating started to take place. The kids and the Ritz clients and employees were divided into teams to put together bookshelves lying in boxes on the floor. Right away, we were all down on our hands and knees, reading the instructions and working industriously to put the shelves together. The kids were clearly elated to be working alongside the adults on such a tangible project. Within the allotted hour, we had assembled twelve environmentally friendly bamboo bookshelves for the kids’ foster homes. Even better, the shelves were then fully stocked with children’s books purchased by the hotel. Our group celebrated its collective sense of accomplishment by building huge ice cream sundaes.

For the “Community Footprints” program in Naples, I presented to children enrolled in ESOL reading classes at a local literacy agency. Then adults and kids worked together to decorate cakes, using the illustrations in my book, Fabulous Fishes, as inspiration. For me, this was literally the icing on the cake. I was honored! The final creations were delivered to a nearby hospice center, and the kids took home mini-cakes to enjoy themselves.

These two programs demonstrated the rich rewards of children and adults working together to accomplish a common task, and having great fun in the process. It was pure pleasure to be a part of these positive teambuilding efforts, which surely left a “footprint” on this author’s heart."

How wonderful are those cakes?! Why not try making your own Fabulous Fishes cakes?

Here are a few more notes from Susan about how they made their fishy treats!

"The Ritz baking staff presented each team (made up of adults and kids) with two large, rectangular sheet cakes and a copy of Fabulous Fishes. We were also provided with knives, spoons, a huge vat of butter cream frosting, lots of tubes of different colored frosting, a variety of candies and sprinkles, and straws. The organizer asked the teams to look through my book and find a fish image they wanted to recreate. Then he suggested that each team cut out the fish shape from one of the sheet cakes, and place it on top of the other sheet cake.  Most of the teams picked the porcupinefish (spelled as one word), probably because it was easier to cut out the circular shape than the other fish shapes (though the swordfish came out really well!) From that point on, each team did its own thing with the frosting and decorations. Some of the porcupinefish shapes were propped up, as seen in a few photos, with straw sticks (like what you stir coffee with) in the back of the cake. Both the adults and the kids had a blast."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Did Somebody Say Monsters?!

October is here, which means that my favorite holiday, Halloween, is almost upon us. For one night, kids get to dress up as ghouls, ghosts and goblins, trying to scare the daylights out of each other while carrying pillow cases full of candy from strangers. Kids always know which houses to visit first before all the best stuff is gone. Then, there is that glorious moment when you get home and trade and barter your booty. Brothers and sisters will argue about whether or not they got a fair trade, as there are always discrepancies about whether a Kit Kat Bar is really equal to a Krackle Bar. In the end, there is the joy of crashing into bed with your face still covered in chocolate and plastic vampire fangs in your pocket.

I don't know about your kiddo, but if they are anything like me, they are impatient, monster starved children that can't wait for October 31st and the fabulous frights and candy rush that come along with it. What is a parent to do with that much Monster Madness for a whole month?


There are so many amazing monster books out there that are wonderful the whole year round. Some of my favorite Peachtree monster books are by author Danny Schnitzlein. I like to think of them as monster books for any occasion. Your kid won't eat his veggies? No problem! Sit him down with The Monster Who Ate My Peas. Having trouble with math home work? Easy! The Monster Who Did My Math has the answers for you. Maybe you simply want a fun book for Halloween. Trick or Treat on Monster Street is just what you need. Besides, what is more hilarious than a Halloween book about monsters "Trick-or-Trouting" dressed as humans?!

Once you've read the books, you can always do fun activities like have your kids draw their own monster, let them write their own monster story, or even help them make a Halloween costume inspired by the books.  These are also particularly great read-aloud books, with fun rhymes and excellent words like gruesometentacle, and writhe. Enjoyment of a book doesn't end when you close it, so keep looking for ways to explore books more deeply through language and activities.

What other fun activities do you like to do for Halloween? Do you have a favorite Halloween book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Other fun Links: