A Daily Dose of Fruits and Veggies

Book Basket for PICTO Night by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Here’s the book basket we created for an upcoming PICTO night, a very popular picture bingo basket auction fund-raiser that’s held yearly at my youngest child’s school. The basket contains a signed copy of each of my books, a certificate for my forthcoming Sugar White Snow and Evergreens: A Winter Wonderland of Colors, and a few bookmarks, all surrounded by some fun play fruit and veggies. It felt good to work with the vibrant colors of the growing seasons—both summer and fall—because, as we all know too well, it has been such a long and tough winter.

That’s part of what I like about this recent Booklist review of Cheers, due out in just a few days:

Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting.
Chernesky, Felicia Sanzari (author). Illustrated by Susan Swan.

Mar. 2014. 32p. Albert Whitman, hardcover, $16.99 (9780807511305). PreS-Grade 1.
REVIEW. First published January 16, 2014 (Booklist Online).

On a hot, steamy day in August, a brother and sister visit the local farm stand with their mother. As they gather fruits and vegetables, the rhyming, rhythmic text switches into counting mode, featuring numbers from 1 to 12 and leading off with “1 watermelon so smooth and round. / 2 purple eggplants that weight two pounds.” Checking for items on Mom’s grocery list, the children find items such as “stinky onions,” “fuzzy peaches,” and “fresh-picked corn,” before pausing for a last-minute addition: a sunflower. It’s an everyday excursion for these kids but an evocative, vicarious experience for young children who don’t have a farm just down the road. While there’s a bit of humor in the easy-going text, the book’s jovial spirit is created chiefly in the lively digital collages, which combine cut-paper elements with painted effects for a richly colorful visual experience. This pleasant picture book makes a flavorful read-aloud choice, best savored in the summertime.

— Carolyn Phelan

While each of the picture books in this series covers an early learning concept, a season of the year, and some aspect of a visit to a local farm, the rhyming text and the color-drenched, textured, and patterned illustrations by the wonderful Susan Swan blend companionably to engage readers in the characters’ experiences—and this reviewer (to my delight) seems to have felt this.

For me, that’s the essence and aim of these books. In Pick a Circle, I hope readers are bouncing along with the book’s family as they search for the shapes of the harvest as they enjoy a pumpkin hayride, a popular fall tradition everywhere.

In writing Cheers, which was actually the first picture book manuscript I ever wrote, I was inspired by a visit with my son—in preschool at the time, and learning to count—to a farm stand on the road that leads to the school that’s hosting the PICTO night where the above-pictured basket will be auctioned!

Those kinds of connections mean a lot to me, which is also why I dedicated Cheers to my mother, who taught me and my sisters how to pick out fresh produce at local farm stands in northern New Jersey, where I grew up. To call the process a ritual would make this post better suited to a foodie’s blog, which it obviously isn’t, but it’s accurate. For me, as with more and more of us these days, if I’m not engaged in growing a garden myself, a visit to a local farm stand or farmer’s market involves something other than just picking up the week’s lettuce and apples—it’s a way to slow down, reconnect, and celebrate the land and enjoy some fellowship.

There’s nothing sappy or high falutin’ about this. It’s a pretty obvious statement these days. We all seem to be growing hungrier again for the simpler, fresher, real things in life, and those delicious moments where we can disconnect from all forms of social media and plug back into the world and commune with our fellow human beings:

Spread from Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting, by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan

Spread from Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting
by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan

For me, this holds true even in winter. My family looks forward eagerly all year round to Saturday visits to the indoor Stangl Factory Farmers’ Market and on Sundays to the Dvoor Farmers’ Market.

These markets are populated by earnest, inviting, and friendly people, and glorious goods that uplift body and spirit—and both are just minutes from home. It’s a blessing that it’s so easy to find some of the golden sunshine we associate most often with summer in the chill and silver months.

Sugar White Snow and Evergreens, title pageAnd speaking of winter, while we may be tired of it, it’s still a lovely season. I can’t help but share this gorgeous snowscape, beautiful for the contrast between color and purity. It’s the title page from Sugar White Snow and Evergreens, which appears September 1 and focuses on the concept of colors as it takes a sleigh ride with a family during a mouthwatering visit to their favorite local farm to learn how maple syrup is made.

I’m excited for readers to experience the colors and textures within this rhyming picture book. Susan Swan, you’ve done it again! I can’t wait to see what illustrations you’ll create for the final book in this series—on spring.

To glorious new green growings!

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