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Kitchen Scientist and America's Cook



cover of The Fabulous Fannie Farmer by Emma Bland Smith

Calkins Creek

(Astra Books for Young Readers)


40 pages

Ages 7 -10

Author: Emma Bland Smith

   Illustrator: Susan Reagan

Character: Fannie Farmer


" When Fannie Farmer learned to cook in the late 1800s, recipes could be pretty silly. They might call for 'a goodly amount of salt' or 'a lump of butter' or 'a suspicion of nutmeg.' Girls were supposed to use their 'feminine instincts' in the kitchen (or maybe just guess). Despite this problem, Fannie loved cooking, so when polio prevented her from going to college, she became a teacher at the Boston Cooking School.

Unlike her mother or earlier cookbook writers, Fannie didn’t believe in feminine instincts. To her, cooking was a science. She’d noticed that precise measurements and specific instructions ensured that cakes rose instead of flopped and doughnuts fried instead of burned. Students liked Fannie’s approach so much that she wrote a cookbook. Despite skepticism from publishers, Fannie’s book was a recipe for success."

Tantalizing taste:

"As Fannie whipped and simmered, something revolutionary was cooking in her head. Fannie, you see, had the mind of a scientist. Through trial and error, she noticed that precise measurements made a whole heap of difference. Standard measuring cups and spoons had been invented, but few people thought they were necessary. I mean, who needs standard measurements when you've got your trusty feminine instincts, right?"

And something more: The section in the back of THE FABULOUS FANNIE FARMER, Fannie's Legacy, explains: "If she heard about an amazing new meal at a restaurant, she would rush out to sample it, and sometimes sneak a bit home in order to further analyze the flavors. She really was something of a kitchen scientist. (One writer referred to her ability to 'Sherlock Holmes' a chef's dish - to deduce the methods and ingredients.)" Such sleuthing reminds me of what authors and illustrators of picture book biographies need to do to research, write and illustrate. And Emma Bland Smith did just that as can be seen from the book's extensive Bibliography (with sources marked with an asterick to indicate quotation sources). And Emma even included two of Fannie Farmer's recipes in the book -- I can't wait to bake her Popovers!

Eunice W. Johnson and the EBONY Fashion Flair



cover of Miles of Style by Lisa D. Brathwaite

Lee & Low Books

(pub. 2.6.2024)

40 pages

Ages 6 - 11

Author: Lisa D. Brathwaite

   Illustrator: Lynn Gaines

Character: Eunice W. Johnson


" Eunice W. Johnson believed in the power of fashion and beauty to inspire people. After she and her husband, John H. Johnson, founded EBONY magazine, it quickly became the premiere lifestyle publication for mid-century Black readers. Among the many hats she wore, Eunice delighted in writing a fashion column describing the latest styles.

In 1958, Eunice launched a project that would change fashion forever--the EBONY Fashion Fair. In towns and cities across the United States, Black models walked the runway in the freshest trends that season and Black attendees got to see people who looked like them in bright colors and haute couture.

To make the Fashion Fair happen every year, Eunice negotiated with snobby fashion houses in Europe and navigated racism back home in the US, to acquire the most show-stopping styles for her show. Decades later, her name remains a watchword for glamour and elegance in the Black community"

Tantalizing taste:

"The EBONY Fashion Fair 'Americana' tour took off in September 1963…Backs straight, heads held high, the graceful models sashayed, and posed on the runway to a lively piano accompaniment. Feathers flipped and fluttered. Beachwear blazed and beckoned. Shifting sequins shimmered. The sparkle from jewels jumped in the light. A commentator's witty quips added to the excitement.

What a show!"

And something more: Lisa D. Brathwaite, in the Author's Note shares: "I carry fond childhood memories of thumbing through the magazine's issues that graced my family's coffee table. I'd mimic the models, holding my head high. I'm hopeful EBONY's cultural legacy built by John. H. Johnson and Eunice W. Johnson will continue to flourish and inspire future generations."

Updated: 4 days ago

How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal



cover of A Grand Idea children's book about how William J. Wilgus created Grand central terminal in new york city by Megan Hoyt        by Megan Hoyt

Quill Tree Books

(Harper Collins)


48 pages

Ages 4-8

Author: Megan Hoyt

   Illustrator: Dave Szalay

Character: William J. Wilgus


" There was once a place in New York City that had a tennis club, movie theater, and art gallery—all in the same building! It also had a secret passageway, a huge library, and even a ski slope.

This astounding building is Grand Central Terminal, and it was the work of one brilliant man: William J. Wilgus. When William, an experienced engineer, wanted to create a new electric-powered train system, he knew he needed to house this special fleet somewhere exceptional. His grand idea of a solution? An underground multilevel train station that would become an iconic New York landmark, and one that is still an integral part of the city over a century later."

Tantalizing taste:

"Finally, they came up with a solid plan.

Grand Central Terminal's main concourse would be 275 feet long and 120 feet

wide, with a ceiling towering 125 feet at its tallest point. The biggest cluster

of sculptures ever built would adorn its magnificent exterior."

And beneath it would run two levels of shiny new electric trains on sixty-seven steel tracks.

No more smoke.

No more sparks.

No more accidents."

And something more: At the back of the book, More About William J. Wilgus and Grand Central Terminal states: "... Grand Central Terminal opened right on time, at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, February 2, 1913. It has been running ever since - closing only for a few brief power outages and railway strikes. William J. Wilgus was awarded many honors for his work and even received honorary doctorate degrees from two different universities. For a man who barely finished high school, his accomplishments, like his Grand Central Terminal, were magnificent."

Where to find Jeanne Walker Harvey books

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