A Very Important Post

If you mention the name “Margaret Wise Brown”, most people’s minds instantly go to Goodnight Moon, The Important Book, or The Runaway Bunny, and childhood memories of reading her books come flooding back. She wrote over a hundred books, but her unique life was unbeknownst to many. Until now. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, written by Mac Barnett, with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Jacoby, shares the story the infamous author that few really know.

We were generously given copies of The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown from Harper Collins to read and review, and we thank Sarah Jacoby for taking the time to share some thoughts with us!

Here’s our interview with illustrator Sarah Jacoby…

Can you give us an inside scoop on the illustrations that we wouldn’t learn from looking and reading the book? 

I actually have an entire blog devoted to the research behind the images. Check it out! (https://veryimportantmargaret.tumblr.com)

Here are some secret easter eggs:

Did you see the bunnies in the modern times library? One of them is supposed to be a little Mac and one of them is supposed to be a little me. (See photo of little Mac and art from the book).

There is also a scene with a horse and a flower cart. That is a real horse that I saw when I was visiting the Hollins University Archives. I had fun imagining Margaret riding her.  I learned from her yearbook that she was in the riding club. (See photo of horse and photo of Margaret in the riding club and art from the book)

You’ll notice that there is a flower pattern running through the book. If you look closely you’ll see it withering over time. 

Also! If you look closely you’ll notice that all of the historical-time images of Margaret doing things have a slight border. That’s to indicate that these images are contained by something-like the book the modern librarian bunny is reading. Everything else is full bleed (fills up the whole page). 

Is that enough secrets for now? There are more.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Oh boy, many many many books have stuck with me. Many. Let’s see if I had to choose one (from many!) I might choose 

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. She’s someone that I look at a lot (perhaps that’s obvious?) for her incredible art, but also for her imaginative storytelling. I recall reading the book when I was small and being awestruck by the character if Miss Rumphius-especially when she traveled to distant lands. As an adult I love the type of role model Barbara Cooney supplied there.  

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

I have many of one item: half drunk mugs of coffee. Perhaps that’s gross. Here’s what happens: I make a nice hot cup of pour over coffee in the morning. It takes me like, ten minutes. It’s a waste of time, I know, but I love it. It’s my little ritual as start to warm up and paint. I then take a couple sips and enjoy that hot mug of coffee as I begin painting. I then get distracted by painting and my coffee gets cold. Eventually I’ll put it in the fridge with the dream of making iced coffee in the afternoon. But I usually don’t get around to it. So yes, I have at least three in my fridge right now. What does this say about me? I am passionate and loyal to my activities at hand, but I am also highly distractible.  

Thank you Sarah for taking the time and answering our inside scoop question. We enjoyed learning more about the book and its process.

A Spiky *GIVEAWAY*

What happens when you think you are meant to be bad and then one day your world is turned around? In the book Spiky written and illustrated by Ilaria Guarducci, translated by Laura Watkinson, we find out just what can happen when Spiky looses his spikes. Now without his armor, he doesn’t feel as scary, or act in wicked ways. He simply feels lost, lonely and out of place. Fortunately a wise bunny comes along and helps him see that it isn’t what is on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside.

The message in the story is an important one, and throughout the book we see many animals acting in fun ways, which will get the kids giggling (who doesn’t love to see a bunny sun tanning?). Using this book with kids can be a huge help discussing how other people feel when you aren’t nice, or about stepping out of your comfort zone. The greatest lesson I discussed with my son was to judge people based on their thoughts and actions, and not how they look.

Thank you to Blue Slip media for sending us this book to read and review. All opinions are our own.

***GIVEAWAY*** To celebrate this stop on the blog tour, one lucky winner will receive a copy of Spiky, courtesy of Two Lions. To enter:

  1. Follow us on Instagram, like the post, tag at least one friend (more tags = more entries)
  2. Follow us twitter, like and retweet post

Author Bios

Ilaria Guarducci studied at the Nemo NT Academy of Digital Arts. Since 2012, she has worked as a freelance author and illustrator for various publishing houses and advertising agencies. She has written and/or illustrated seven children’s books. Spiky, published in Italy under the title Spino, was shortlisted for the Soligatto Award for Best Picture Book. Ilaria lives with her family in Prato, Italy. Learn more at www.ilariaguarducci.blogspot.com.


Laura Watkinson is an award-winning translator of books for young readers and adults. She translated Soldier Bear and Mikis and the Donkey, both by Bibi Dumon Tak and illustrated by Philip Hopman, and Mister Orange by Truus Matti, all of which won the Batchelder Award. Additionally, her Dutch-to-English translation of The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt won the Vondel Prize. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in a tall house on a canal in Amsterdam with her husband and two cats. Learn more at www.laurawatkinson.com.Spiky is the first release from Amazon Crossing Kids, a new imprint for children’s books in translation. Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

That’s Not For Babies Inside Scoop

That’s Not For Babies is a great book to celebrate the toddler years. We all know toddlers love to move from their milestones as a baby to being independent and doing things that big kids do. Prunella celebrates her birthday by doing only things that big kids do and saying goodbye to all the things she used to love…heart-shaped pancakes, bubble baths, playing at the library story time and eating double-scooped ice cream. But after a scary thunderstorm she quickly realizes that she misses all the things she used to do and that being a little bit vulnerable is okay. We love that author, Jackie Kramer, wrote this book inspired by Daisy, her daughter who recently got married this past weekend. Congrats to their family! Thanks also for sending us the book to review. Check out the inside scoop from Jackie!

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book?

Oh YES! One wouldn’t get it from ‘reading’ That’s for Babies, however, you would by seeing it. Lisa Brandenburg was the amazing illustrator for the book, as well as my previous picture book, If You Want to Fall Asleep. In the first spread of the book, Lisa added a little homage to my picture books, or meta detail, to the illustration. Prunella loves to read and on her bookshelf, you’ll find The Green Umbrella and If You Want to Fall Asleep. Lisa added one more fun detail, but I’ll let your readers discover that themselves.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

Oh gosh…that’s difficult to answer…I have lots of interests. I once worked as an actor and I think it might be fun one day to give it a go again. I also LOVE to travel. I’ve travelled to five continents and discovered new cultures, people, places and food. Maybe be a travel reporter and have my own show like Samantha Brown.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn written by Betty Smith. The story of Francie traces her individual desires, troubles and affections while growing up in an ethnic family and neighborhood. Francie is such a memorable character and through her life the book reflects the universal hopes of immigrants in the early twentieth century to rise above poverty through their children. Betty Smith’s writing is so evocative, detailed, and disarmingly romantic.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Nothing special in my fridge, however, there is something super yummy in one of my (yes…MY) kitchen cabinets. I LOVE savory, crunchy and spicy snacks. My favorite are jalapeño potato chips and sea salt plantain chips. Must be my Latina culture…hot and spicy, haha!

Jennifer

Jackie Azúa Kramer studied acting and voice at NYU and earned her MA, Queens College, Counseling in Education. Jackie has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Her work with children presented her an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets and hopes through storytelling. Now she spends her time writing children’s picture books. Her picture books include, the award-winning The Green Umbrella (2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year), If You Want to Fall Asleep and That’s for Babies. Upcoming books- The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick, 2020); I Wish You Knew (Roaring Brook, 2021); We Are One (Two Lions, TBD); Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, TBD). Jackie lives with her family in Long Island, NY. When not writing, you’ll find Jackie reading, watching old movies and globe trekking. 

Jackieazuakramer.comk

Twitter @jackiekramer422

Facebook Jackie Azúa Kramer

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Two Truths and A Lie & **Giveaway**

We are so excited to be on the Two Truths and A Lie: Forces of Nature blog tour. We love this series!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, this is the 3rd book by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson. In each book the authors have given us three stories in each chapter. All the stories are engaging, fun, detailed and written with such conviction that you have to believe them. But things aren’t always what they seem, it turns out one of the stories isn’t true. Your job as a reader is to figure out which one is a lie. Seems easy enough? Well, you’ll just have to dive in to see!

What we think is so wonderful about this book (and the other two) is that it makes the readers detectives. In this day and age with so much content being presented at kids, it is nice to see a book that makes us use many of the reading skills we have been taught to figure out what is real and what isn’t, because, truth be told when you read it, all the stories are written so well, it is hard to figure out the lie. At the end of the book, and included in the educator’s guide, are tips to help readers determine what is the truth. These are such great tips and strategies that we can all follow in the “fake news” day and age.

Questions for Ammi-Joan (AJP) and Laurie (LIE):

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book?

AJP: One of the most fun parts about working on these TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE books has been spotting and selecting the stories that we want to tell. Something you might not know is that Laurie and I have an enormous spreadsheet on Google docs; every time we come across a fantastic story, we put the info about it into our spreadsheet. Then, when it comes time to write the next book, we have a whole mountain of material available to choose from. 

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

AJP: This is SO hard! I’ve been sitting here for ages trying to answer this question, and finally I started scrolling down my list of books I’ve read over the past years. Reader, this did not help! Instead, I just spent a highly enjoyable twenty minutes going, “Oh my goodness, that was such a good one!” and “I loved that read!” So many books have stuck, and all in different ways, that it seems impossible to spotlight just one. That said, the book I am in the middle of reading right now is MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS, and it is definitely one that will stick with me for a long time—it’s fantastic!

What is currently in your fridge that tells us about you?

AJP: In my fridge you will find… (a) three different types of butter; (b) multiple varieties of cheese; (c) a can of non-fat whipped cream. One of these facts is NOT true – can you guess which? ☺

Thank you to Walden Press for providing us with a copy to giveaway. (US only) There are several ways to enter:

  1. Follow our blog (if you don’t already do so) and leave a comment on this post
  2. Follow us @storymamas and authors Ammi-Joan Paquette & Laurie Ann Thompson on Twitter and Retweet
  3. Follow us and the authors on Instagram and Like/Comment on the post
  4. Follow us and the authors on Facebook and Like/Comment on our post

Be sure to checkout the educator’s guide that accompanies the series!

Lastly, did you figure out the lie from above?  It is a true fact that non-fat anything is not welcome in my fridge… if there is a more fundamental food fact about me, I don’t know it!

Books Can Inspire To Help Those Around Us

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month! And if you know us, you know there is a book recommendation coming. Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan, is a fun book that makes you think of all those feisty felines and what they do best…attack! Whether your a cat person or a dog person, we hope you can agree that there are so many animals out there that need help.

We have a lot of wonderful animal shelters and rescues in our area, and we teach our own children that they can help these animals. They’d prefer to adopt them all, but we find other ways to help out.

Last summer our kids held a lemonade stand and donated the proceeds to the shelter. People were more than generous in their donations, and it was meaningful for my daughter to walk in with a jar of money to give directly to the shelter.

Most shelters also have a wish list on their website, which can include anything from used bath towels to newspaper to baking soda. These are inexpensive and easy ways to help, and make for feasible options to include your kids in the donation process.

As we kick off summer, our bucket list continues to grow. But woven into the parks we want to visit, or activities we want to do, are the ways that we can teach our kids to be good humans and help others. When we finally get some warmth and sunshine, you’ll find us on our bike path, holding a tall glass of lemonade with your name on it.

Head on over to our Instagram account, @storymamas to enter to win a copy of Max Attacks! Thanks to Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy with us.

The First Men Who Went to the Moon – With Author Interview & Inside Scoop

I was able to bring my son to a lovely author event sponsored by Book Beat, in Metro Detroit area, this past month. To celebrate March is Reading Month, Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rhonda Gowler Greene both spoke at the Oak Park Public Library about being an author and their new books.

Rhonda’s presentation was centered around her newly released book, The First Men Who Went to the Moon. It is a wonderful story that teaches readers about how Apollo 11 took its men on a mission to the moon. The book uses a rhyming and repetitive text structure that is also circular. On the side of each page, is even more information and facts about the text and illustrations. The book is entertaining, engaging and informative. The illustrations by Scott Brundage are gorgeous and make you feel as if you are in space. The story will hook readers of all ages. My son and I loved hearing her speak and have enjoyed reading the book and learning even more about the historical event!

Rhonda was kind enough to answers some interview questions and give us the inside scoop on the book!

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book? 

Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  When I wrote the story a few years ago, I didn’t have the anniversary in mind.  But, I’m so glad the manuscript sold when it did and the book is out for Apollo 11’s 50th.  

The story sold the summer of 2017.  I was told then the book would have a Spring 2019 release.  The publisher definitely wanted it out for the anniversary. I was so happy to hear that, but also a bit worried it might not actually happen because getting a picture book published in less than two years is a very tight squeeze.  Several of my books took three to four years from contract to release. But everyone worked VERY hard to keep the book on schedule. Right around Thanksgiving when I was so busy with other things, I had revisions to do. Then I had more due right around Christmas.  The illustrator (Scott Brundage- whose art for the book is amazing!), my editor, the copyeditors, the fact checkers, the designer, etc. were crazy busy, too, meeting deadlines. Everything came together though—and beautifully. I appreciated the team effort!

The 50th is being celebrated all over the country this year, and especially in July because the Apollo 11 mission was July 16–24, 1969.  I’m honored to be speaking and signing at the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on July 21.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

  I would be a children’s media specialist/librarian because I love books and I love working with kids.  I actually got my master’s to be a media specialist. (Before that, I was an elementary teacher.). I never worked as one, though, because I became a stay-at-home mom after my husband and I started a family (4 kids within 7 years).  I read A LOT to my kids. I think that sparked an interest in writing stories of my own. Luckily, after a few years (and 220 rejections!), I began selling some of my stories to publishers.

Maybe I’m a librarian at heart though.  I own so many books, my house looks like a library!

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

 Wow, it’s hard to pick just one.  I can think of certain books in all genres that have stuck in my mind.  But, I’ll pick one of my favorite picture books– Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.  It’s a classic and a 1996 Caldecott Honor Book.  I never get tired of reading it. The writing by Lloyd Moss is so clever.  And the whimsical illustrations by Marjorie Priceman match the text perfectly.  Maybe it sticks in my mind because I have a music background (minored in music/piano) and— because I love going to the symphony!

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?


 Homemade yogurt.  I hate to cook (would rather be reading or writing!), but I make my own yogurt, a big batch every couple of weeks.

Thanks so much Rhonda for putting together a wonderful presentation and for stopping by Storymamas for this interview. The book is published by Sleeping Bear Press and is out now! Lastly, we wish Rhonda all the best at Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in July!

Happy National Pet Day!

It’s National Pet Day! Whether you’re a dog love, a cat person, or prefer pets with gills, today is the day to celebrate those companions we can’t live without.

We’ve partnered with Penguin to share some recent books about some clawful cats. Be sure to check out our instagram and twitter pages for giveaway info!

Flubby by J.E. Morris – My emergent reader at home instantly gravitated to these two books. Adorable illustrations, accessible text, a cat with a personality…what’s not to love? The repetitive and decodable text make this book series perfect for your early reader.

Think you have a mischievous pet? You haven’t seen anything until you read Klawde – Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth. Told from alternating points of view, we’re introduced to Raj, who has just moved from New York City to Oregon, and Klawde, an evil cat who was banished from his own country to planet earth. The two become friends, and Raj eventually learns that his new cat can talk. Throughout the book, they learn to navigate their new homes and the trials that come with being somewhere new. This funny series will attract your pet lovers, your science fiction readers, and any kid who loves a quirky, funny book. There are currently two Klawde books that are out, with the third being published in October.

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet by Adam Hargreaves, is a book that is relatable to almost every kid out there. Molly has a pet mouse, but decides she wants a pet that is bigger and better…perhaps a rhino, or an elephant. In the end, she realizes that her small pet mouse is the perfect size and the perfect pet for her.

Big or small, scaly or furry, pets have become a huge part of who we are. Give them a big hug today as we celebrate National Pet Day!

Got a Panda Problem?

Thank you to Penguin for providing a copy to review. All opinions are our own.

Happy book birthday to The Panda Problem by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Hannah Marks! We loved reading this book and laughed out loud throughout. The narrator is convinced that every story has to have a problem, but Panda thinks otherwise because he doesn’t have a problem. As the narrator and Panda go back and forth in hilarious banter, Panda realizes that he might be the problem.

As I read this aloud to a giggling group of third graders yesterday, I thought about how I could further use this book in the classroom. The first two ideas that came to mind were to introduce the components of good story telling, and to introduce dialog.

In my experience, a lot of my students love to write stories, thinking that the length in pages equates to the quality of the book, or that simply telling all about a character rivals a best seller. When I teach my students about the parts of a story, I always emphasize that the character(s) need to have a problem that they eventually solve. This book would be a great intro text for teaching this skill.

I also thought this book would be great for teaching students about dialogue. The narrator and panda talk with each other throughout the entire book in a fun, entertaining way. This played a large role in making the book what it is, which is an important lesson for students to learn for their own writing.

Whether using this book in the classroom, or simply reading aloud for fun, we highly recommend having a copy of The Panda Problem in your library!

About the Author…Deborah Underwood has worked as a street musician and at an accounting firm but for years has been a full-time writer who occasionally plays the ukulele. She is the author of several picture books, including New York Times bestsellers The Quiet Book and Here Comes the Easter Cat, as well as Monster & Mouse Go CampingInterstellar Cinderella, and Bad Bye Good Bye.

About the Illustrator… Hannah Marks is a self-taught illustrator and designer, who often gets her best ideas after eating cake. She lives in England with her husband, three children, a bonkers cat, two gerbils, and a teeny-tiny Roborovski hamster. The Panda Problem is her U.S. picture book debut. Find her on Twitter @Hannah_Marks, on Instagram at hannahmarks_, and on Pinterest at hannahemarks.

This Book is Spineless-Inside Scoop & Author Interview

Thank you to author Lindsay Leslie for sending us this hilarious book. All opinions are our own.

We can’t get enough of This Book is Spineless by Lindsay Leslie illustrated by Alice Brereton. It’s hilarious and so entertaining! We love how the book is personified as a scaredy cat and doesn’t want you as the reader to turn the page because you may just stumble upon a very frightening experience! YIKES! But we can’t stop turning the pages! The gorgeous colors of the illustrations make you want to jump in the book and help it move past the anxiety it’s feeling. They are the perfect match to the words! This book for sure will get any child (and adult) giggling and feeling a little bit comforted by the fact that others share anxious feelings towards things! We can’t wait for her next book, Nova the Star Eater, coming out May 2019. Lindsay was kind enough to give us the inside scoop on how she came up with the idea for the book and answer a few fun questions for us!

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book?

Ooooo, the scoop! The biggest scoop is my inspiration for THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, which has two parts. I came up with the title of the book when I walked into my youngest son’s messy room and stepped on one of his picture books. I don’t remember exactly what happened in my brain, but I can imagine it was thinking something like, “I stepped on a book. I hurt the book. I broke its spine.” Then I shouted out, “This book is spineless!” My second inspiration wasn’t quite so in-the-moment. I have always dealt with anxiety — from a young child to even now. This title gave me the perfect vehicle for a story that could show an anxious moment to a child in a palatable, silly, even endearing way, and how even a scaredy-pants, fraidy-cat book could face its biggest fear. The last bit of scoop is I wanted to make sure the book wasn’t completely resolved of all its anxiety, as that is not reality for those of us who live with more than our fair-share of anxiety and not the reality I wanted to convey.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

This is difficult to answer, because writing has been a part of every career I’ve ever had. Maybe a therapist? I do like to help people work through their issues. It also helps me to reflect on what I could be working on, as well. Maybe a clown? I do like to goof around and make people laugh. Maybe a clown therapist? Zoiks. But I could not imagine a life where I don’t write as part of what I do day to day.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

OK, I’m going to break the rules. I’m going to give you two books. One adult, one children’s. I’m going to have to say Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood because of its structure and approach to storytelling. It was a liberating and inspiring read for me and made my mind explode with possibilities. It was the book that convinced me creative writing was an option and I should explore it.

The second is The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak. I love the rule-breaking, envelope-pushing spirit of this book. It creates the best engagement between the reader and audience. No one gets away from that book without a big laugh and a shared experience.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Jalapeno hummus.

Thank you again to Lindsay Leslie for sending us the book for review and for the interview. If you’d like to learn more about her check out her website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Hungry? Read Our Inside Scoop about Pancakes to Parathas

Thank you to author Alice B. McGinty and Little Bee Books  for sending us this delicious book to read and review. All opinions are our own!

Pancakes to Parathas – Breakfast Around the World takes readers on a trip around the world learning all about typical breakfast faire found in different countries. Each page is filled with an introduction to the popular breakfast food, bright and detailed illustrations by Tomoko Suzuki and a closer look at the country’s traditional dish.

This book taught me so much about foods I need to try! Many of foods Alice includes I have not gotten a chance to eat and I’m excited to have learned about them. Some I hadn’t even heard of, while others I knew the name, but didn’t know a lot about the ingredients or history. I love how each page also gives you the proper pronunciation of each word. It also provides a map at the end to show us where each country is locate on the map.

This book can add so much to any library collection. While reading it with young kids it helps them have a deeper understanding and appreciation for other cultures. In a classroom I see this as a great resource for studying countries, cultures or traditions. Wherever you choose to share this book, you are sure to come away hungry! (See link below for an awesome Israeli Salad recipe).

Alice was kind enough to stop by our blog and tell us the inside scoop of the book, information you wouldn’t know from reading the book. Here’s what she had to say:

The idea for this book began I saw a photographic article from the New Yorker showing pictures of children from around the world eating breakfast. “Could this be a picture book?” I wondered.

I decided after some thought that it could make a great picture book. But breakfast is complicated. Foods in one country can be very unfamiliar to people from other countries. As I looked at the photos and read the descriptions of the foods, I wondered how I could make breakfasts around the world accessible and understandable to young readers.

After a few weeks, I had an idea. I decided to focus on the things that we had in common. I chose one familiar element from each of the breakfasts, such as “breakfast in Australia is salty” and “breakfast in Israel is a homegrown feast” and I worked the text around that. That’s how the book began!

Although I’d visited several of the countries in the book (I had a great time chasing down cornmeal porridge in Jamaica and can give you a recipe if you like!), I wanted to find people who were actually from each country, in order to get the breakfast time details needed to make the book truly authentic. I loved the process of finding and communicating with people from each place, and asking them about their memories of breakfasts as a child. This involved reaching out to friends who grew up in, or still lived in, each country. It also gave me the chance to meet new friends. I had a lovely time at an Indian restaurant in my hometown, talking with the owner about his memories of breakfasts in India. Then, as an extra special surprise, he brought me back to the kitchen and had the chef give a demonstration of how to make parathas – with delicious samples to taste.

I think everyone enjoyed sharing their experiences, and the unique details they gave me helped each country in the book come to life!

If you’d like to try and make your own Israeli salad, click on the link below for a yummy recipe from Miri Leshem-Pelly.

Israeli Salad Recipe