Tag Archives: denis markell

Click Here to Start Launch and Power Button Start Cookies

  
This past week, we celebrated the release of my husband, Denis’, debut novel, Click Here to Start.

Click-Here-to-Start-High-Res
This awesome book cover was illustrated by Octavi Navarro.

The book chronicles twelve year old Ted, who is a whiz at Escape the Room Games, and his two friends, as they cleverly figure out what is behind the clues left by Ted’s great uncle – a WWII veteran of the Nisei Brigade from Hawaii. Ted is sure there is something valuable to be found in his late uncle’s apartment, and he has to use his gaming knowledge to do it. Along the way, the trio realizes there are other people searching for the same “treasure”, and they may not be so “friendly”. Ted and his friends have to use their wits and brains to solve the mystery – and ultimately, themselves, in this fact-paced, kid friendly novel.

The audio book, produced by Listening Library, was released at the same time, which was very exciting! It’s narrated by Greg Watanabe, an actor and comic. He does a wonderful job! I love how he’s able to do the different voices of all of the characters, whether they are male or female, young or old, from Hawaii or from the mainland… He gives each of them a distinct personality.

So far, the book has gotten such positive reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, kidlit bloggers, teachers, librarians, kids. It was named a School Library Guild Section and an Amazon Best Books of the Month Selection.

“As addictive as your favorite video game. I couldn’t put it down.”-Adam Gidwitz, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

“Humor, believable characters, and adventure…keeps readers in suspense to the end. A winner for mystery enthusiasts.”-Kirkus Reviews

“In this clever debut, Markell takes readers on a clue-filled adventure…[and] maintains an energetic, entertaining balance of character-driven narrative and tricky challenges.”-Publishers Weekly

“Markell’s highly entertaining debut novel…is a well-paced read with fully realized and likable characters,…[and] should have strong appeal to gamers, fans of video game-based stories, and reluctant readers.”-School Library Journal

And today from Jean Westmore of the Buffalo News:

“Markell offers plenty of scary suspense, thrilling action, references to literature and movies and lots of humor in his cleverly constructed puzzle. The book is dedicated to “the valiant men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat team, who fought so bravely for the U.S. at a time when their Japanese-American relatives back at home were being treated so dishonorably.’ His wife’s uncle was among them.”

click-cookies_Melissa-Iwai
For the Click Here to Start book launch at BookCourt this past weekend, I made Power Button Start Cookies. Jamie, our son, was a great help with frosting and packaging. He’s so proud of his dad! 🙂

jamie-_Click-Here-_-Bookcourt

me-icing_Click  

For the cookies, I used my tried and true sugar cookie and royal icing recipe I’ve used for holiday cookies in the past. This time, I used powdered egg white merengue for the frosting, and I think it really made a difference. The exterior piped frosting was perfectly hard. I am just not so great at piping! I dyed the frosting a bright green to match the Start button on the cover of the book. We frosted them green, then later, I piped the Start symbol on top in white. It is an extra step to do the piping and then the fill with diluted frosting, but the results are much better. You get a crisp outline and a very smooth interior with no ridges.

The event was wonderful. Fun to see old friends and new ones. Denis spoke about how he came to write the story, which is inspired by my uncle, Nicholas, Nakabayashi, who fought with the 100th Battalion during WWII. Denis also had fun playing Escape the Room Games with Jamie as research. 🙂

 Denis-and-Aubry-at-Book-COurt
I was surprised that almost all of my 38 cookies were eaten at the event! Only two remained, which we enjoyed after the big event. 🙂 

  

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Princeton Children’s Book Festival and Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

Denis and I signed Hush Little Monster together

Denis and I signed Hush Little Monster together

This past Saturday we participated in the Princeton Children’s Book Festival.  It was a  beautiful day for celebrating children’s books!

We met a lot of interesting authors and illustrators and wonderfully supportive parents buying books.  It was also great to see old friends.

With Anne Rockwell, author of Truck Stop, and her daughter and illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell,

With Anne Rockwell, author of Truck Stop, and her daughter and illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell

With Denise Dowling-Mortensen, author of Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines--we met in 2004, the year Jamie was born and when Good Night Engines was released. :)

With Denise Dowling-Mortensen, author of Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines–we met in 2004, the year Jamie was born and when Good Night Engines was released. 🙂

I made mini donuts to hand out — they looked like these and the recipe is here:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them — I was too distraught over finding my cake stand had broken en route! The good news was that the pile of donuts quickly disappeared within the first couple of hours.

Jamie was a trooper and didn’t mind having to be with us at the festival all day long with no playmates.  He wandered about the four tents of 20 authors and illustrators and looked at books, sampled treats, and had his program signed by all 80 of them!

Table seating of each tent

Table seating of each tent

He also scored  cute drawings from Dave Roman (author/illustrator of the Astronaut Academy series) and Alexis Fredrick Frost (of Adventures in Cartooning fame):

dave roman sketches

By Alexis Fredrick Frost

By Alexis Fredrick Frost

Thank you so much for being so kind to my son!

Jamie also got to choose a couple books for himself and a friend which he had signed by Dave Roman and Fiona Robertson.  It’s so special when you can give and receive an autographed copy!

By Dave Roman

By Dave Roman

By Eva Ibbotson, Illustrated by Fiona Robertson

By Eva Ibbotson, Illustrated by Fiona Robertson

I knew it would be a long day of meeting people and signing books, as well as traveling to and from the event.  It’s the kind of situation where you never know if you’ll get really hungry in a place where there might not be healthy, portable options available.  In preparation, I made a dozen Shelly’s Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins to bring with us.

Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

This recipe is from The World According to Eggface — a fantastic blog with lots of great recipes.  These muffins came in handy when we were stranded on the platform after just missing our train back to the city!  It was dinner time and we had to wait for the next train–in the end we were kind of glad we did, because we got to ride with more of our festival compatriots who arrived at the train station later.  Plus, we weren’t hungry anymore!

This coming weekend, I have more book events.  If you are in the NYC area, please come join me.  I will be at Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton Street at South Portland, Brooklyn, NY)  on Saturday, September 28 from 11- 12, reading Truck Stop and the board book version of B is for Bulldozer, which was just released this month!  On Sunday, September 29, I will be on a panel with Anne Rockwell and several other authors at Books of Wonder (18 West 18th street between 5th and 6th Avenues) from 1-3 pm.

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Breakfast, Children, Snack, Travel, Vegetarian

Mini Monster Cookies and Draw A Monster Game

pile monster cookies close

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a literacy workshop organized by the St. Nick’s Alliance of Brooklyn.  The event was held at Junior High School 126 and was made possible by the Brooke Jackman Foundation which works to improve literacy among the city’s at-risk students.  The children I worked with ranged from grades 3-5.  They had been participating in the program after school for 8 weeks, and the night I came to speak was the night of their graduation from the program.

hush_bookI read (actually I sang it!  lol) Hush Little Monster to them and talked about the process of making the book.  I spoke about how revising and editing both the text and the pictures was a big part of the process.  For example, originally, it was supposed to be a Halloween book.  Then the publisher decided to change it to a good-night picture book.  So we had to change the ending which originally read: “So scream little monster, small and green, for tonight is Halloween!”

30-31

Now the ending reads: “So hush, Little Monster, not a peep!  The sun is coming out; now it’s time to sleep.”

peep

After some Q and A, we all did an activity I created called Draw A Monster Game.  I made three sets of colored cards with different characteristics pasted on top.  Pink cards have general shape words (e.g. big, tall, hairy, etc.), Green cards have characteristics (e.g. antennae, fangs, wings, etc.), and Yellow cards have emotions (e.g. sad, happy, shy, etc.).

cards

Each student chose one Pink card, two Green cards, and one Yellow card and used those to create a monster.  I brought a ton of art supplies, ranging from pens and crayons and markers, to collage materials, such as sequins, glitter, feathers, dried pasta, yarn, etc.  Some parents and the teenage counselors also wanted to take part!  It was so cute to see this one “tough” guy in his early 20s with long sideburns, a brooding look and tattoos very meticulously put glue in spindly monster legs and carefully dust with glitter.  I wish I had taken photos, but I was so busy running around helping students and talking to people, it didn’t even occur to me!

This is the monster I created as a demo.  I got the cards “fat”, “three eyes”, “horns”, and “happy” for my words.

monster

After the students created their monsters, they filled out a Monster Fact Sheet and wrote about their characters.   I have to say, the Monster Fact Sheet was my son, Jamie’s idea.  Before the event when I was trying to create an activity that went with the story, I ran it by him, and he suggested having the fact sheet!  He even wrote one up for me on his own and insisted I use it, so I did.  I typed it up and added one or two lines, but that’s it.  So proud of my guy!

jamies sheet

Everyone loved the drawing game.  It is really fun to play.  And all the monsters are SO different!  All the children wanted to share them with the group.  The stories they came up with were priceless.  One girl drew a zombie cat monster who lived in “the pet cemetery in the sky”.  Its favorite food is “bacon in the sky — which is ‘flying bacon'”.  I love it!

For the graduation, the kids were presented with  a backpack filled with books, including a signed copy of Hush Little Monster, and I passed out my mini monster cookies.  These cookies appear in the book:

Note monster mom carrying tray of wormy cookies!

Note monster mom carrying tray of wormy cookies.

I developed this recipe for the book launch last year.  But for this event, I revised the recipe to accommodate a large group.  I doubled the amounts, omitted the peanut butter chips due to peanut allergies, and I made them a lot smaller.  I ended up with over 80 cookies!  I only had 11 gummy worms, however.  It worked out though, because the gummies were pretty big. I cut each one into tiny pieces.

gummiesAnd added one or two worm piece to each cookie as they came out of the oven.  If you can’t get the gummy worm to stick as the cookies cool down, just zap the worm on the cookie  in the microwave for about 10 seconds and they will soften and adhere to the cookie.

mini monster cookie close

If you’d like to try playing the game, all the elements (instructions, card words, fact sheet) can be found here at my NEWLY UPDATED WEBSITE!   View my work, see my books, and check out the other fun freebies and craft and cooking ideas for kids I have there.  Please take a look and let me know what you think— I’d love to hear from you!

pile monster cookies

Mini Monster Cookies

adapted from Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies from The Cookiepedia

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1/2 egg white (I used 3/4 tablespoon liquid whites)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup mixture of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and dried coconut

1 cup potato chips and pretzels broken into pieces

About 6 gummy worms cut into small pieces

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Cream butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs. Mix to incorporate, scraping down sides of bowl.

3.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl.

Slowly add to butter and sugar mixture while mixer is running.

4.  Add sweet and salty mixtures to batter and stir together.

5.  Spoon tablespoonfuls of dough onto two baking sheets covered with parchment paper or Silpat mats.  I could get 12 mounds on one sheet.

6.  Bake for about 10-16  minutes, rotating pans halfway.

7.  When cookies are golden, remove from oven and press 2 pieces of gummy worms onto each cookie.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 40 small cookies.

Recipe may be doubled.

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We were interviewed on Jama Rattigan’s awesome children’s books and food blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup.
Thanks, Jama! 🙂

Jama's Alphabet Soup

Don’t you just love it when one good thing leads to another?

I’ve been a big Melissa Iwai fan for awhile now. How could I not love someone who illustrates a book about a quest for pancakes and then follows up with a self-illustrated title about soup? In addition to her writing, drawing and painting chops, this girl can cook! Just check out The HungryArtist, where Melissa regularly creates tasty, healthy magic in the kitchen (please adopt me). 🙂

If you’ve seen Melissa’s delightful Soup Day (Henry Holt, 2010), you know it was inspired by the time she spent cooking with her son Jamie. Apparently, we can also thank Jamie for her latest book, Hush,Little Monster(Little, Simon, 2012), which was written by her husband Denis Markell. Because Jamie had trouble sleeping when he was a wee babe, Denis, an award-winning Broadway musical and comedy writer…

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Monster Cookies

Our book was released by Simon and Schuster yesterday!

back of postcard info

It’s written by my husband, Denis, and inspired by our son, Jamie.

Jamie and Denis recreating the cover of the book

We got a starred review in Publishers Weekly. 🙂

To celebrate, Jamie helped me make Monster Cookies, inspired by the Mommy Monster’s snacks in the book.

Copyright Melissa Iwai 2012

Another example of life imitating art…

I definitely wanted “worms” in them so I decided on gummy worms which I cut in half and pressed into the cookies right after they came out of the oven (obviously I wasn’t going to bake them, as they would have turned into a puddle of goo).

Instead of sticks, we used broken up pretzels. We also threw in some chips for the saltiness and crazy monster factor.

For sweet add-ins we used chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, and dried coconut.

half-way full

This recipe was based on Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies found in The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando. It’s pretty straightforward and easy to make with kids. Coming up with the salty and sweet add-ins is part of the fun.  I reduced the amounts by 1/3 because I didn’t want to make a huge amount of cookies.  This version makes a cool one dozen large cookies.

Sweet and savory additions in the mixing bowl

I was surprised at how much they spread and got so huge! But they are monster cookies, after all… so the size is appropriate.

They taste really great. You can’t perceive the potato chips, but the saltiness surely adds to the overall flavor.  The pretzels give it good crunch.

The gummy worm addition actually works with the flavors! But I think next time we make these, we’ll add old fashioned oats for more texture.

If you get a chance, please check out Hush Little Monster! It is a perfect book for a monster loving child– or a little monster of your own. 🙂

Monster Cookies

adapted from Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies from The Cookiepedia

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1/2 egg white (I used 3/4 tablespoon liquid whites)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used a combination of white and whole wheat)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup mixture of peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and dried coconut

1 cup potato chips and pretzels broken into pieces

6 gummy worms cut in half

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Cream butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs. Mix to incorporate, scraping down sides of bowl.

3.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl.

Slowly add to butter and sugar mixture while mixer is running.

4.  Add sweet and salty mixtures to batter and stir together.

5.  Spoon twelve round dough mounds  2-inches apart onto two baking sheets covered with parchment paper or Silpat mats.

6.  Bake for about 16-18 minutes, rotating pans halfway.

7.  When cookies are golden, remove from oven and press 2 halves of gummy worms onto each cookie.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

Makes 1 dozen very large cookies.

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