Sunday, May 17, 2015

"The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric" by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar

The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric:
A Read and Bake Series
by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar

The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric is a brand new series for children ages 3 to 8. The series currently consists of three books: Amazing Apples!, Eat Dirt Balls!, and Little Green Dragon. The series is designed to encourage children to cook and eat health food. Author Erin Kurt joins me for an interview to tell us more. You can also read an excerpt from each book and my reviews.

Purchase all three books from the official website and receive some incredible bonus gifts (offer ends 17 June).

Mother and daughter team Laara Exsnar and Erin Kurt and have joined forces to write fun, adventurous stories with their little characters Celia and Cedric. Erin, a former school teacher and mother of two young kiddies and Laara, a retired school teacher and now nutritionist have a passion for families, health and yummy food. Bringing their combined expertise together they’ve created The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric: Read and Bake Series they hope will bring families continuous hours of fun and enjoyment.

Continue bonding with your child! Enrich your reading and baking time with the fun and FREE downloadable activity sheets on the website! 

Book Video
Meet Celia and Cedric here!
Laara Exsnar and Erin Kurt tell us about the inspiration behind their new series.

Praise for the Books

Amazing Apples!
(The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric
 Book 1)
by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar

Celia is bored. And with everyone in her family busy she doesn’t know what to do ... until her dad gives her a task that leads to her best day ever; the day she meets Cedric and their yummy adventures begin!
This is the first book of The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric series.

“I’m bored,” said Celia as she sat around the breakfast table with her family.
“You always say that,” said her teenage brother Jake.
“Well, I just don’t know what I’m going to do today, that’s all. Mom, what are you doing today?”
“I’m going to do some gardening. There are so many weeds you can hardly see the flowers anymore. You could help me if you like.”
“Uh, no, thanks. Dad, how about you? Do you want to play with me?”
“Sorry, Celia. I have to go into work. We’re getting a big shipment of groceries today.” Celia sighed.
“Too bad you’re the manager of the store. Maybe you wouldn’t have to be there so much if you weren’t.”
“Oh, sweety, I won’t be there all day. When I get home we’ll have some together time, okay? In the meantime, could you do me a favour?”
“Sure! What is it?” Celia always loved doing favours for her dad. They usually involved doing something fun.
“I noticed we have new neighbours down the street. Could you take them a brochure of our grocery store?”
“New neighbours? How exciting! I’d better get dressed and head over right away.” Secretly, Celia was hoping the new family would have children.

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Celia's mother is a nutritionist and her father owns the natural food market in Healthville, a town dedicated to healthy living. When Cedric and his family move in just down the road, Celia invites them over for a healthy meal. Celia is in charge of dessert and bakes the family's favorite apple cake with a bit of help from her mother.
This is a great book for parents to share with their children. This whole series is a wonderful idea to get children enthused about preparing and eating healthy food. Throughout this book, healthy living is discussed as part of the day-to-day conversation. Nutrition notes about apples and three apple cake recipes are included at the end of the book (including gluten-free and paleo versions). My only suggestion for the authors is to space out the text to make it easier for the kids to follow along and start reading by themselves.
I baked the paleo version of the apple cake as muffins with my daughter. They were moist and delicious! (Note: the eggs should be added at step 4.)

Paleo apple muffins baked by Julie (photo by Jenny)

Books Links

Eat Dirt Balls!
(The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric
 Book 2)
by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar

After a rainy night Celia had a fun idea as usual. Who knew that what started out as mud and grass clippings would turn out to be the most delicious, delectable snack they or anyone else had tasted … yes, even Celia's teenage brother, Jake.
This is the second book of The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric series.

It was Saturday morning. Celia opened her eyes then jumped out of bed, ran to the window and watched raindrops running down her window. She watched them as they made wiggly paths all the way down and into the wet dirt below.
Suddenly, she had an idea. She asked her mom if she could call Cedric to share her great idea.
“Yes, you may,” said her mother, “then get washed up and have your breakfast.”
“Thanks mom!”, said Celia as she went to call Cedric.
The phone rang at Cedric’s house. “Hello, this is Cedric”, he said.
“Good morning, Cedric”, said Celia. “I have a fun idea. Do you want to hear it?”
“Oh, yes please”, answered Cedric.
“Well,” Celia replied, “it rained last night so there’s lots of mud in our garden. Let’s pretend we have a Snack Shop and we’ll make all kinds of yummy treats to serve all the people who come to our Snack Shop. We can use my play Snack set with all the cups and plates and spoon and forks”.
“Cool idea!,” exclaimed Cedric. “I’ll be right over after I eat my breakfast.”

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
After a rainy night, Celia and Cedric find the conditions are just perfect for making muddy treats for their "snack shop". After making dirt balls rolled in grass clippings, Celia's mother shows them how to make edible dirt balls!
I love the way Celia is so polite to her mother and has impeccable manners with Cedric during their telephone conversation. I also like the fact that the kids are encouraged to play outside in the mud. At the end of the book, you will find the recipe for making "Dirt Balls" and nutrition notes on the healthy ingredients used.
Another winner!

Books Links

Little Green Dragon
(The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric
 Book 3)
by Erin Kurt and Laara Exsnar

Celia and Cedric meet a new friend! In this new adventure, they meet the Little Green Dragon, who becomes a fun playmate and an inspiration for a yummy new recipe. Celia and Cedric enjoy the Little Green Dragon's smoothie and you can, too!
This is the third book of The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric series.

Celia and Cedric were having an awesome adventure at Cedric's house. They were pretending that a little green dragon was chasing them.
"Run, run, Cedric!" shouted Celia. “Or the little green dragon will catch you and eat you for a snack!"
Celia and Cedric ran and hid behind the giant apple tree in Cedric's yard.
Then Cedric said, "Oh, no, the little green dragon sees us. Here it comes! Let's hide at the back of the house.”
"AHHHH!," screamed Celia, "Here comes the little green dragon again. Let's run as fast as we can down the street to my house."
Celia and Cedric ran as fast as they could into Celia's yard and ducked down in the grass behind the white picket fence. Surely, the little green dragon would never find them there.
"Oh no," whispered Cedric. "The Little Green Dragon is sneaking up on us from around the corner of the house. What can we do now?"

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Celia and Cedric play at being chased by the imaginary Little Green Dragon. After working up a thirst, Celia's mother invites them in for a refreshing and healthy cool drink. It's green, so they name it after their new friend.
You, too, can try the Little Green Dragon Power Smoothie, with recipe and nutrition notes included at the end of the book. This book is a bit shorter than the previous ones, and I would like to have seen the story developed a bit more. Once again, it's nice to see the kids encouraged to play outside and use their imaginations - and to have a healthy snack!

Books Links

Interview With the Author
Hi Erin, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book series, The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric: A Read & Bake Series.
For what age group do you recommend your books?
We recommend this book for children aged 3-8. We’ve tested the books on these ages, both boys and girls, and all just loved them!
What sparked the idea for this series?
After I had my first child, my mother and I were sitting on the sofa chatting and she mentioned she wanted to write a cookbook for kids so she could include all the delicious and nutritious snacks she had compiled over the years. I told her that it was always my dream to write books for kids too.
After chatting for a while I remembered that when I was a school teacher I used to take any book that had food within the storyline and find a recipe to match it. Then I’d turn the making of that recipe into different extension activities for the children, whether it be Math or Science or Health. At the end of the school year, my students would often mention that one of their favorite memories of our year together was the making of those yummy recipes. 
After remembering this, I had a light bulb moment and said, "Mom, what if we create our own children’s book series where we have two friends going on adventures and always needing to make or bake something based on that adventure. She loved the idea.
Right then and there we brainstormed the adventures and matched one of her snack recipes to suit. I still have that brainstorming sheet!
So, which comes first? The characters or the story?
Actually for us, it is usually one of mom’s recipes that inspires us to create an adventurous story around it.
What was the hardest part to write in these books?
Honestly, our books just flowed, we never had a difficult part. The difficult or more time-consuming part of creating the books was developing the website, the animation movie, and everything else that went along with that.
How do you hope this series affects its readers?
We truly have a passion for helping kids be healthy and happy. The yummy, nutritious recipes we feature take care of the healthy part and the happy part comes in when kids are spending quality time reading and baking with their parents. This is so important to kids. Not to mention the fulfillment they get when they make their own food!
How long does it take you to write each book?
Once we have an idea and a recipe to match our story idea we can write one in about an hour. Literacy and teaching story writing was my specialty as a teacher so I’ve got a pretty good structure and rhythm going.
What is your writing routine?
Mom and I decide which recipe we want to focus on, then we discuss what kind of situation our characters would have to be in, in order to make or bake it. We go back and forth with a couple of ideas and then I usually write the story and send it to her to add her ideas. Mom has such a playful connection to kids, so she always has great ideas to add.
How did you get your books published?
We decided to self-publish our books because we wanted to create a whole experience around our stories and characters, and with self-publishing there are no limits to how you can expand your brand. On our website for example, we created downloadable activity sheets for kids to do on their own or to continue the bonding time with their mom or dad. We have also filmed ourselves making the recipes and hope to do much, much more in the near future.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer? 
Think of something you know a lot about and are passionate about and then decide what genre of book you would most like to write. After that, it’s just about setting up a consistent time where you write. Once you finish the book, your next decision is whether or not you want to self-publish or try to find a literary agent. 
What do you like to do when you're not writing? 
Both mom and I love to bake or make healthy food. Actually I became passionate about yummy, healthy food because of the time my mom spent doing this with me when I was a little girl. We both love to walk and exercise, read and spend quality time with family. Another big love of mine is to travel, thus the reason I live in England, where I can travel somewhere exciting during the weekend!
What does your family think of your writing?
My kids are so excited about the books. They absolutely love them and constantly request that I read one and then make or bake the recipe with them. My hubby and my mom’s hubby (my dad) are very, very proud of us. My hubby lets me get on with my work but, when he saw the website and the books and everything we’ve created around the books, he sat back in his chair and said, "Wow, well done!" That made me feel great.
Fantastic! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I had a wonderful childhood. Many of my happiest memories are around mom, my sister and I making gingerbread houses together, dirt balls (which are featured in Eat Dirt Balls!, cookies, and more. Baking was quality time that I got to spend with my busy mom who was a high school Home Economics teacher. My parents also gave my sister and I loads of free time to play and create adventures in our backyard. When I wrote the stories for The Yummy Adventures of Celia and Cedric I often envisioned my sister and I running around our large yard as we played out whatever game we had created that day.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved being read to, but I didn’t like reading. That all changed when books became personal to me. My mom bought me a book where the main character’s name was Erin. After that, I found I actually loved reading and getting lost in stories. It was this experience that helped me specialize in Literacy while I was a teacher. I was able to turn extremely reluctant readers into children who couldn't’ get enough of reading!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a teacher, I fell in love with children’s books. They are magical to me. My favorite thing to do is read to children so, after reading so many books, I began to feel that there was a need for a certain kind of book; one that naturally taught having good character traits. It is so important for kids to learn how to be resilient, empathetic, and generous, and I found that there were no books out there that taught these traits, at least none that didn’t sound preachy or like a lesson. Kids learn by example and by becoming engaged with people or characters whom they like. With this thought in mind, I dreamed of writing these kinds of books but, as a teacher, I don’t have a whole lot of spare time.
So, your childhood experiences influenced your writing?
Absolutely. As mentioned before, my sister and I played outside a lot. We created our own adventures and games and also baked a lot with our mom. The difference between our baking, though, was that mom always stressed why what we were making was healthy and good for us. This knowledge and these experiences definitely influenced every story mom and I wrote.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Ooh, good question! I have so many favorite children’s authors. But, if I had to mention a few I would say, Paulette Bourgeois, writer of the Franklin series, Robert Munsch, and C. S. Lewis.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Well, we are just launching our book series, so we haven’t received fan mail just yet. However, we’ve obviously shared the books to gain feedback and here are what some children have said:
"The Little Green Dragon is peeking at us!"
"He’s so cute!"
"I drank it all because I really liked it."
"It was so, so yummy!"
"I liked the taste of it. Could we please have more?"
"Can you please read the other Yummy Books?"
"I love these books, Mrs._____!"
What great feedback! What can we look forward to from you in the future?
You can look forward to more books to be released in the series. We have loads of story and recipe ideas, so we’ll just keep releasing them! We also plan to keep in constant contact with our new community by sending surprise new recipes, video demos of mom and I baking or making something, more downloadable activity sheets and our BIG dream is to have these books turned into a TV Series. So stay tuned!
Sounds wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Erin. Best of luck with the series.
Thank YOU, Lynda. We so appreciate you helping us to spread the word about these books that are so special to us.

About the Authors

Author Links