Cookin’ Up Traditions


Tapping into background knowledge is paramount for children to make connections with a text. But what happens when a child has a limited amount of experience to draw from? You make applesauce. By incorporating every ingredient of an experience, a child can live through others in a book like Applesauce Day.

Every year, Maria’s family makes applesauce in the same pot that her mom and grandma used when they were little. Maria is old enough to know what to expect and now helps her siblings to understand how special the experience is. Just seeing the big pot on the counter is enough for Maria to know what day it is: Applesauce Day!  At the orchards, her family picks enough apples to fill a wagon and then it’s off to Grandma’s house to turn it into sweet apple mush.

With repeated onomatopoeia infused to highlight the cooking experience, the book draws children into shared reading. I can definitely see how much fun it will be for children to recreate the onomatopoeia while cooking or creating art-inspired projects that accentuate this book. “Snick, snick, snick,” “Thunk, thunk, thunk,” “Blurp! Blurp! Blurp!” and “Crank! Squish! Crankity! Squish!” incorporates the senses and makes the recipe come to life.

applesauce day interior

As a first grade teacher, I know how challenging it can be to help a child understand the true meaning of a tradition. As part of our social studies curriculum, it’s necessary for children to understand traditions and apply them to their own lives. But with books like Applesauce Day, students will have a first-hand feel for what a tradition is, how it might happen, how often, who it might involve, and what activity pulls them together. And the fact that this book opens the door to experience Maria’s tradition by making applesauce as a class or even at home, makes it a huge winner in my book. There is also a simple applesauce recipe included, with language that encourages a child to seek adult help.

Lisa makes applesauce every summer with her kids and mom…just like the book! 

The back matter also includes apple facts from basic to little-known facts like apples being part of the rose family to nutrition, pollination, and astronaut John Glenn taking applesauce to space!

Just as the mentor text appeal is high in this selection for primary students, a picture book writer can experience the same take-aways. Are you writing a story that incorporates tradition? How do you draw upon family history or passing an experience down from generation to generation? What language do you use that makes the senses come alive? Will your reader visualize him/herself in the shoes of the main character? Is there a take away that allows the reader to make their own tradition?

By questioning yourself, you can get the most out of a mentor text. There are many picture books that incorporate traditions.

Which ones do you feel are the best mentor texts?

Enter Lisa’s giveaway for Applesauce Day below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I’m trying to think of a book like this and besides the one I’ve drafted myself, I can’t think of any. i’d love to read this and study it to help my own draft improve. Thanks for the post and chance to win a copy for my library.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this book, Lisa. I actually won a copy from Vivian Kirkfield’s Writing for Cookies. If rafflecopter chose my name for another, I’ll donate it to Appleton Village School in Maine where I substitute…Appleton seems a likely place!


  3. Perfect post! I love applesauce season! We always made it at school. Each student brought 2 apples (small class) so we had a variety of flavors. We chopped and got it started with cinnamon in the crock pot. By the end of the day, everyone in the school was going crazy for wanting some! I can see how this book would be a perfect mentor text for students. Over the River and Through the Woods (because we love to sing our books as well) ties in to tradition and would help readers become writers. Max’s Disappearing Bag would be fun at Christmas (and imagination is used a LOT in this book). Apple Farmer Annie is another good book. Oh, wish I could get to my book boxes!


      1. I’m so excited to add Applesauce Day to my fall collection! Yay! Watching my mail box with tapping fingers… Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

        P.S. Living in the Yakima Valley of WA state, we are surrounded by fruit trees, weighted down right now with ripe apples – all types! That’s one of the many reasons I love fall and apples. Mmmm!


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