Author Study: Jan Brett

Finally! Guys. let me tell you, it took a LONG time to get through this last author study! It was meant for the month of January but dragged well into February. This was not because the unit itself is super long, or because we didn’t enjoy it; it was simply the challenge of homeschooling with a baby in the house. There were LOTS of stops and starts while I tended to the fussing and crying and milk demands, and we didn’t even get to all the activities I had planned (because sometimes you just have to move on). But we did it! And we enjoyed it!

One of the challenges I’m facing as I write these author studies is how to choose which books to focus on–there are just so many! Jan Brett has written countless books and you could do so much with each one of them. There are plenty of science, history, and art lessons in addition to language ones that can be learned through her books. (I almost had us doing a unit within the unit on the rainforest!) I’m telling you, dialing back had to happen though it wasn’t easy. My main focus has been to come at these through a literary perspective, and if other subjects get touched on, then that’s bonus. Jan Brett is known for her amazing watercolor illustrations that beautifully capture many different settings from around the world. She’s also famous for her illustration “borders” which tell a story within a story. These are things I chose to focus on for this study.

26232556_10160215871695221_5151877635536231607_oWe started with one of her most popular books, The Mitten. We also read The Hat, and The Umbrella, which follow a similar theme. Our focus was sequencing and making predictions (using the borders to help us). I can’t take credit for the fun materials we used on day 1 when we read The Mitten. Oh, the internet is a wonderful place! I purchased a unit on and used those materials to make animal puppets for The Mitten. Jan Brett’s own website,, also offers several printouts and activities to accompany her books which I found helpful.

IMG_2027Then we moved on to fairytales! Jan Brett has rewritten a few fairytales and so I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a mini-unit on these familiar stories. We discussed the elements of a fairytale (Fairytale Worksheet) and used a check-list for each one we read to see if it met the “requirements” to be a true fairytale. Then we compared and contrasted Jan Brett’s version with the original. (Compare and Contrast) This was fun and the kids really got into looking at the different versions of the same story.

My last focus was on the setting of her different tales. Jan Brett has stories that take place in Africa, China, Ukraine, the rainforest… all over! Though we didn’t get to the written part of this unit, we had fun discussing the different places and where we’d like to go if we could. Even though we didn’t get a chance to do these activities fully (Dr. Seuss was calling our names!), the materials for this part of the unit are still included. Take a trip with Jan Brett and study a setting!

This is the perfect unit to do in the winter, since that’s the setting for a lot of these books. I hope you enjoy these activities! You can download the lesson plans, journal, and activity pages all free!

Jan Brett Author Study  

JB Author Study Journal Pages

JB Setting Study

5+ Ways To Do Vitamin-Rich Veggies in Winter…

Winter is in full swing and although I wish it were almost over, we’re only about half-way through! It can be hard to continue finding creative ways of incorporating fresh vegetables during this time but we know how important it is during flu-season to make sure we get those vitamin-rich foods in our diets! So I’ve assembled some of our favorite ways to eat our veggies in the winter and maybe some of these recipes will give you a mid-winter “boost” in your day to day dinners! 🙂

(By the way, this post contains NO advice on how to get your kids to actually eat their vegetables. I wish I was an expert on that! But I will say that presenting them pleasantly and flavorfully goes along way in our house! I’ve also found that serving dinner “family-style” and letting the kids scoop their own food themselves from serving dishes on the table seems to motivate them to eat more of their food.)

Here are some vegetables that offer powerful vitamins and nutrients to your diet and some yummy ways to serve them up…

KALE is very rich in vitamins K, A, and C (hello, immune booster)! It’s also a great source of fiber, calcium, and iron. Besides chopping it up and throwing it in a fruit smoothie, we love to have it in a sausage-and-kale-strata (follow the link for the recipe) for breakfasts and zuppa toscana, one of our favorite soups! I chop the kale up pretty fine for both of these dishes because I have small children so it’s easier for them to handle. Plus, the finer it’s chopped, the harder it is for them to pick it out of anything! 😉

IMG_0688SPINACH is very similar to kale in the nutrients it provides, but offers a little less vitamin C and more iron, actually. Both of these leafy greens are great raw in smoothies and salads. When I cook them, I prefer to cook them IN a dish so no nutrients are lost in the form of steam or boiling water. Spinach is a great substitute for kale in that strata recipe (just like you could swap bacon or ham for the sausage). I also love to chop spinach really fine and add it to lasagna, stuffed shells, or calzones. This tortellini soup is a really good winter warm-up and is excellent served with xButtermilk Cheddar Biscuits!

Here’s a fun grilled cheese to try: mix a bag of cheddar jack cheese, a half stick of butter, a couple handfuls of baby spinach, and a few leaves of basil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together. Spread this mixture between two slices of bread and grill as usual. This is an amazing accompaniment to tomato soup (which is also rich in vitamin C!) and as long as your kids can get past the “green” cheese that results, the whole family will love it! It’s our favorite way to have grilled cheese!

BROCCOLI is rich in vitamins K and C and fiber! According to “World’s Healthiest Foods” it’s also a great anti-inflammatory. I often put broccoli in a strata as well, in place of kale or spinach. We LOVE broccoli cheddar soup and it’s great in a stir-fry. But beyond those things, broccoli is probably one of my favorite vegetables to serve as a side and I do it a couple ways:

Prepare a balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together one minced clove of garlic, a dollop of dijon mustard, 1-2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, and some drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. Steam, roast, or par-boil your bite-sized broccoli and then add it to the vinaigrette when cooked. Squeeze a half of lemon over the hot broccoli and season with salt and pepper, then mix in with the vinaigrette so all the flavors are incorporated. My kids DEVOUR broccoli when it’s prepared this way!

When I want a FRESH side, I’ll simply steam my broccoli and then squeeze a lemon over it and season well with salt and pepper. Or simply add some sesame oil or soy sauce to it if you’re serving it with salmon or other seafood.

Here are some other side dish options:

Cooked brussel sprouts with bacon and apple “ju.” Slice up some bacon and start frying the “bits” in a cast iron skillet. Slice sprouts in half and add to the cooking bacon and season with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, reduce about a cup of apple juice and 1-2 TB apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (whichever you have on hand) by boiling them together in a pan for a few minutes until the mixture is reduced by about 1/2 and then pour the ju over the brussel sprouts.

SWEET POTATOES are another super-food rich in vitamins A, C, and others, as well as beta-carotene. We enjoy the traditional mashed sweet potato with some butter, a little orange liqueur, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. But our all-time favorite way to enjoy these healthy roots are in fry-form! We have sweet potato fries almost once a week and our kids ask us to have them more often than that! We peel and slice our sweet potatoes into fry “sticks” and then I soak them in cold water for a little while. (1 hour or longer is recommended for crispy fries.) Then I dredge ours in a mixture of 4 parts flour, 1 part corn meal, seasoned with seasoned salt. Fry in canola oil until golden, then remove to a paper towel-lined bowl. These are great dipped in a mixture of mayonnaise and barbecue sauce!

Hope these ideas and recipes inspire you! Maybe they’ll appeal to those picky eaters in your life, too… 😉