It makes perfect sense that I would choose pizza as the focus of this Foodie Friday. It's in fact surprising I haven't used it on any past Fridays considering how many Friday nights I order it for dinner. By the end of a week of school, homework, sports, and activities, my mind and energy are often too fried to come up with a great dinner idea. Pizza and a salad makes a terrific default dinner. Pizza is the ideal food to serve kids. It's tasty, it includes three major food groups, it can be eaten without utensils, and let's hand it to God and the Italians for creating an entree that is so helpful in teaching fractions. Moreover, if you do like my dad did when I was a kid and tear the delivery box into plate sized pieces, you've got no dishes to clean. It's no wonder there are so many kids' books on the topic. For this Foodie Friday, I'm going to share a beloved old family favorite and a fun new find. We've had Pizza Pat on our bookshelves since my eight and ten year olds were toddlers. It has been joyfully read so many times it is now held together with Scotch tape and hope. This easy reader by Rita Golden Gelman and illustrated by Will Terry tells the story of a pizza baked by chef Pat and stolen by a bunch of rats in the style of a cumulative poem such as "The House That Jack Built." It is addictively fun to read such lines as "This is the oven 800 degrees, that cooked the pizza and melted the cheese that topped the sausages, spicy and choppy, that sat on the sauce, all gooey and gloppy, that covered the dough, all stretchy and floppy, that lay in the tray that Pat bought." Pat and his pizza helped all three of my kids learn to read, making it as beloved and utilized as the phone number to our local pizzeria that delivers.
Our new literary pizza find is Tony and the Pizza Champions, a picture book energetically illustrated by Matthew Trueman and written by Tony Gemignani. Tony is, according to the dust jacket, "a world renowned pizza acrobat and chef." Tony and the Pizza Champions tells the story of the team he assembled to go to the World Pizza Championshp. Readers get a little geography as he criss crosses the USA to collect Mighty Mike and Strong Sean from Ohio, Silly Siler, a unicycling pizza chef from South Carolina, and Famous Joe, a sky high pizza tosser from New York City. Like any good team, the guys have to practice, and then they fly to Italy for the big competition. Gemignani the author uses this opportunity to show some of the many ways people eat pizza around the world, such as the Brazilians who like ketchup on their pies and the Swedes who enjoy them with coleslaw on the side. This is one of several features of the book that would make it a fun elementary school classroom read. Happily, the book ends with Tony and his team winning the world championship, and it includes recipes and illustrated instructions for tossing pizza dough. The process is pretty nicely explained in the book, but you can also check Tony out on YouTube.