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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How old is Pizza Anyway?

I have been writing in my notebook ideas for new children’s stories. One story idea came from a question my granddaughter asked me at a family gathering. She sat holding her pizza up into the air with her hand and asked, "Just how old is pizza anyway?" I answered, “I don't know how old pizza is. Maybe they made pizza during the covered wagon days.” My grandson joined our conversation by stating, “Maybe during the caveman days.” Everyone laughed.

After our meal I couldn’t get her question out of my mind. I thought maybe this would make a great story. So, the next day I checked out pizza history on the internet and then went to the library.

I discovered the history and legends about pizza can be traced all the way back to the Roman days. The words for pizza often spelled bizzo or pizzo were found in Europe and the Mediterranean. Pizza dough was known as flat bread used as a plate dressed with olive oil, herbs and honey baked on hot stones. Then around the first century A.D. pizza had meat, herbs and cheese. Now how’s that for not having to do dishes? Isn't that cool?

But wait, what about books about pizza? How many people have had the same idea as mine? I found piles of books have been written in several different ways about pizza. For example, to name a few there are children’s fiction stories, mysteries, nonfiction books and cookbooks, so I don’t think I am going to write a pizza story anytime soon. But I found some great books to read!

Writing about my family’s pizza conversation was fun. Making an idea into a story for publication is tricky because there may be books already in libraries just like my idea. So the first things I do before spending a lot of time on writing and editing my story is write an outline about my story idea. I make sure I have a beginning, middle and an end. Then I get on the internet and go to the library to research how many books are written on the subject. I choose several books from various age groups like preschool, elementary, and middle school from the books I find. I write down the titles, authors, and a two to three sentence summary about each book I read in a notebook. All of this information helps me remember what I did about my story idea.

Have you thought about writing about a certain food or an idea from a family occurrence while eating? What food would you write about? Share your story with us by clicking on “comments” below and placing it in the comments box.

Remember I said I found some great books to read while researching? Here is my list of authors who used very creative ways to tell a pizza story!

1. Using pizza as a game.

Pete’s A Pizza
By William Steig
ISBN: 0062051571, (1998)
Fiction: Juvenile, Pizza, Games. Imagination
Grade Range: Birth-Pre-K
Publisher: Harper Collins $16.99
Author site:

October 24, 2008

Pete is not having a good day. Pete’s father decides to have a pizza party to cheer him up. First they must make a pizza. His father pretends to turn Pete into a pizza. After Pete is made into a pizza he runs away and his father chases after him. Does Pete get captured? Is Pete cheered up?

Pete’s A Pizza is a great game story to act out with children.

2. Using pizza in a humorous and unusual adventure.

Curious George and The Pizza
By Margret and H. A. Rey’s
ISBN: 0395390338, (1985)
Fiction: Juvenile, Pizza, Monkeys, Curiosity
Grade Range: Birth-Pre-K
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston $3.95
Publisher site:

October 24, 2008

Curious George visits a pizza shop with his friend and creates chaos when his curiosity about how to make a pizza gets the best of him. When he discovers he is in big trouble George runs away and hides in a pizza delivery truck. Tony the baker asks George to make an unusual pizza delivery. Will George make up for all the trouble he caused and get to eat some pizza?

Curious George and The Pizza is a wonderful anytime story for children to learn about the natural consequences of curiosity.

3. Using Pizza in a puzzle.

The Pizza Puzzle
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
ISBN: 0440413912, (1997)
Fiction: Pizza, Mystery, Divorce, Friendship. School, Honesty, Self-responsibility
Grade Range: 6-8 (Middle school)
Publisher: Yearling $16.00
Author site:

October 24, 2008

Seventh grader Taryn Powell wonders if her parents are getting a divorce. After all they have been arguing and whispering a lot lately.

At School Taryn’s selective listening in class and her preoccupation with what is going on with her parents gets her in trouble with her English teacher, who is the meanest teacher in the entire school. Her teacher orders her to stand and face the class so she can tell the whole class exactly what is so important for her not to pay attention. Taryn didn’t want anyone to know about her parents and refuses to tell as tears trickle down her face. As punishment her teacher gives her an assignment to write a thousand word essay about what she was thinking about. In her anger Taryn spouts off at lunch about pulling a prank on her teacher to get revenge.

The next day she finds out someone pulled the prank. Taryn is held responsible. How is she going to clear her name? She knows it wasn’t her; she was doing something important and very secret. Who will believe her?

Taryn discovers she has a new friend when a classmate named Lexi helps Taryn out by providing her with an alibi. Taryn is relieved. Her secret is not exposed. She becomes obsessed with finding the prankster and clearing herself. Taryn soon learns the value of friendship when she finds herself in more hot water when she decides to lie again to keep her secret from being exposed. Will she decide to tell the truth?

In reading the title the author gives a clue that her book is about a mystery using a series of clues like fitting a puzzle together. Pfeffer brings into play twists and turns as she gives the reader clues to pace her story with the main character portrayed as the underdog. A fun and adventurous story that helps the reader learn through her characters about jumping to conclusions, honesty, friendship and accepting self responsibility.

4. Uses the word "pizza" in the title.

Peppers, Popcorn and Pizza
By Cleste A. Peters
ISBN: 0739801368, (2000)
Non-Fiction: Juvenile, Nutrition, Food Science, Pizza,
Grade Range: 3-5
Publisher: Raintree Streck-Vaughn

October 26, 2008

The title is memorable and ambiguous because Peters does so much more than what the title implies. Peters extensively links technology, careers, society, and the environment by showing how Food Science is used in our everyday lives. She answers some interesting questions through the use of scientific facts. Some of the fascinating questions are where did food originate? Where does food come from today? Can an apple a day keep you healthy? Why is it important to cook food? Do we put fungi in our food? Can our small intestine cover a football field when split open and laid out flat? What do smelly stinky feet and cheese have in common?

Peppers, Popcorn and Pizza is an entertaining food facts book that evokes more curiosity about food beyond her presented facts. One intriguing question was about eating popcorn for breakfast. In colonial times popcorn was indeed served for breakfast with sugar and cream. Today we eat popcorn as a nutritional snack and cook it in the microwave or in a hot air corn popper

If you’re wondering about the stinky smelling feet question, Peters points out that when we eat cheese the enzymes used to make the cheese break down fats and proteins into smelly molecules are the same molecules that cause feet to smell. I will have to remember this one when I am eating pizza. Will my feet stink? Check out her book for the answers to her other questions presented here.

The trials of listing internet resources in a book are that you can never tell how long the sites will be available. Two of Peter’s listed Internet resources that I checked are Kids and The Popcorn Institute. The is no longer available. The Popcorn Institute is a fascinating place to find out more about America’s longtime favorite nutritional snack.

All Reviews by Jewel Sample, Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses, also translated: Besos y abrazos al aire (Spanish edition). To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Resources: To learn more about Pizza history and legends visit here

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