S’mores go better with stories!

Kristy C. discovering that marshmallow becomes quite stretchy after being heated and smooshed.

In Judy Moody and Stink: The Big Bad Blackout, Megan McDonald manages a feat that all too often eludes other authors of children’s fiction. She keeps the story (centered on Stink and Judy’s experience of their first-ever hurricane) whimsical enough to appeal to young readers without shying away altogether from those aspects of the adult world, such as the emotionally moving backstory behind their grandmother’s purchase of a kayak, that impinge on kids’ lives.

Excerpt: S'mores go better with stories. Let's each tell a story.

Until crisis strikes, we tend not to think too much about our reliance on technology and how jarring even a brief power outage can be. Fortunately for the Moody kids, whose school has suspended classes and whose electronic attention-span-shortening gizmos are temporarily out of commission, they’re joined by their grandmother. The Moodys’ home is situated much further inland than the coastal resort town where Grandma Lou hangs her hat. With a mandatory evacuation order looming, strapping the aforementioned kayak to the roof of her car, stuffing her tote bag with essentials like batteries and a ghost-shaped cookie cutter, and temporarily decamping to her son’s residence was a no-brainer.

Without electricity for a couple of days, the Moodys bow to necessity and radically simplify their meals and snacks. For dinner on their first night without recourse to modern kitchen technology, they prepare a variation on egg in the basket in a skillet over the flames of their living room fireplace and, for dessert, they have a Boy Scout and Girl Scout campout staple: s’mores!

Isaac, Quincy, and Sze-Shing chowed down, for the first time, on s'mores!

S’mores, whose name derives from the near-universal request, after devouring one, for some more, are simple to make. That’s largely because they have just three ingredients: graham crackers, marshmallows, and bars of milk chocolate. In class, when we discussed the passage in which Judy and Stink’s grandmother suggests that the Moodys round out their first candlelit evening with a s’mores-fueled storytelling session, some of our students expressed an interest in trying to prepare s’mores themselves. Making that happen was almost as easy as, well, making a s’more!

Graham crackers aren’t always readily available here in Hong Kong so, if necessary, we would have used plain digestive biscuits instead. Fortunately, however, we found a few boxes of grahams on the shelves of an upscale supermarket not far from our office. The one difference between a canonical s’more and the those enjoyed by our students stems from the need to use a microwave in lieu of a campfire. Rest assured, however, that while the best s’more is always going to be one made by sandwiching a roasted marshmallow and a slab of milk chocolate between two graham cracker halves, marshmallows do. heat up quite readily and puff up impressively in a conventional microwave!

Chloe C. enjoying her first s'more!