Stories, Kids and Scrumptious Cuisine

Creative collaboration pair words with food to nourish children’s hearts and minds

Cary, NC – On Tuesday, December 6, 2016 Sassool Mediterranean restaurant and children’s book author/illustrator Jena Ball will launch an innovative new project designed to support children’s literacy. Entitled, “Kids Love Reading,” the event will feature free food for children under the age of 10,* and a reading and creative activity based on Ball’s latest book, The Not Perfect Hat Club.

“When Jena first approached us about doing readings at the restaurant we were excited,” says Mounir Saleh, who founded and runs the restaurant with his wife Lisa and two of his daughters, Noelle and Simone. “We’re committed to supporting education in our community and Jena’s books have a great message to share.”

Known collectively as The CritterKin series, Ball’s books feature the adventures of a pack of eight mixed-breed dogs and the people who love them. “Each book focuses on a specific theme explored through the life of one of the dogs,” says Ball. “For example, The Not Perfect Hat Club is the story of an imperfect golden retriever whose failure in the show ring lands him a new job helping kids. The goal of all my books is to teach kindness and encourage a love of reading.”

The idea of collaborating with the Saleh family on a series of readings at Sassool was born soon after Ball visited the restaurant for the first time. “As someone who has written a lot about food, I knew Sassool was special,” says Ball, a former restaurant critic for The Japan Times. “A good restaurant is as much about the people as the food it cooks. Sassool’s founders understand the importance of feeding people on many levels. It’s a warm, welcoming place with wonderful food.”

In addition to the reading, plans for the December 6th event include a drawing for a free copy of The Not Perfect Hat Cub, gift bags filled with Sassool’s signature cookies, the presentation of a set of Ball’s books to Douglas Elementary School’s literacy program by Sassool. “This is going to be a magical, one-of-a-kind event,” says Simone Saleh. “We’ll be devoting an entire room in the restaurant to kids and storytelling. We can’t wait to see their reaction.”

An additional reading is planned on December 12th at the Sassool, Raleigh location.

For more information about the event, visit:

*Kids 10 and under eat free with the purchase of platter or a large sandwich

About Sassool
Sassool is a nickname given to Cecilia Saleh when she was a child growing up in Lebanon. It is also the name of Cecilia’s family owned and run restaurant, which features authentic Mediterranean recipes passed down by her family for generations. To read the Sassool’s story, see sample menus and locations, visit:

About Jena Ball
Jena Ball is the beloved author and illustrator of the CritterKin book series and an educator on a mission to ignite creativity and help children fall in love with reading.

Her career as an educator began in Japan where she pioneered a new approach for teaching ESL using interactive storytelling and role play. Since returning the States she has worked as freelance journalist, copywriter and editor, and most recently as a children’s book author.

Her latest book, The Not Perfect Hat Club, has been receiving high praise from children and adults alike, and has been used as the basis for a global, multimedia reading, writing and creativity challenge. For more information, visit