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1. mindfulness poetry: “On How to Pick and Eat Poems” by Phyllis Cole-Dai

“Strawberries Bella and Ida at the Table” by Marc Chagall (oil on canvas, 1916).


Recently I discovered A Year of Being Here, a wonderful poetry site curated by author, editor, composer and musician Phyllis Cole-Dai

From January 2013 to January 2016, Phyllis posted a mindfulness poem by a contemporary poet each and every day. Though her 3-year project is now at an end, the collection will remain online so that everyone can continue to visit this haven of comfort, inspiration and empowerment.

Many of us live rushed and frantic lives where we are forced to multi-task. With our attention continually fragmented, we often feel overwhelmed and powerless to stem the tide of unceasing demands on our time and peace of mind. We’ve heard and agree with the sage philosophers who remind us about the importance of “being fully present,” of living in the moment, of existing wholly in the here and now. But it’s not that easy, is it?

“Making Jam” by Vladimir Makovsky (1876)

So Phyllis began to share her favorite mindfulness poems to help others:

One of the best tools in mindfulness practice today, as it has been for millennia, is poetry. Why? Because the very act of reading a poem cultivates mindfulness. To fully experience any poem, we must stop whatever else we’re doing and give it our full and gracious attention, start to finish, just as the poet did when writing it.

And she quotes Muriel Rukeyser:

. . . if a poem is any damn good at all, it invites you to bring your whole life to that moment, and we are good poets inasmuch as we bring that invitation to you, and you are good readers inasmuch as you bring your whole life to the reading of the poem.

This is why I’ve been a poetry fan for so long. When I read a good poem I know the poet has brought an extraordinary awareness to that moment of creation and there’s nothing more exciting than meeting him/her in that place. It is often another dimension of understanding, a beautifully nuanced layer of emotion, an artful expression of ineffable truth condensed in a small space, designed to resonate in the here and now.

I’ve enjoyed a new poem from A Year of Being Here each day this month, and it’s been especially gratifying to read the work of new-to-me poets. Phyllis has graciously granted me permission to share the final “thank-you” poem she wrote for her international community of readers. It seems especially appropriate for National Poetry Month, as we celebrate the writing, reading, and sharing of poetry in as many ways as we can.


“The Strawberry Girl” by Albert Anker

by Phyllis Cole-Dai

Stop whatever it is you’re doing.
Come down from the attic.
Grab a bucket or a basket and head for light.
That’s where the best poems grow, and in the dappled dark.

Go slow. Watch out for thorns and bears.
When you find a good bush, bow to it, or take off your shoes.
Then pluck. This poem. That poem. Any poem.
It should come off the stem easy, just a little tickle.
No need to sniff first, judge the color, test the firmness.
You’ll only know it’s ripe if you taste.

So put a poem upon your lips. Chew its pulp.
Let its juice spill over your tongue.
Let your reading of it teach you
what sort of creature you are
and the nature of the ground you walk upon.
Bring your whole life out loud to this one poem.
Eating one poem can save you, if you’re hungry enough.

When birds and deer beat you to your favorite patch,
smile at their familiar appetite, and ramble on.
Somewhere another crop waits for harvest.
And if your eye should ever light upon a cluster of poems
hanging on a single stem, cup your hand around them
and pull, without greed or clinging.
Some will slip off in your palm.
None will go to waste.

Take those you adore poem-picking when you can,
even to the wild and hidden places.
Reach into brambles for their sake,
stain your skin some shade of red or blue,
mash words against your teeth, for love.
And always leave some poems within easy reach
for the next picker, in kinship with the unknown.

If you ever carry away more than you need,
go on home to your kitchen, and make good jam.
No need to rush, the poems will keep.
Some will even taste better with age,
a rich batch of preserves.

Store up jars and jars of jam. Plenty for friends.
Plenty for the long, howling winter. Plenty for strangers.
Plenty for all the bread in this broken world.

~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 2016 Phyllis Cole-Dai. All rights reserved.

“Still Life with Milk, Bread and Raspberry Jam” by Wang Fine Art


This, like the other poems I’ve read so far on her site, seems to be just what I need right now.

That’s what mindfulness poetry does: It calls us home to where we are, and helps us abide there. It helps us pay attention. It helps us inhabit our lives instead of just going through the motions.

Listen to Phyllis reading her poem:





We have two lucky winners to announce on this fine Spring day, one who’ll shortly be craving dim sum in a big way and another who’ll be basking in seasonal beauty. Thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments on both posts and interest in these fine books.


And now,

*double drum roll, please*


the winner of

THE UGLY DUMPLING by Stephanie Campisi and Shahar Kober









and the winner of

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad










high fives





Please send along your snail mail addresses to receive your books!



poetry fridayLaura Purdie Salas is hosting the Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Check out the basket of poetic goodies she’s gathered from various bloggers in the kidlitosphere and have a nice weekend!!



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


9 Comments on mindfulness poetry: “On How to Pick and Eat Poems” by Phyllis Cole-Dai, last added: 4/8/2016
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2. hotTEAs of Children’s Poetry: Alan Katz

Alan Katz is the author of more than 35 books for kids, including nine Silly Dilly Songbooks (Take Me Out of the Bathtub), poetry collections (OOPS!), picture books, and more. He is also a six-time Emmy nominee (and loser) for his work on various animated series and The Rosie O’Donnell Show.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: My favorite hot beverage is coffee (regular or decaf, no real preference) with milk (1%, 2%, whole, whatever). No sweetener! And…fun fact…I have never, never, truly never had a cup of tea. Simply can’t stand the smell! Really. Really, really.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: The Day the Mustache Took Over, illustrated by Kris Easler (Bloomsbury, 2015) — My first middle grade book, all about the exploits of my real-life twins Nathan and David! Forthcoming: The Day the Mustache Came Back (Bloomsbury, July 2016), and That Stinks!: A Punny Show-and-Tell, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin (Simon & Schuster, July 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Future Chefs: Recipes by Tomorrow’s Chefs Across the Nation and the World by Ramin Ganeshram (Rodale, 2014). 

☕ Visit Alan Katz’s Official Website

☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: A funny poem by Alan😀



I only eat foods that begin with “c-h”

Like chicken and churros and chili.

If you’re cooking dinner and there’s no “c-h”

then trying to feed me is silly.


Today I had chocolate and churros and chips,

chimichangas and chow mein and cheese.

Tonight, chunky chowder is the only choice–

(Mom is out of “c-h” recipes).


She ordered a cookbook,

that’s coming tomorrow;

Mom promised great foods she’ll be makin’

It will be a menu of new “c-h” treats–

Like chmeatloaf! Chomelets! Chbacon!


(From Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking, S&S 2011)






☕☕☕☕ CAN’T STOP NOW! ONE LAST (I HOPE!) CUP OF SERIOUS SILLINESS: Alan recites a couple of silly dilly poems for KidLit TV:




Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Poetry: Alan Katz, last added: 4/7/2016
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3. hotTEAs of Children’s Poetry: Joyce Sidman

Joyce Sidman, winner of a Newbery Honor and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry, lives in Minnesota, where she greets the changing seasons every day with her irrepressible dog Watson. She loves poetry, chocolate, and using her macro lens to capture tiny moments of beauty. (Pictured here with her favorite thistle mug from Crail, Scotland)


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I start out the day with a mug of organic fermented Pu-erh tea, which makes me feel like Popeye drinking his spinach: strong and healthy! Then I switch to my husband’s delicious coffee, which he makes before he leaves the house. It keeps me alert through my writing session.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: My most recent book is Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold, illustrated by Rick Allen (HMH, 2014). Forthcoming: Before Morning, illustrated by Beth Krommes (HMH, October 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: My favorite food related book is Jam: A True Story, by Margaret Mahy. I discovered it when my kids were small, and still love it. Very funny. It’s about canning!

☕ Visit Joyce Sidman’s Official Website.

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out this marvelous interview by Mackin Educational Resources. Joyce talks about her books and shares some of her beautiful nature photography.

☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Enjoy this video of Joyce reading “The Ants,” which is from her book Ubiquitous.


☕☕☕☕ STILL THIRSTY: You must watch this excellent video, “Winter Bees: Beyond the Book,” in which Joyce, illustrator Rick Allen, and editor Ann Rider discuss the process behind the creation of this beautiful multiple award-winning picture book. Love the winter walk with Joyce’s dog Watson, watching Joyce create a winter poem with a group of children, and seeing how Rick makes his wood engravings (masterful work!). And there’s cookies and cocoa. . .:).


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


6 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Poetry: Joyce Sidman, last added: 4/5/2016
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4. [Review + Author Chat + Giveaway] When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

Art © 2016 Julie Morstad (click to enlarge)

march 20

from a snow-covered tree
one bird singing
each tweet poking
a tiny hole
through the edge of winter
and landing carefully
balancing gently
on the tip of spring

march 22

just like a tiny, blue hello
a crocus blooming
in the snow

I can’t think of a better way to kick off National Poetry Month and celebrate Spring than with these beautiful poems by Julie Fogliano, the first two in her brand new book, When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons (Roaring Brook Press, 2016)illustrated by Julie Morstad.

She pretty much had me at “each tweet poking/a tiny hole/through the edge of winter,” and I continued to swoon as I carefully made my way through the entire book, which features about a dozen enchanting poems for each season, presented as dated entries in a nature journal, beginning and ending with March 20, the Spring equinox.

These spare and lyrical free verse observations are told in an intimate, conversational voice, describing subtle and not-so-subtle seasonal changes with regard to wind, rain, earth, sky, and many green and colorful growing things. From a child’s perspective, small things can be everything, and if you stand or sit still long enough, wonder will reveal itself: flowers “lean and bend toward the light/wide open as if singing/their voices (silent but everywhere)/fill up the daytime/a song much more than purple/and beyond every red.”

The collection brims with lush sensory details and moments that make the heart soar — descriptions and impressions heightened by emotional reactions and sometimes quiet reflection. The little girl pictured on the cover seems to be the speaker in the first person poems, and perhaps the one who directly addresses the reader in the others.

It’s such a delight to be invited along as she celebrates the singular pleasures and sometimes frustrations each season offers, from the frog hopping rain, shivering daffodils, and furious strawberries of Spring, to days that drip “hot and thick like honey” (“if you could take a bite/out of the middle of this morning/it would be sweet/and dripping like peaches”) of Summer, to the sweater anticipation, new notebooks, leaves and pumpkins of Fall, to the mountain’s white furry hat of Winter, when “the first snow (just like magic) came/on tiptoes/overnight.”

Julie Morstad’s gouache and pencil crayon illustrations perfectly complement the gentle, graceful, artfully crafted verses, which captivate the reader with their charming cadences (“if i could fall/like snowflakes/(more drift and swirl/than tumble thump/more gentle float/than ouch and bump”). This book, which has already earned four *starred reviews*, virtually sings with its own brand of beauty, which is why I was very surprised to learn from reading Ms. Fogliano’s guest post at Mr. Schu’s Watch. Connect. Read.

that she never intended to write poetry in the first place, and was in fact, a little afraid of it. I of course was familiar with her wonderful picture books, and then it’s spring (Roaring Brook, 2012) and if you want to see a whale (Roaring Brook, 2013)And then I thought about writers writing from a place of instinct and emotion, without imposing intimidating labels on what they’re doing during the creative process. It was after Julie had shown her daily “notes” to her editor that he called them poems, and even then, she had to be convinced that’s what they truly were after all.

I found all of this intriguing and was curious to find out more from Julie herself, who graciously agreed to answer my questions. Did she revise differently because she was working with “poems” rather than a picture book text (also spare and lyrical)? Is she less afraid of poetry now? Will she write more? Enjoy our chat and the sample poems that follow.:)

*   *   *


What is your favorite season and why?

I don’t have a favorite season. I really love them all. (Except when winter drags on too long or when summer is 1000 degrees.) Really, whatever season I’m currently in is my favorite season.

In your guest post at Watch. Connect. Read., you confess that you hadn’t intended to and were afraid of writing poetry. In fact, you don’t think of yourself as a poet:

Poets are supposed to be brilliant and intense, thoughtful, sensitive and a little mysterious. I’m not any of those things. I’m just sort of normal and a little too shy.

So, how did a supposed non-poet end up writing such a marvelous collection of poems?

For years, I was trying to write children’s books. Trying and trying and I think, at a certain point, trying too hard. Then I had kids and was overwhelmed and frustrated and stopped writing completely.

About 8 years ago, my friend, George O’Connor, came to visit. He is an illustrator and a writer I had met years before when we both worked at Books of Wonder, a children’s bookstore in Manhattan. He knew of my struggles with writing and had heard me complaining about not having time to write and I think he just got tired of hearing about it. His birthday was that week and he asked that as a birthday gift, I give him one thought a day for one year. As he put it, “It can be a line or a page or a ten page manifesto. As long as it’s one thing a day.”

I’m surprised, actually, that I even said yes to such a commitment. That’s very out of character for me. Especially because I had to send him whatever I wrote (and I was very private with my writing back then). But, I think the open ended-ness appealed to me. There was no assignment, I wasn’t expected to start a book or create a character and I didn’t have to worry about punctuation or grammar or any of the details that would usually trip me up.

So, I started writing these super short “thoughts” mostly about my life… the pancakes I made for breakfast, the random objects under my kitchen table, the bird outside my kitchen window. As my thoughts progressed, I discovered the joy of taking words away. I discovered how satisfying it was to write as simply as possible. I started using line breaks in different ways. I guess I was slowly turning my thoughts into poetry, but I had no idea I was doing it.

My first book, and then it’s spring, was thought #126 and my second, if you want to see a whale, was thought #280. After whale was signed with Neal Porter, he asked what else I had lying around and I sent him a huge chunk of those “thoughts” figuring maybe he would see something in one of them that I couldn’t see. But, after reading through them, he called and said that I had the start of a poetry collection. Of course, I laughed and said “I don’t write poetry!!” and he said, “Call it what you want, this is poetry.” So, from then on, (and after lots of hand wringing and panicking) I wrote poetry.

Have you always been intimidated by “poets” and poetry in general? Did you read poetry as a child?

As a kid I read Shel Silverstein. That was the extent of my poetry reading. But, WOW did I love him. I must have read Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic cover to cover, 100 times each. But, other than that, poetry was a school thing and didn’t really hold any interest for me until I was a teenager.

In English class, we were given the Norton Anthology of Poetry which is thousands of the thinnest, almost rice paper, pages of poetry. And I would sit in study hall reading through it half in awe and half in total terror. For the most part, I had no idea what anyone was talking about and that scared me.

In class, when we would have to break down a poem and discuss it, there would be kids with their hands up and waving in the air, talking up a storm. But, I always hid in the back of the classroom. I felt like I was missing the secret poetry decoder that everyone was given at the secret poetry club. But, the interesting thing about it and where the awe came in, was that even though I couldn’t articulate, line by line, what a lot of these poets were talking about, on an intuitive level I understood. Somehow, even though the meaning of the words seemed out of reach, the feelings were obvious to me. The fact that someone could take a handful of words and put them together in such a way that the emotion and beauty could rise up, way above the literal meaning… that really blew me away.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes certainly proves that you have the soul, sensitivity, and observational powers of a poet. When you began recording “tiny quiet things” about the natural world, did you think, in the back of your mind, that any one of them might be the seed for a picture book?

A seed, yes. But did I think that any of them would become a book on its own? Definitely not. When I wrote and then it’s spring it didn’t even cross my mind that it could be a book. I didn’t see how it could be. (It was about waiting for grass to grow!! How boring is that?! ) But, I sent it to Erin Stead (also a friend from Books of Wonder) because it was inspired by something on her blog and I thought she would appreciate it. Little did I know, she would send it to her editor (Neal Porter) and that they would take that thought about waiting and wondering and worrying and turn it into the most beautiful book I had ever seen!

Some might say that the spare, lyrical texts of your first two picture books are a form of poetry, that like the poems in your new book, they are both economical and beautiful. Have your feelings about what constitutes poetry changed as a result of writing Tomatoes, and if so, how?

As my very wise, poetry professor cousin once said, “To me poetry is about economy and beauty”. Once I heard that, my perception of poetry totally shifted. Now, whenever I get intimidated and nervous and caught up in the poetry-ness of it all, I think… economy and beauty… economy and beauty…

What was the revision process like for this book? Were many poems cut, or did you have to write additional ones to round out the collection? Were there any noticeable differences in how you approached the revision of individual poems vs. revising a picture book text?

Before I consider something finished I have to perfect it down to the last syllable. When you’re writing something only 4 lines long there’s no room for the tiniest misplaced word. So, before anyone else even sees it, I’ve tweaked and perfected to the absolute best of my ability. Sometimes I need another set of eyes to tell me when something isn’t working (or that I’ve made a totally embarrassing spelling mistake!) and Neal is certainly the man for that. And that goes for the picture books as well as the poems… same process.

When I gave the thoughts to Neal, I had written enough for half of the collection. So, I definitely needed to write a bunch more. And once I knew I was writing a poetry collection, I spent a bunch of time freaking out. Luckily, I was just about to have a baby and I had a good long break, and tons of time to rearrange my thinking before I started officially (and intentionally) writing poetry.

Some of the parenthetical phrases and the use of lower case letters in your poems remind me of E.E. Cummings. Who are some of your favorite poets?

Well there’s no way that I can deny being a huge fan of e.e. cummings. Who isn’t?!! Of course, the use of lower case letters, on some level is a nod and curtsy to him. (For years, I slept with one of his books next to my pillow, so how can it not be!) But, I also started writing like that as a way to remove obstacles. I needed to just get myself writing, without excuses, without worrying about how on earth to use a semi colon.

Truthfully, none of that was an intentional, stylistic choice. I wrote my thoughts that way for George, but didn’t realize that someday, they would be published that way. And really, I have to give Erin (Stead) the credit for that. When and then it’s spring was being turned into a book, the use of lower case and the lack of punctuation was definitely questioned. But, she was adamant that they stay true to the spirit of the original text. I NEVER would have had the courage to fight for that. It was my first book and I probably would have done anything they asked me, no questions asked. So, I’m really grateful that Erin spoke up on my behalf.

As for my favorite poets, obviously e.e. cummings and absolutely Ruth Krauss. They were both so completely free… moving from side to side and back and forth and sometimes inside out. Neither of them went directly from A-Z and that’s what I loved and that’s what was missing in my own work.

In retrospect, all of my non writing years weren’t about my job or my kids… I was so tangled up in how and what I thought I should be writing, that I was totally out of touch with the kind of writing that was natural for me. I don’t think George realized how totally brilliant and life changing his “thoughts of the day” really were for me. But, they gave me a free pass to just write- however and whatever I wanted. And most importantly because I loved to (and because he would harass me and send nasty emails if I didn’t).

Please share a few of your reactions to Julie Morstad’s illustrations.

Hmm… well… I definitely cried a little. I’m not really much of a crier, but so far that has been my initial reaction to seeing illustrations for the first time. There’s something so intimate about having someone illustrate something that has only existed inside my own head for so long. I mean, that little girl is perfection and some of the scenes that she brought to life were eerily similar to the ones in my head. The poem where the girl is sitting in the living room… that is MY living room and my fireplace exactly. The placement of the windows… everything. It’s crazy! And none of those details were in the poems. But, in general, her illustrations are beautiful and sweet (without being too sweet) with just the perfect amount of that special Julie Morstad quality that I can’t quite explain, but that I love like crazy.

What are you working on now? Will you be writing more poetry?

Right now, I am finishing up a picture book that I am so super excited about. I guess it would be considered a poem, but it’s a lot more rhythmic and rhymey than everything else I’ve done so far. As for another book of poetry, I would LOVE to write a collection of Y.A. poetry. I’m just working up the courage…

*   *   *


(click to enlarge)

april 27

under a magnolia tree
i ran into a dachshund named paul
he was very much a sausage
with paws
and a nose
poor paul
if only he would look up
for a second
and notice the magnolias
with their pink
and their white
and their gentle flutters
he would soon realize
that it’s not so bad
to be a dog
tied to a tree
in the shade
when it’s springtime
and fluttering


may 6

everywhere is chirping
and now there is purple


may 10

lilac sniffing
is what to do
with a nose
when it is may
and there are lilacs
to be sniffed



(click to enlarge)

july 10

when green becomes tomatoes
there will be sky
and sun
and possibly a cloud or two
when green becomes tomatoes
there will be leaves
and flowers tall and standing straight
and someone splashing, jumping, diving down
when green becomes tomatoes
there will be wings
and something inching, green and small
and a sweetly, tweetly chirping song
when green becomes tomatoes
there will be round
and there will be red
and there will be tomatoes
(more red than green)
(more round than seed)
(more on the vine than way deep down)
when green becomes tomatoes


from FALL

(click to enlarge)

october 31

pumpkin sprout
pumpkin shoot
pumpkin leaf
pumpkin root

pumpkin vine
pumpkin growing
pumpkin wander
pumpkin going

pumpkin orange
pumpkin winding
pumpkin ready
pumpkin finding

pumpkin pick
pumpkin scoop
pumpkin seeds
pumpkin soup

pumpkin carve
pumpkin light
pumpkin glow
pumpkin night

pumpkin droop
pumpkin sink
pumpkin mush
pumpkin shrink

pumpkin toss
pumpkin out
pumpkin someday
pumpkin sprout



(click to enlarge)

january 30

it is the best kind of day
when it is snowing
and the house
sounds like slippers
and sipping
and there is nowhere to go
but the kitchen
for a cookie


february 1

a gust of wind
blew by my nose
i think i will be frozen soon
this living room
(all cozy chairs and fireplace)
has some real explaining to do


written by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Julie Morstad
published by Roaring Brook Press, March 2016
Poetry Collection for ages 6-10, 56 pp.
**starred reviews** from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly



For a chance to win a brand new copy of When Green Becomes Tomatoes, please leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite season is, and why, no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, April 6, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with “TOMATOES” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!


poetry fridayThe beautiful and talented Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the Roundup at The Poem Farm. Take her some magnolia blossoms, tomatoes, pumpkins, and a cookie and check out the full menu of poetic goodies being shared in the blogosphere this week. Happy Spring and Happy Poetry Month!


Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Julie Fogliano, illustrations © 2016 Julie Morstad, published by Roaring Brook Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

6 Comments on [Review + Author Chat + Giveaway] When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad, last added: 4/1/2016
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5. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Brian Rock

I confess that I don’t like too many hot drinks (not even coffee!) But I do enjoy hot chocolate on snowy days. I have five published picture books, one of them is even food themed! I think getting kids excited about reading and creating is about the best job a person could ever have!


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Williams & Sonoma Classic Hot Chocolate. It’s rich, robust and loved by children everywhere (it’s everything I want to be!).

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: Martian Mustache Mischief, illustrated by Joshua Dawson (First Light Publishing, August 2015). 

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: I love the way food is played with in Alice in Wonderland and how it’s used as a metaphor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I love how it’s used to define and motivate Winnie the Pooh. But since I’m a picture book guy, I’m going to go with The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion, 2004). The story is even more delicious than the hot dog!

☕ Visit Brian Rock’s Official Website 

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Watch Brian on The Van Show talking about his book Don’t Play With Your Food, illustrated by John Moerner (First Light Publishing, 2004)!


☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Listen to Brian read The Deductive Detective, illustrated by Sherry Rogers (Sylvan Dell, 2013).


☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ STILL THIRSTY!!!


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

2 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Brian Rock, last added: 3/31/2016
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6. 2016 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup


Did you know that National Poetry Month is “the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives every April”? And 2016 marks the 20th Anniversary of NPM!

Visit poets.org for the full scoop on how you can participate, including 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month, Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 21, 2016), Poem-a-Day, and especially for students and teachers, the Dear Poet Project. Check the state-by-state listings to find poetry-related events near you. And there’s still time to order your free Poetry Month poster (designed by Debbie Millman)!

Now, here’s a list of what some kidlit bloggers are doing. If you’re also celebrating Poetry Month with a special project or blog event, or know of anyone else who is, please email me: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so I can add the information to this Roundup. Thanks!

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🌺  Irene Latham at Live Your Poem has recruited 30 poets for her fifth annual Kidlit Progressive Poem. This is a wonderful community writing project where a poem travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a new line. Laura Purdie Salas will kick things off on April 1 at Writing the World for Kids. Here’s the full schedule of participating bloggers:


1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write


🌸 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem will also continue ARTSPEAK!, the poem-a-day project she started during 2015 in which she responds to images found in the online collection at the National Gallery of Art. This year all the art and poems will be on the theme of “Plant. Grow. Eat.”


🌼  Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect will be spotlighting April holidays and celebrations with her special project:

“Inspired by World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of (written by J. Patrick Lewis) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations: Holiday Poems for the Whole Year in English and Spanish (compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong), this time around I’ve decided to focus on daily, weekly, and monthly celebrations held during the month of April. In addition to information about each celebration, I’ll offer up poems, books of poetry, children’s books, and more.”

Click here for a list of topics to be covered.


🌹 Jone MacCulloch will be sharing student poetry daily at Check It Out. She’s also once again doing her annual Poetry Postcard Project, where Silver Star ES students send out illustrated poetry postcards to anyone requesting them. Sign up HERE if you’d like to receive one. This is a wonderful project — eight years running so far — I always enjoy receiving my postcard each April.


💐 This year, Mary Lee Hahn’s poetry month project is “Bygones” — poems inspired by old personal photographs.

“When Mom and I were sorting through a drawer full of old pictures last December, I was struck by the forgotten faces and the unknown stories that were captured on film. This April, I’ll bring 30 of the photos back to life through poetry.”

Check in daily with Mary Lee at her personal poetry blog, Poetrepository.


🌻 Keep a song in your mind, heart, and step all month long with Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe. She’ll be featuring Poetry-Music Match-Ups! Pairings will include original poems with music that goes with it, poetic song lyrics, poems written AS song lyrics, poems inspired by songs, songs written about poems, and favorite nursery rhymes. These will be Heidi’s own match-ups as well as those submitted by other kidlit poets and bloggers.


💐 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes has a very special month planned at Today’s Little Ditty. She will be hosting the one and only, multi-award winning poet Marilyn Singer and her new book of reverso poetry based on Greek myths, Echo Echo. Festivities will begin on April 1 with a Spotlight Interview and writing challenge. Don’t miss it!


🍄 Look out! The Putrid Poetic Ponderings of Louis J. Pasternak, AKA Dr. Skullstench is coming your way! Laura Purdie Salas will be sharing her chapter book as a serial, one day at a time, at Writing the World for Kids. This story is part prose and part poetry:

It all begins when Louis’ teacher, Miss Sweetmallow, tells the class they are going to write poems. To say Louis is unenthusiastic is an understatement. But then Miss Sweetmallow says the magic words: “You can write them about anything you want.” Louis decides this might not be so bad as he shares his interest in blisters, head cheese, inappropriate hairdos, and more in 25 poems, each one an example of a particular poetic technique or form.

Along the way, Louis (that’s Dr. Skullstench to you) decides writing poetry isn’t so bad, and he tries different platforms to share his work, from the morning TV announcements to the class talent show. But Miss Sweetmallow prefers a more lyrical approach to poetry and tries to sway Louis toward writing beautiful poems. Will she succeed? Will Louis share his gross vision of the world? Will the talent show go off without a poetic hitch? Find out in The Putrid Poetic Pondering of Louis J. Pastenak, AKA Dr. Skullstench.

Laura also has a cleanly formatted PDF of this funny read aloud available for download here, perfect for classroom sharing.


🌺 Don’t miss this year’s Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo) festivities hosted by Angie Karcher. Now in its third year, this month-long writing challenge is especially geared for children’s writers aspiring to write rhyming picture books and to add poetic techniques to their prose. In addition to an awesome roster of guest posts by authors, agents, and editors, Angie has added a Classroom Challenge, where teachers and students try to read as many rhyming picture books as they can during the month of April. This year’s guests include Margarita Engle, Linda Sue Park, Tricia Lawrence, Penny Parker Klostermann, Anika Denise, and Sylvia Vardell. Click here for all the details. Don’t forget, you must register by April 8 to be eligible for daily prizes.


🌸 Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit is hosting a National Poetry Month Blog Tour:

“This year, I’m hoping that I can get some wonderful blogs to participate in the 2016 blog tour for poetry. I would love to get some great new interviews, reviews, poetry readings, innovative poetry activities, and some visual artists interested in sharing some poetic renderings.”

Click through to sign up for the link-up any time during the month of April.


🌺 Get ready to Wallow in Wonder with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm!

“For my 2016 National Poetry Month project, I will celebrate learning and writing from learning, writing poems from each daily Wonder at Wonderopolis. As I did with the Dictionary Hike in 2012, I am looking to surprise myself with a new inspiration daily. This year, such inspiration will show up in my inbox each morning. I will print it and carry each Wonder around all day…and in the afternoon or evening, I will write and post the poem for the next day.”

Amy invites students, teachers, anyone — to play along. Simply leave links to your poems in the comments of her blog anytime during April and she will try to link to and/or share some of them at The Poem Farm!


🌻 Carol Varsalona of Beyond Literacy Link loves April so much, she has several wonderful events planned:

  • Unveiling of my winter gallery, Winter Wanderings (hopefully on April 1st at Poetry Friday to kick off National Poetry Month)
  • Hosting a global conversation, “April is Poetrylicious” at 3NYEDChat (Twitter Educational Chat) on April 11, 2016 at 8 p.m. EST. I am inviting all my poet friends to be part of the moderating crew. I will host the event with Paul W. Hankins as co-moderator and any other poets, writers, bloggers who are willing to participate for one hour. Colleagues and connected educators should be there for a lively conversation.
  • Announcement of my new gallery of artistic expressions, Spring’s Seeds, that will start during National Poetry Month and run through the end of May.


Mary Ann Scheuer at Great Kid Books will be celebrating Poetry Month by featuring some of her favorite poetry books + resources to help parents, teachers, and librarians share poetry with children and inspire them. Check out her top five rules for sharing poetry here.



🌷 🌷 🌷 Here at Alphabet Soup, in addition to our usual Poetry Friday fare, our menu will include some uncommonly talented and good looking hotTEAs of Children’s Poetry. We can’t think of a better way to keep the fires of inspiration lit all month long. This special deliciousness will be served up twice a week, so be ready to raise your mugs in celebration.:)


Finally, don’t forget to check in with April’s Poetry Friday hosts to see what other bloggers are sharing in the kidlitosphere:

poetry friday








1 Amy at The Poem Farm
8 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
15 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
22 Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
29 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog


I’ll continue to update this Roundup throughout April, so do check back! For your convenience, a link to this Roundup can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

Wishing you a thoroughly nourishing, inspiring, productive, interesting, and enlightening Poetry Month!



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on 2016 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup, last added: 3/30/2016
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7. [review + giveaway] The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi and Shahar Kober


My, my.  A story about dim sum and dumplings. What could be more tempting? :)

In the The Ugly Dumpling (Mighty Media Kids, 2016), a new picture book by Stephanie Campisi and Shahar Kober, we are invited to the Golden Swan Restaurant for a “modern fable of friendship, feelings, and being different.”

Once upon a time,
perhaps last week,
or even last night,
at your local dim sum restaurant
there was an UGLY DUMPLING . . .

This ugly dumpling
was ugly
in its
ugly way.

(click to enlarge)

Poor thing! Though the dumpling tried its best to be noticed by wrinkling its brow, standing up tall, or even wearing pleated pants, sadly it remained “uneaten and ignored.” But as fate would have it, along came a cockroach whose heart swelled with love, who wept upon seeing the ugly dumpling. It extended an arm (or a leg) in friendship, promising to show the dumpling “the beauty of the world.”

(click to enlarge)

As the new friends set out on their singular adventure, the dumpling saw the world’s wonders for the first time (towers of plates, mountains of flour, folded napkin “pyramids,” a meandering river of green tea). And then, wonder of all wonders: the dumpling spied another dumpling — then another and another! An entire steamer basket full! But wait — the ugly dumpling then realized it was NOT a dumpling after all, but a STEAMED BUN! Oh, the joy to be just like all the other steamed buns in the world! It puffed with meaning, importance, and yeast!

But alas, the thrill of this revelation proved short-lived. When the other steamed buns noticed the cockroach, they were “horrified” and “appalled.” What should the ugly dumpling do? Align itself with its kin, or stand up for its newfound friend?

(click to enlarge)

Without the slightest bit of hesitation, the ugly dumpling extended an arm (or a leg) to lead the cockroach out into the beautiful world. Maybe the ugly dumpling wasn’t like those other steamed buns after all, and that was a “good thing.” After all, what truly matters is what’s on the inside, being who you truly are and reciprocating an act of kindness.

I love how Campisi and Kober served up Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling with a unique, savory twist. Warmly tucked into those mouthwatering dumpling wrappers and soft buns is the meat of the matter: the importance of loyalty, friendship, embracing differences, developing self-esteem, standing up to peer pressure and bullying, and practicing tolerance.

Campisi’s narrative delivers the tasty goods with a light touch rather than heavy-handed moralizing. Her easy, conversational tone, flavored with quirky humor, makes the story engaging and accessible to young readers. Two good surprises kept the story from being too predictable: when the roach first appears, I thought he loved the ugly dumpling because he wanted to eat it, and I also thought that the ugly dumpling discovering his true identity would end all, but of course, there was more.

Thanks to Kober’s charming, whimsical illustrations, there is instant empathy for the ugly dumpling, who unbeknownst to itself, possesses its own brand of appeal. With just a few simple strokes, Kober is able to imbue the characters with a wide range of emotions, from sadness and dismay, to haughtiness and disapproval, to genuine elation and delight.

(click to enlarge)

The diverse human characters, both restaurant customers and kitchen staff, nicely figure in the storyline without stealing the spotlight from our edible friends. Kober plays with perspective to good effect as he depicts the “hiss” of the wok as illustrated letters rising like steam, the happy diners chatting and chewing (you can almost hear the tapping of chopsticks and clattering of dishes), and those wonderful close-ups of the two main characters, which pull us right into their little drama.

My favorite spread shows the ugly dumpling and cockroach enjoying the beauties of the world, as they tiptoe across a chopstick bridge, slide down the green tea river, and gaze at a fiery wok “sunset” from afar. None of these things would be half as beautiful without a good friend to share it with.

I know young readers will root for these gender-neutral characters from beginning to end, and will be genuinely relieved that they left the restaurant together and did not get eaten. :)

Don’t be surprised if, like me, they ask to visit their favorite dim sum restaurant, or maybe even help a grown-up make some Chinese dumplings using Bonnie Eng’s yummy recipe from Thirsty for Tea. Either way, dumplings and steamed buns will never be the same.

A recent dim sum lunch.

Steamed pork buns are my absolute favorite!

Just for the record, I haven’t met a dumpling or steamed bun I didn’t like. When it comes to dim sum, beauty is in the stomach of the eater. :)

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written by Stephanie Campisi
illustrated by Shahar Kober
published by Mighty Media Kids, 2016
Picture Book for ages 2-8, 32 pp.
Cool Themes: diversity, food, self-esteem, tolerance, friendship, humor, individualism

*Starred Review* from Kirkus
**On shelves April 7, 2016

♥ Click the image below to access the The Ugly Dumpling Blog Tour Schedule with live links:



For a chance to win a brand new copy of The Ugly Dumpling, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Tuesday, April 5, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with DUMPLING in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Stephanie Campisi, illustrations © 2016 Shahar Kober, published by Mighty Media Kids, 2016.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

8 Comments on [review + giveaway] The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi and Shahar Kober, last added: 3/29/2016
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8. beatrix part two: of guinea pigs, nursery rhymes and cupcakes

Today we are honored to welcome a very special guest to Alphabet Soup: the one and only Amiable Guinea-pig!

After reading and reviewing Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake (Schwartz & Wade, 2016), we felt a tasty homage to this dapper little fellow was definitely in order.

Peter Rabbit gets a lot of attention, as does Miss Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Jeremy Fisher, Tom Kitten and Squirrel Nutkin. In fact, they all have their own little books written about them. But not the Amiable one, who was actually the first guinea pig in Miss Potter’s work. She wrote a clever limerick about him that appeared in Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917).

But one limerick does not a book make. Wouldn’t you feel a little slighted? To add insult to injury, initially Miss Potter’s publisher Frederick Warne & Co. wasn’t that keen on the Appley Dapply rhyme collection, which she had hoped to publish following the release of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902.

So the Amiable Guinea-pig, along with his other Appley Dapply friends, were shelved until more than a decade later, when the book was finally published to save Warne from financial ruin. Seems Harold Warne (brother to Beatrix’s late fiancé Norman) was convicted of forgery and sentenced to 6 months of hard labor in a London prison (tsk, tsk).

Since Miss Potter was their greatest creditor and artistic property, she was asked to help. Instead of taking on the intense labor of creating an entirely new book, she suggested they select some of the rhymes from the 1904 Appley Dapply dummy and publish them in a small book format. Luckily, the book sold well. So, yes, the Amiable Guinea-pig helped save the day!

Now, we’re happy to share his limerick, along with several other verses from Appley Dapply and its companion book, Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922). The Amiable Guinea-pig is proud to note that the guinea pigs in the gardening picture are likely his relatives, also owned by Beatrix’s neighbor Miss Paget of the aforementioned Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. Mr. Amiable hopes the guinea pig in that story wasn’t used as a model for him. :)

More of Miss Paget’s guinea pigs (1893)!


~ from Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes:

There once was an amiable guinea-pig,
Who brushed back his hair like a periwig —

He wore a sweet tie,
As blue as the sky —

And his whiskers and buttons
Were very big.


If acorn-cups were tea-cups,
what should we have to drink?
Why! honey-dew for sugar,
in a cuckoo-pint of milk;
With pats of witches’ butter
and a tansey cake, I think,
Laid out upon a toad-stool
on a cloth of cob-web silk!



Appley Dapply, a little
brown mouse,
Goes to the cupboard in some-
body’s house.

In somebody’s cupboard
There’s everything nice,
Cake, cheese, jam, biscuits,
– All charming for mice!

Appley Dapply has little
sharp eyes,
And Appley Dapply is so fond
of pies!


~ from Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes:

Cecily Parsley lived in a pen,
And brewed good ale for gentlemen;

Gentlemen came every day,
Till Cecily Parsley ran away.


We have a little garden,
A garden of our own,
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.

We love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faded leaf
Or blighted blossom there.

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Of course the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers were all thrilled to meet the Amiable Guinea-pig. As it usually happens around this time of year, whiskers begin to twitch and we inevitably crave carrots.

Peter Rabbit suggested we make some carrot cupcakes in honor of our special guest, so we called upon Hoppy Vanderhare, a.k.a., Le Lapin Rotund, to take the lead. Special guests call for special equipment, so Hoppy borrowed Peter’s spatulas, because they magically make any food extra delicious, and she also wore her hand-knitted carrot ear warmers instead of her toque.

The recipe is a family favorite. Years ago, Aunty Ella sent it to me while I was living in London. Whenever I make it, I think about England, which seems quite fitting since we’re all about Beatrix Potter this week.

As with any good recipe, this one can be tweaked according to preference. I do like the addition of crushed pineapple (keeps things very moist), but you could also add golden raisins or shredded coconut for even more texture. If using sweetened coconut, I would use half white sugar and half brown sugar. The cream cheese frosting is pretty standard; I rarely add an entire pound of powdered sugar to the butter/cream cheese mixture. I simply add the sugar gradually, tasting as I go, until I deem it sweet enough.

The only tricky part to making these is preventing any rabbit helpers from eating the carrots while you’re trying to grate them. :)



  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2-1/2 cups grated carrots
  • (1) 8-oz can drained crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • l pound powdered sugar (1 box)
  • 8 tablespoons soft butter (1 stick)
  • 8-oz. cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two muffin/cupcake pans or use paper liners. Set aside.

2. Beat together the sugar, oil, eggs and one teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

4. Add the flour mixture to the eggs/sugar/oil in the large bowl, mixing until the dry ingredients are well incorporated into the batter.

5. Mix together the grated carrots, pineapple and walnuts, then add to the batter, stirring just until blended.

6. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

1. Soften the butter and cream cheese. Sift the powdered sugar.

2. Beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat well.

3. Add the chopped nuts to the frosting mixture or sprinkle over the top of the frosted cupcakes as a garnish.

~ Makes about two dozen cupcakes.

Hoppy even made some mini cupcakes — perfect size for little animals.


The magic spatulas worked! The Amiable Guinea-pig LOVED the carrot cupcakes. He appreciated all the extra attention and felt much better about not having his own book. It was when he and Peter were trading Miss Potter stories that Peter remembered the blackberries. You probably know that after his close call with Mr. McGregor, Peter’s mother put him to bed with chamomile tea, while lucky Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

Well, even though it’s been well over one hundred years, Peter is STILL jealous (and likely, still as naughty). SO, Mr. Cornelius made some of the stuff just to satisfy him. We recommend it whenever you’re craving a simple bowl of comfort — the combination of fresh blackberries, cubes of bread, brown sugar and warm milk speaks of British nurseries, cuddly bunnies, and cozy afternoons.


Ingredients for 3 people:

  • 3 thick slices of white bread
  • brown sugar to taste
  • about 1/2 pint of milk
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of blackberries 

Cut the bread into small squares with a knife and put into three bowls.

Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm the milk but do not let it boil.

Pour the milk over the bread in the bowls, then sprinkle the blackberries over the top.

~ Adapted from Peter Rabbit’s Cookery Book, compiled by Anne Emerson (Warne, 1986).

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With that, we wish you a very HAPPY EASTER!

*whisker twitch*


♥ To read all about Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (you really should), click here. :)

*hippity hop*


“Not only am I amiable — I am uncommonly handsome, wouldn’t you agree?”


♥ Special Treat: Read this cool article, “The very best of Beatrix” by Matthew Dennison from the January 27, 2016 issue of Country Life Magazine. 



We have two lucky winners to announce today — extra reason to twitch our whiskers and do a hippy happy hoppy bunny hop.

Are you ready?


The winner of a brand new copy of






Danzel of Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes!


The winner of a brand new copy of






Bev Morse!!

🎉🎉🎉 Congratulations Danzel and Bev!!! 🎉🎉🎉

Please send your snail mail addresses to receive your books!

Thanks, everyone for reading and commenting!

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Once again, I’m collecting links from any poetry-loving bloggers who are doing special projects for Poetry Month. Please send your info to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and I’ll happily add you to the Roundup. Also, please help spread the word via your social networks or any relevant listservs. The post will go up next week and I’ll continue to update throughout April. Thanks so much!!


poetry fridayHeidi Mordhorst is hosting the Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. Hop on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies being shared in the blogosphere this week. Hope the Easter Bunny brings you lots of tasty treats!


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

6 Comments on beatrix part two: of guinea pigs, nursery rhymes and cupcakes, last added: 3/25/2016
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9. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Duncan Tonatiuh

Duncan Tonatiuh is an award-winning author-illustrator. His work is inspired by the ancient art of Mexico, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to children nowadays. (Pictured here with his 9-month-old daughter Vida.)



☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras (Abrams, 2015) and Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (Abrams, 2014). Forthcoming: The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes (Abrams, October 2016) and Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist, written by Susan Wood (Charlesbridge, September 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem, written by Jorge Argueta (Groundwood Books, 2015).

Visit Duncan Tonatiuh’s Official Website

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out this video where Duncan expresses thanks for the Sibert Medal and Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor he was awarded earlier this year for Funny Bones.


☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Duncan chats with Viviana Hurtado from last summer’s Lunchtime Author Google Hangout. He talks about Funny Bones, how he got his first book contract with Abrams, and shares thoughts about creating diverse books for young readers in today’s publishing climate.


☕☕☕☕ STILL THIRSTY: More Vida cuteness!


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

4 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Duncan Tonatiuh, last added: 3/26/2016
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10. beatrix part one: a review of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig + other guinea pig musings

My Dear Reader,

Since I’m a big Beatrix Potter fan, I was happy to see Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake published in time to celebrate Miss Potter’s 150th birthday this year.

I enjoyed the story immensely, but I must confess it reminded me of my own tragic guinea pig experience (*shudder*). But more on that later.

This charming cautionary tale is about the time young Beatrix, who loved to draw and paint wild as well as tame animals, borrowed a guinea pig from her neighbor to use as a live model. She and her younger brother Bertram had lots of pets in the third floor playroom/science lab/art studio of their London home — pets such as snakes, snails, bats, ducks, rabbits, hedgehogs and salamanders. Though Beatrix loved all these creatures, we are warned early on that “she did not always have the best of luck with them.”

We are given evidence of several animal mishaps via journal entries that note an escaped snake and newts, a family of dead and dried up snails, and even a bat which was dismembered by a jay. And what of the unfortunate guinea pig? Beatrix especially loved painting animals doing “ordinary, everyday things, like reading the newspaper, working in the garden, or taking tea. (And why not?).” And the day came when Beatrix just had to paint a guinea pig and they didn’t have one at 2 Bolton Gardens. Not to worry, though, as quite a few of them apparently lived in Miss Paget’s parlor.

Miss Paget was flattered when Beatrix asked to borrow the “truly magnificent” Queen Elizabeth, an impeccable pedigree with enviable highbrow lineage. She was the daughter of Titwillow the Second, and a descendant of the Sultan of Zanzibar and the Light of Asia. Beatrix promised no harm would come to the distinguished Queen as Miss Paget eagerly handed over the regal rodent.

But alas, Dear Reader, this proved to be an empty promise. Though Queen Elizabeth’s sitting went well for awhile, disaster struck when Beatrix was called away to attend a fancy dinner party and left the squealing sovereign to her own devices. The ravenous royal nobly gorged herself on string, paper and paste, which not surprisingly led to her untimely demise. Yea, Queen Elizabeth had made a real guinea pig of herself. Now what?

Absolutely mortified, poor Beatrix offered one of her paintings as a small token of apology when she returned a “stiff and bloated Queen Elizabeth” to a harrumphing, door slamming Miss Paget. Can you blame her?

Now, Ms. Hopkinson, the author of this book and the twinkle-eyed narrator of this tongue-in-cheek Victorian dramedy, poses a good question to her Dear Readers: if you were Miss Paget, would you have kept the painting as a memento of your dear departed pet, or would you have torn it to shreds in anger?

We all know that Beatrix grew up to be a very famous author and illustrator, one of the most beloved in all of children’s literature. And it just so happens that one of her guinea pig paintings, done the same year as this Queen Elizabeth fiasco, fetched a tidy sum in an auction several years ago. I would say £85,400 isn’t too shabby at all.

You have probably guessed that this story is formatted as a picture letter, reminiscent of the picture letter Miss Potter sent to her governess’ son Noel, that ultimately morphed into The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The cover is also designed to resemble the covers of Miss Potter’s 23 little animal tales, and Miss Hopkinson’s whimsical storytelling voice brings to mind Miss Potter’s, especially her use of understated humor and irony.

But it must be mentioned that this is a work of historical fiction, as the guinea pig incident actually took place not when Miss Potter was a child, but when she was 26 years old, and of course the invented dialogue would rule this out as straight biography. All this is duly noted in the Author’s Note, which includes more background info and photos.

Charlotte Voake’s ink and watercolor illustrations are as charming as the narrative. Her loose, fluid lines and use of white space invite the reader to linger over details and let the imagination roam. Readers will like knowing that Beatrix had such an interesting indoor menagerie, and that she started drawing and painting in earnest at such an early age. They might question the wisdom of keeping wild animals confined indoors. They will likely appreciate Miss Hopkinson’s advice about lending a favorite pet to a friend or acquaintance. Think twice about it, and if you do, be sure to get a picture because you just never know :).

A final Alas of a personal nature, Dear Reader, regarding the responsibility that comes with pet ownership. When I was 9 or 10, I experienced my own guinea pig trauma. After begging my parents, I became the proud owner of two guinea pigs of unknown gender. They weren’t caged, but rather housed in make-shift luxury — a series of cardboard boxes cut and joined together to form rooms and hallways. Just like Beatrix, all was well at the beginning, but after a few weeks — gasp! — irresponsible me forgot to feed and look in on my charges.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered baby guinea pigs one day, a couple of them trampled to death by their parents. Can’t turn your back on them for one minute! I never lived this down. Every time I even so much as mentioned an animal after that, my mother would say, “Remember the guinea pigs?” Lesson learned the hard way.

I think Beatrix’s story will resonate with many young readers. Sometimes the best of intentions fall by the wayside and mistakes are made. There are some reviewers who felt “betrayed” upon learning Beatrix was actually 26 at the time of this incident. They could forgive a child, but not an adult, who should know better. I hesitate to pass judgment, since we’ll never know the exact circumstances. Adults make mistakes too, don’t they?

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig is a fun read for Potter fans of all ages, and I’m happy to add it to my collection. Visiting Hill Top Farm years ago was truly a magical experience; I’ve been mad for anything Potter related ever since. Now I’m looking forward to several more books being released this Summer and Fall (click on each cover for more info):

November 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

September 6, 2016


Till next time, Dear Readers. (Should you receive any fancy dinner party invitations, consider taking your pets with you.) :)

I remain yrs sincerely,

Jama Rattigan

P.S. (More guinea pig stuff)

After reading this book, I was curious to learn more about the guinea pig incident. As stated in the Author’s Note, this story was inspired by entries in a journal Beatrix kept from 1881 to 1897 (age 15-30), where she describes several unfortunate mishaps that befell her pets or other wild animals. She wrote in secret code (her journal was later decoded and transcribed by Potter scholar/collector Leslie Linder in 1958).

(click to enlarge)

I found reference to Queen Elizabeth in Beatrix Potter: A Journal, an interesting scrapbook-like compendium that contains lots of vintage photos, facsimiles of letters, postcards, sketches, paintings and other ephemera with cool lift-the-flap features and pockets (this book is not to be confused with Leslie Linder’s actual transcription of Beatrix’s journal published in 1966). A journal entry dated Sunday, February 5, 1893, mentions Miss Paget (this is actually somewhat abridged):

Went to our neighbors, the Pagets, somewhat guilty. Miss Paget has an infinite number of guinea-pigs. First I borrowed and drew Mr. Chopps. I returned him safely. Then in an evil hour I borrowed a very particular guinea-pig with a long white ruff, known as Queen Elizabeth. This wretched pig took to eating blotting paper, pasteboard, string and other curious substances, and expired in the night. But Miss Paget proved peaceable. I gave her the drawing.

So perhaps Miss Paget wasn’t quite so angry after all.

The Amiable Guinea-pig

Curious about what the £85,400 painting looked like? Apparently it was a sequence of five vignettes associated with the “Amiable Guinea-pig.” Three of these were later redone for inclusion in Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917). We cannot know for certain whether Queen Elizabeth or even Mr. Chopps was the model for the Amiable Guinea-pig, only that this fine fellow was the first guinea pig to appear in Potter’s work — and he does have a long white ruff. :)

Guinea pigs are not prominently featured again in Potter’s stories until the publication of The Fairy Caravan in 1929, a book for older readers where a young guinea pig named Tuppenny runs away to join the circus. It was first published by David McKay in Philadelphia; Potter felt the story was too “personal and autobiographical” for her to comfortably allow publication in England. However, not wishing to relinquish copyright ownership in England, she later took 100 sets of sheets from the U.S. edition and had a local printer run off 100 copies of an altered first signature + a further leaf + a new dedication and had it plainly bound.

Miss Potter actually wrote “The Tale of Tuppenny” in 1903, but it was not published as a stand-alone book until the mid 80’s with Marie Angel’s illustrations (Beatrix had rewritten the tale as the first chapter for The Fairy Caravan). It seems things were always a little tricky when it came to guinea pigs.

Beatrix Potter: A Journal also contains a facsimile of a letter Beatrix received from her brother about a bat he’d left in her care when he was away at school. It sounds like the bat became ill and in the letter Bertram tells Beatrix to kill and stuff it (she was a teenager at the time).

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)



Look who’s here!

Hello, Amiable Guinea-pig!

I can see we need to write another post about our special visitor. Drop by on Friday for Potter nursery rhymes and some Easter-ish guinea pig fun in Beatrix, Part Two.

*   *   * 

written by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Charlotte Voake
published by Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House, February 2016
Historical Fiction Picture Book for ages 4-8, 44 pp.
*Includes Author’s Note and links for further study
**Starred Review** from Kirkus

♥ Read an interview with author Deborah Hopkinson at Cynsations

Click here for Deborah Hopkinson’s Beatrix Blog Tour


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on beatrix part one: a review of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig + other guinea pig musings, last added: 3/22/2016
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11. hotTEAS of Children’s Literature: Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than thirty children’s books, as well as The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Her books have been included in the “best of the year” lists of The New York Times, Parenting and Child magazines, the New York Public Library and more. She lives with her husband, son and two dogs in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I have straight up black coffee first thing in the morning. Then, around 11:30, I have a soy latte with some sort of treat (for the record, a pecan scone today). My sister Liz gave me this mug as a reminder of growing up in New Jersey, and my very first job—waitressing at Dunkin’ Donuts.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Rock-a-Bye Romp, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, January 2016); Henry Wants More!, illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes (Penguin Random House, January 2016); All We Know, illustrated by Jane Dyer (HarperCollins, March 2016). Forthcoming: Hey, Coach!, illustrated by Kim Smith (Sterling, Fall 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOKS: We must have read Seven Silly Eaters a zillion times when my son was small. We also loved Susan Meddaugh’s hilarious Martha books (the magical power of alphabet soup!). Oh, and Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly is really funny too.

 Visit Linda Ashman’s Official Website. She also blogs monthly at PictureBookBuilders.com. Learn more about Henry Wants More! in Linda’s Chat with illustrator Brooke Boynton Hughes, and about Rock-a-Bye Romp in Linda’s Chat with illustrator Simona Mulazzani.

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out this great Welcome to My Studio feature at All the Wonders — you can see the different places where Linda likes to work in her lovely home.

☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: If you’re an aspiring or even a seasoned picture book writer, Linda’s Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books is a must read:

The Nuts and Bolts Guide is designed to work like a 9-week class. Each chapter includes detailed instruction on essential topics—things like building a story, experimenting with voice, creating memorable characters, writing rollicking read-alouds and pitch-perfect verse, playing with humor, and submitting your work—plus a reading list, interviews, tips, resources, and exercises to stimulate new ideas and apply to works-in-progress.

Click here for a free preview and to order your copy (available as a PDF or eBook for Kindle).


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on hotTEAS of Children’s Literature: Linda Ashman, last added: 3/17/2016
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12. nine cool things on a tuesday


1. It’s always nice to see new prints in Katie Daisy’s Wheatfield Shop — bright colors are just what we need to get us in the mood for Spring. Of course I have a weakness for hand lettered alphabets and I couldn’t resist the reminder to “Be Kind to Others.” These inkjet prints of her original watercolor and acrylic paintings come in three sizes. Lots more to choose from!




2. New Book Alert! Look what’s coming out next Tuesday, March 22Let’s Go to the Hardware Store by Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai (Henry Holt, 2016)! This is the same team who created the wonderful picture book Truck Stop (Viking Books, 2013), about a family who runs a diner and gets ready to serve a nice hot breakfast to all their regular customers (blueberry muffins! pancakes! bacon and eggs!).


This time, a family who’s just moved into a new house needs to do some fix-ups, so they visit the hardware store to get some tools and supplies:

When the new house needs fixing up, it’s off to the hardware store to find the tools and materials needed to get the job done―a hammer, a screwdriver, a shiny tape measure, and even a stepladder.

This family outing explores a familiar errand that fascinates plenty of young children: the hardware store. Anne Rockwell’s perfectly pitched story and Melissa Iwai’s child-friendly illustrations make this book ideal for the preschool audience.



Anne Rockwell is a household name to picture book lovers; it’s such a treat whenever she publishes a new book. And of course Melissa Iwai won me over big time when she published Soup Day (Henry Holt, 2010). :) Love her cheery palette and engaging details (such a fun way to introduce kids to some basic tools). Her pictures make me miss the small neighborhood mom and pop hardware stores. Everything’s a big superstore these days. Click here to read Melissa’s post about doing the illos for the book.


3. The 50-something resident Paddingtons were ecstatic to hear that the Paddington Movie was the UK’s biggest grossing film of 2014 — pulling in a whopping £179 million! A sequel featuring the same cast is in the works even as we speak. Hooray!!


And some more nice news for author Michael Bond (who turned 90 in January) — he’s been asked to write a special birthday tribute for the Queen’s 90th birthday service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in June. You may remember that he’s already been awarded an OBE and a CBE for distinguished service to children’s literature. His task: 500 words on the Queen’s life and interests (she likes marmalade and chocolate biscuit cake!). Having served in the Royal Air Force and the British Army during WWII, Mr. Bond will likely mention the Queen’s longstanding involvement with the Armed Forces.


(click for Mr. Bond’s 90th Birthday post)

Just like the Queen, Paddington celebrates his birthday twice a year — on June 25 and December 25, which in turn inspired me to celebrate quarterly birthdays: March 21, June 18 (like Paul McCartney), September 2 (also our wedding anniversary), and November 20 (my actual birthday).  I highly recommend this practice as you get more presents and there are 4 days in the year when people have to be nice to you instead of just one. Best of all, with each quarterly birthday, you get one year younger! :D


4. Exciting news for Julie Paschkis fans! She’s just designed her first scarf for Dragon Threads and it’s called “Summer Birds.” This beautiful limited edition accessory is now available for pre-order at Julie Paprika for delivery at the end of March. The 20″ x 70″ scarf is 100% silk with a hand rolled hem. Nice Spring gift for that special someone, or as a treat for yourself! Click here to read Julie’s post about how she created the design and to see a pic of someone modeling the scarf in real life. :)




5. If this year’s presidential race is wearing you down and making you totally crazy, you need . . . no, you MUST read President Squid by Aaron Reynolds and Sara Varon (Chronicle Books, 2016)! 

President Squid Cover

President Squid hilariously explores the ideal qualities of a President. Squid knows he’s perfect for the job because he lives in a big house, does all the talking, bosses people around and wears a tie. That’s all there is to it, right? :)

Hmmm, sound familiar? Publishers Weekly calls the book an “antic extravaganza,” noting that “savvy readers will not miss the startling similarity between the megalomaniacal squid and a certain presidential candidate.”

Seriously, this book made me laugh out loud. That’s really saying something because I’m a grump through and through and it takes a LOT to make me laugh all the way through a book. But this one was hysterical. I can see it sparking great classroom discussions, and it will provide some much needed comic relief for disheartened, cynical grouchy grown-ups (could that be you?). Click here to listen to Matthew Winner’s fun Let’s Get Busy Podcast interview with Aaron and Sara at All the Wonders.


6. Have I mentioned Missouri artist Catherine Holman before? I think I featured her charming personalized storefront paintings awhile back. She’s recently added a number of lovely dessert prints to her collection. They have the same warm and cozy feeling of days gone by. She enjoys celebrating simpler times and advocates slowing down and taking time to be with family and friends. I’m on board with that.





Prints of her original acrylic paintings are available in two sizes and come signed and dated. Zero calorie sweetness!


7. Speaking of sweet treats, have you heard about these wonderful soda fountain stamps? The USPS is supposed to start selling them sometime during July (National Ice Cream Month). These charming Forever stamps may inspire me to write more snail mail letters. They feature 5 illustrations by NY artist Nancy Stahl: hot fudge sundae, egg cream, root beer float, double-scoop ice cream cone and banana split. Want!





8. Attention, Attention! New Maira book alert! Also out on March 22 is The Lucky, Plucky Chairs (Vitra Design Museum) written by Rolf Fehlbaum and illustrated by the one and only Maira Kalman:


When a set of eight classic old No. 14 Thonet chairs are threatened with certain doom, their ingenuity saves the day. Together they discover a way to escape, and encounter a world of the most wonderful and imaginative chairs from around the globe. The Thonets discover, too, that they have a talent for the stage. This charming tale by Rolf Fehlbaum, with delightful illustrations by Maira Kalman, is accompanied by a brief and informative glossary of 22 of the most innovative chairs created in 150 years. Rolf Fehlbaum (born 1941), a critical figure of design entrepreneurship, led the Swiss furniture company Vitra from 1977 to 2013. In the early 1980s he began to assemble a collection of modern furniture, which led to the foundation in 1989 of the Vitra Design Museum.



As you probably know, I automatically purchase all new books with Maira’s name on it. I enjoyed her other art/design books featuring vintage photographs from MoMa and favorite items from the Cooper-Hewitt, and am looking forward to this one. Chairs? Why not? I always learn so much and enjoy enhancing my appreciation for interesting objects that have a practical function. Please take a seat!


9. Finally, it’s time to shrink into teeny tiny versions of ourselves. Have you been watching any of the miniature food/tiny kitchen cooking videos from Japan? There are several different channels/content producers on YouTube but the concept is similar: using miniature stoves, cooking utensils and ingredients, these clever chefs create edible meals for very small people in just a few minutes. They’ll do Japanese dishes such as sukiyaki, tempura and sushi, and also things like cheeseburgers, puddings and cakes.

These videos contain no narration whatsoever and are positively addicting — there’s something very relaxing about watching someone slice tiny pieces of potato or carrot with a tiny knife, slowly sauté everything and then make a gravy for it, something fascinating about watching someone cook a teensy pot of rice that couldn’t contain more than thirty or so grains. Everything neat, precise and efficient; quiet except for the sound of slicing veggies or oil sizzling in the pan.

Naturally Mr. Cornelius is wild about the whole thing because those meals are the perfect size for him!

Here are a couple favorites, one for a Japanese child’s lunch, and the other for quail egg pudding that’s fed to an adorable pup:



Well, that’s one way to cut back on calories! Think I need to visit Japan and shop for some of those cute furnishings and kitchen supplies!

Happy Tuesday!! Be Kind!


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on nine cool things on a tuesday, last added: 3/15/2016
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13. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Matthew Winner

Matthew Winner is a blogger, a podcaster, a teacher librarian, and a daddy, among other super strengths. He’s the co-founder of All The Wonders, the host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, and a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Earl Grey tea with honey. I drink a cup of tea each morning to calm my mind and start my day with a bit of sweetness.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: (Co-author with Meghan Hearn) Teach Math with the Wii: Engage Your K-7 Students Through Gaming Technology (International Society for Technology in Education, 2013).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Eric Wight (FSG, 2015). 

☕ Visit Matthew online at All The Wonders.com or say hi at @MatthewWinner.

☕ ☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out Matthew’s Let’s Get Busy Podcasts at All The Wonders — recent guests include Fred Koehler, Madelyn Rosenberg, Philip C. Stead, and Charise Harper and Anna Raff.

☕ ☕ ☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Bonus Pic: Matthew and his Squishy



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Matthew Winner, last added: 3/14/2016
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14. [Author Chat + Recipe + Giveaway] April Halprin Wayland on More Than Enough: A Passover Story

Congratulations on your new book, April!

Since my favorite picture books blend food with family, friends and cultural tradition, I was especially happy to hear that award winning author, poet, and Teaching Authors Poetry Friday friend April Halprin Wayland had written a brand new story that does just that, and it’s coming out next Tuesday, March 15!

Charmingly illustrated by Katie Kath, More Than Enough: A Passover Story (Dial BYR, 2016)is a joyous and heartwarming celebration of the holiday as well as a lyrical paean to the practice of gratitude.

We follow a family as they embrace the spirit of Dayenu (a traditional seder song of thankfulness), while happily anticipating and enjoying their Passover feast. The two children revel in each activity leading up to and at the event: shopping at the farmers’ market (adopting a kitten!), tasting raindrops, chopping apples and walnuts to make charoset, putting on special clothes, and splashing in mud puddles as they walk to Nana’s house.

Once there, they join their relatives for the ceremonial meal with the seder plate of symbolic foods, ask the four questions, and sing a lively rendition of “Dayenu” (which means “it would have been enough”), to thank God for his many gifts to the Jewish people (leading them out of slavery, parting the Red Sea, giving of the Torah). Then it’s time for delicious matzoh balls, chicken, and jellied fruit slices before searching for the hidden afikomen (matzoh piece), and opening the door for the prophet Elijah while singing “Chad Gadya.” A Passover sleepover tops off the evening, as Nana wraps them in blankets, kisses their foreheads, and sings to them while rain gently taps on the window.

More Than Enough, told in spare melodic prose with the word “dayenu” recurring as a refrain throughout, is a lovely reminder to be wholly present and open to the blessings offered to us each moment of every day. Any one of this family’s experiences would have been more than enough to be thankful for; their joy at being blessed with so many gifts will inspire readers to take the time to slow down, heighten awareness, and express gratitude for things often taken for granted.

Katie Kath’s inviting and cozy watercolors brim with warmth and good feelings, while the universal themes of family, community, togetherness, and love of faith and tradition shine through. I enjoyed learning more about Passover rituals from this story and asked April how she and her family celebrate the holiday. I thank her for dropping by and for sharing a recipe for charoset (a sweet fruit and nut mixture traditionally eaten at the Passover seder). Special thanks to April’s sister Lyra for digging up photos of past seders with friends just for this post. Enjoy!

*   *   *


Was Passover your favorite holiday when you were growing up?

Yes, Passover ranked right up there with Halloween, July 4th, Thanksgiving and Hannukah. I loved the ritual, the songs, the retelling of our ancient story of our freedom from bondage. I loved my extended family around a big table, the yummy specific-to-Passover foods, and everyone singing.

How did you participate in the preparations for this special celebration?

Mostly I walked in the door, I was bear-hugged by Uncle Raphael, Uncle Moish, Uncle Chuckie, Uncle Izzy, my cheeks were pinched and I was covered in lipstick kisses from Aunt Cissie, Aunt Polly, Aunt Fanny, Aunt Sue, Aunt Francis; I was seduced by tantalizing smells from Aunt Sylvia’s kitchen, and when we were called to the long table, I took my seat. Then the Seder (which simply means ceremonial meal) began.

Matzoh Ball Soup!

What is your earliest memory of singing “Dayenu”?

Probably as a five or six-year old in a fantastic non-religious Saturday school in which we learned our culture, songs and rituals. I loved going there. Lots of crafts, lots of songs, lots of community, lots of good food. What’s not to like?

(click to enlarge)

Could you please tell us a bit more about the symbolic foods on the Seder plate?

First, you need to know that there are many ways to spell and interpret nearly everything in Judaism. They say, “Two Jews, three opinions”–it’s true!

I continually asked three experts in Judaica (one of whom lives in Israel) about spellings, symbolism, history, etc. In many cases there was no one correct answer, which drove me under the table with a napkin over my head!

I’ll tell you about one item on the Seder plate, Maror, which means bitter herb. This is often represented on the plate with horseradish—which looks like a white carrot. You can imagine the tricks we played on unsuspecting visitors who thought it was a kind of carrot–yowzah! Maror represents the bitterness of slavery. But we are also encouraged to look at ways we are still enslaved by addictions or habits.

You can read a clear explanation of each item on the Seder plate here.

What is your family’s favorite Seder dish?

Charoset—hands down. Either plain or spooned onto matzoh. The father, mother, brother and sister in my book make it together. Yum, yum, yum!

(click to enlarge)

Are there any special activities or rituals that are exclusive to your family?

My family goes with the flow!

The Haggadah is a little book every Seder uses which includes the order of the ritual meal, the story of Passover, poetry and songs. What’s wonderful is that synagogues and homes around the world create their own Haggadahs in which they add songs, poems and personal commentary on our history…and our responsibilities to heal the world today.

My family sometimes attends a beautiful, organic, farmers market-supplied Seder hosted by friends who have created a poetic and socially active Haggadah.

Lyra’s friends’ seder in Esparta, California.

Another bowl of soup!

Is there a particular Passover celebration (either from your childhood or adulthood) that stands out in your memory?

One favorite Passover was when I was a visiting author in England, where we were invited to the home of a PTA mom who put on an elaborate puppet show enacting the Passover story with her kids.

Another favorite was when I was speaking in Germany. My son and I gathered the symbolic foods (or close surrogates) and carefully arranged them on a towel in our hotel room in Berlin.

“Found it!” – the hidden afikomen :)

What was your reaction when you first saw Katie Kath’s illustrations?

Oh, my–how beautiful her palette is; how her illustrations glow!

Which picture is your favorite and why?

I LOVE the farmer’s market scene.

And there’s something about Katie Kath’s spot illustration of the little girl looking in the mirror as she dresses for dinner…her narrow, bare back moves me.

I love when the boy opens the door for the prophet Elijah—that brings back memories of opening the door in my own grandmother’s kitchen.

And I love the back of the book jacket, showing the family watch the girl’s kite rise in the sky.

There’s so much to love!

 Why did you include the part about rescuing the kitten in your story?

There’s a long, long story about how this book came to be…so much changed from the first draft over many years! But when my wonderful editor, Jessica Garrison, asked me to delete the kitten, I balked. One of my friends suggested that the kitten had an important part to play in the story of Passover. After all, she said, wasn’t the family in the book freeing the kitten from its animal shelter cage, just as Jews were freed from slavery? Yes, yes, of course! And so the kitten stayed in the story.

Ms. Snot!

Please tell us about your cat and how you acquired her.

The week before my son began middle school, we found the perfect cat in a shelter. We were told to return in a week, after he was neutered. When I went back for him, there had been a mix-up; our kitten had been adopted to someone else! So when school got out on the first day of 6th grade, he and I drove to a vet who rescued cats. There was one tortoiseshell kitten left from a litter: the runt. We adopted her. My husband isn’t a fan of cats, so, in an effort to start them bonding, we let him name her. Which is why her name is…Snot.

My son will be 27 in two months, and affectionate Snot, with the world’s loudest purr, is still as small as a kitten, with a squeaky voice and lots of energy.

What do you hope young readers will take away from your story?

I sooo hope they grasp the idea of being aware of the moment.

Being grateful for what you have at this moment is part of religions and philosophies the world over. It’s a big idea for little kids. For me, too!

I have a lovely, quiet alarm on my phone which goes off at 2:50pm every day. No one else can hear it; it’s my reminder to take a breath, to be aware of my feet on the ground, my body in this place. To be aware of how lucky I am to be here.

April’s family!

What blessings are you thankful for at this very moment?

I am thankful for you, Jama. For the stunning and imaginative work on your blog.

I am thankful that my boy and my husband are healthy.

I am thankful that I have a licky, happy, goofball dog (Eli) and a wonderful purry pillow-mate, Snot.

I am thankful that my friends play music with me.

I am thankful that I have a seat in this most generous field of kidlit.



Charoset is a mixture, often made of apples or dates, nuts, cinnamon, honey, and wine or grape juice, symbolizing the mortar Jewish slaves used when they built structures for the Egyptians.

Here’s one recipe—every region has its own:

  • 1 pound (about 3 large) apples, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (2 to 4 ounces) chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
  • About 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • About 1/4 cup sweet red wine

Chop together the apples, nuts, honey, and cinnamon.
Stir in enough wine to make a paste. Spoon onto matzoh; enjoy!


Jama’s Note: I made charoset for the first time and loved it! As you can see, it calls for just a few ingredients and is a breeze to make if you toss everything into a food processor. Such a nice fresh flavor and you can substitute grape juice for the wine if you like. Some of you may remember that I’ve been hoping to be adopted by a Jewish grandmother. So far I’ve made latkes and charoset — I’m well on my way, don’t you think? :)

Passover 2016 is Friday, April 22 – Saturday, April 30.

*   *   *

MORE THAN ENOUGH: A Passover Story
written by April Halprin Wayland
illustrated by Katie Kath
published by Dial Books for Young Readers, March 2016
Picture Book for ages 3-5, 40 pp.
*Includes detailed Glossary, Author’s Notes, and Music & Lyrics for “Dayenu”
**On shelves March 15, 2016

Click here to attend April’s Online SCBWI Launch Party for More Than Enough (enter to win a signed copy of the book by April 19).

♥ Check in with Teaching Authors today and next week for more posts about this book!

♥ Lucky peeps who live near Manhattan Beach, CA — April’s Book Launch and Pre-School Story Time will be held at pages: A Bookstore on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at 11. am. (please RSVP)! If you can’t attend, you may order an autographed book by calling the bookstore: 310-318-0900, or by sending an email to: info (at) pagesabookstore (dot) com.



For a chance to win a brand new copy of More Than Enough, please leave a comment at this post telling us what you are thankful for at this very moment no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, March 16, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with “PASSOVER” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!


Listen to a few bars of “Dayenu” in this adorable book trailer:



Doodle-ee-doo, so many funny words submitted as your favorites last week —

Words like nincompoop, serendipity, addlepated, discombobulate, gobbledygook, and a new personal favorite, “Jama-balaya” :)!

Alas and alack, there can only be one winner, and it is

*drum roll please*



tip top






🎈🎈🎈 IZA TRAPANI! 🎈🎈🎈


(Iza offered “bamboozle” as her favorite word.)

Iza, please send along your snail mail address so we can dutifully dispatch this bellicose boffo belligerent bonkers batty book!

Thanks for playing, everyone!!


poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Irene Latham is hosting the Roundup at Live Your Poem. Dance over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 April Halprin Wayland, illustrations © 2016 Katie Kath, published by Dial BYR, 2016. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

6 Comments on [Author Chat + Recipe + Giveaway] April Halprin Wayland on More Than Enough: A Passover Story, last added: 3/11/2016
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15. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Philip Nel

I write books about children’s books. I also teach, read, edit, grade, and occasionally sleep.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I like a cup of tea because it caffeinates me, but not as much as coffee does. (I also like coffee, but it tends to amplify my manic tendencies to the point of distraction.)

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2012); Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, Volume One: 1942-1943 (co-editor with Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics Books, 2013); Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, Volume Two: 1944-1945 (co-editor with Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics Books, 2014). Forthcoming: Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and Why We Need Diverse Books (Oxford University Press, tentative pub date, late 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK:  Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins (Chronicle Books, June 2015).

☕ Visit Phil Nel’s Kansas State University Homepage and his blog Nine Kinds of Pie. Phil also contributes to The Niblings Facebook Page. :)

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out The Crockett Johnson Homepage!

☕☕ ☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Enjoy Phil’s recent post, “Seuss on Film.”  Interesting to see clips from the 1940’s, 1958, and 1964. The first, “Unusual Occupations,” is the earliest known film footage of Dr. Seuss. :)



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

6 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Philip Nel, last added: 3/10/2016
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16. [review + giveaway!] taking a peek at The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson

If you want to get your kids to eat their veggies, ask them to feast their eyes on Erin Gleeson’s gorgeous photos of Carrot “Noodle” Salad, Kale and Black Bean Tacos, Bay Potatoes, and Pesto Pepper Pizza.

They’ll marvel at the stunningly showcased variety of colors, shapes and textures, then ask to see more. Grazing through the sweets, they’ll drool at the divine close-ups of Fried Banana Split, Plum Tartlets, and Melon “Cake.” You’ll likely hear cries of “I’m hungry!”, “I want some!” and maybe even,”What’s edamame?”

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

A quick glance at the illustrated recipes and they’ll be anxious to make some of the dishes themselves. And yes, before you know it, they’ll be happily eating their fruits and their veggies, eminently proud of their newfound skills. :)

It’s absolutely true that we first eat with our eyes, and Erin Gleeson has served up an exquisite visual banquet in her new cookbook, The Forest Feast for Kids (Abrams, 2016)which features vegetarian recipes inspired by fresh local produce and the beautiful natural setting of her cabin in the woods near San Francisco.

Erin with her son Ezra.

She’s made it easy for anyone to make the recipes, since there are crystal clear step-by-step instructions and color photos of every ingredient in addition to full page color photographs of all 40 finished dishes. Thanks to this highly approachable diagram layout, you know exactly what you’re working with and how the finished product is supposed to look — no guess work. Best of all, most of these recipes require less than 5 ingredients, simple enough to whip up in no time at all during the week, yet special enough to serve to company.

Just as in her first New York Times bestselling book, The Forest Feast (Abrams, 2014), you’ll find Erin’s lovely watercolors and hand lettering sprinkled throughout, making this a unique art book as well as cookbook. She’s included about 20 new recipes in The Forest Feast for Kids alongside a number of kid-friendly repeat recipes from the first book. The book opens with a nice intro and illustrated charts featuring kitchen tools, cutting techniques, measurements, and a glossary of culinary terms. Recipe categories include Snacks, Drinks, Salads, Meals, Sweets, and Parties. :)

Erin wants to encourage kids to “eat the rainbow,” and she invites them to do so with color-themed dishes such as Red Salad (radishes, red onion, dried cherries, cherry tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, red apple). So pretty and fun! It’s on the Color Party menu along with Blueberry Sparkler, Yellow Caprese Bites, Asparagus Pastry Straws and Sweet Potato Pizza.

(click to enlarge)

Other fun party ideas include a Grilled Cheese Party, a Fruity Ice Cream Sandwich Bar, and a Picnic Party. There are lots of photos showing kids preparing and eating the different foods. Of course just by paging through the book one gets loads of ideas about food presentation and table decoration, and the cool scenic backdrop makes you want to join everyone on the deck to breathe that fresh air — I’ll have my grilled cheese with potato bread, two slices of cheddar and tomato, please. Oh, you’d rather go on a picnic? Make it a Strawberry Wrap and some Peanut Butter Coconut Balls!

(click to enlarge)

What a nice way to get kids excited about and involved in hands-on prep of healthy natural foods! Treat yourselves to a complete vegetarian meal or serve any of the salads as a great side to your favorite meat dish. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all about fresh ingredients, a little imagination, and a hearty appetite. Now, would you like to try one of these Greek Parfaits? :)


THE FOREST FEAST FOR KIDS: Colorful Vegetarian Recipes That Are Simple to Make
written, illustrated and photographed by Erin Gleeson
published by Abrams BYR, February 2016

Art Cookbook for ages 8-12, 112 pp.

♥ Check out this wonderful review at Librarian’s Quest

♥ More recipes and info at The Forest Feast blog

♥ Meet Erin in the trailer she made for the original Forest Feast book. Her third book, focusing on gatherings, will be released this Fall.



For a chance to win a brand new copy of The Forest Feast for Kids, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Tuesday, March 15, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with FOREST in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher. Text, illustrations, and photographs copyright © 2016 Erin Gleeson, published by Abrams Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on [review + giveaway!] taking a peek at The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson, last added: 3/8/2016
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17. [review + giveaway] Alpha Beta Chowder by Jeanne Steig and William Steig

#52 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


A chowder is a robust goop
That’s more akin to stew than soup.
It can be brackish or divine.
Sit down and take a taste of mine.

So begins Alpha Beta Chowder, a wry, witty, and deliciously wicked ABC poetry book by husband and wife team Jeanne Steig and William Steig. This classic 26-verse feast of wacky wordplay was originally published by HarperCollins in 1992 and reissued by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books last month.

I admit this title has been on my radar for years but I only recently had the chance to read it. Of course I’m a longtime William Steig fan — I still sigh and swoon over Brave Irene and Dr. DeSoto, especially  — but I wasn’t familiar with Jeanne Steig’s work, and boy, have I been missing out!

Nasty numbskull Naomi and her nitwit Ma and Pa (click to enlarge).

Goodbye, boring “A is for Apple” and “Z is for Zoo” — Jeanne’s cheeky alliterative rhyming poems feature a motley crew of odd and quirky mock heroes, many you’d rather read about than meet in person. God forbid you get stuck in a room with Noisome Naomi, a nervy newtish nightmare whose “voice is like a needle,” or come within hearing distance of Coaxing Carrotina and her blister inducing shrill cadenzas on the concertina. *covers ears* 

Beware the harpy and hag unless you crave the heebie-jeebies, and avoid Ken the killer kangaroo lest you get a swift kick, but if you need a wardrobe makeover you might call on Dizzy Daphne, who’ll be “dreamily draped in damask” and showing off her “devastating dimples.” Just ignore her friend Dora, who tends toward the drab, dim, droopy, dull and dismal.

I’m guessing Ms. Steig probably ate alphabet soup for lunch every day while writing these poems because of the veritable banquet of chewy, chunky, crispy words she used. She celebrates each letter of the alphabet with such delightful strings of fun and frisky ones – pure joy to read aloud. Words like “axolotl,” “absquatulate,” “irascibility,” and “katzenjammer” will send kids to the dictionary (a good thing!) and challenge their enunciation skills with an exhilarating workout. Since most of the word definitions can be derived from the poems’ contexts, there’s no break in the action.

Near-death by piano lessons.

Mr. Steig’s illustrations extend the offbeat humor and silliness of the poems, completing the mini narratives with deftly drawn visual contexts, proving that when it comes to tickling our aberrant funny bones, he and Ms. Steig were definitely on the same page. Oh, those longish noses, sly eyes, pointy shoes, comical cats and craggy teeth! His loose and expressive pen and ink drawings brilliantly capture both melodrama and absurdity with such fiendish aplomb.

Don’t tell anyone, but I can see myself as Penelope in “A Pianist Plummets,” feigning death rather than practice my scales, and I’d really like to be on that beach surrounded by sixty tons of cheese, nibbling myself silly before the skipper and stowaway in “Shipwrecked Sailors Salvage Stilton” wake up. :)

Here are three delectable foodie poems (what else?) from the collection. Mr. Cornelius was especially pleased to see a bear featured, albeit a belligerent one, and now he wants a taste of barnacle tea. I doubt I’d invite Gruesome Gilbert over for a meal, who’d probably generate a good measure of guttural gags and guffaws (luckily he seems to have at least one doe-eyed admirer). Obadiah, on the other hand, might score an invite (we are ever-so-careful with our crawfish here). Put on your bent bibs and dig in!



A bear and a brigand were bickering bitterly
Under the shade of a baobab tree.
“The best thing by far,” bawled the brigand, “is baklava.
“Bosh!” boomed the bear. “It can’t possibly be.

“Why, there’s bric-a-brac, ipecac, blubber, and broccoli,
Bamboo, banana oil, beetles, and brine.”
“You bandy-legged brute,” brayed the brigand, “you blatherskite!
Baklava beats them all any old time.”

Oh, what a brouhaha: “Baklava!” “Balderdash!”
“Bah!” barked the bear. “We shall never agree.”
“Let us pause,” breathed the brigand, “and banish this blabber with
Hot buttered bat bread and barnacle tea.”



Gilbert’s such a greedy glutton
When he gnaws a leg of mutton
All his garments are so greasy
They would make a gibbon queasy,
And his teeth are green and gooey,
Oh, so gorgeously mildewy!

Gilbert smells like old galoshes
(Grandma swears he never washes).
Gilbert’s generally vastly,
Grandly, gallopingly ghastly.
No, he isn’t worth one filbert,
But I’m gaga over Gilbert.



Obadiah, feeling offish,
Said, “It must have been those crawfish.
Oftentimes an old crustacean
Causes inner consternation.
It’ll kill you, if you let it.
I ought never to have et it.
All the same,” groaned Obadiah,
“I enjoyed that jambalaya.”



Chewing on this book was a blast but all that laughing left me famished. Could one read a book with “Chowder” in the title and not crave a warm bowl of the stuff? I think not.

After reading about poor Obadiah, Mr. C and I opted for a zero seafood Slow Cooker Potato and Corn Chowder from Damned Delicious. Easy peasy is always a requirement since we’d much rather spend our time stalking Colin Firth reading intellectually stimulating, socially redeeming books than slaving over a hot stove.

This recipe was as simple as tossing everything into the crackpot crockpot — sliced red potatoes, frozen corn, chicken stock, thyme, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder — then letting it cook for 4 hours. We stirred in butter and heavy cream right before serving. It was tasty and satisfying, but I was a little surprised to find mischievous letters had somehow slipped into my bowl. Hmmmm, wonder how that happened? Now I can’t keep my chowder from laughing. :D


Oh, I can’t stand it. Just one more quazy poem for dessert. One of the true tests of a good alphabet book is how the tricky letters “Q”, “X” and “Z” are handled. I love this “Q” poem — quite a coup! (Quick, read it fast 3 times in a row while eating an ice queam cone.) :D


Quick-witted Quentin rode out on a quest
With a quill in his hat and a quaint quilted vest.
He was flung into quicksand, got caught in a squall,
Squirmed out of a quagmire, an earthquake, a brawl.
He acquired, for his trouble, the hand of the Queen —
Quite a quarrelsome creature. And squint-eyed. And mean.


written by Jeanne Steig
illustrated by William Steig
published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, February 2016
Light Verse Collection for kids 4+, 48 pp.
*Bring your sense of humor (yataghans, watercress, feather dusters and semolina optional)



For a chance to win a brand new copy of Alpha Beta Chowder, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite word is no later than midnight Wednesday, March 9, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with “CHOWDER” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced next Friday. Good Luck!



And now, the lucky person who’s just won a brand new copy of My Village: Rhymes from Around the World


*drum roll please*






Please send your snail mail address so we can get the book out to you lickety split.

Thanks, everyone for entering. It was interesting to hear about your favorite languages.









Ki Ora!

Thank You!


poetry fridayLithe, lovely, luscious, laughing, lint-free, lambada and limbo loving Linda Baie is hosting the Roundup at Teacher Dance. Pack your giggles and go check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a fun weekend!

P.S. Has anyone seen my hammer? I’m making mashed potatoes tomorrow.


With that, I shall absquatulate! :)


alphabet iconCertified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand just for you with sauciness, zest, wordplay, and baobab trees. 


♥ More alphabetica here.


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Jeanne Steig, illustrations © 2016 William Steig, published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on [review + giveaway] Alpha Beta Chowder by Jeanne Steig and William Steig, last added: 3/4/2016
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18. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Tim Egan

Tim Egan writes and illustrates books for kids, usually involving odd animal characters. Most of his characters do not think of themselves as odd, although a few readily admit they are. The stories normally involve everyday things like boredom, adventure, pigs, food, music, sandwiches, planes, toast and household appliances.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I love coffee. It makes me feel happy at the very start of each day. The first thing I do is make a pot for my wife, Ann, and me to share. No sugar, but a little cream (and a cookie for our dog, Betsy, with each cup!)

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Recently, I’ve been working on a series about a traveling mouse, Dodsworth, and his ridiculous duck. So far, they’ve been to New York, Paris, London, Rome, and their latest adventure is Dodsworth in Tokyo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).  New eBook: The Last Talking Pig (Leepshin Publishing, 2015).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, because it’s wonderful and beautiful and brilliant. The kitchen spread where Mickey is flying away is my favorite illustration in all books.

☕ Visit Tim Egan’s Official Website

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Read more about Dodsworth in Tokyo at Entertainment Weekly!

☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Check out this cool animated short, “Dodsworth and the Duck In The Shop!” How much do I love a duck who thinks about cakes and pies? :)



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Tim Egan, last added: 3/4/2016
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19. loving katrin moye’s beautiful ceramics


In my many years of scoping out flea markets, craft fairs, juried art exhibitions and gift shops, I’ve encountered a lot of ho-hum pottery and ceramics. You’ve probably seen them too — pieces that are nice enough but not distinctive in design or color, pieces that lack a certain je ne sais quoi that makes you stop and take a second look (ho-hum, yawn, moving right along . . . ).

So when I do stumble upon truly exquisite work that sets my heart aflutter, prompting numerous sighs and pangs of longing, it’s cause for celebration. Enter award-winning UK artist-designer-ceramicist Katrin Moye!


Katrin lives and works in Nottingham.


An English and Art History major, Katrin is largely self taught in ceramics. She’s inspired by mid-century decorative art, Scandinavian and Eastern European folk art, and 1970’s childhood memories growing up in England and Germany (mainly textiles, book illustrations, soft furnishings and other domestic paraphernalia). Literary influences include Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lindgren, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, and Alf Proysen.




Recently she’s been fascinated by the intricate repeating patterns in tree and plant life, and she likes to incorporate folkloric motifs such as birds and foxes.








Her decorative domestic slipware is much sought after around the world. She began her career producing decorative wheel-thrown functional ware, but has shifted her focus to creating larger scale one-off collector pieces like platters and jugs.

All of my work is made from a 50:50 mix of white earthenware and stoneware clay, wheel thrown or press moulded and handbuilt, and decorated with coloured slips and underglazes using a variety of methods such as trailing, hand cut paper resist, sponge printing and painting. It is fired to 1080 degrees in an electric kiln with a leadless clear glaze.

I love all her blues and greens, which are imbued with a beautiful serenity. Her pieces are meant to be used in an everyday domestic setting, and they’re all dishwasher safe!








Katrin truly loves patterns (I’m particularly mad for her tiny dots), and she likes to recreate things she encounters in daily life, whether a lovely seed pod, leaf spray, or raindrops. Perhaps because her designs are rooted in personal memories, like her father’s shirt or aunt’s coffee pot, they feel more accessible to us. They seem to convey a sense of warmth, comfort and home.








In addition to ceramics, Katrin creates lovely watercolor paintings which are available as prints or greeting cards.




Find out more at Katrin Moye’s website and FB Page, where she regularly shares about works completed or in progress. She makes items to order and can be contacted via email: katrin.moye (at) ntlworld (dot) com. 

Enjoy this video where she talks about her inspirations and influences:



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

7 Comments on loving katrin moye’s beautiful ceramics, last added: 3/1/2016
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20. Special Leap Day hotTEA of Children’s Literature: Ben Clanton

I’m the author-illustrator of such books as The Table Sets Itself, Mo’s Mustache, and Something Extraordinary. When I’m not busy making books (and often when I am) I like to cook, read and listen to books (I know! Surprising!), and play basketball. I live in Seattle, WA with my family and friends both real and imagined.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I love hot apple cider. Especially caramel hot apple cider! Makes me feel warm and cozy and puts me in a writing/reading sort of mood. Sure wish I had a fireplace to go with it. At least I’ve got my mustache Fred.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: Something Extraordinary (Simon & Schuster, June 2015). Forthcoming: It Came in the Mail (Simon & Schuster, June 2016), and Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (Tundra Books, October 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOKS: Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins (Chronicle, 2015), and Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri (Dial, 2012). 

☕ Visit Ben Clanton’s Official Website, Squiggles & Scribbles and find him at The Whatsits blog.

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Cool podcast at All the Wonders with Matthew Winner!

☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Read my interview with Ben about The Table Sets Itself :).

☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ STILL THIRSTY: Check out this Candlewick Five Questions (Plus One) video where Ben talks about another of his books, Rex Wrecks It. Love his laugh and the sound of his voice. Wonder if he can sing? :)



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on Special Leap Day hotTEA of Children’s Literature: Ben Clanton, last added: 2/29/2016
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21. [review + yummy cookies + giveaway!] My Village: Rhymes from Around the World by Danielle Wright and Mique Moriuchi

Isn’t it wonderful when one good thing leads to another

Because I loved Mique Moriuchi’s charming illustrations in Irene Latham’s new poetry book Fresh Delicious, I zipped over to her website to see more and happily found My Village: Rhymes from Around the World (Frances Lincoln, 2015), which features twenty-two verses collected by New Zealander Danielle Wright.

What makes this collection especially interesting is that the poems are presented in their native languages alongside an English translation. So we travel to fascinating places from New Zealand to Norway, Jamaica to Japan, and Indonesia to Iran, reading some of the very first rhymes children in those countries learn.

Animals are a favorite topic (whales, donkeys, monkeys, pigs, birds, mice), along with everyday activities that naturally fall into a child’s frame of reference no matter where he/she might live (playing in the rain, losing a tooth, flying kites, bath time, eating!). As former UK Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen points out in his excellent Introduction,

[Nursery rhymes] are a strange mix of poems: some are fragments of longer songs and ballads, some are rhymes that were probably oral jingles or chants that people sang or said to their children, a small group are carefully composed little poems with known authors, and some are songs that always accompanied dancing or actions of some kind.

I was happy to find a food poem from Fiji about tapioca that’s meant to be sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques”:

Art © 2015 Mique Moriuchi (click to enlarge).


Kana mada
kana mada
kena i coi na bele
kena i coi na bele
na ika
na ika



Eat, be merry
Eat, be merry
Fishy with the veges
Fishy with the veges
Yum, yum, yum
Yum,  yum, yum


Tapioca has replaced yams as a favorite staple in Fiji. It’s usually boiled and eaten with stews and curries. It reminds me of the Hawaiians’ love of taro. :)

I also liked this verse from Samoa, which is actually an excerpt from a classic song often taught in primary school English classes and to those learning Samoan for the first time. Fun blend of both languages:

(click to enlarge)


Savalivali means go for a walk
tele tautala means too much talk
Alofa ia te oe means I love you
Hey, take it easy: tai tai lemu.

Teine aulelei means pretty girl
Ta’amilomilo means around the world
Whisper to me: musumusu mai
Oi aue!  My, oh my!


As Mr. Rosen also mentions, nursery rhymes can become life long companions if we learn them when we are very young. Being exposed to the words, sounds and rhythms of multiple languages at an early age is such a nice way to enrich a child’s poetic DNA.

Finally, I loved “Snowman Frost” from Denmark. It’s from a poem by Halfdan Rasmussen — a sweet, poignant narrative perfect for this time of year, when the Spring thaw is not far off.


Snemand Frost og Frøken Tø
gik en tur ved Søndersø
fandt en bænk og slog sig ned,
talte lidt om kærlighed.

Snemand Frost, som var lidt bleg,
spurgte: “Må jeg kysse dig?”
Men da frøken Tø var varm
smeltede hans højre arm.

Da han kyssed’ hendes kind,
svandt han ganske langsomt ind.
Da han kyssed’ hendes mund
blev han væk i samme stund.

På en bænk ved Søndersø
sidder stakkelts frøken Tø.
Snemand Frost er smeltet op;
Hun må ha ham i en kop!



Snowman Frost and Lady Thaw
Went for walks and thought of more.
Found a garden seat and sat,
Talked of love and this and that.

Snowman Frost, a little weak,
Asked her, “May I kiss your cheek?”
But as Lady Thaw grew warm
He began to lose his form.

As their passion rose in heat
Off he melted from the seat.
When he kissed her tender lips
He slipped through her fingertips.

All alone without ‘amore’
On the seat sits Lady Thaw.
Snowman Frost no more will hug;
She must keep him in a mug!



Translating poems is tricky at best, and I was impressed with how well most of these poems scanned, and how the translators were able to create end rhymes and capture the energy and emotional essence of each poem, whether funny, playful, touching, or cheeky.

It would have been nice if a pronunciation guide was included, and if each of the poems’ languages was identified. It’s reasonable to assume a poem from Japan is in Japanese, but what about a poem from Switzerland, where there are several official languages? Is Maori something you recognize at first glance? There is some information in the Credits and Acknowledgements, but not all the languages are mentioned.

Still, this is a lovely celebration of cultural diversity with universal themes, and I love Mique Moriuchi’s colorful child-centric collages for each country’s double page spread — a most welcome feast for the eyes. :)




Mr. Cornelius and I felt sorry for the poor snowman. What do you do when a snowman is melting? Make Melting Snowman Cookies, of course!

We decided on Nigella’s Chocolate Shortbread Cookies — a very rich, decadent buttery delight that is sinfully delicious all on its own (probably the best chocolate cookie I’ve ever eaten). We then drizzled some melted white chocolate onto each cookie before adding mini peanut butter cups for the snowman’s hat, mini chocolate chips for his eyes, and a diagonally sliced piece of orange Starburst candy for his carrot nose.*

Some have used Reese’s peanut butter bells for the hats, which would have been easier, but they’re only available during the holiday season. Mary at Home is Where the Boat Is had the idea of cutting up mini pb cups to make the hats and that worked out fine. You need a sharp knife and an “easy-does-it” slicing technique to keep the cups from crumbling.

You can basically use any cookie recipe you like, and if you don’t have or like white chocolate, you can substitute white bark coating/almond bark which comes in squares or sometimes melting discs. Just be sure to allow the coating to cool a bit so the peanut butter cups don’t melt. The best time to add the decorations is when the coating is cool but still tacky.

*For Starburst noses: slice each square into three rectangles, then slice those again until you have six rectangles. Slice each rectangle diagonally to form 12 noses. (More tips at Frugal Coupon Living.) :)

Now, grab a mug of hot chocolate and toast your favorite snowman. We love him when he’s here, but usually hope he doesn’t overstay his welcome. Like Lady Thaw in the poem, we’d be content to keep him in a mug the rest of the year. :)


MY VILLAGE: Rhymes from Around the World
collected by Danielle Wright
illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2015
(first published in Australia and New Zealand by Gecko Books in 2008)
Multi-lingual poems for ages 3-6, 64 pp.
*Includes Introduction by Michael Rosen



For a chance to win a brand new copy of My Village, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite language (other than English) is no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, March 2, 2016. You can also enter by sending an email with SNOWMAN in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced next Friday. Good Luck!



Are you ready to hear the name of the lucky person who’ll be receiving a free copy of FRESH DELICIOUS?

hmmm, la la la la di da . . .

Oh yes, where were we? The winner, the winner — right!

🍏 Drum roll, please. 🍎

And the winner is


Hooray! Congratulations, Debbie!

*back flips* *cartwheels* *somersaults*

Please send along your name and address so we can get the book out to you lickety split.

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments. Yes, FRESH DELICIOUS is totally awesome!

And now, I must go lie down. All this excitement at my age . . . :)


poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Liz Steinglass is hosting today’s Roundup. Take her some cookies and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on this week’s menu. (Help! I’m m-e-l-t-i-n-g!)


Do you have snow on the ground right now where you live? Do you remember the very first snowman you ever made? 


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2015 Danielle Wright, illustrations © 2015 Mique Moriuchi, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on [review + yummy cookies + giveaway!] My Village: Rhymes from Around the World by Danielle Wright and Mique Moriuchi, last added: 2/26/2016
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22. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Ken Min

Ken grew up on the works of Margret & H.A. Rey, William Joyce, and DC Comics. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and studied illustration at Art Center, College of Design. He has storyboarded for various commercials and animated TV shows such as The PJs, Futurama and Fairly Odd Parents. His illustration work has been recognized numerous times by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). In 2012, the first picture book he illustrated, Hot, Hot Roti For Dada-Ji, received the Picture Book Honor Award for Literature from the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA). These days, you will find Ken illustrating, storyboarding, writing, and dreaming up stories for children.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE:  I’m not a coffee drinker (wha-?? that’s outrageous!) so when I’m in the mood for a hot beverage, I like a cup of tea or hot chocolate. BUT, I will say, nothing says literature like a cup of hot cocoa in an F. Scott Fitzgerald mug!

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES:  What Does it Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?, written by Rana DiOrio and Emma D. Dryden (Little Pickle Press, January 2016) and Ah-Choo!, written by Lana Wayne Koehler and Gloria G. Adams (Sterling, March 1, 2016). 

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOKS: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1960), The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and Marla Frazee (HMH Books, 1997), The Book That Eats People by John Perry and Mark Fearing (Tricycle Press, 2009), Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex (HMH Books, 2011). 

☕ Visit Ken Min’s Official Website

☕ HOTTEA IN THE FLESH!: Ken is having a Joint Book Launch Party with his friend Keika Yamaguchi (Teeny Tiny Toady, written by Jill Esbaum, Sterling, 2016) at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 5, 2016 at Once Upon a Time bookstore in Montrose, California. If you can’t make the signing, you can order signed copies of Ken’s and Keika’s new books via the store’s webpage.

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Click here to read how Ken made the pictures for What Does it Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?! 

☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Click the image below to read my review of Ken’s first book, Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji!



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Ken Min, last added: 2/25/2016
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23. a fond farewell to downton abbey

“All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” ~ Violet


The soufflés are sinking, the puddings are pouting, the meringues have taken to incessant weeping.

I fear much of our “unbridled joy” is rapidly dissipating — Downton Abbey is ending its 6-year run on PBS with the series finale on March 6!

Only one more episode to go. No! :( :( :(

Treated myself to a Crawley family Spode Stafford White cup and saucer just to drown my sorrows.

I’ve been hooked since Season One, Episode 1, only too willing to spend my Sunday evenings with the entire Crawley family at their opulent digs in Yorkshire. Not since the original “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971-1975) have I been so emotionally invested in the lives of an aristocratic British family and their servants. I find the entire class system fascinating, rooting for those who would dare defy the established social order, sympathetic to characters grappling with changes beyond their control.

Today serving Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea: “This decadent dessert tea has the homemade flavors of vanilla cake drizzled with rich caramel sauce.” Good afternoon tea, a perfect pairing with puddings, scones, and shortbread.

Indeed, when I first started watching Downton, I was instantly reminded of “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The time periods somewhat overlapped, with UD beginning about a decade before the sinking of the Titanic and ending in 1930. Both series revealed interesting aspects of post-Edwardian social life set against significant historical events. Instead of Mrs Patmore there was Mrs Bridges, instead of Daisy, there was kitchen maid Ruby. Bellamy son James marries his secretary Hazel as Crawley daughter Sybil marries chauffeur Tom Branson — both compelling, frowned-upon liaisons championing the triumph of true love over all impediments.

But there the similarities end. While UD took place in a swanky Belgravia townhouse, Downton is set at a large country estate. It was a much more lavish production (with an estimated £1 million per episode budget), a sumptuous, cinematic banquet produced for the small screen that ingeniously sated audience appetite for gratifying escapism.

Carson-Hughes Wedding (photo by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV)

The real world is messy, chaotic, tumultuous, crazy, violent, unjust. Is it any wonder we crave and appreciate the carefully delineated world of Downton Abbey with its beautiful costumes and set design, meticulous attention to historical detail, fascinating characters we love and love to hate so brilliantly acted and directed? There’s nothing quite like the reassurance that comes with having everyone and everything in its prescribed place.

Edith, Mary and Tom with their children Marigold, George, and Sybbie (via PBS.org).

Though we were served a romanticized version of life upstairs and down, we were also reminded of many too often forgotten human virtues: loyalty, temperance, manners, civility, industry, and above all, respect. I got shivers every time the staff rose from their seats whenever Mr Carson entered the servant’s hall or stood up from the table. Oh, that respect for authority! Sure, there was that fear that if you dare step out of line you would be out the door in seconds flat. But there’s something to be said for genuine regard, and thanks to Julian Fellowes’s masterful writing, we did see that, witnessing relationships that rang true and gave us hope.

Goodbye white bunting, piggy back rides with Mr. Barrow, meeting the love of your life while exiting a bakery in a rainstorm!


Sophie McShera (Daisy) and Lesley Nicol (Mrs Patmore) have become great friends in real life (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV).


I like how all the main characters, both upstairs and down, were afforded equal attention and interesting story lines, giving us a chance to know them in more depth. Of course I’ll always be partial to Mrs Patmore and Daisy, and it’s been a joy to watch their relationship change from a feisty cook bossing around a lowly kitchen maid to a unique friendship marked by a mutual, well-earned familial regard for each other. I think we’re all happy that Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes finally tied the knot, and it’s also been wonderful to see Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore become confidantes and support each other through several personal challenges.

The wedding reception at the village school was laid out so beautifully (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV).

Most surprising was probably how my feelings for Mr Moseley changed. I didn’t think too much of him at first — he seemed such a sad sack always down on his luck (though he did provide welcome comic relief — remember when he dyed his hair? :D). But gradually we saw what a kind and resourceful person he was, always encouraging Daisy in her studies and reassuring Baxter with her Mr Coyle problems. He took the initiative to educate himself and it was so gratifying to see him come into his own as a teacher in the end.

Mr. Moseley was played by Kevin Doyle (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV).

I also like how Edith evolved. Both she and Mary were cruel and nasty at times, but she ultimately came into her own too, deciding to keep Marigold despite the inevitable scandal, and later asserting her independence as a magazine publisher. “Poor Edith” became a kind of mantra when she was jilted at the altar and later lost Michael Gregson. We couldn’t help but root for her, keeping our fingers crossed that she, too, might have a happy ending after all.

Laura Carmichael (Edith) is also a middle sister in real life. Apparently she got the part because the casting director thought she resembled Maggie Smith.

Guess what Joanne Froggatt’s next role is? Serial killer! (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV)

And then there’s Anna — so good, so devoted, so true. It’s to her credit that she was able to earn Mary’s trust. Mary, who couldn’t confide in her own sisters, bonded with her lady’s maid. The wonderful scenes between them allowed us to see a side of Mary she often kept hidden — vulnerable, generous, fearful. Their relationship also showed us that it’s not always about class or station, people are simply people when it comes to the important things like friendship, loyalty and love.


Violet and Isobel: the best of frenemies (ITV/Carnival).

Speaking of which, Downton Abbey probably resonated with such a wide audience because its overriding theme was LOVE. Most of the main story lines hinged upon some aspect of it: young romantic love (Mary & Matthew, Mary & Henry, Sybil & Tom, Edith & Michael, Edith & Bertie, Anna and Mr Bates, Rose & Atticus); mature love (Mr Carson & Mrs Hughes, Isobel & Lord Merton, Cora & Robert); unrequited love (Daisy & Alfred, Thomas & Jimmy, Alfred & Ivy), singular friendships (Mr Carson & Mary, Violet and Isobel, Tom and Mary, Daisy & Mr Mason), lost love (Violet & Prince Kuragin), lust (Mary & Kemal Pamuk), love of family, tradition, and country. Love of tea in the library :).

Goodbye silver teapots and Spode Stafford White teacups and saucers. Goodbye Victoria Sandwich!


Just once, I’d like to sit at the servant’s hall table. I’d probably be way at the opposite end from Mr. Carson, the lowest servant on the totem pole.

Tom Branson is Len’s favorite character. He appreciates people who are plain spoken and unpretentious. What a good friend Tom was to Mary (ITV/Carnival).


  • Violet’s witticisms and zingers delivered with razor sharp precision: “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.” “He’s a man. Men don’t have rights.”
  • Handsome men in white tie and tails. Handsome men in black tie. Handsome butler and footmen waiting table.
  • Women’s hats and shoes and dresses and jewelry. Opera gloves all the time.
  • Food prep and kitchen scenes – love that egg rack, those copper pots and pans, those mixing bowls, the new fridge, Daisy slicing lemons.
  • The fine art of conversation.
  • Lavish dining room scenes – candlelit dinners, sparkling crystal, heirloom china.
  • All the characters we’ve come to know the last 6 years, the roller coaster of emotions.
  • Indulging in the fantasy of living in luxury and having servants at my beck and call.

Goodbye fox hunts, garden parties, weekends in Scotland, cloche hats, bobbed hair, marriage proposals with snowflakes gently drifting down!


via PBS.org


  • George, Sybbie and Marigold’s teddies
  • Big Christmas tree in the Great Hall
  • Robert eating a chicken leg from the new fridge
  • Mary making scrambled eggs for Charles Blake
  • Robert’s new puppy
  • Sybbie calling Robert “Donk”
  • Antique race cars
  • thick slices of bread and cheese in the servant’s hall
  • Mr Carson’s new telephone
  • the Bell Board in the servant’s hall
  • Mrs Patmore

Goodbye pretty pastel tea gowns, strings of pearls, diamond tiaras, cricket matches, Apple Charlotte and Kedgeree!



Mr Cornelius was inconsolable until his favorite Downton character paid him a surprise visit the other day. Of course he’s always loved watching Mrs P wield her rolling pin and prepare platters and platters of delectable dishes. He’ll always remember what she said to Daisy one time:

We should always be polite to people who are kind. There’s not much of it about!

That pretty much made him a forever fan.

Anyway, Mrs P brought along some Downton treats — a special tin of Scottish shortbread in honor of dear friend Mrs Hughes (who’s originally from Argyll), some scone mix and lemon curd. She got a little teary-eyed handing over the scone mix, since it reminded her of when Lord Grantham, Lady Cora, and Lady Rosamund came for tea at her new bed and breakfast. Lord G specifically asked for another scone right before they all went outside to pose for the village photographer. What a proud day that was! She’ll always be grateful for the way Lord G spoke in support of her, reciprocating her loyalty to the Crawleys for so many years.

Cornelius got busy right away helping Mrs Patmore whip up scones and clotted cream. He was a little unsure of whether the jam (or curd) should go under or over the layer of cream. Mrs P quickly cleared up that longstanding dilemma: with Devonshire Cream Tea the jam goes on top of the cream; with Cornish Cream Tea the cream goes on over the jam. We opted for the Cornish way since we all love Poldark here, and we rather like a bit of cream tickling the upper lip :). “Who’s Poldark?” asked Mrs P. We explained he was in another series, from another century, reassuring her we’d never love him as much as we love the people of Downton.

Spending a little time with Mrs Patmore certainly made us all feel better. We told her how important food was to Downton, how the kitchen was the  heart and hub of any great house, how crucial it was to have a good cook to help the Crawleys maintain their social standing. I daresay she patted her apron and wiped a tear from her eye.

Goodbye whisks and scary electric mixers, Bubble and Squeak, Strawberry Charlotte Russe, and Spotted Dick!


After we had our tea, Cornelius suggested a mock wedding. Season 6 was all about weddings and happy endings, after all. There’s nothing nicer than an unbridled bride. Here’s to Mr and Mrs Carson, Henry and Mary (remembering Mary and Matthew), and Edith and . . . ? We’ll just have to wait for the finale to see. Fingers crossed!

The beautiful bride wore a satin and lace gown modeled after Lady Mary’s when she married Matthew Crawley. She carried a simple bouquet of long stemmed white calla lilies.

The newlyweds take a spot of tea.

Cornelius also served Battenberg Cake (he loves checks). The cake was named in honor of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg (1884). Sponge cake is layered with jam and covered with marzipan.

Heart shaped petit fours compliments of the resident Paddingtons.

Goodbye pretending to have an injured hand so your husband is forced to cook! Goodbye breakfast in bed, lamb chops, apple crumble and hot chocolate! Goodbye Spratt moonlighting as an agony aunt, dancing with the Prince, and seeing a dog’s tail and hind quarters at the beginning of each episode!



Now that Downton’s over, by gosh, by gum, looks like we’ll all have to get a life. :) Here are a few bits and bobs to tide us over until the movie comes out. Yes, there’s talk of making one, though nothing’s been confirmed. Most of the actors seem willing. Please write a movie script, Mr. Fellowes!

  • Many of the actors did not particularly like filming the dining room scenes, which took hours and hours, multiple camera angles, and plates of food they didn’t actually eat.
  • A favorite pastime between takes: playing Bananagrams.
  • Maggie Smith has admitted that she’s never actually seen any of the finished episodes.
  • Lesley Nicol, who played Mrs Patmore, actually does not like to cook.
  • In life sadly imitating art, Michelle Dockery lost her fiancé to cancer last year.
  • Though their characters Mary and Edith were at odds throughout the series, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael are actually good friends in real life.
  • Laura Carmichael is currently dating Michael Fox, who played Andy the footman.
  • 1000 wigs and 400 costumes were used in Seasons 5 and 6 alone.
  • There were 255 cast members and 900 crew members overall.
  • Laura Carmichael was working in a doctor’s office when she got the part of Edith (her first ever TV audition).
  • Downton Abbey has won 3 Golden Globes, 12 Primetime Emmys (60 nominations), a Special BAFTA Award, and most recently a SAG Award, among many other well-deserved accolades. It is the top PBS drama of all time, and one of the most watched television series in the world.

And a final nod to Mrs Patmore:


Please change your mind about Edith, Bertie! (I really like Bertie, don’t you?)

What will you miss most about the series? What did you think of Season 6?


♥ Other Downton Abbey posts at Alphabet Soup:


One last scone for the road.

VIOLET to MARY: “I believe in love.”



Shall we let some of the cast sing us out? :)



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


5 Comments on a fond farewell to downton abbey, last added: 2/23/2016
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24. [review + recipe + giveaway] Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers’ Market by Irene Latham and Mique Moriuchi

Grab your shopping baskets and bags, let’s go to the Farmers’ Market!

In Fresh Delicious (Wordsong, 2016), Irene Latham and Mique Moriuchi invite us to join a group of adorable animal friends as they celebrate the wonders of farm fresh fruits and veggies. This mostly free verse smorgasbord of 21 poems is chock full of mouthwatering sensory details, clever imagery and playful metaphors to whet the appetite and tease the imagination.

While nibbling on these whimsical poems, curious munchkins will meet basil (“a bouquet of minty green butterfly wings”), delight in how ears of corn listen to the sun, and consider that okra is really “a mountain of mouse-sized swords/stored in fuzzy sheaths.” Afterwards, they’ll likely be anxious to see, smell, touch and taste the produce in person, making up little scenarios so they can write their own poems.

Does crookneck squash really look like a question mark? How is zucchini like an exclamation point? Will wild honey really make our tongues “buzz with pleasure”? Can’t wait for summer, when it’ll be time to propel those seeds out of our mouths “like shooting stars.”

Oh, the fun! Mique Moriuchi’s vibrant color-saturated acrylic collages make the flavors and textures of Latham’s chewy, juicy, crunchy words really POP!

Kids will have a ball not only counting and identifying the fresh produce, they will also love seeing exactly what their animal friends are up to. Can’t help but love a blue elephant balancing a red bell pepper with its trunk, a cute gray bunny sheltering himself from the rain with a big lettuce leaf, or a thoughtful fox tucking potatoes in a dark dry drawer so they will feel at home. Please don’t miss the monkey on a skateboard or the moose and bear canoeing with their pea passengers. :)

The book is infused with a childlike sensibility that’s refreshing and endearing; the simple two-word title of this collection couldn’t be more apt — Fresh Delicious allows us to see familiar things in new ways as it charms us with the tasty possibilities of language — just what we crave with good poetry. There’s absolutely no chance of going away hungry with six kid-friendly recipes topping off this joyous feast: Cool Tomato-Cucumber-Onion Salsa, Fruit Kebabs with Yogurt Dip, Lettuce Wraps, Cheesy Confetti Frittata (recipe below), Mini (Many) Veggie Pizza, and Easy Strawberry Ice Cream. Mmmmm!

Today I’m pleased to share a little Fresh Delicious sampler platter. Hope you’re wearing your best bibs and aprons, and that this little burst of summer’s bounty will chase away your winter blues. Enjoy!


Art © 2016 Mique Moriuchi (click to enlarge)


White tents
shade truck beds
that sprout
homegrown peaks
in summertime hues.

Farmers call.
Empty baskets sway
as they wait

for tomatoes, corn,
peaches, and more.
What will
we carry home



a fleet
of green

in a wicker sea



Right-side up
they shine
like ornaments

strung and hung
on a holiday

Flip them
upside down
and they

a sunset-colored


(click to enlarge)


are sweet
but not
too sweet.

One fits
and thumb.

They burst
like flavor-filled
in waffles
and muffins.

But the best
thing about
is the way
they change

your lips
and teeth
and tongue
from regular
to purple-blue.



A dozen

or green.

the secret

and find
a trove
of farmer’s



What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tomato
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • nonstick cooking spray

Ask a grown-up helper to turn on the oven and chop the onion, bell pepper, and tomato.

Combine all ingredients except eggs in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, crack the eggs. Remove any shell bits. Whisk the eggs until blended.

Pour the contents of both bowls into an oven-safe dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. (I like to use an iron skillet.)

Ask a grown-up helper to bake the dish at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is firm.

Ask a grown-up helper to transfer the frittata to a plate.


FRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers’ Market
written by Irene Latham
illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
published by Wordsong, 2016
Picture Book Poetry Collection for ages 4-8, 40 pp.
*Includes 6 recipes
**Glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus
***Now available for pre-order:
On shelves March 8, 2016!

♥ Nice pairing with Too Many Tomatoes by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta :)

♥ Click here to read a wonderful interview at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme, where Irene talks about the genesis of Fresh Delicious and her other new book When the Sun Shines on Antarctica.


For a chance to win a brand new copy of Fresh Delicious, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite fruit or vegetable is no later than midnight Wednesday, February 24, 2016. You can also enter by sending an email with “FRESH DELICIOUS” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Winner will be announced next Friday. Good Luck!


poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Donna Smith is hosting the Roundup at Mainely Write. I imagine she’s a big blueberry fan :). Scamper over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on this week’s menu. Have a fresh and delicious weekend!!


*Interior spreads from Fresh Delicious posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Irene Latham, illustrations © 2016 Mique Moriuchi, published by Wordsong, 2016. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

7 Comments on [review + recipe + giveaway] Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers’ Market by Irene Latham and Mique Moriuchi, last added: 2/19/2016
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25. hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Lester Laminack

Lester is the author of 20 books for teachers and/or children and has two new projects under contract. He works as a consultant and visiting author in schools and school districts throughout the country and abroad. When he isn’t working you’ll likely find him roaming around with a camera in his hand.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Coffee (aka “writer fluid”) should be hot, strong, slightly sweet, and with a dash of half-and-half leaving it the color of a paper bag.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Picture book: Three Hens and a Peacock, illustrated by Henry Cole (Peachtree Publishers, 2014). Professional book: Writers ARE Readers: Flipping Reading Strategies into Writing Opportunities, co-author with Reba M. Wadsworth (Heinemann, August 2015). 

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Saturdays and Teacakes, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Peachtree, 2004). 

☕ Visit Lester Laminack’s Official Website

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out Mammaw Thompson’s Teacakes recipe!

☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Book Trailer for Three Hens and a Peacock:


☕☕☕☕ STILL THIRSTY: Lester offers tips for effective read alouds.



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

5 Comments on hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Lester Laminack, last added: 2/18/2016
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