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Every year, Seattle-based author/illustrator Julie Paschkis attends a big neighborhood party hosted by her sister Jan and husband Greg, where family and friends gather to decorate eggs and eat lots of delicious food.

Their eggs, Ukrainian pysanky, are decorated with patterns of beeswax and layers of dye, and are part of a longstanding folk art tradition that honors the Sun and welcomes Spring. Julie’s new picture book  P. Zonka Lays An Egg (Peachtree, 2015), which officially hits shelves this week (!), was inspired by these marvelous egg-decorating parties, and is, in a word, GORGEOUS.

P. Zonka herself is no ordinary hen. Unlike her clucky friends Maud, Dora and Nadine, she’s a not a regular egg layer, preferring to spend her days gazing at the wonders of the natural world. Much to the bewilderment of the other hens, who think she’s either daft or just plain lazy, P. Zonka is enthralled by soft dark moss, the deep blue of the sky, pale mornings, and the shining centers of dandelions.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

After much pestering, urging and coaxing by the other hens, P. Zonka finally decides to give egg laying a try — and the result is well beyond any could have imagined — in a word, SPECTACULAR!

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Put on your aprons and dancing shoes, it’s time to SALSA!

So pleased to see another yummy book in Jorge Argueta’s popular bilingual Cooking Poem Series. Previously, Jorge treated us to Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup (2009), Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding (2010), Guacamole (2012), and Tamalitos (2013). Mmmmm!

Now, with Salsa (Groundwood Books, 2015), illustrated by Pura Belpré winner Duncan Tonatiuh, Argueta infuses his lyrical, lip-smacking recipe with savory musical instruments, lively rhythms, a wealth of sensory details, and just the right amount of spice to make readers crave more.

(click to enlarge)

A young boy first describes the molcajete, a type of stone bowl dating back to the time of the ancient Aztec, Mayan, and Nahua peoples used to grind tomatoes, corn, chilies, vegetables and spices. He mentions how every weekend his family uses their molcajete to make salsa while they sing and dance.

Before proceeding, he and his sister “play” the ingredients from their very own “salsa orchestra”:

I am ready with four tomatoes.
They are bongos and kettledrums.
My onion is a maraca.
Cloves of garlic are trumpets,
and the cilantro is the orchestra conductor
with his shaggy, green hair.

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Ya tengo listos cuatro tomates.
Son bongos y timbales.
La cebolla es una maraca.
Los ajos son trompetas,
y el cilantro un director de orquesta
con su pelo verde todo despeinado.

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hotTEA of the week: sting

“I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear/ I like my toast done on the side . . . “

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Once, when we were living in England, Len and I discovered some wild blackberry bushes growing in Wimbledon Common across the street from the school where I was teaching. I was excited because I’d never even seen a blackberry in person before, let alone eat one, and I remembered that famous last line from The Tale of Peter Rabbit:

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

The ones we picked were a little sour, but good with sugar and a dollop of cream. Because of that fond memory, I’ll always associate blackberries with England. I also like to tell the story of how because we didn’t have a whisk or rotary beater in our little flat, Len whipped the cream with a fork! I knew then I had to marry that man with his power arm. :)

Thus enamored of blackberries, I recently devoured a gorgeous new picture book by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall featuring A Fine Dessert called blackberry fool, a decadent English sweet dating back to the 16th century consisting of blackberries, cream and sugar.

In this wholly delectable story, we are treated to not one, but FOUR servings of blackberry fool prepared by four families from four different centuries. Such a tasty slice of food and social history! The families all follow the same recipe steps, but of course ingredient sourcing, methods, tools, and technology change through time. They’re united by their love of this dessert and the joy, anticipation and satisfaction that come with making it. No surprise — they all love to lick the bowl — viable proof that some things never change. :)

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1. JULIE PAPRIKA is here! If, like me, you’re a fan of award-winning painter and children’s book illustrator Julie Paschkis, the good news is that now some of her work is available for purchase online as archival prints. I just ordered “Eat Pie,” which I’ve loved for several years because, well, PIE! :) I love the shop name too (“Julie Paprika: Art Adds Spice to Life”). See more here. (Julie will be stopping by soon to talk about her new book, P. Zonka Lays An Egg, which is gorgeous!)

“Baskets Full”

“ABCXYZ”

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2. New book alert! Jeannine Atkins’s adult novel, Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott (She Writes Press, 2015) is now available for pre-order!

May Alcott spends her days sewing blue shirts for Union soldiers, but she dreams of painting a masterpiece—which many say is impossible for a woman—and of finding love, too. When she reads her sister’s wildly popular novel, Little Women, she is stung by Louisa’s portrayal of her as “Amy,” the youngest of four sisters who trades her desire to succeed as an artist for the joys of hearth and home. Determined to prove her talent, May makes plans to move far from Massachusetts and make a life for herself with room for both watercolors and a wedding dress. Can she succeed? And if she does, what price will she have to pay? Based on May Alcott’s letters and diaries, as well as memoirs written by her neighbors, Little Woman in Blue puts May at the center of the story she might have told about sisterhood and rivalry in an extraordinary family.

As a big fan of the Alcotts and Jeannine’s books (especially Borrowed Names), I simply can. not. wait. to read this one. It comes out in September 2015, and till then, I’ll be drinking many cups of anticipation tea, daydreaming about Concord. Click here to read Jeannine’s post about the book (isn’t that a stunning cover?), and here to pre-order!

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3. New bears in the house! We now have three additions to our growing Paddington family! A 6″ Paddington “Little Bitty” magically appeared in the Alphabet Soup kitchen one morning, and I won a giveaway for an 8″ Movie Paddington from Movie Mom’s blog.

Biggest surprise was a knock knock knock at the front door, where I discovered this charming 20″ Rugby Paddington, made by Gabrielle Designs in England back in 1985. He was a tad tired after his long journey from California via Denver, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but quickly revived with marmalade toast and tea. He still won’t tell me what’s in his duffel bag.

Love his shoes.

And speaking of Paddington, he made this list of the All-Time 100 Greatest ToysHe’s included in the 70’s decade with the nerf ball, Rubik’s Cube, and Magna Doodle. It was fun looking through the entire list to see which toys I had or longed for (Chatty Cathy, Barbie’s Dream House, Easy-Bake Oven). As an adult, I acquired Teddy Ruxpin and a Care Bear, and have very fond memories of hula hoops, Play-Doh, Mr. Potato Head and Gumby. :)

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4. Love these CakeSpy prints: “ABCs of Sweetness” and “Pop Tarts That Should Exist.” She always comes up with the coolest ideas! Click on each image to purchase at Etsy (zoom in to see the fine details). You may remember that we previously featured both of Jessie Oleson Moore’s books, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life and The Secret Lives of Baked Goods (autographed copies available). My interview with Jessie is here.

“ABC’s of Sweetness”

“PopTarts That Should Exist”

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5. And now, the winner of our CHINESE FAIRY TALE FEASTS GIVEAWAY! 

Once again, we called upon the services of the dashing, erudite, elegantly mustachioed, ever-reliable Monsieur Random Integer Generator. When he heard the book featured Chinese food, he insisted on a big feast before picking a winner. To satisfy his enormous appetite, we ordered 105 pieces of his favorite dim sum, 34 bowls of rice porridge, 568 platters of stir-fried beef and baby bok choi, 43 pounds of shrimp fried rice, 69 gallons of egg drop soup, 5,478 pieces of crispy won ton, and 54 salted duck eggs.

Naturally the cozy but pedestrian Alphabet Soup kitchen didn’t seem like quite the right venue for such a feast, so we had the food delivered to the Great Wall at Badaling (Beijing Province) where he could enjoy his meal al fresco (now that’s what I call Chinese take-out!). :)

Fully sated, M. Generator was finally up to the difficult task of selecting just one winner from among a bevy of beauties and one always-hungry stud muffin. He cracked open 18 fortune cookies before one name called to him. It was:

MARGIE CULVER!

Congratulations, Margie!!

Please send your snail mail addy to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com so we can send out your book pronto.

Thanks, everyone for entering. Maybe Margie will invite us all over for dinner when she makes some of the recipes from the book. :)

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6. Sigh. It is definitely not a cool thing that Season 5 of Downton Abbey is already over. Seems like it just started — why don’t they make more episodes per season? There’s a Christmas episode and then we’ll have to wait till January 2016 for Season 6 (an eternity). And Season 6 is supposedly the very last. Sigh.

So before full-blown DA withdrawal sets in, enjoy this cool little video featuring several of the cast members describing their characters in 5 words:

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Sigh. Have a nice week. Sigh.

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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