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Archive for the ‘asian pacific american heritage month’ Category

“What would happen if all the poets in the world wrote poems to save our forests, rivers, animals, earth, air and oceans? Wouldn’t that be something?” ~ Wordsworth the Mouse Poet

frances planting three

Frances and Wordsworth plant a koa tree at Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods in honor of their new book, Wordsworth! Stop the Bulldozer! (photo by Tammy Antonio)

Happy Poetry Friday!

I’m delighted and honored to welcome back award-winning author, poet and educator Frances H. Kakugawa to Alphabet Soup!

You may remember when I shared her beautiful and poignant poem, “Emily Dickinson, I Am Somebody,”  (written in the voice of an Alzheimer’s patient), and we learned more about how writing poetry can help ease the heavy burden of caregiving.

wordsworth singleToday, Frances is here to tell us a little about her heartwarming, award-winning series of children’s picture books featuring Wordsworth, the poetry-writing mouse. All three stories, a unique combination of poetry + prose, celebrate the power and wonder of poetry, the enduring value of friendship, and the primacy of the imagination.

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moon mangoes cover

Imagine a magical Hawaiian night with a fat, round moon streaming its silvery light on ocean and shore, illuminating a mango tree drooping “with heavy, ripe fruit.”

A mother and daughter sit on the lanai of a tiny blue house that is “tucked under the tree’s broad branches,” engaging in a fanciful dialog of “what if” questions and answers. There’s no limit to little Ānuenue’s* curiosity and wild imaginings, no boundaries to her mother’s love.

What if I ate up all those mangoes one by one, and I got so full of them that I turned into a mango tree?

Then I would bring you fresh, cool water to drink every morning. I’d gently pull out any weeds that block the sun and keep the soil healthy for your roots to grow deep and strong. And I would spend my days resting in your shade so that I could tell you about the fantastic adventures of your great-great-grandparents.

Moon Mangoes, a warmhearted, stunningly illustrated picture book that Papertigers reviewer Aline Pereira calls, “an ode to children’s imagination and a meditation on parental love,” has all the makings of a modern classic alongside such perennial favorites as Mama, Do You Love Me? and The Runaway Bunny.

moon mangoes two

I love the pairing of Lindy Shapiro’s lyrical, poetic narrative with Kathleen Peterson’s highly evocative, color saturated spreads rendered in rich jewel tones. Here is a universal theme presented with a distinct Hawaiian flavor, illuminating the lush, natural beauty of the islands and the spirituality and animism characterizing the native peoples.

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food trucks cover

When I was little, every so often my father would take us for a drive around the island. This was an all-day affair, where we’d see what we could see and eat what we could eat all over O’ahu.

plate lunch (2) fish 500

Mahi Plate Lunch via Go Backpacking

I loved spotting the lunch wagons parked along the Honolulu waterfront, hoping to feast on an onolicious plate lunch with beef stew, teriyaki, or breaded mahimahi. No matter what you ordered, you always got two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. But usually we’d drive right on by because it wasn’t lunch time yet. This only intensified my fascination with lunch wagons: I thought it would be so cool to cook on a little stove in a truck and wait on people through the window on the side. :)

I don’t know exactly when people in Hawai’i started calling lunch wagons, “food trucks.” But they’re still a big part of the local scene, enticing the always hungry on side streets and main streets with longstanding island favorites as well as gourmet treats.

In jaunty rhyming verse, Beth Greenway’s Hawai’i’s Food Trucks on the Go! takes kids on a fun and tasty ride around the island from sunrise to sunset.

The trucks all rev their engines up
and head out on their way:
it’s time to feed the working cars
this bright Hawaiian day.

food trucks one

All illustrations © 2012 Jamie Meckel Tablason

The Harbor’s where the cranes all work
unloading boats and ships,
a bowl of saimin’s great for lunch
just right for slurps and sips.

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“The dragon is a creature of the sea,” Grandfather said. “When it takes to the sky, it is looking for something precious it has lost. When it finds what it was looking for, it returns to the sea in the form of rain.”

Konnichiwa! Hello!

*bows*

We’re especially excited today to be celebrating the official release of Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi (Charlesbridge, 2012). Not only is Natalie a Virginia author, but this is her debut middle grade novel. As I always say, no matter how many books you go on to write, or how rich and famous you might become, there will always be only one first book, with its own special brand of pride, joy and feelings of accomplishment. We LOVE to celebrate first books!

Friends, I’m so glad you’re here to join us. Let’s get the party started by suiting up.

First, please select a t-shirt. Depending on your mood, you may feel like building a kite,

or noshing on sushi:

With all the mouthwatering Japanese food in the book, you should probably put this on, too:

Lookin’ good!

Can’t eat a plate of yakisoba without a good pair of chopsticks. Choose your favorite color:

All set?

Now, a little about Flying the Dragon:

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Get in line and fill up your plates! Join the picnic!

How I love love love this picture book, let me count the ways. It was actually love at first sight. I squealed when I first saw the title. “Auntie Yang?!”

Well, I just happen to have six Auntie Yangs and many fond memories of eating boiled soybeans just like the characters in the story. We had some lovely family picnics as well, though most of them were at the beach rather than in a relative’s back yard in the Midwest.

(click to enlarge)

Just released in April, Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic (Lee & Low, 2012) was inspired by sisters Ginnie and Beth Lo’s childhood memories of their Auntie Yang who lived in Illinois.

As narrator Jinyi tells it, she, her little sister Pei and their parents often visited Auntie and Uncle Yang and their cousins, who lived a long car drive away. Both sets of parents had left China to study at American universities. They abandoned plans to return to their home country when the war made it too dangerous. So they stayed in Illinois and Indiana, raising their families in an area with very few Chinese Americans. All the more reason to stay close and visit each other as often as possible, so that the four cousins could grow up “as close as four soybeans in a soybean pod.”

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