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Archive for the ‘author/illustrator interviews’ Category

Today I’m doubly pleased to welcome poet and author Nancy Tupper Ling, who’s here to tell us all about her new book Double Happiness (Chronicle Books, 2015), a heartwarming story about a family moving from San Francisco to the East Coast.

Beautifully told through a series of lyrical poems in the alternating voices of Gracie and her little brother Jake, Double Happiness deftly captures the mixed emotions of leaving loved ones behind, traveling across country, and seeing one’s new home and surroundings for the first time.

It is especially hard saying goodbye to Nai Nai (Grandmother), Auntie Su and Uncle Woo. To help ease the transition, Nai Nai gives each of the children a special box, suggesting they fill it with four treasures “leading from this home to your new.” She explains that when she was young she had her own “happiness box,” which enabled her to keep special memories close.

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Jake is as much excited, adventurous, and playful as Gracie is apprehensive, reflective, and sad. The treasures they add to their boxes (panda, marble, lucky penny, leaf, snake) mark specific moments in their journey with attendant feelings and impressions.

Both Gracie’s and Jake’s voices ring true, and the poems seamlessly keep the engaging storyline moving forward. Alina Chau incorporates cultural elements (Chinese calligraphy, Jake’s mystical dragon, first dinner) in her charming soft watercolor illustrations, illuminating this gentle gem of a story that will surely resonate with young readers.

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In Chinese tradition, “double happiness” is usually associated with weddings, but Nancy’s story artfully extends the concept: two homes, two coasts, two cultures, two boxes, the old and the new, two children, a dragon and a phoenix, two halves of a perfect whole coming full circle in the blessed harmony of family.

I know you’ll enjoy learning more about how and why Nancy wrote this book. And yes, she’s sharing a favorite recipe! Enjoy!

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“There is such a thing as magic, and the Beatles were magic.” ~ Paul McCartney

All illustrations © 2015 Adam Gustavson (click to enlarge)

I remember February 9, 1964 like it was yesterday — the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show!

There, in my aunt’s living room, I tried to process the heart-swelling moment, the excitement, the energy, the burst-wide-open-never-be-the-same-again feeling. Just look at them! Those Edwardian suits, black pointy boots, cool haircuts! They were good looking, different, charming, revolutionary. I could barely breathe as Paul sang, “Close your eyes, and I’ll kiss you . . . ”

My uncle bought “Meet the Beatles” for me from a record store downtown. I plastered the walls of my bedroom with Beatles pics I had cut out from teen magazines. I collected Beatles bubble gum cards and read everything I could get my hands on about John, Paul, George and Ringo. I began writing faithfully to a new penpal who lived in Liverpool, dreaming of the day when I could set foot on British soil.

I still count my lucky stars that I was just the right age to experience the onset of Beatlemania. As I grew up, so did their music. None of us could have foreseen the lasting impact they’d ultimately have on music history, composition, production and pop culture. Half a century later, they’re still number one.

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I’m doubly excited to welcome Baltimore-based author Erin Hagar to Alphabet Soup: her very first published children’s book hits shelves today, and it’s about one of my favorite people, Julia Child!

Though there have been several good picture books about Julia published in recent years,  solidly researched middle grade biographies about her are few and far between. Not only is Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures (DuoPress, 2015) a lively, engaging read, it contains six beautiful full-page watercolor illustration sequences by Joanna Gorham interspersed between chapters.

Erin traces Julia’s life from her childhood as a fun-loving prankster in Pasadena to her death in 2004 as a much beloved cookbook author, teacher, and television celebrity. We read about how Julia met and fell in love with Paul Child while working overseas for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), how when they moved to France Julia discovers her life’s passion and attends Le Cordon Bleu, how she started a cooking school and collaborated on Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Simone Beck Fischbacher and Louisette Bertholle, and finally, how she launched her television career on WGBH Boston.

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Fanciful, imaginative, cheery and charming — The Popcorn Astronauts: And Other Biteable Rhymes by Deborah Ruddell and Joan Rankin (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015) is precisely my cup of tea. Add mouthwateringly irresistible to the mix and there’s no doubt this exuberant celebration of food has my name written all over it.

I love Ruddell’s fresh take on perennial kid favorites like watermelon, strawberries, raisins, milk shakes, apples, brownies, mac and cheese, cocoa and birthday cake. Grouped by season, the poems take us from spring’s Strawberry Queen in her elegant red beaded suit, to summer’s cool pinkness at a Watermelon Lake with its “pale green shore” (and little black seed boats!), to a toothsome autumnal stop at the Totally Toast Cafe (4 flavors of marmalade), and finally to marvel at “The World’s Biggest Birthday Cake,” the stuff of your wildest winter dreams. Yum!

With generous measures of humor, sensory detail, exaggeration, cheekiness, surprise and adventure, Ruddell’s rhyming verses explore mealtime scenarios kids can readily identify with: the yucky appearance but lip smacking tastiness of guacamole, the picky eater (ogre) who’ll only eat one kind of food, the universal love of mac and cheese with its superstar status, eating comfort foods on gray days, lusting after someone else’s dessert, and the all-important dilemma of whether to eat that last brownie (um, yes!). Of course we mustn’t forget the momentous “Arrival of the Popcorn Astronauts,” a prime example of child-like whimsy at its best:

The daring popcorn astronauts
are brave beyond compare —
they scramble into puffy suits
and hurtle through the air.

And when they land, we say hooray
and crowd around the spot
to salt the little astronauts
and eat them while they’re hot.

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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.

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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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