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Archive for the ‘author/illustrator interviews’ Category

Toronto-based author Monica Kulling is here today to talk about Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen (Tundra Books, 2014), the sixth title in her award winning Great Idea series which features marvelous inventors.

I must admit my prior knowledge of Lillian’s life was limited to Myrna Loy’s portrayal of her in the 1950 movie, “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Though I assumed she must have been an extraordinarily energetic and supportive person to be married to fellow efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth and co-parent a rambunctious passel of kids, I did not know the extent of her brilliant accomplishments as an industrial engineer, psychologist, professor, inventor and author in her own right, especially following Frank’s death from a heart attack at the age of 55.

The Gilbreth Family

In Spic-and-Span!, we first see how Frank and Lillian worked together in the early 1900’s to “show factory workers how to get the most done in the least amount of time.” Using a motion picture camera to film tasks, they were able to spot unnecessary movements, helping workers find the “one best way to do every job.” Of course they also implemented the Gilbreth system in their own household, streamlining everyday activities like brushing teeth, making beds, etc.

Art © 2014 David Parkins (click to enlarge)

But once Frank died in 1924, Lillian was faced with the monumental challenge of raising 11 children on her own and finding work at a time when factories wouldn’t hire a female industrial engineer, even one with over 20 years of experience. Eventually she was hired by Macy’s to improve its cash room operations, and later by the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company to improve kitchen design.

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“Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.” ~ Emily Dickinson

I’ve been curious about Emily Dickinson’s relationship with children ever since learning that she used to lower baskets of gingerbread to the neighborhood kids.

That’s why I loved Burleigh Mutén’s delightful verse novel Miss Emily (Candlewick, 2014). It gave me a good sense of how Dickinson might have interacted with four of the children in her life: her niece and nephew Mattie and Ned (who lived next door at the Evergreens), and the pastor’s kids Mac and Sally, who lived across the street.

This fun and suspenseful adventure, where Emily and the children disguise themselves as gypsies to catch a glimpse of the midnight circus train, is told from Mac’s point of view. It is clear the kids all adore Miss Emily and she, them, united as they are in imaginative play and a singular brand of friendship.

Illustrations copyright © 2014 Matt Phelan

I’m so pleased Burleigh is here today to tell us more about writing and researching Miss Emily. I daresay “the children’s laughing goddess of plenty” herself would be quite pleased with this story, as it celebrates her fondness for children and the importance of remaining true to one’s inner child: therein lies the truth about who we really are and should always strive to be.

Look sharp! The circus train is here. All Aboard! :)

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Look what’s officially hitting shelves today!

This charming, whimsical tale very loosely inspired by the real life friendship of Julia Child and Simone Beck is cooked to fingertip-kissing perfection and definitely has my name written all over it.

I literally squealed with delight when I first saw Julie Morstad’s scrumptious, I-could-just-eat-you-all-up ink, gouache and Photoshop illos — so many adorable details and the childlike sophistication is oh-so-français. :)

True, this book had me at the cover, but when I read Kyo Maclear’s spritely celebration of good food, friendship, fearlessly pursuing your passions, growing young, and never forgetting how to have a marvelous time, I could almost hear the real Julia’s rousing cheer, chirrup and hoot of approval. After all, it was she who said, “That’s what human life is all about — enjoying things.”

In Julia, Child (Tundra Books, 2014), we meet cooking buddies Julia and Simca, who firmly believe it’s “best to be a child forever” and are therefore dismayed by all the big, busy, hurried, “wary and worried” grown-ups around them.

Art © 2014 Julie Morstad

What to do? Cook special ‘growing young’ recipes, of course. They whip up a delectable feast complete with “fluffy clouds of cheese soufflé,” “perfect loaves of crusty baguette,” and “a golden compote of fresh peaches, sweet as summer sunlight . . . ” Magnifique!

The big busy people devour every morsel, but something isn’t right. Talk about greedy and grabby! Can the girls come up with another recipe to turn these adults into sensible children once again?

I’m so pleased Toronto-based author Kyo Maclear is here today to talk about this mouthwatering story, her best job ever, and what she’s learned from her children. Put on your best bib, help yourself to some Wonder Seeds, and bask in the joie de vivre. Bon Appétit!

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We are always eating
or about to, or just done.
We are hungry, we are sated,
we are wishing we hadn’t.
We are making up for it,
or planning our denials,
or confessing them.

~ from “Dieting” by Julia Wendell

I’m pleased today to welcome Maryland poet Julia Wendell, who’s as passionate about words as she is about horses. With a life marked by such difficult personal challenges as anorexia and alcohol addiction, it seems riding and writing have been her saving graces.

The 29 poems in her new chapbook Take This Spoon are presented in seven sections, each leading off with a favorite family recipe to whet the reader’s appetite. As she says in her poem “Dieting,” we spend much of our time obsessing about food. Some are addicted to eating, while others are addicted to not eating. Better to take a lesson from animals:

Self-consciousness doesn’t ruin

their appetite or enjoyment.
They don’t judge what they consume,
or long for what they won’t allow themselves.

They don’t confuse who they are
with what they eat,
fearing they won’t be loved
if they’re fat, or don’t cook,
or overcook, or nearly kill themselves
by making up for their gluttony
with fasting.

Julia explores the complicated relationship humans have with food by fixing a personal lens on her own family. In artfully crafted scenes, (a mother keeping her daughter out of the kitchen so she won’t see her drinking, a young woman bringing home a bohemian boyfriend to dinner at her mother’s “immaculate table,” a woman aching for her deceased mother as she comes across her handwriting on recipe cards), the subtexts of pain, regret, loss, and contention are plated to perfection. Her descriptions of food are lyrical and sensual, her voice intimate and honest, her ability to align what is being eaten with what eats away at the heart and soul is powerful.

Since so many of you enjoyed Julia’s poem, “My Mother’s Handwriting,” I know you’ll find her thoughts about writing, familial relationships, and the love of horses interesting.

Naturally, I asked her to share a recipe. Peanut Butter Pie, anyone? :)

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Not too long ago, I was innocently browsing online when a jar of Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves spoke to me:

Don’t you love my beautiful lines and shading? Look at my luscious rosy watercolors, my checkered lid. Do I not stand out from the hundreds of food illustrations you see every day?

The jam was spreading it on thick, but it had a good point. There was something pure and serene about its singular beauty. Detailed and realistic, it had that charming handmade quality I always fall for.

“Bonne Maman” is by Boston-based artist, illustrator and graphic designer Kendyll Hillegas, whose work “focuses on capturing the emotional and narrative significance of food and everyday objects.” Using a combination of colored pencil, gouache, and ink, she creates a delectable world of ooey gooey cakes, cheery popsicles, tempting doughnuts, cupcakes, and reach-out-and-bite-me muffins, breads, and bagels.

She invites us to appreciate anew the pleasing design of a bottle of San Pellegrino or Heinz Ketchup, the rumpled comfort of a bag of King Arthur Unbleached Flour. A bowl of soup, a stack of pancakes, a double scoop ice cream cone — we all have emotional connections to these familiar foods and like to hear and share good stories about them.

 

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