Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

Is it that steamy mound of creamy mashed potatoes, begging for a generous splash of savory gravy? Grandma’s candied sweet potatoes or Aunt Beverley’s green bean casserole? Maybe for you it’s all about the turkey itself with its golden brown crispy skin — moist when you slice into it, even better with cornbread stuffing and fresh cranberry sauce. Can’t forget the pies — homemade pumpkin or apple? Yes, please!

Safe to say, this traditional holiday meal wouldn’t be quite as delicious without all the sharing — the sharing of cooking, baking, and serving tasks, and of course, having family and friends sitting around the table to devour every last bite.

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Pat Zietlow Miller’s delectable new picture book, Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story (Schwartz & Wade, 2015), invites us to step back into the 19th century to feast with a lively family of 10:

Mama, fetch the cooking pot.
Fetch our turkey-cooking pot.
Big and old and black and squat.
Mama, fetch the pot.

An enthusiastic young boy coaches each member of his family on a specific task: Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads the dough, Brother bastes the turkey, Grandpa boils the cranberries, Grandma bakes pumpkin pie, Auntie mashes potatoes, Uncle pours cider, and even Baby’s got a job — to “be a sleeping mouse.” With his brother and sister, the boy also makes paper pilgrim hat placemats, and when all is finally done, he calls everyone to the table. Yum!


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Look who’s here! :)

By now, most of you know I’m a big Jorge Argueta fan. I’ve previously featured four titles from his fabulous bilingual Cooking Poem Series here at Alphabet Soup: Rice Pudding/Arroz con leche (2010), Guacamole (2012), Tamalitos (2013), and most recently, Salsa (March 2015), all published by Groundwood Books.

Today, Jorge is here to talk about Olita y Manyula: The Big Birthday/El gran compleaños (Luna’s Press Books, 2015), a new bilingual picture book that represents yet another milestone in his esteemed literary career as author, poet, publisher and bookstore owner — a semi-autobiographical story that’s especially close to his heart.

Since founding Luna’s Press about 20 years ago, Jorge has published a number of chapbooks by San Francisco poets, but Olita y Manyula is the press’s first children’s book. This charming story features a young girl named Holly (Olita) who travels from the U.S. to visit friends and family in El Salvador. Once there, her aunt, cousin, and two friends excitedly escort her to a special birthday party for Manyula, whose house is within walking distance.

On the way, they stroll through the San Jacinto neighborhood with its colorful painted houses under the “tik-tik, tok-tok” of warm, intermittent rain, laughing and jumping in mud puddles. Rather than divulge any details about Manyula’s identity, the boys instead focus on pointing out several notable landmarks en route (the San Salvador volcano, beautiful Alcehuate River, a cement statue resembling a big handkerchief).


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Several years ago, in order to illustrate Monica Brown’s Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (Henry Holt, 2011), Julie Paschkis immersed herself in Neruda’s poetry and took Spanish language classes.

She fell in love with Spanish, its sounds and structure. Already a lover of words, she found these new words both interesting and fascinating, so much so, that she incorporated them in her paintings to stunning effect. She had created her own brand of visual poetry inspired by Neruda’s words.

Her love affair with the language didn’t end with that book. As one thing can sometimes beautifully lead to another, Julie discovered that her unfamiliarity with Spanish freed her to write poetry. The fourteen free verse animal poems in Flutter & Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido (Henry Holt, 2015) were first written in Spanish, then translated by Julie into English. And as she did with the Neruda book, she added words inspired by the poems to her illustrations.

In this exquisite tapestry of three languages — Spanish, English, and Art — we are treated to Julie’s charming insights and observations of creatures inhabiting land, sea and air, inviting us to appreciate them in new and surprising ways. Did you ever wonder what a turtle might be hiding in her shell?

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The turtle hides
in her shell.
But maybe there is space,
a place
for hidden treasure.
Just for pleasure
she could put an emerald
and a ruby or two

When she walks
she listens to the rattle of the gemstones.
That is why she goes so slowly —
she doesn’t want to spill
her secrets.



La tortuga se esconde
en su caparazón.
Tal vez hay un vacío,
un espacio
para un tesoro escondido.
Sólo por gusto
la tortuga podría meter
una esmeralda y unos rubís

Cuando anda
escucha el traqueteo del tesoro.
Por eso ella anda lentamente —
para no deja caer
sus secretos.

And the snake? He writes “a slippery poem/with his body . . . He only knows one letter: ssssssssss.” There’s also a whale that dances “In a dazzle of bubbles.” Sheer delight!

The poems vary in mood from playful (a dog’s wagging tail “fans wild happiness/into the wild world”) to peaceful and evocative (“Out of the darkness/an owl hoots./An echo./The night train/is leaving”) to ethereal (“I am a fish in the sea of dreams”).

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I really love the CAT:

Fat cat
naps on a map.
When she gets up
s  h  e     s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  s
from Arequipa to Zanzibar
and her belly bumps  Topolobampo.
Elastic cat.



La gata gorda
se duerme en un mapa.
Cuando se levanta
s e    e s t i r a
desde Arequipa hasta Zanzibar
y su barriga choca contra  Topolobampo.
La gata elástica.

Isn’t ‘Topolobampo’ the best word ever? Even if we didn’t know it’s a city in Mexico, we get a good sense of how the cat’s moving in that winsome alliterative line, so much fun to read aloud. Flutter and Hum truly celebrates words, languages, and instinctual creative expression. It certainly contributes to our appreciation of how and where poems might emerge, and it’s fun to imagine Julie playing with both Spanish and English and exploring some of the magical places in between.

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As someone who loves hand lettering, I fairly swooned over Julie’s gorgeous paintings. As words slither on long blades of grass, swirl in the ripples of pond water, ride atop the backs of crows (“crass/brash,” “craven/crooked,” “brujo/brusco”), float in clouds, adorn both halves of a juicy strawberry (“fresh, blush, ripe, giddy, gozo, julio, frivolo”), and stream in dark ocean waves (“nightfall, fill, flow, flung, luna, lustra, bunco, oscuro”), we hear these juicy words spark and sing, bask in their collective serenade, feel the heart quicken. Her careful choice of words, as well as how they are paired or juxtaposed, creates a new energy, another poetic revelation.

Readers will also enjoy the little touches of humor: the parrot is “cheery, cheeky, beaky,” the whale, “buoyant”/”oh boy,” and that irresistible cat,  “now/then,” “here/there.” Surprise gifts in the fine details, a veritable feast of words. Perfecto!

I know you’ll enjoy hearing more from Julie herself, and we thank her for visiting today, and for creating this treasure of a book. Perhaps the turtle should stash a copy in her shell? :)


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1. Author and Poet Charles Ghigna, aka Father Goose, aka Our Favorite Alabama hotTEA, has some new books out! The Tiny Tales series (four 64-page early chapter books published by Picture Window Books/Capstone, 2015), was inspired by imaginative play with his adorable granddaughter Charlotte Rose.

Kids will enjoy following the adventures of Lucy Goose, Cuddle Bunny, Adeline Porcupine and Bobby Bear. Each title contains 4-5 stories of family and friendship lovingly illustrated by Jacqueline East (Mr. Cornelius was especially excited about Bobby Bear). Read more about Charles, Charlotte Rose, and the genesis of this series in this heartwarming post.

Charles’s new board book, A Carnival of Cats (Orca Books, 2015), was just released at the beginning of September.

There’s a purrrfect little carnival coming to town, filled with adorable cats of all different kinds! In this hint-and-reveal board book, babies, toddlers and cat-lovers alike will enjoy discovering (and guessing) what breed of cat is hiding on the next page. With playful rhyming text from award-winning author Charles Ghigna, aka Father Goose®, and beautiful illustrations by celebrated artist Kristi Bridgeman, this exuberant board book will have everyone guessing what cat is that!

Sounds like a fun feline feast for whisker-lovin’ PreSchool and Kindergarten munchkins. Me-wow!


2. Some of you may remember when a certain gray silicone tea infuser named Mr. Tea cavorted in the Alphabet Soup kitchen in search of the perfect teacup.

Lo and behold — Mr. Tea has joined the ranks of the politically correct. He’s gone diverse! Behold the family of different colors, perfect for parTEAing anytime, anywhere in the world.

For two years now, the resident leprechaun and I have thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Tea’s company. Very daring and extremely playful, Mr. Tea no longer confines himself to teacups, but can be found balancing perilously atop gooseneck water faucets, hanging plant pots, wooden sculptures, and window ledges.

It’s a little “dangerous” to leave anything with a rim lying around, as Mr. Tea will appear out of nowhere just to hang out. We highly recommend adopting your own Mr. Tea. Other than a few rascally antics, he’s quite well behaved, doesn’t talk back, and won’t eat all your cookies.



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The Alphabet Soup Mini Library is now open.

Please help yourself to a yummy fig bar book compliments of the Teddy Town Bears. They made them especially for you to celebrate the recent release of Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, 2015), a very cool collection of 15 poems selected by master anthologist, author, poet, editor, educator and eternal hotTEA Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Two words make me instantly happy: LOVE and LIBRARY. They’re kind of synonymous in my mind, and truly, could any of us thrive without either one?

Wahiawa Library front entrance.

The public library in my small country hometown of Wahiawa, Hawai’i, was my safe haven while growing up — a true home away from home where I discovered the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beverly Cleary, Eleanor Estes, and Sydney Taylor. It was a quiet place to think, read, dream, wonder, learn and imagine – a place where I could travel new roads, discover new worlds within the pages of a favorite book, the place where it first occurred to me that anything can happen, anything is possible.

Wahiawa Library Children’s Section

The poems in Jumping Off Library Shelves joyously celebrate the singular experiences that make any library a magical place, from the breathless anticipation of first entering “the sweet kingdom of story,” to getting one’s first library card, to cozily snuggling up with a good story, to basking in the power and privilege of choosing books and being transported and transformed. Who would not thrill at the prospect of so much knowledge, so many good stories right there for the taking?


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