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“I think what poetry finally does is to help us experience our world as intensely as possible.” (Mark Strand)

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Have I mentioned just how much I love this year’s National Poetry Month poster?

Featuring the first stanza of Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry” cleverly drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, it’s the poster to top all posters. Period.

As we gear up for the official start of Poetry Month next week, we simply must don our finest bibs, polish our knives and forks, and wholeheartedly nosh on Strand’s delectable words. As he once said, “The reader has to sort of give himself over to the poem and allow the poem to inhabit him.” Ladies and Gentlemen, lick your chops!

EATING POETRY
by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

~ from Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 1980)

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Clean, precise, surreal. Vintage Strand. A good poem produces a visceral reaction in the reader. As we internalize it, it may momentarily dally with our intellect, but ultimately it taps into our emotional core and arouses our instinctual essence, raw and animalistic. A good poem is a transformative experience.

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It’s here, it’s finally here!

Happy Spring!

We must celebrate with what so many of us are craving after such a long hard winter: COLOR!

But why settle for plain blue when you can have indigo or blue moonshade? As for green, make mine Elysian. Let’s bask in the evocative names of colors and the flights of fancy they inspire. And yes, you may call me Sheba. :)

POEM FROM A COLOUR CHART OF HOUSEPAINTS
by Wendy Cope

Limeglow of leaves –
elf, sapling
in Elysian green,
she’s jitterbugging
in the forest.
She is froth, the tang
of julep, capering
among the ferns.
Passion, the firedance
of her fantasy,
fireglow of poppy
and corona, ember.
Casanova, peerless
demon, jester!
She burns, a firefly,
Apollo’s geisha.
Her sandgold hair,
spun silk kimono,
melon and lemon sorbet
on the balcony,
white wine, gardenias.
That honeysuckle year –
if he could ransom
one sunlit day!
Indigo seascape –
Melissa in cool,
blue moonshade.
Harebell, naiad,
exotic ballerina,
she commands the bay,
the midnight swell,
the surf, pale gossamer.
Autumnal in brogues,
beige twinset, russet
tweeds, she takes
coffee at eleven,
sherry at noon –
dreams of Tarragona,
castanets, a man
who called her Sheba.
Her mood
is violet, nocturnal.
Aubrietia, phlox,
wisteria delight her
more than roses.
Solitude, a purple
robe, a last
long hazy evening.

~ from If I Don’t Know (Faber & Faber, 2001).

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Which shade of green should I use to paint my dining room — Barefoot in the Grass, Peaceful Garden, or Spring Has Sprung? Inspired by nature’s palette, we paint our rooms to bring the outdoors in. While I contemplate my choices, enjoy this floral bouquet plucked from Cope’s dreamscape. If you need me, I’ll be lounging in my purple robe sipping sherry. Come to think of it, I’ve always wanted a pair of castanets.

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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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Happy Tuesday!

Hope you had a lovely weekend and stayed warm and cozy. Before I get to the cool things, wanted to send out a big HELLO and WELCOME to all our new subscribers. Many of you uncommonly good-looking people found your way over here via a link from Susan Branch’s blog, perhaps hungry for Rachel’s lemon butter cookies. Have you made them yet? Mr. Firth might visit you if you do. So yummy!

Anyway, we’ve set places for you at our table, cushy reserved seats any time you feel like dropping by for a little nosh or nibble. Thanks for finding Alphabet Soup! Extra cookies if you wear a mustache. :)

On with the coolness:

1. Yesterday was an exciting day for people who love children’s and young adult books — the Youth Media Awards, recognizing the tippy top cream of the crop books published in 2014, were announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. We send out big congratulations to all the award winners and honor book recipients, especially Author/Illustrator Dan Santat on his Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little Brown, 2014), and Kwame Alexander on his Newbery Medal for The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, 2014)! You can see the full list of winners here.

2. Our current blog banner features the watercolor work of Deidre Wicks, a Canadian artist we interviewed in Fall 2013. Her “Tea Party” print is available in three sizes (5×7, 8×10, 11×14) and can be purchased at her Etsy Shop, Water in My Paint. Love those whimsical animals (did you see the robin in the teacup?) and all the cakes! Wanted to show the full image as I had to crop it a little to fit the header space.

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3. Feeling a little under the weather? Seems like a lot of people have caught the flu this winter. If germs have been bothering you (or not), check out Dan Krall’s new picture book Sick Simon (Simon & Schuster, 2015):

Are germs gross, or great? Sick Simon learns how to be health-conscious during cold and flu season in this clever picture book from the author-illustrator of The Great Lollipop Caper.

Simon is going to have the best week ever. Who cares if he has a cold? He goes to school anyway, and sneezes everywhere, and coughs on everyone, and touches everything.

Germs call him a hero! Everyone else calls him…Sick Simon. When will it end? How far will he go? Will the germs take over, or can Sick Simon learn to change his ways?

Achoo and cough cough. We had fun featuring The Great Lollipop Caper and can’t wait to see what Dan’s done with this germy book. I can just imagine the ewwws, yucks, and giggles over the gross humor, but understand it’s snot for everyone. :D

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4. February is Black History Month, and there’s no better place to spend a little time than at The Brown Bookshelf for their annual celebration, 28 Days Later. Each day they’re profiling a different children’s or young adult author or children’s illustrator. A great opportunity to read about the best new and unnoticed works by African-Americans.

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5. Oh, look! Uber-talented pie lover Kendyll Hillegas is now offering her Pie Varieties illustration as a limited edition 11×14 print! Don’t you love it? It features 13 varieties of pie gorgeously rendered in Kendyll’s exquisite style. Craving a piece of lemon meringue, peach, apple, huckleberry or raspberry? Adorn one of your walls with this print and you’ll never go hungry. Edition is limited to 50 pieces (click here for more info). Read more about Kendyll’s amazingly detailed, meticulous work in our 2014 Indie Artist Spotlight.

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6. HOW TO BEHAVE AT A TEA PARTY GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Yes, it’s finally time to announce the lucky person who’ll be receiving a copy of this charming picture book. As before, we consulted the dashingly handsome, ever reliable Monsieur Random Integer Generator, who came out of hibernation just to help us. After sipping multiple cups of Darjeeling and inhaling three hundred raspberry sponge cakes, he tossed all the entrants’ names up in the air and the one that landed closest to his mustache was:

ta da!

Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves!

CONGRATULATIONS, SARAH!

*wild cheers* *confetti* *backflips*

Sarah, please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so we can send the book out lickety split. Thanks, everyone, for entering!

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7. GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY! GIVEAWAY WINNER!!

Luckily we were able to snag M. Generator before he retreated to his winter cave, craftily tempting him with warm and spicy homemade gingerbread, which he found très délicieuse. After brushing the crumbs from his mustache, he downed a tankard of cider, sang three bars of “Yankee Doodle” and selected the lucky winner via mental telepathy. He received numerous transmissions from a bevy of cinnamon and ginger-scented beauties, and expressed sincere dismay that he couldn’t gift all the lovely entrants with a prize. He finally came to a decision when the word ‘prairie’ was transferred 21 consecutive times.

ta da da da!

The winner is —  the Prairie Garden Girl herself, Suzy Leopold

CONGRATULATIONS, SUZY!! 

*cartwheels* *trumpet fanfare* *swirls*

Suzy, please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com so we can send out your book pronto! Thanks again, everyone, for entering!

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8. Finally, it’s dumpling time! My niece Cobi of Veggietorials recently made this wonderful video featuring Vegan Mandu (Korean dumplings). The paperback edition of my picture book Dumpling Soup includes my mom’s dumpling recipe, but it contains meat as part of the filling, so it’s nice to have a delicious vegan alternative to enjoy on New Year’s. Of course if you love dumplings, you’ll want to eat these more than once a year!

My sis Sylvia is also in the video, wrapping the dumplings (she was Barbra Streisand’s personal chef for about 10 years, and catered many private parties with celebrities such as Liz Taylor, Alan Alda, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Gilda Radner).

Do check out the Veggietorials website if you haven’t already done so (or find more of Cobi’s fabulous cooking videos on her YouTube channel). You can find the Vegan Mandu recipe here for printing out. Enjoy!

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All for now, cutie pies. Do have a good week! :)

xxxxxxxooooooo hugs and kisses from Mr. Cornelius

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

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valentinegarland

(click for free downloadables to make your own Love Letters from Cupid garland)

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, hearts are popping up everywhere. I don’t mind one bit, because I’ve always loved hearts. I usually draw one with my signature, like to collect heart tokens, pins and jewelry, and have a definite weakness for heart-shaped cookies and scones.

Thought you might like these lovely handmade, heartmade things, just in case you’re looking for a special little something for a friend — or yourself :). Just click on any image to purchase. Enjoy! ♥ ♥ ♥

valentinebunnies

Valentine Bunnies Original Watercolor by Margie Moore

 

dogs

Dogs in Love Valentine’s Day Necklace by hanaletters

 

heartspoon

Recycled Hand-stamped Silverware by Bella Jackson Studios

 

valentinecards

Boxed Set of Victorian-inspired Valentine Cards by LilyandVal

 

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