Posts Tagged ‘biography’

Ohayoo gozaimasu! Good Morning!

Please help yourself to a nice warm cup of Genmaicha (green tea with brown rice) and a piece of chi chi dango mochi. I remember many a time when my mother made a pot of Genmaicha after a good meal — a soothing way to cleanse the palate and set the stage for some lively ‘talk story.’

A couple of weeks ago, I searched Lee and Low’s website for books I hadn’t yet read and found the perfect picture book to share for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Cool Melons — Turn to Frogs!: The Life and Poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub and Kazuko G. Stone was first published in 1998, so many of you are probably already familiar with it. How did I miss it? I’m so glad I finally read it, as now it’s one of my favorite haiku picture books ever.

Issa wrote this haiku when he was just six years old.

I love how every aspect of this book embodies the essence of haiku — its complex simplicity, beauty, elegance, and ability to open the eyes, refresh the mind, and inspire contemplation.


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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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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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“Black Bear-y Pie” by Shawn Braley (available as a print or greeting card)

Ah yes. The time has come once again to sniff out a few more pies take a little summer blog break.

I’m looking forward to relaxing, tackling my TBR pile, and inviting Mr. Firth over for some intellectual conversation. :)

But before I sign off, wanted to mention three upcoming titles I’m especially excited about. They all hit shelves on that magical day, August 5, 2014:


1. Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta (Candlewick, 2014).

Secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny surprises — these essays by leading kids’ lit bloggers take us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books.

Told in lively and affectionate prose, this treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, parent, or anyone wondering about the post–Harry Potter children’s book biz brings contemporary illumination to the warm-and-fuzzy bunny world we think we know.

I’ve been anxiously waiting for this one for at least five years, since I’m a big fan of all three authors’ blogs. It will be somewhat bittersweet since Peter is no longer with us, but it will be good to read his words again and remember how much we all admired his rapier wit and finely honed children’s literature chops.

Do check out the cool new Wild Things! website, where Julie and Betsy will be posting “cutting room floor” stories daily up until release date, and where you’ll find their blog tour and personal appearances schedule.


2. Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez (Charlesbridge 2014). 

Hungry readers discover delicious and distinct recipes in this witty companion to Eat Your Math Homework. A main text explains upper-elementary science concepts, including subatomic particles, acids and bases, black holes, and more. Alongside simple recipes, side-bars encourage readers to also experiment and explore outside of the kitchen. A review, glossary, and index make the entire book easy to digest.

Remember when Ann and Leeza dropped by to tell us all about Eat Your Math Homework? Happy to see they’ve created another cookbook with a science theme. I hope to try one of the recipes and report back next month. :)


3. Spic and Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen by Monica Kulling and David Parkins (Tundra Books, 2014). 

Born into a life of privilege in 1878, Lillian Moller Gilbreth put her pampered life aside for one of adventure and challenge. She and her husband, Frank, became efficiency experts by studying the actions of factory workers. They ran their home efficiently, too. When Frank suddenly died, Lillian was left to her own devices to raise their eleven children. Eventually, she was hired by the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company to improve kitchen design, which was only the beginning.

Lillian Gilbreth was the subject of two movies (Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes), the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and the first female psychologist to have a U.S. postage stamp issued in her honor. A leading efficiency expert, she was also an industrial engineer, a psycologist, an author, a professor, and an inventor.

Sounds good, no? Will be featuring this one next month, too!

Happy Early Book Birthday, Betsy, Julie, Peter, Ann, Leeza, Monica and David!!

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Yes, yes, I know you’re anxious to hear who will be receiving a brand new copy of Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad.

We bribed Scotland Yard with 1,283 Chocolate Almond Cupcakes to help us locate the erudite, ever reliable M. Random Integer Generator. From past giveaways you probably know he is in such high demand that he’s taken to fleeing at a moment’s notice, globe-trotting with famous chefs and Italian clothiers, and geocaching himself just for fun.

All in the name of suspense (it beats a simple drum roll any day).

This time he remarked on the poetic beauty of the entrants’ given names, particularly swooning over favorites “Emmeline,” “Tanita,” and “Michelle.”

Mon Dieu! He actually fell in love with them all, and was indeed at sixes and sevens over having to pick just one winner.


CONGRATULATIONS, KIRSTEN!!! Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so we can send your book out to you pronto!

Thanks one and all for entering the giveaway. Anyone wishing to rendezvous with M. Generator, please send a telegram to: 81 rue de l’Université, Paris. Ooh-la-la!

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“Vacation” by Toby Fonseca (available as a print, notecard, mug, phone case and rug)

Okay, I’ll see you around mid-August or so. Enjoy the rest of your summer — have fun and eat a lot of treats!


Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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If 19th century French chef Alexis Soyer were alive today, he’d likely have his own cooking show. His name brand sauces, cookbooks and kitchen utensils would fill store shelves, velvet berets would be all the rage, and lines of fans would snake around the block at all his public appearances.

Though he was deliciously famous during Victorian times and has been called the first celebrity chef, today Soyer is curiously the man history forgot.

I’ve been fascinated by his life and work ever since reading Ann Arnold’s beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography. You may know Ann as the illustrator of Alice Waters’s now classic Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is ‘the book’ that got me hooked on illustrated cookbooks.

In The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), Ann outlines Soyer’s life from his humble beginnings in the tiny French town of Meaux-en-Brie (1809), till his death from Crimean fever in London at the age of 48. He was quite a colorful and flamboyant character who enjoyed amusing people — not only a celebrated chef with a social conscience, but also an inventor, entrepreneur, and prolific cookbook author.


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