Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Mr. Cornelius Cucumber

While looking for more children’s books illustrated by Lena Anderson, I was happy to discover Anna’s Garden Songs – a whimsical, light-hearted collection of 14 fruit and veggie poems written by Mary Q. Steele.

Garden favorites like peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, beets and onions take their place in the sun with playful rhyming verse and Lena’s fanciful pictures. I may as well confess right now that I’ve always had a thing for giant vegetables, so when I saw how Lena fiddled with scale in this book I squealed with delight. :)

Blond, mostly barefoot, bespectacled Anna is just adorable as she plants, harvests and shares the garden’s bounty with her friends, grandfather, and large pet rabbit, who happily scampers through the pages and almost steals the show (he’s especially good at nibbling and napping).

 

From the moment I opened the book and saw Anna hiding in that big pea pod, I knew I was in for a real treat. I can’t decide which I like most — Anna sitting atop a giant beet, relaxing amongst the tomato plants, or wearing a dress made from lettuce leaves.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

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.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Ahem. I’ve known for some time that poets J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian are both crazy. Crazy talented, that is.

Ebullient wizards of comedic timing and wordplay, these two pun meisters should be arrested for having way too much fun. Having tickled the funny bones of kids everywhere for decades, they’ve each published dozens of award winning books that celebrate the many wonderful possibilities of poetry. Such joy! Such cleverness! Such vigorous versifying! Veddy veddy good.

Now, a new book by either one of these beloved poets is a real treat, but having them write a book together is like having your cake and eating it two, three, maybe five thousand times. In Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (Schwartz & Wade, 2014), Mr. Lewis and Mr. Florian have set their engines at full throttle, pulling out all the stops when it comes to inventing 21 crazy dazy cars of the future.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Though I’m a longtime Christina Björk and Lena Anderson fan (they’re the Swedish author and illustrator team who created Linnea in Monet’s Garden and Linnea’s Almanac, among many others), I didn’t know about Elliot’s Extraordinary Cookbook (1990) until just recently.

Why didn’t you tell me? You know how nuts I am about illustrated cookbooks. :)

I snatched up a like-new copy and swooned over every page of this thoroughly charming and delightful book, which is narrated by Linnea’s neighbor Elliot, quite likely the most enthusiastic young cook ever to bake a potato or scramble an egg.

It all begins when Elliot locks himself out of his apartment and meets his neighbor Stella Delight, a kind widow and former ship’s cook who invites him to wait upstairs at her place.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

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? :)

*   *   *

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 500 other followers

%d bloggers like this: