Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

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?

(click to enlarge)


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”).

(click to enlarge)

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.

(click to enlarge)

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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When I first saw Joël Penkman’s work, all kinds of superlatives came to mind: Incredible. Gorgeous. Exquisite. Amazing. Beautiful!




Many of her egg tempura on gesso board still life food paintings look so realistic you might easily mistake them for photographs. Originally from New Zealand, Joël now lives and works in the UK — Liverpool, England, to be exact.







She portrays her subjects on clean, neutral backgrounds to allow the viewer to bring his/her own context to the paintings. Food is by far her favorite subject, but she also enjoys graphically representing everyday objects inspired by British life.




Naturally I especially love her sweets, but I’m equally enamored of her food packaging subjects,










and her 100 teacups collection!






Recently, she was commissioned to paint 125 food items for Colman Andrews’s THE TASTE OF AMERICA (Phaidon Press, 2013). It’s wonderful to see familiar foods like hot dogs, avocados, bagels, and cherry tomatoes along with regional favorites like Old Bay Seasoning, Café du Monde Beignet Mix, Goo Goo Clusters, and Vermont Common Crackers. I also learned about quite a few brands I’d never seen before (Rancho Gordo Prepared Hominy, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kim’s Pork Cracklings).













Since she likes to paint from real life models, these foods were sent to her across the pond. She said it felt like Christmas whenever a new shipment arrived. :)

For the literary minded, check out Joël’s collection of Fictional Food (yes, there’s Paddington’s favorite marmalade sandwiches!):

Holly Golightly's Breakfast

Holly Golightly’s Breakfast

Paddington's Marmalade Sandwiches

Paddington’s Marmalade Sandwiches

Snow White's Poison Apple

Snow White’s Poison Apple

Edmund's Turkish Delight

Edmund’s Turkish Delight

Indulge yourself even more by visiting Joël Penkman’s Official Website and Etsy Shop, where she sells both originals and giclée prints.




It’s easy to see why I’m such a big fan of Joël’s work. But there’s also this: when asked in an interview what she would take if her house was burning down, she said her cats, their 2 teddy bears and her laptop. You should have heard the cheers in the Alphabet Soup kitchen! We love an artist who’s got her priorities straight. :)




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

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1. It’s always exciting to discover a quirky new alphabet book — even better when it features fruits and veggies like you’ve never seen them before. Check out Aitch’s Veggie Fruit Alphabet, which the Romanian artist describes as “a playful approach on the traditional alphabet book. Each letter features a fruit or vegetable, depicted as a morph between the fruit’s or veggie’s shape and the female body, a beautiful tribute to natural diversity. Each character has a companion page featuring an illustration of the letter itself and a hand painted pattern based on the fruit or veggie.”

This 56-page gem has super shiny covers, and there’s also a cool art print you can purchase separately (my fave is a toss-up between the Eggplant and the Watermelon). Visit Aitch’s Etsy Shop for more info.


2. You may have noticed that I am slightly mad for English pottery and china. I squealed with delight when I stumbled upon Stokesay Ware — dollhouse miniature china (1:12 scale) in classic English patterns made by hand using completely authentic materials and techniques. The designs/patterns are not applied with decals. Instead, the “decoration is made using specially drawn artwork and hand printed by silk screen using specialist onglaze enamels which are coloured with metal oxides.”

Nursery Tea Set

Sovereign Red

Blue Willow

Victorian Kitchen Ware

Imagine serving your dolls or teddy bears on patterns such as Blue Willow, Asiatic Pheasant, Jubilee Gold, or Sovereign Red or Blue! And there’s an adorable Nursery pattern featuring the alphabet. It almost makes me want to get a dollhouse . . .


3. How about a quilted spot of tea? Canadian quilt pattern designer Laurraine Yuyama combined her love of tea and Japanese country patchwork in these adorable fabric teapots, cups and saucers.

My style has been described as “country chic” which mixes elements of old and new to create a sophisticated timeless quality. I like to incorporate machine-appliqué, hand-embroidery and buttons along with at least a splash of linen in everything I make. I enjoy combining elements from both my passions of patchwork and pottery– creating dishes with patches of intricate patterns, and quilting three-dimensional teapots and teacups.

Such a unique idea! Laurraine began selling patterns online when the demand for finished pieces became overwhelming. To date, her patterns have been included in at least 11 craft books, and she hopes to publish her own book someday. Find out more about her downloadable pattern booklets here, and view more of her finished work here.


4. Whoever thought “biting the biscuit” could be so creative, stylish and fun? Behold the Hairdo Cookie Cutter designed by Avihai Shurin! Now with each bite you can style Sam’s hair :). A little nibble here, a strategic munch there, go short or shaggy, round or square. It’s totally up to you. No such thing as a bad hair day when your cookies taste so good. :)


5. It’s never too early to think about holiday gifts, especially those you’d like to have personalized. What about a lovely  folk art print by Catherine Holman? Ever dream of having your own cupcake or tea shoppe? Maybe you have a friend who’d love to see her name on the awning of this cute and cozy cakery and cafe.

Visit Catherine’s Etsy Shop to see her selection of personalized and other folk art prints, all of which come signed and dated by the artist. Thanks to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for the link!


6. Love this delicious post by Cara Nicoletti which was featured at Food52 recently. You may know Cara from her wonderful blog Yummy Books. In “Cook Like Hermione Granger and 11 Other Ladies of Literature,” Cara serves up a splendid dinner party menu inspired by some of her favorite characters.

Tomato Jam Toast|Harriet M. Welsch|Harriet the Spy

Though we see the likes of Elizabeth Bennet’s White Gazpacho and Bathsheba Everdene’s Grilled Corn with Basil Butter, the majority of dishes are linked to children’s book characters (Anne Shirley, Jo March, Lucy Pevensie, Ramona Quimby, Mary Lennox).

Cara’s new book Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books (Little, Brown, 2015), was just released August 18, and is definitely on my TBR list!


7. It’s here, it’s here! Though its official pub date is September 15, Jeannine Atkins’s Little Woman in Blue (She Writes Press, 2015), is already available via online booksellers. In her first historical novel for adults, Jeannine shines the spotlight on the youngest Alcott sister May.

At last, a book about the other artistic Alcott sister. May Alcott, dismissed in Little Women as the pampered youngest March sister Amy, explodes onto the pages of this wonderful novel as a real and hugely likeable woman, passionate about life, art, and adventure, and struggling to make sense of her relationship with an older sister who will never appreciate her for who she really is. Thank you, Jeannine, for giving Amy March a voice of her own! (Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Woman Letters)

I’ve only just started to read it, but so far — wow! As one might expect from an author who’s also a poet, each sentence, each scene is beautifully crafted, informed by thorough research and illuminated by an indeniable passion for her subject. Friends who’ve finished the book have deemed it a must read. A rivalry between two talented sisters, and May’s internal struggle over the desire for artistic achievement as well as having a family of her own will make for a compelling read. Check out these excellent reviews by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman and Melodye Shore.


8. Start with the alphabet, end with the alphabet. Love Emma Block’s beautiful floral alphabet, now available as an archival print at her Etsy Shop. All prints are signed and dated by Emma, whom we spotlighted in this interview. A is for Anenome, J is for Jasmine, O is for Orchid. Perfect for the flower lover and/or gardener on your list (and for you)!


Be kind. Don’t forget to smile, and have a lovely Tuesday!


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

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