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Dear Mr. Firth,

You must allow us to tell you how ardently we admire and love you.

To celebrate your 54th birthday, we’re serving up a 3-course repast here at Alphabet Soup: a brand new picture book, a spot of tea, and you.

Whether as Fitzwilliam Darcy or Mark Darcy, you truly take the cake. May we be so bold as to say you are stunning wet, dry, and everything in-between?

And boy, can you rock a cravat and waistcoat.

We remain your loyal fans, wishing you the best birthday ever.

With deep affection and hearts a-flutter,

Every female in the world with a pulse
xoxoxoxo

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♥ FIRST COURSE ♥
Goodnight Mr. Darcy by Kate Coombs and Alli Arnold

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an earnest writer and a department store sniffing artist in possession of talent and wit must be in want of a good parody.

For award winning author Kate Coombs and award-winning illustrator Alli Arnold, a send-up of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice à la beloved children’s classic Goodnight Moon was just the thing to set their bonnets a-twirl.

In the great ballroom
There was a country dance
And a well-played tune
And Elizabeth Bennet –

So begins this tidy tale of moonlight and romance, as all are gathered at the Netherfield Ball — Lydia and Kitty looking pretty, Mr. Darcy surprised by a pair of fine eyes, Jane with a blush and Mr. Bingley turned to mush, and let’s not forget a certain gossiping mother and a father saying ‘hush’.

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Those familiar with Pride and Prejudice know that the Ball is a crucial scene — where Darcy has singled out Elizabeth, and caught off-guard, she agrees to dance with him. They are allowed to engage in unchaperoned conversation (gasp!), their unguarded repartee ever-so-temptingly weakening their resolve.

In Goodnight Mr. Darcy (Gibbs Smith, 2014), Kate has retained the simple rhyming structure and lulling cadence of Brown’s Goodnight Moon, but with a brilliant tongue-against-blushing cheek makeover that outlines all the delectable aspects of the prim and proper Darcy/Lizzy conscious coupling from ‘cute meet’ at the dance to mutual mooning over each other at home to happily ever after. The Mr. Bingley and Jane pairing adds a bit of ‘mushy’ humor boys will appreciate, while the whole concept of a fancy dress ball with tipping of top hats, flitting of fans and oh-so-civilized how-de-do’s will have special appeal to girls.

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Callooh! Callay!

How to Behave at a Tea Party is officially out today!

What happens when opinionated Julia tries to teach her carefree little brother, Charles, how to behave at a tea party? This sweet and silly take on the classic manners theme is filled with sibling antics, laugh-out-loud moments, big imagination, and plenty of heart, making it perfect for readers of modern classics such as Fancy Nancy and Ladybug Girl. It’s also great for parents of tantrum-throwing preschoolers looking to impart some wisdom on how to cope with life’s surprises.

Julia wants nothing more than to teach Charles proper tea party etiquette, but things are not going as planned. The tiny sandwiches have been gobbled up by the dog, Charles is using sugar cubes as building blocks, and the neighbor kids have eaten the centerpiece. Will Julia and Charles find a way to play together?

Happy Pub Day to Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross!

Dust off your fancy hats, polish your silver teaspoons and get ready to put the kettle on. Review coming soon right here at Alphabet Soup!

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

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If you’re feeling a little thirsty, you’ve come to the right place.

Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole (Millbrook Press, 2014)Irene Latham’s first poetry collection for children– is officially hitting shelves on Monday, September 1!

With fifteen beautifully crafted poems, Irene invites us to meet a fascinating variety of animals who frequent a water hole on the African grasslands.

Whether it’s those charming little meerkats standing guard in a nearby burrow, a tentative giraffe acrobatically positioning itself at water’s edge, a herd of playful zebras cavorting in a metaphorical “rugby tangle,” or a solitary rhino venturing out for his moonlight drink, we can easily see what a busy, life-sustaining place this is from dawn to dusk.

Written in free verse and rhyme, Irene’s spare, evocative poems are by turns lyrical, whimsical, informative, amusing, enlightening, reflective and reverent. She did a brilliant job of zeroing in on precisely those aspects of animal personality and behavior that best lend themselves to poetic interpretation. Each verse is paired with a nonfiction note offering further details about how the animals thrive and function in the ecosystem, illuminating interdependence, survival and diversity.

Anna Wadham’s gorgeous illustrations convey the many moods of the savanna, sometimes rust orange and warm, sometimes jade green and refreshing, other times dreamy cerulean and soothing. Her emotive renderings nicely complement the verses, indeed welcoming the reader to “this vital place/where earth and sky convene,” inspiring us to wander, meander, and freely appreciate this unique poetic celebration of wildlife and habitat.

I especially enjoyed hearing from the new-to-me oxpeckers, whose comical poem I’m sharing today, along with the ethereal “Impala Explosion,” a stunning example of how terse rhythm and neat rhyme can perfectly capture the animals’ spirit and movement.

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If you want a paleta, raise your hand!

Mango? Lime? Coconut? Strawberry? Pineapple? What do you fancy? We need one last tasty lick before summer ends.

Carmen Tafolla’s story makes me want to visit the girl narrator’s barrio — where “the smell of crispy tacos or buttery tortillas or juicy fruta floats out of every window, and where the paleta wagon rings its tinkly bell and carries a treasure of icy paletas in every color of the sarape.”

What Can You Do With a Paleta? is pitch perfect storytelling. Dr. Tafolla captures the fun, anticipation and utter deliciousness of this favorite Mexican ice pop treat, the very essence of summer and childhood.

And I LOVE the way she reads her story aloud. You’ll see what I mean:

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Wasn’t that great? My favorite part is the blue mustache. :)

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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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GIVEAWAY WINNER!

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.

And it is: KIRSTEN LOPRESTI!!

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!

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

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