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Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

#52 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

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“Isn’t that the only way to curate a life? To live among things that make you gasp with Delight?” ~ Maira Kalman

A.

Ah-hA!

TheRe You Are.

Are you ready
to REAd the

Alphabet?

perhAps you should
put on youR
ThinKing
CAP
(but don’t think too much)

Pretty much everything Maira Kalman does makes me gasp with delight.

I don’t know how she does it, or why it happens, but with each new book that delight intensifies. I am convinced she must eat magical cakes or a proliferation of napoleons prepared by exceedingly handsome mustachioed pastry chefs, or as in the case of this particular picture book, artfully burnt toast and ginger tea (steeped in whimsy).

In Ah-hA to Zig-Zag, her new alphabet book written especially for kids and the forever young at heart, the letter A stands for CAP, F for a hat From France that is “fluffy and frothy and fantastic and funny,” and Q for “quite the toaster.”

Though the book cleverly spotlights “31 Funny Excellent Beautiful Surprising Helpful Amazing Objects” from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in NYC (to celebrate its re-opening in December 2014), only three objects actually begin with their corresponding letters — Pocket, Umbrella, and Zig-Zag (Chair). 

But that’s just what makes this book so totally Maira. Instead of the conventional, “A is for Apple” format, this alphabet à la Maira is an idiosyncratic commentary, an affectionate conversation with YOU where she free associates with her chosen objects in funny, unexpected, and surprisingly profound ways. We get a good dose of those 26 beautiful letters alright, along with a fascinating design history primer spanning centuries.

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Fancy a plate of ants and worms, a bowl of lilac nectar, or some crabs and shrimp?

Maybe a bowl of chili or a BLT on whole wheat is more to your liking. :)

Whatever your pleasure, just come right in and take a seat! No reservations required. A good appetite, healthy curiosity and sense of humor are all you need to enjoy If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, a delectably charming picture book by Ellen Fischer and Laura Wood (Scarletta Kids, 2014).

I must confess this book had me at the cover. I was instantly intrigued by all the possible scenarios suggested by the title, and how often does one see a lovable armadillo noshing on a plate of spaghetti and meatballs?  I could already tell this would probably be one funny feast.

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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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Several years ago, Anamaria at Books Together tipped me off to this charming picture book about Fannie Farmer by Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter. Happy to say I’m finally getting around to featuring it here at Alphabet Soup and I even rewarded myself by making Fannie’s Famous Griddle Cakes using the recipe provided in the book. :)

These days, most of us don’t think twice about reaching for our measuring cups, spoons, or kitchen scales when we’re ready to cook or bake. Especially with baking, when precise measurements can mean the difference between a cake that rises nicely or sinks like a stone, it’s always about starting out with a good, reliable recipe.

Boston native Fannie Farmer is often credited with inventing the modern recipe. She was one of the first to write down exact instructions for measuring and cooking. But what inspired her to do that, and to eventually publish a cookbook that’s been popular for over 100 years?

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A Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas (Schwartz & Wade, 2015) is the perfect Poetry Month book, as it will get kids excited about writing their own poems and reading them aloud. The story centers around Elinor, a conscientious model student who struggles with a major case of writer’s block when she tries too hard to write the perfect poem.

In this third book in the series about Mr. Tiffin’s class, Elinor and her classmates are very excited that Emmy Crane, “a great American poet,” will be visiting their school on Poem in Your Pocket Day. The plan is to learn as much as they can about poetry by reading and memorizing poems, and by writing poems in their journals. They will then select one of their poems to put in their pockets, which they will read aloud at the school assembly for Ms. Crane.

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Supremely confident, somewhat braggy Elinor plans to wear jeans with six pockets when Ms. Crane comes, with an original poem stashed in each one. She dives right into studying everything and anything about poetry a full month ahead of the class. When April rolls around, Mr. Tiffin teaches them about figures of speech (similes, metaphors), and different poetic forms (haiku, acrostic, concrete). Everyone has fun reading sample poems and writing their own, while strangely silent Elinor has nothing to share, reassuring the others that she will come up with something amazing for Ms. Crane’s visit.

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Mr. Tiffin takes the class outdoors so they can practice using their “poet’s eyes.” Another day, he gives them each a brown paper bag and asks them to write a poem about what’s inside. Everyone is eager to read their poems aloud for the others to guess, but Elinor’s journal remains blank.

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