soup of the day: touch blue by cynthia lord!

“Reaching into my pocket, I touch that lucky-blue sea glass and try to cram all my wishes about Aaron into one. Please let this plan work.” ~ Tess from Touch Blue

Maine blue lobster postcard available from paflip25.

Guess what just came ashore?

Hint: it’s heartwarming, funny, takes place on a small island in Maine, was inspired by a true story, and was written by one of my favorite children’s book authors.

Oh, and it’s beautifully, bountifully, breathtakingly BLUE!

Yes! Touch Blue, Cynthia Lord’s second middle grade novel, is officially out today! Big cause for celebration. BIG. Because ever since I read her Newbery Honor-winning debut novel, Rules (Scholastic, 2007), I’ve been hungry for more more more. As luck would have it, I did not receive my promised review copy from the publisher (ahem!), but I did receive the copy I pre-ordered online a few days early, just in time to write this post! I’m pretty sure I finally got lucky because I blogged about blue for most of last week, while I was wishing, wishing ☺.

Eleven-year-old Tess Brooks loves her life on Bethsaida Island. Her father is a lobsterman, and her mom is the island teacher at their one-room schoolhouse. After a family with five children moves to the mainland, the state of Maine decrees that there aren’t enough students to keep the school open. Tess’s dad thinks he could fish just as well from the mainland, but the last thing Tess wants to do is leave the only home she’s ever known. Fortunately, Reverend Beal has a plan — why not bring in foster children to live with some of the year-round residents? This would bring the school numbers up, as well as provide good homes for the kids.

Frenchboro, Maine: actual school incident took place here in 1964 (photo by dr. rob).

Tess and her five-year-old sister, Libby, are excited about welcoming 13-year-old trumpet player Aaron Spinney to their family. Tess has read all about foster kids in books like Bud, Not Buddy, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and Anne of Green Gables, and has high hopes Aaron will be the boy version of Anne, “full of stories and eager to meet us.” When Aaron turns out to be just the opposite — quiet, distant and moody — ever optimistic, big believer-in-luck Tess fears they may have made a big mistake.

How can they help Aaron, who’s been bounced from one foster home to another, adjust to Bethsaida and its close-knit community? Should Tess try to reunite Aaron with his birth mother? As she navigates the choppy waters of friendship and family, she soon discovers that “wishes are slippery things,” life is a lot more complicated than she thought, and there is much to be learned from considering other points of view. And when it comes to luck, sometimes you just have to take a chance and make your own.

Lobster boat, Portland Harbor (photo by Benjamin Griffith).

  Lobster traps and buoys by MikeJonesPhoto.

There are so many things to love about Touch Blue: the crisp, seamless prose and lively narrative that effortlessly skims along at just the right pace; Tess’s authentic voice, which is instantly engaging and appealing; the colorful, carefully chosen details about island life and lobster fishing, the added “flavor” provided by quirky secondary characters. Above all, in this story about the importance of family and finding a place to belong, the author’s love for and intimate knowledge of the setting shine through on every page, with emotions that ring true and touch the heart. Drawing on her own experience as a Maine island teacher, Cindy has once again created a thoroughly enjoyable story that will be embraced by all her loyal fans. I’m very pleased to give Touch Blue my highest five spoon rating ☺!

Now, please join me in congratulating Cindy on another beautifully crafted novel. The resident bears have concocted a special good luck soup for all to share. If you’re superstitious like Tess, feel free to touch any one (or all) of the blue “sea glass” stones and make a wish before you dip your spoon.

“Salty soup is a sign that the cook is in love.”

(Oh, glory! This batch is extra salty. Everyone at alphabet soup is crazy in love with Touch Blue!)

Today’s Special: Bethsaida Broth (seasoned with fresh air, the scent of pine, and splashes of the deep blue sea). 

To go with your soup, a lobstah roll (LOVE them):

photo by jimbrickett.

For dessert, a piece of wild Maine blueberry pie:

photo by tiny banquet committee.

some Monopoly cake (as per Libby’s request):

photo by catfuzz.

and of course, whoopie pies!

photo by Squirrelbakes.

That was quite a feast! Better work it off by waddling walking to your local indie or clicking through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy (better get 2 or 3 for gifts) of Touch Blue. If you go to a bricks and mortar store, wear something blue (duh), but I don’t advise touching the cashier without asking first. If he/she asks you if Touch Blue is a good book, smile your best smile and say, “Ayuh!”

Happy Pub Day, Cindy! We love your books!


♥ Visit Cynthia Lord’s official Touch Blue webpage. You can read a sample chapter, check out the fabulous Teacher’s Guide, follow all kinds of links about foster families and lobsters, even make Cindy’s mother’s Whoopie Pie recipe!

♥ Online Reviews: Jennifer M. Brown at Shelf Awareness, Kelly Fineman, Tasha at Kids Lit, Goddess of YA LiteratureAfterthoughts, Abby(the)Librarian.

♥ Recent Interviews: BookPage, Debbi Michiko Florence, Ingrid Law , The Book Blog, Sarah Laurence.

Click here to read the article in the Ellsworth American that inspired Cindy to write this book.

♥ And of course, check in with Cindy’s Live Journal for info about booksignings and other events. Scroll through older entries for interesting tidbits relating to the making of Touch Blue, and a wealth of gorgeous Maine photos taken by Cindy’s husband, John.

♥ Don’t miss this! Click here to enter Cindy’s special Pub Day Contest. You can win a signed copy of Touch Blue, a beautiful sea glass necklace and some whoopie pies! But you must leave a comment there by midnight tonight!


TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord
published by Scholastic, August 2010
Fiction for ages 9-12, 192 pp.
Cool themes: foster care, families, acceptance, belonging, bravery, superstitions, Maine island life, lobster fishing, friendship.


 “Touch blue and your wish will come true.”

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


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