soup of the day: see you at harry’s by jo knowles (and a giveaway)!

Why hello!

You’re just in time to help us celebrate the official release of See You at Harry’s (Candlewick, 2012), a brand new middle grade novel by the lovely and supremely talented Jo Knowles!

Little Jo, Champion Cone Licker

I’ve been really excited about this book ever since I first heard about it a couple of years ago, not only because I’m a big fan of Jo’s writing, but because this particular story was inspired by her childhood experiences of growing up in the restaurant business in Laconia, New Hampshire.*swoon*

Keller’s was the first of several restaurants owned by Jo’s family in New Hampshire.

Could there be anything better than having your family own a restaurant that’s also an ice cream factory?! Bring me Apple Orchard Pancakes and a Spanish Omelette for breakfast, a Knickerbocker Sandwich for lunch, Stuffed Hamburg Casserole for dinner (extra cheese, ham and mushrooms, please!), and of course, a hot fudge sundae, root beer float or strawberry ice cream cone every day after school. Yum — my idea of culinary heaven! It had to have been fun getting to know some of the customers, helping out with odd jobs, and seeing how large quantities of ice cream was made.

Lick your screen. You know you want to.

But where are my manners? Before I give you the full scoop on this wonderful book, a few delectable party favors.

First, please put on your official party t-shirt :

Next, pick a party hat — ice cream sundae or ice cream cones?

You look adorable.

Now, choose your favorite color and size ice cream scooper.

Finally, which ice cream dish would you like? Make your own sundae as you’re reading this post — use any of the ingredients you see floating around. ☺

***

If you’ve read any of Jo’s previous books (Lessons from a Dead Girl, Jumping Off Swings, Pearl), you know she’s especially gifted at writing about difficult, emotionally-charged subjects with grace and sensitivity. In See You at Harry’s, we see how one American family copes with an unimaginable tragedy.

The story is narrated by twelve-year-old Fern, a middle child who feels invisible and forgotten. Her dad is preoccupied with promoting their restaurant, while her mom is usually off meditating.

Click for homemade hot fudge recipe.

Prickly and lonely, Fern’s older sister Sara is “working” at the restaurant, filling in a gap year since she didn’t get into any of the “good colleges,” and her older brother Holden is struggling with his sexual identity. The darling of the family is three-year-old Charlie, a surprise baby who craves attention and usually gets it. Typically rambunctious and sometimes annoying, he’s also an abundant source of joy and comic relief for everyone at home and at the restaurant.

Jo writes from the heart, for the heart, and with See You at Harry’s, she brilliantly creates a realistic, wholly relatable emotional landscape. Each of the characters is fully realized and well developed; we care about and understand where they’re coming from at the start, so that when their world is suddenly shattered, our hearts break right along with theirs.

The aftermath of tragedy, with its psychological implosions of denial, anger, guilt, blame, fear, regret, and consummate grief are skillfully rendered in touching scenes that invariably ring true without resorting to melodrama or the maudlin. The ups and downs of family dynamics, whether parent-child or sibling-sibling, make for an absorbing narrative, as we see how bit by bit, small step by small step, this family moves toward a place of healing because of the love they have for each other.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear of being spoiler-y, but did want to mention that Fern is positively luminous as a main character, so-named after the Fern in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, for having “a special soul,” being a “good friend” and “hero.” I especially like her relationships with Holden (unconditional love and acceptance) and best friend Random Smith (a beacon of existential calm). Story threads involving issues of bullying, coming out, and sibling rivalry are beautifully interwoven — adding texture, deepening emotional layers, and further underscoring the belief that while each of us grieves in our own way, sharing that grief kindles renewed hope.

See You at Harry’s has already earned a starred review from Kirkus, who said, “Prescient writing, fully developed characters and completely, tragically believable situations elevate this sad, gripping tale to a must-read level.”  It’s also an Amazon Best Book of the Month for May, and blog reviewers have unanimously praised its intense emotional impact (“heartrending,” “read with Kleenex handy,” “sobbing uncontrollably”). For its soul-nourishing emotional truths, artful depiction of familial relationships, and flat-out beautiful writing, I’m happy to give this novel my highest five spoon rating!

***

So, have you finished making your sundae yet? You’ve already eaten it? Not to worry — we have lots more grub, compliments of Harry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Family Restaurant. But first, let’s all congratulate Jo with our customary celebration soup.

Yes, we’re serving it in our favorite ice cream dish, and Cornelius helped by eating an entire quart of hand-dipped fudge revel while I was carefully placing the letters. Just for today, dip deep with your ice cream scoop and make sure to SLURP with more than customary gusto. “If you haven’t been to Harry’s, you haven’t been to heaven!” Here’s to Jo!

Today’s Special: Fern’s Souper Sundae (sip slowly and all will be well).

Now, to go with your soup, a couple of things you might order at Harry’s. First, a good burger (close your eyes, vegetarians):

A little spaghetti marinara:

Maybe a nice club sandwich:

At home, Fern’s dad made chocolate chip pancakes:

Yes, yes — I know you’re all about dessert, even after inhaling finishing the sundae you made yourself. We’re pleased to offer one of Jo’s favorite snacks, a giant Hostess Cupcake,

and her favorite sundae when she was little, her father’s special Peppermint Hot Fudge:

Mmmmmm, mmmmmm!

Finally, to top off this gargantuan feast, a banana split (come on, you had to know this was coming!):

Oink!

All righty. You know the drill. Wipe that last bit of hot fudge off your face and zip over to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy of See You at Harry’s. If you go to a bricks and mortar store, wear a neon-colored t-shirt with an enigmatic word on the front (suggestions: Chill, Be, Glow). Bring an ice cream cone for the cashier and don’t forget the secret password if you want a discount: Peppermint. Extra points for shouting, “See You at Harry’s!” to everyone on the way out.

Thanks for writing this wonderful book, Jo. Heartfelt Congratulations! We Love You!!

***

SEE YOU AT HARRY’S
written by Jo Knowles
published by Candlewick Press, May 2012
Middle Grade Fiction for ages 10+, 310 pp.
Cool themes: Families, Siblings, Grief/Loss, Friendship, Restaurants, Schools/Bullying, Homosexuality, Hope and Healing, Social Situations.
*Available in hardcover, electronic and audio formats

**SECOND HELPINGS**

♥ Jo Knowles Official Website and Live Journal blog.

♥ Visit the publisher’s website to read a novel excerpt and listen to an audio sample.

Interview at Book Browse focusing on Jo’s childhood restaurant experiences!

♥ Jo talks Cover Stories with Melissa Walker.

Interview with Libba Bray:  another chance to win a copy of the book!

♥ Blog Reviews:

♥ More Soup of the Day posts here.

*SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!!**

For a chance to win a brand new copy of See You at Harry’s, simply leave a comment at this post telling us your favorite ice cream flavor no later than midnight (EDT) Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Extra entries for blogging, FBing, Tweeting, etc. (mention in your comment).

You may also enter by sending an email to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, with “HARRY’S” in the subject line. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!

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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share food related posts (book/cookbook/movie reviews, recipes, photos, etc.).

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Photo Credits:

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

88 thoughts on “soup of the day: see you at harry’s by jo knowles (and a giveaway)!

  1. I enjoy Mocha Almond ice cream.
    Have to tell you this is one of the best blog entries I have EVER seen!!
    Love it!

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  2. I’ve always thought that it takes a very special person to work at a restaurant – I imagine growing up with one would be just amazing. This book sounds like it’s something special, and I’m excited to hear about it!

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    1. It’s definitely a very special book. I think if you had to have a second home, a restaurant would be perfect.🙂

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  3. I cannot wait to read this book — I’ve been stalking it ever since I did a workshop with Jo at NESCBWI and the excerpt she read brought me to tears.

    And my favorite ice cream is mint moose tracks!

    (Ooh, and I tweeted about this giveaway!)

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    1. Hi Ann! Lucky you, to have done a workshop with Jo!

      Mint Moose tracks — sounds like a version of mint chocolate chip?

      Thanks for the tweet!

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  4. I should have read this tonight while I have my chocolate cake with Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia & dark chocolate sauce! What a beautiful book See You At Harry’s must be. I might have to download it on my IPad you’ve made me so interested, Jama. Thanks for all the description of good things to eat & great things in the book!

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    1. You’re having chocolate cake with cherry garcia ice cream and chocolate sauce tonight? And you didn’t invite me?😀

      Stock up on Kleenex before reading the book.

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      1. Thank you! Blue Moon is a Midwestern flavor, although it’s not found all over the Midwest–it originated in Michigan and can be found in Indiana, too. It’s a creamy blue ice cream with a flavor that reminds a lot of people of the milk from a bowl of Fruit Loops–sweet and a little fruity, but also very creamy and vanilla-y. That’s part of the fun of eating it with a friend: No one ever agrees on what exactly it tastes like, and there’s no official recipe for it on the Internet. Some people say the secret ingredient is almond flavoring. I could envision that.

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      2. Oh, so interesting! Blue ice cream. There are so few blue foods in the world.🙂 I’m big on almond extract, so would probably like Blue Moon. I imagine your tongue turns blue after eating it? Thanks for the 411.

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  5. Oops! And my favorite ice cream flavor, THIS WEEK, is the homemade Blueberry ice cream (that you can only get along with the lemon bread pudding) at the Red Room restaurant in Santa Cruz!

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      1. Come visit, and we’ll go there to eat. You can join my son in the fried chicken on waffles and me with the bread pudding!

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  6. Chocolate Almond Chip and Cherry Garcia and Espresso Chip. Not together, of course, but perhaps one after the other if you twist my arm. lol I’ve already ordered the book and will pick it up when Jo reads at my local indie on May 16. CAN’T WAIT to read it. Would love to win one to pass on to a friend.

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  7. I got distracted hunting through Google for a reliable definition of a knickerbocker sandwich! Is it a turkey club?

    Add me to Sharon Putnam’s nomination of B&J’s White Russian. That was an outstanding favorite of mine. I’ll take Brigham’s “Just Jimmies” in second place.

    Happy Book Birthday Jo!

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    1. A Knickerbocker, according to the Keller’s menu, is layers of turkey, ham and swiss cheese with russian dressing on pumpernickel bread.🙂

      Haven’t had any Brigham’s ice cream. A New England thing?

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  8. Don’t enter me in the contest because I’ve already ordered TWO copies!🙂 But had to say BRAVA on a wonderful post about this wonderful book and author! xoxoxoxoxo

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    1. LOL! It’s good to love so many flavors. I have to say coffee is one flavor I don’t like! Could be because I also don’t drink coffee (only tea). I know, sacrilege.🙂 Thanks for tweeting!

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  9. Oh my goodness, there are just so many things to love about this post, Jama. The glorious food, the lyrical way in which you communicated your excitement about this book (that I should also find soonest, oh dear), and the glowing support to lovely author Jo Knowles. I haven’t read any of her books yet, so I know I must be missing out on a great deal. The more I read, the more I know I should read more, isn’t that strange?🙂 Thank you for such a thorough and beautifully-written post.

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    1. Jo’s other books are YA novels, and this one is upper middle grade. All are such beautifully written, emotionally resonant gems. I remember reading her very first — Lessons from a Dead Girl. From the first paragraph, I was already saying, “Wow.” You know how sometimes you sense right away that you’re in good hands with a particular author? She never disappoints.

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  10. Absolute favorite flavor in the whole wide world is Haagen Dazs Belgian chocolate. A close second is plain chocolate from the Old Milk Barn in Wayne, NJ, which sadly closed its barn doors a few years ago. I still mourn their scoops. Happy book birthday to a stellar writer!

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  11. What a fabulous post!! My favorite is either the lemon custard, coconut chip, or coffee made at my favorite local dairy. I guess I have to pick just one. Well, my go-to flavor is always coffee. Those peppermint sundaes look so cooling and yummy. I may just have to make them this summer.

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  12. Cookies and Cream ice cream has been my favorite for years. It is now my son’s favorite as well.

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  13. Amazing post! The book sounds good; I like Fern already!

    Let’s see…my favorite ice cream would have to be Ben and Jerry’s Everything But the Kitchen Sink.

    I liked the photo of Keller’s because of the station wagons out front – I used to get hauled around in station wagons like that! I will FB this post right now.

    BTW, My Declaration of Interdependence came in the mail! Thank you! We love it 🙂

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    1. I’ve never had Everything But the Kitchen Sink — need to remedy that soon. I rode in quite a few station wagons as a child too. Today’s SUV kids don’t know what they’re missing.

      Glad the book arrived safely, and thanks for entering the giveaway!

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  14. Such a wonderful post. I am wearing the crocheted sundae had, and using the scoop with the lime green handle. My fav flavour is chocolate peanut butter. yum yum. My cousin followed her dream, and she owns an ice cream shop with her husband.

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    1. Oh, how exciting to hear about your cousin’s ice cream shop! A lot of work, but a lot of fun🙂.

      Like your choice of the sundae hat and lime green scoop. Nice fashion statement!

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  15. Jo is such a lovely person. This book looks good enough to eat, or am I thinking of those peppermint sundae’s. Jama, I am partial to coffee ice cream (with or without Java Chips), which I owe to my coffee-obsessed grandmother. Congratulations, Jo!

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  16. The book sounds awesome. Congrats, Jo!

    Oh, and, favorite flavor? I’d have to go Rocky Road. 🙂

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  17. Jama,
    I’m back. Jo’s book sounds intriguing; I’ve been reading historical novels about Asia lately like “Empress Orchid” by Anchee Min.

    Who took all the wonderful photos? The food and ice cream shots made everything look scrumptious.

    Even though I’m now lactose-intolerant, I still love ice cream as my favorite dessert. I love green-tea and lychee flavors.

    Have you tried or heard about the shaved ice-cream desserts now gaining fans here in Hawaii? I think it originated in China and it’s very fluffy and light.

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    1. The photo credits are listed at the end of the post.

      I hadn’t heard about those shaved ice-cream desserts — will try some next time we’re in Hawai’i.

      Luckily there are some great coconut milk and soy milk ice creams these days for those who are lactose intolerant. It’s amazing how much they’ve improved in the last 10 years or so.

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