soup of the day: forest has a song by amy ludwig vanderwater and robbin gourley

The chickadees in our woods are chirping the happy news: today, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s very first poetry book, Forest Has a Song (Clarion, 2013), is officially out in the wild! Hip hip hooray!

As I’ve said many times before, this is a big reason to celebrate because there is only one “first book” in an author’s life. This moment in time usually represents years of writing, hoping and waiting. No matter how many books Amy publishes down the road, this one will always hold a special place in her heart.

amy with book
Proud author with her new book baby.

Like me, many of you know Amy through Poetry Friday and her wonderful Poem Farm blog. Did you also follow along as she posted a poem every day for an entire year back in 2010? I’ve been honored to share several of her poems right here at Alphabet Soup: she was a Poetry Potluck guest in 2011, sharing her famous Pineapple Slices, she brought a peanut butter jellyfish sandwich to our Peanut Butter Lovers Month celebration not too long ago, and her lovely poem “Apple Pockets” was featured in Nicole Gulotta’s guest post.

So glad you’re here today for her book birthday party! Before I tell you a little about Forest Has a Song, share some sample poems, and serve up the REFRESHMENTS, we must properly suit up for the festivities. 🙂

First, please select a party hat. You can choose this “May the Forest Be With You” cap:

May the Forest Hat

or in case you’d like to channel a wood nymph and run barefoot through the moss, crown yourself with this pine cone garland:

pinecone headband

We can’t very well walk through the woods without a good pair of boots just like the girl in the book. Here you go, slip your puppies into these:

red suede fur lined

Okay, lookin’ good. Let’s go!

* * *


forest cover large

In this beautiful collection of twenty-six lighthearted, lyrical poems, we are invited to explore the seasonal wonders of an enchanting forest. We walk along with a girl and her dog as they read footprints in the snow (“Forest News”), chat with a “Chickadee,” watch a baby owl’s “First Flight,” and listen carefully for “Snowflake Voices.”

Simple but astute observations become magical through a child’s eyes; each small moment holds the potential for an imaginative foray. So, a tree frog’s call is really a marriage proposal, lichens are graffiti artists, a “Lady’s Slipper” belongs to the Forest Cinderella, rustling maple leaves are conversations about the coming of Fall, and a woodpecker’s not just tapping, but typing poems on the side of a tree.

fern crop 500

fossil crop 500
All art copyright © 2013 Robbin Gourley.

While I love the charm and whimsy in these spare verses, I’m also struck by their pristine beauty. Here is a poet in love with language and the music words make together (“Stretching stems they sweetly sing /greenest greetings sent to Spring”). Crisp diction and surprising metaphors keeps things interesting, refreshing, and accessible. Beethoven once said, “Only the pure of heart can make a good soup.” These poems seem to come from a pure place, an uncluttered sensibility, wholly child-knowing.

As we turn the pages, we drink in Robbin Gourley’s luscious watercolor paintings, a soothing backdrop for Amy’s intimate heartsong, which reminds us to pause, look, listen, smell, touch and marvel. The predominantly blue/green/brown palette and soft edges set against lots of white space convey a reverence for the natural world and invite serene reflection. As Lee Bennett Hopkins said, “This forest’s song will sing, ring, stay in hearts and minds. Take your readers here.” Yes!

Here are a few more sample verses, including the title poem, “Song” (click on each image to enlarge):

spider_dusk (2)


A never-tangling dangling spinner
knitting angles, trapping dinner.

* * *


Sleep tight
baby animals
so small
so full of zest.

Burrow in a burrow.
Nestle in a nest.
Snuggle in a tree trunk.
Crawl beneath a stone.
Cuddle with a mama.
Huddle all alone.
Peek out at the sunset
winking way out west.

You’ll meet the sun
with running fun.
It’s night now.
Hush now.

Copyright © 2013 Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. All rights reserved.

squirrel_song (2)


Tell me.
I promise not to tell.
I keep a promise very well.
you have squirreled a store
of nuts
beneath this forest floor.
I will not tell
one single soul.
Show me.
Where’s your acorn hole?

I’ve gathered gobs of treasure
all fall
but I never measure
How much
How many
Where it goes.
It’s socked away for winter snows.
I have a stash from last September.
I’d show you.
I just can’t remember.

* * *


Under giant pines
I hear
a forest chorus
crisp and clear.

Winds whip.
Geese call.
Squirrels chase.
Leaves fall.
Trees creak.
Birds flap.
Deer run.
Twigs snap.

Silence in Forest
never lasts long.
is everywhere
mixing in
with piney air.

Forest has a song.

Copyright © 2013 Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. All rights reserved.

* * *


I’m sure you’ve worked up quite an appetite from our walk in the forest. Please put on your best bib and join me now in congratulating Amy and Robbin on their gorgeous new book. The Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers gathered the ingredients for today’s celebration soup from our own little woods. Did you know cheese leaves fall from cinnamon bark trees? Mr. Cornelius found the tiny pine cones :)! So dip, dip your shiny spoons and slurp your good wishes!

Today’s Special: Poetry Potage (seasoned with salt, thyme, rhythm and rhyme).

To go with our soup, we’re serving up a springtime fresh Fiddlehead Fern and Flower Salad,

fiddlehead fern and flower salad
via Taste with the Eyes (click for recipe)

and Morel Crostini:

via Food 52 (click for recipe)

Ready for dessert? We have two kinds of cake — this delectable Owl Cake,

via Relative Taste (click for recipe)

and of course we have Black Forest Cupcakes:

black forest cupcake
via Cooking Panda (click for recipe)

Three kinds of cookies to choose from:

Fancy a Bird’s Nest?

bird nest cookies
via (click for recipe)

Perhaps you’d like to try a trilobite cookie,

trilobite cookies
via Prof. George W. Hart (click for recipe)

or some Maple Leaves and Acorns:

leaf cookies
via The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle (click for recipe)

Let’s top everything off with a chocolate pine cone or two or three . . .

choco pine cones
via Leslie’s LikeAbles

Now that you’re all sugared up, it’s time for you to click your boot heels together, mosey on down to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy of Forest Has a Song. If you go to a brick and mortar store, feel free to dress as your favorite woodland animal or fashion yourself a garment of very big leaves. Recite a poem while waiting in line (sprinkling seeds as you go), and don’t forget to hoot at the cashier or maybe serenade him/her with birdsong. If you’re hoping for a discount, don’t forget the secret password: Chickadee.

Thank you for making this fine book, Amy and Robbin!


* * *

forest coverFOREST HAS A SONG
written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater
illustrated by Robbin Gourley
published by Clarion Books, March 2013
Poetry Picture Book for ages 6-9, 40 pp.
Cool themes: poetry, nature, animals, forest, seasons, science
*J. Patrick Lewis’s February 2013 Book Pick
**Enjoyment enhanced with a nature walk

* * *



*Spreads from Forest Has a Song posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2013 Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, illustrations © 2013 Robbin Gourley, published by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

**Red boots in first photo courtesy of Paddington Bear

**May the Forest cap via The Compleat Naturalist.

**Queen of the Forest headband via Lisen 27

Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

62 thoughts on “soup of the day: forest has a song by amy ludwig vanderwater and robbin gourley

  1. Oh, Jama! This is the most beautiful post! Thank you for the boots and the hats and the goodies and all of your wonderful words. I am laughing so hard about your shopping advice, and am incredibly grateful to be in your soup here today. Thank you! xxoo, a.


    1. Love having you and Robbin in the soup! Have fun floating around in the bowl — and enjoy this very special day. Congratulations again! 🙂


  2. I’ve seen, I read it, I love it. It’s a gorgeous book, words and illustrations. And your gorgeous post is, as always, the perfect tribute. Thanks, Jama, and congrats to Amy and Robbin!


    1. So you already know of what I speak. 🙂 This is a beautifully designed and produced book — perfect pairing of words and illustrations.


  3. “While I love the charm and whimsy in these spare verses, I’m also struck by their pristine beauty. Here is a poet in love with language and the music words make together.” You said it, Jama! And what love and reverence for our natural world! I am in awe of your debut book, Amy. Huge congratulations! I can’t wait to get my copy 🙂


    1. This is such a strong debut for Amy. Couldn’t be more thrilled for her. And since I’ve been a Robbin Gourley fan for quite awhile (love her illustrated cookbooks too), it’s a double treat.

      I’m curious about what those fiddlehead ferns taste like . . .


  4. Thank you so much for sharing a few poems from Amy’s debut book. The Poem Farm is one of my favorite places to visit. This is a book I will own! Can’t wait to get my copy.


    1. Thanks, Matt. It’s a pleasure to put together a post like this when you like and admire the work of both author and illustrator. 🙂


  5. Dear Jama: What a perfect celebration of Amy’s first book!! With my toes tucked into shearling-lined red suede boots, a pine cone crown, and a Black Forest cupcake on my plate–I’m ready to revel in the Forest!


    1. Hi Janet! I must say you look right spiffy in those boots and pine cone crown. Queen of the Forest! Have another cupcake. Thanks for joining the fun today. 🙂


    1. Really enjoyed your interview with Amy, Irene — your introduction was perfect! I think you should eat the whole Owl Cake for doing such a good job. 🙂


    1. FOREST is definitely a wonderful addition that will soon become a cherished favorite. I can see it inspiring lots of nature walks throughout the year and winning over new poetry fans.


  6. OOH! VERY much looking forward to getting my hands on this book! So happy for Amy, and loving Robbin’s illustrations! And I’ve downloaded the instructions for an owl cake, just in case I ever get that ambitious. Gorgeous post, as always, Jama!


  7. What a foresty treat, thanks Jama! And congrats, Amy I can’t wait for my copy to arrive, these samples are adorable!


    1. I envy your getting to read this for the first time, Catherine. Now, whenever I see a chickadee in our yard, I’ll think of Amy’s book :).


  8. I’m so excited now Jama to get my copy of this wonderful book. I’ll be in a forest later in the year with students & will be sure to take this along in the backpack! Amy’s poems delight every single day, & now we can read them over & over in this first book! Robbin’s illustrations look gorgeous too. I was so happy to see that you were reviewing Forest Has A Song-no one else will make it such delightful fun. (I wonder if I hike, I’ll ever find those chocolate pinecones!)


    1. How exciting that you’ll be going on a forest hike, Linda! Great idea to take along Amy’s book. Maybe you’ll be reading it to the animals as well as the students? If you ever find those chocolate pine cones there, be sure to let us know. 🙂


  9. I especially love the spider poem – perfect. It unfolds like a web spinning as you read it.


  10. Down to earth and magical – all in the same breath. Hearty congratulations to Amy and to Robbin Gourley for this primeval perfection – and Jama, thanks so much for the red boots and the buffet today! I’m full now – need to take another hike!


    1. “Primeval perfection” — great description of the book, Robyn (why didn’t I think of that?).

      Yes, take another hike and work up an appetite so you can come back for more cookies and cake. We’ll save some for you. . .


  11. Well, Jama, you’ve done it again. You’ve created a post that feeds my soul and has the potential to feed my body with your delicious food ideas. I’m sending in the order for this title right now. The poems make me feel like I’m walking with Xena in the woods. This is a stunning combination of words and visuals. So thankful for Amy and Robbin.


    1. Yes, this one will speak to your love of walking with Xena. Those quiet moments of wonder and togetherness. So glad you’re ordering it, Margie. 🙂


  12. Wonderful post (as usual) for a beautiful debut book. This is the second great review I’ve seen of Forest has a Song. This book really does sing to me. I’ll have to grab a copy soon, before they are all gobbled up!


  13. Beautiful post as usual! (note how everyone says some variation of that!) :–) And oh that fiddlehead salad! Wow! (I don’t know if I want to EAT fiddleheads however – they kind of look like animals! raw animals! and I notice the recipe says “consume in moderation” – hmmm!) And I love Robin Gourley – so excited to find out about this book! Thanks for going to all the trouble you do to bring us such great stuff! :–)


    1. Didn’t know you were a Robbin Gourley fan, too, Jill. Great minds think alike 🙂 I’m also curious about those fiddleheads, but didn’t make the connection with raw animals. Now I’m not so sure . . . actually I get a similar weird feeling when I see quinoa. I know it’s supposed to be good for you but they’re just too curly for me. They remind me of squiggly worms or something.


  14. I ordered the “May the Forest Be With You” cap for my son. He’s a greenhouse manager and an environmentalist with 2 young boys. Thank you the perfect Easter gift for him. Love your blog. I read it when I feel the need to just relax from all the hubbub that every day life brings.


  15. Congrats to Amy!

    This was a real day brightener. Thanks, Jama!

    When I showed the picture of the owl cake to M, he said, “Ha! It would be a shame to eat it!”


  16. Oh, this was one of the best parties ever, and I didn’t even think I was in a party mood — but how could I resist you and Amy? I am so looking forward to reading this book. And, Jama, you know how to make the forest look delicious.


    1. So glad you decided to join us, Jeannine. You’re in for such a treat when you read Amy’s book. I imagine you take many such nature walks with your dogs. 🙂


  17. A tip o’ the chapeau, Amy, on your virgin children’s poetry book. I’m pleased to have named it the February Book of the Month on the Poetry Foundation website.

    Forest Has a Song
    Clarion Books 2013


  18. Hey, Jama and book lovers!

    It has been an extraordinary pleasure and honor to work with the uber talented and indefatigable Amy.
    And now to add these magnificent,
    nature inspired culinary masterpieces to the soup. What an abundance of riches. What delicious soup. What a day!

    Happy spring hiking!


    1. Hi Robbin! Congrats again on the beautiful work you did for this project. Your pictures always make me swoon. I was so happy to add this to my collection of RG books :).


  19. Yay, Amy and Robbin! This is very simply one of the most beautiful (visually and textually) poetry collections I’ve read in years. I adore it. Thanks for featuring it, Jama!


      1. Same thing with the Godlike typeface (yes, that’s the name of it!). At first I thought the typeface was too light, but on a second reading of the book I’ve come to see the beauty of it–its lightness does what you described about the art, Jama, it pulls you back in (and makes you pay closer attention to the words).


      2. I am so thrilled that someone noticed the font and knew the name. I suggested Godlike (I love it and I’ve suggested it for other books but it was never right and here it was!) The wonderful and talented designer, Kerry Martin, made it all work. She chose the title font as well and designed the typography for the cover. She did an amazing job and helped to pull the entire package together. She got it—from the poems to the art—and really made it all sing. Kudos to Kerry.


    1. I love the typeface, Janet — that’s something I always pay close attention to with any book, and with this one, as you say, it does draw you in even more, and echoes the gentle, wistful, whimsical feel of the poems.


  20. Oh my goodness. I, too, love the Godlike typeface. Everyone who touched this book at Clarion did the exact beautiful thing. Robbin’s art is masterful, and it has been a tremendous gift to be a part of this book. Thank you, everybody, for so many kindnesses. Jama – much gratitude for this feast! xo, a.


    1. Congrats on all the wonderful buzz and coverage and love coming from all corners of the book world! Sometimes everything just falls into place beautifully — the planets were all aligned for this one, Amy. 🙂


  21. Tastiest bowl of Alphabet Soup EVER Jama!

    Did you hear me *squee* when I saw the two adorable Dala horses behind Amy’s head in the second photo? And as usual, each spoonful of this post was more delicious than the last.

    Thank you Jama, and Congratulations Amy and Robbin. I cannot wait to own this book!


    1. Thanks, Cathy — you have to tell me the significance of those horses. I was too distracted by Amy’s beautiful smile and the dolls to really notice them.


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