happy may: catching up


Aloha, Friends!

Yes, the cat in the hat is back.

It’s nice to be home again after spending the last several weeks in Hawai’i with my family. Both of my parents are doing as well as can be expected for now, but when you’re 88 and 98, each day brings new challenges and concerns.

While it was very unsettling to have to suddenly drop everything and fly out there, I’m glad I was able to go and be of some help. No doubt there will be more frequent trips in the near future, so if you know anyone who can arrange to move Hawai’i just a tad closer to Virginia, I’d really appreciate it. 🙂


Must thank you all so much for your support, good wishes, encouragement and advice. Your comments, emails, and surprise care packages really cheered me up and kept me going — proof yet again of the restorative power of chocolate, and that you are simply the best (and most good looking) blog readers on the planet.

Poetry for What Ails You

Though I wasn’t able to blog at all during April, I must mention how much I enjoyed reading your wonderful National Poetry Month posts. In past years, when I was tied up with my own Poetry Potluck, I didn’t have as much time to keep up with what everyone else was doing.

But this April — I was totally hooked on Laura Purdie Salas’s Poem Starter Videos. Short and entertaining, these were the perfect way to begin each day. I developed a kind of fangirl obsession, too: would she wear her headband today or tie her hair back? Would the video be natural or in sepia? Her soothing and reassuring poetry reading voice was so mesmerizing, and there’s just something about her smile.

I followed Irene Latham’s Progressive Poem as it made the rounds, checked in at GottaBook and with the Poem-a-Day Challenge people, swooned at the No Water River videos and interviews, grew smarter reading the “Welcome to the TechnoVerse” guest posts at Author Amok, and what about those fabulous “Blasts from the Poetry Past” at Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children, and those cool Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School poem movies her students made? So excellent!

Thanks for the poetic comfort and nourishment, friends. Your posts kept me grounded and connected between administering tube feedings, panicky trips to the ER, constant phone calls and visits by therapists. When I finally returned home, I found this lovely poetry postcard from Silver Star ES in Washington:


So glad that Jone at Check it Out continues to do the Poetry Postcard Project every year with her students. Thanks for the poem and drawing, Jared H. (did you know my father likes violets and that my nephew’s name is Jared too?)!

What’s Next

I have a lot of catching up to do, but will slowly but surely tackle my book review pile and serve up the Indie Artist Spotlight interviews that were put on the back burner last month. Cornelius is anxious to resume his usual mischief and I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes.

May is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — a great excuse to nosh on dim sum and sushi and some warm onion kulcha!

hula 004

hula coverBTW, did you notice my beautiful blog header image? It’s an illustration from Carla Golembe’s The Story of Hula (my review is here). I’d been wanting to showcase different illustrators in my blog header ever since I moved to WordPress in 2011, and hope to make this a regular feature, so if you have any suggestions for future months, please let me know!

Do check out The Story of Hula picture book/CD set for the skinny on hula’s origins, basic steps, instruments, and costumes, and to enhance your appreciation of this ancient mode of storytelling. Perfect for budding dancers or anyone interested in Hawaiian music and culture, just keep your eyes on the hands!

Book Birthdays

I’ve been looking forward to tomorrow, May 7, 2013, for a long time, because it’s official pub day for these four faboo books:

allergies away coverALLERGIES AWAY!: Creative Eats and Mouthwatering Treats for Kids Allergic to Nuts, Dairy and Eggs by Ginger Park and Frances Park (St. Martin’s Press, 2013). Yes, my favorite chocolate divas have once again proven their amazing versatility with this unique and much needed cookbook. The 70+ (“better than the real thing”) recipes were developed through the years in response to Ginger’s son Justin’s severe food allergies. I’m looking forward to making some of these treats and featuring the book in more detail soon.

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lollipop caper coverTHE GREAT LOLLIPOP CAPER by Dan Krall (Simon & Schuster, 2013). “For far too long the children of the world have preferred the sweet, tangy, deliciousness of LOLLIPOP to the sour, acidic, earthiness of MR. CAPER . . . but no more! Jealousy rears its little, green, wrinkled head as Mr. Caper plots to become the most loved flavor of all.” This smackdown between the sweet and the salty has my name written all over it. Look for a review quicker than you can spell, “sucker.”

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CHANTRESS by Amy Butler Greenfield (Margaret McElderry, 2013). 

catalog description:

chantress coverLucy’s Chantress magic will make her the most powerful—and most hunted—girl in England.

“Sing, and the darkness will find you.” This warning has haunted fifteen-year-old Lucy ever since she was eight and shipwrecked on a lonely island. Lucy’s guardian, Norrie, has lots of rules, but the most important is that Lucy must never sing. Not ever. Now it is 1667, Lucy is fifteen, and on All Hallows’ Eve, Lucy hears a tantalizing melody on the wind. She can’t help but sing—and she is swept into darkness.

When she awakes in England, Lucy hears powerful men discussing Chantresses—women who can sing magic into the world. They are hunting her, but she escapes and finds sanctuary with the Invisible College, an organization plotting to overthrow the nefarious Lord Protector. The only person powerful enough to bring about his downfall is a Chantress. And Lucy is the last one in England.

Lucy struggles to master the song-spells and harness her power, but the Lord Protector is moving quickly. And her feelings for Nat, an Invisible College apprentice and scientist who deeply distrusts her magic, only add to her confusion…

Time is running out, and the fate of England hangs in the balance in this entrancing novel that is atmospheric and lyrical, dangerous and romantic.

Sounds fascinating, no? Did someone say this was set in England? I’m so there. I’ve known Amy online for several years and am THRILLED her debut historical fantasy novel for young adults is finally being released! As she is brilliant six ways to Sunday, I know it’s going to be good. Click here to read about what inspired Amy to write this book!

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THE SECRET LIVES OF BAKED GOODS: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America’s Favorite Desserts by Jessie Oleson Moore (Sasquatch Books, 2013).

catalog description:

secret lives coverHave you ever wondered where the ideas for baking red velvet cupcakes, brownies, birthday cake, Girl Scout cookies, and other dessert recipes came from? Discover the history behind America’s most popular and nostalgic desserts with popular CakeSpy blogger and self-proclaimed “dessert detective” Jessie Oleson Moore. Moore has put her sweet-sleuthing skills to work uncovering the fascinating histories and tastiest recipes for America’s favorite sweets, including whoopee pies, chocolate chip cookies, Baked Alaska, and New York cheesecake. From romantic musings on how desserts got their names to sugar-fueled scandals, these classic recipes and photographs are guaranteed to offer food for thought and leave you with plenty of room for dessert.

Always interesting to see what CakeSpy is up to. Am waiting for my review copy to arrive even as we speak. Who doesn’t like to sugar up? I’m already licking my lips.

* * *


It’s so good to be back. Lots of fun in store, so stay tuned.


Hey Hey, thanks for keeping the soup warm — what’s new with you? Any other books coming out this month you’re especially excited about?


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

42 thoughts on “happy may: catching up

  1. Welcome home, dear friend. I’ve been thinking of you and your parents A LOT and sending good wishes. I’m looking forward to catching up with you! I’ve missed you and your lovely blog! xoxoxox


    1. Hi Debbi,

      Been loving all the photos you’ve been posting of your new home and pond and all the amazing wildlife. What a beautiful, beautiful setting. Should inspire lots of great writing. Exciting that you’re fixing up a writing shed too :).

      Thanks so much for all the good thoughts and wishes!


  2. WELCOME HOME!!! I have been thinking of you and hoping your trip was okay. Getting old is not for the wimpy! Lots of challenges.

    ~ I still have an interview to finish for you! 😉


    1. Hi Laura,

      You can appreciate that Hawaii is quite a trip to make from the East Coast. Getting older is definitely not for wimps.

      Looking forward to your interview!!


    1. Thanks, Matt. Really loved your “Wildflowers, for Jane” poem last week. Anxious to hear more about the NESCBWI Conference :).


  3. Oh, Jama, you’ve been missed! Sending love and hugs and every good thought your way, and hoping for a smoother road for your parents. And thank you for the lovely shout-out about Chantress!


  4. So glad your folks are doing well for the time being. I’m sure you are happy to be back in your own home for a while. And I’m really looking forward to more posts – and to Amy’s and Jessie’s books!


    1. It’s one day at a time when you’re their age. Just wish I lived closer so I could help more. Yes, it’s nice to be home — I’m a happy hermit. 🙂


  5. Welcome back! I’ve been hoping that all is well in Hawai’i.

    Btw, I will be in your neck of the woods in July!


  6. I’m glad you’re back too. I missed Cornelius and I bet he missed you! I noticed your new blog banner right off–it’s gorgeous. I love the idea of featuring different illustrators on your banner. I am stuck with mine, I’m afraid. I don’t even know how to swap out the photos.

    New books are always welcome to add to the list/pile/bookbag. The Secret Lives of Baked Goods?!? I LOVE the title and can’t wait to read this one.

    Best of all was that postcard. So sweet!


    1. Yes, wasn’t that the best poetry postcard? What a treat to find that in the big pile of junk mail, bills and catalogs.

      Just got my review copy of Secret Lives. Can’t wait to dig in.


  7. I must join the chorus of welcome backs! When I saw on fb that you were back this morning, but could not come here to visit until now, I felt my day was just starting out so well. It’s great you could go where you were needed, but I can’t help but feel that your home missed you, too. And, my, you do return with bells on! What a blog jam packed with loving thoughts. So glad you could read poetry and other things while away and stay connected!

    please give Cornelius an extra kiss goodnight.


    1. Oh, Jeannine! Cornelius is thrilled with your comment — he continues to be a very spoiled resident bear, and still has a big crush on you. 🙂

      It’s nice to return to the relative calm and quiet of my own space. There really is no place like home . . . thanks for the lovely welcome back.


  8. So happy to see you back, Jama, and again, glad that you were able to spend time with your parents and help out! These new books all look wonderful, and I’ve taken special note of The Secret Lives… and Chantress-Thanks for the heads up about new ones out! Cheers for a special week for you!


    1. Thanks, Linda — you’ve always been such a loyal reader and commenter here — appreciate all your good thoughts. Excited to hear about your own upcoming adventures :).


  9. Hi Jama! Been thinking about you during the past month and hoping the best for you and yours. The caper looks adorable, and I love the Secret Lives of Baked Goods cover.


  10. Welcome back, Jama! Love the hula dancers! Thank you for all the great recommendations. Just looking at the cover of The Secret Life of Baked Goods is making me crave red velvet cake!


    1. Thanks so much.

      I haven’t made a Red Velvet Cake in ages, and have been getting my fixes from RV cupcakes at various shops instead. Maybe Jessie’s recipe will inspire me to bake a cake. 🙂


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