book buzzin’

Yes, we’re mostly about food-related books here at Alphabet Soup, but that doesn’t mean we don’t ooh and ahh over other titles — especially those written and/or illustrated by folks we know and love. Here are some recent and upcoming releases we just had to tell you about:

THE NUTS AND BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Linda Ashman.  “Have an idea for a picture book? Already working on one? This 150-page handbook offers instruction, advice, exercises, resources, encouragement and more to turn your idea or work-in-progress into a ready-to-submit manuscript. It also includes interviews with leading children’s book editors and industry professionals who provide insights and advice from their side of the desk.”

This one’s a beauty — nine chapters worth of clearly presented, insightful, practical writing advice drawn from Linda’s many years as an author, poet, writing teacher, critiquer, reading advocate, and lover of children’s literature. It’s like having a friendly writing coach by your side as you try to whip your manuscripts into shape. I especially like her chapters about writing humor and experimenting with form. The Guide is currently available for sale as a PDF via Linda’s website, and will be available soon in an ePub version for e-readers.

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MY BLUE IS HAPPY by Jessica Young and Catia Chien (Candlewick, 2013). We always go a little crazy over debut picture books, so a big Huzzah to Jessica! Officially released on August 6th, this book challenges commonly held assumptions about colors and celebrates individual perspective. Is red always angry? Is pink pretty or annoying? Colors are closely associated with emotion, and it’s fascinating to explore the different ways we experience them. Is your orange “fun like a bouncing basketball” — or “serious like a warning sign and a tiger on the prowl”? What a great primer for creative thinking! To learn more about chocolate-lovin’ art teacher/Nashville resident Jessica and her wonderful book, check out this most excellent interview.

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THE CRAFTY POET: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward (Wind Publications, 2013). Longtime readers of this blog know I’ve been a big fan of Diane Lockward’s poetry ever since I first discovered her provocative collection, What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006). She’s written many of my favorite food poems featuring blueberries, peaches, avocados, vanilla and linguine.


Diane is also a brilliant teacher who publishes a Monthly Newsletter offering craft tips, poetry prompts, sample poems, and great web and print resources (sign up here). Her new book features 27 craft tips and 27 model poems from highly regarded poets (including 13 former and current state poets laureate). Each model poem is followed by a prompt and two sample poems written to the prompt.

In all, the book features the work of over 100 poets, including Adele Kenny, Penny Harter, Nancy Scott and Gail Gerwin, whose work we’ve shared previously at Alphabet Soup. For further inspiration, Diane has included Q&A’s with ten poets + ten bonus prompts. There are tips on Voice, Diction, Sound, Imagery and Syntax, among others. Fabuloso!

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Ribbet collage

LEARNING PARADE SERIES by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Agnieszka Malgorzata Jatkowska  (Picture Window Books, 2013). Father Goose, fierce proponent of lettuce wraps, Peter Pan peanut butter, and cheese — has created a new board book series for pre-school munchkins seeking the scoop on the basics — numbers, colors, shapes, and — *wait for it* — the alphabet. Featuring lyrical rhyming text and bright, colorful illustrations (check out the bear drummer in the sample spread!), this adorable collection is the perfect way to start things off right. Hits shelves September 1.

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VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham (Disney-Hyperion, 2013). In this much anticipated sequel to the hugely popular Vampirina Ballerina (Disney-Hyperion, 2012), our favorite vamp is worried about getting everything just right as she hosts her very first sleepover. What will her friends think of her unusual home and “interesting” family? After all, not everyone has trap doors or pet bats or likes to sink their fangs into blood pudding. I guess we could consider this book food-related after all, especially since tasty tentacles make an appearance. 🙂


Check out this great 3-part interview series at Linda Urban’s site, where we learn about how Anne Marie’s and Uyen’s own childhood feelings about being an outsider helped shape Vampirina’s character, and how they went on to develop both stories in words and pictures.

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PENGUIN CHA-CHA by Kristi Valiant (Random House, 2013). Here’s a feel-good book that’ll have you cutting the rug and joyously shaking your tail feathers in no time. Penguins! Who doesn’t love penguins? And they’re dancing! We’ve featured Kristi’s wonderful artwork before, as the illustrator of Cora Cooks Pancit (Shen’s Books, 2009) and The Goodbye Cancer Garden (Albert Whitman, 2011) — but this is an extra special book, because for the first time, Kristi is both author and illustrator. Young Julia wants to dance with this group of mischievous penguins. See for yourself in this adorable trailer Kristi created:

I love love love that penguin in the top hat! Visit the Penguin Cha-Cha website for details about the launch week blog tour. The book officially hits shelves on Tuesday, August 27th.

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There you have it — a bevy of good books to enjoy, learn from, savor and share. Congrats and thank you to Linda, Jessica, Diane, Charles, Anne Marie, and Kristi!


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

22 thoughts on “book buzzin’

  1. Well, I was just about to wish you a Happy 6th Birthday on yesterday’s post (a little behind on things, as usual), when THIS post arrived in my email box. Thanks so much for including The Nuts and Bolts Guide in this lovely round-up.

    Welcome back, dear Jama! I’m looking forward to another year of delightful, inspiring, amusing, and mouth-watering posts (and laughs, too — as in your spaghetti squash saga; I tried and failed with my one squash-as-pasta attempt, so I can relate!).


    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Linda, and for being such a faithful reader and supporter of this blog. It makes all the difference knowing that you’re out there. 🙂

      Your new guide is the bomb and belongs on every PB writer’s bookshelf!

      Hope you give spaghetti squash a try. Once you buy the right one, just cut it in half lengthwise and microwave face down with a little water in a glass dish. Then shred with a fork, eat with butter or your favorite pasta sauce Yummy!


      1. Thanks again, Jama. And thanks for the spaghetti squash tip. Your description reminded me of cooking acorn squash, which is also pretty tasty — so perhaps I’ll give it another try.


  2. So many good things! I already read MY BLUE IS HAPPY and just loved the concept. And now I must get the penguin book because, as you say, who doesn’t love penguins? 🙂


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