[tasty review] How to Behave at a Tea Party by Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross (+recipes and a giveaway!)

Fancy hats on, pinkies up — it’s time for a Tea Party!

Wait a minute. Do you know the proper way to behave at a tea party? Are your best manners in check? Hmmmm, sounds like you need a little help. Have no fear: thanks to Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross, How to Behave at a Tea Party (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014) is here!

In this delightful story, Julia briefs her younger brother Charles on the finer points of tea party etiquette. Apparently this includes washing strategic parts of his body (left elbow, right knee, ears, nose), donning fancy clothes and hat, bringing a stuffed animal and present (no snakes), holding the teacup just so, and definitely not inviting the McKagan brothers or the frog.

Also crucial? Not eating the peonies or the tablecloth. And no slurping or burping. “Please” and “thank you” are the mark of civilized guests, who ideally would nibble ever-so-daintily on little sponge cakes with jam and cookie cutter sandwiches.


Charles and the McKagan brothers have their own ideas. Julia’s perfectly laid plans deterioriate rapidly as the boys make rocket ships out of sugar cubes and towers out of teacups. They are champion burpers and slurpers. Not surprisingly, things come to a CRASHING halt and Julia has a meltdown.

But is this the proper way for a hostess to behave? One certainly can’t have a tea party without any guests. Maybe sugar cube rocket ships could be fun after all, along with castles, moats and dragons. While you’re at it, let’s juggle saucers, put spoons on our noses, and use the tablecloth as a cape! Now you’re talkin’.

Heather Ross’s emotive, action-packed illustrations effectively dramatize Rosenberg’s spare text, heightening the humor at every turn. When Julia reminds Charles to clean his ears, we see Charles brushing the dog’s ears with Julia’s toothbrush. The McKagan brothers are appropriately rambunctious as they tie the stuffed bear to its chair and balance teacups on their heads. And who can resist a dog in a pink tutu or that feisty frog, as he laughs, points, and hot-tubs in a cup (drying himself off with a napkin, of course)?

Julia’s spot-on facial expressions aptly chart her gradual unraveling — from cool, confident and authoritative, to doubtful, peeved, harried, frustrated, exasperated, just plain FED-UP. Ross also deftly captures Julia’s change of heart as she decides to re-invite her guests, and it’s amusing to see Charles and the McKagan brothers treading a little more carefully the second time around as they all settle into a fun afternoon (high tea in a treehouse, anyone?).

How to Behave at a Tea Party serves up the classic older sister-mischievous younger brother scenario with a skillful nod at the importance of remaining flexible, keeping an open mind, and learning how to go with the flow. Since life is often unpredictable, the art of compromise is key. Some will see themselves in Julia, with her need for control, while others will identify with Charles, who has his own definition of fun. Either way, kids will love the face-off between Prim-and-Proper vs. Let’s-Wing-It. One lump or two? ๐Ÿ™‚

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By now you’re probably anxious to host your own winter tea. What to serve? Madelyn and Heather both like to nibble on homemade cookies with their tea. Madelyn says, “For tea parties, I like anything with jam.” Me too! ๐Ÿ™‚

Be sure to whip up batches of these goodies and read How to Behave at a Tea Partyย aloud to all your guests. Fancy hats and superhero capes, optional. Just have fun!

from Madelyn Rosenberg

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • One egg (yolk only)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • jam of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and both sugars (by hand). Mix in the egg yolk and gradually add the flour. Finally, add the vanilla and mix well.

Take the dough by teaspoon and roll into balls. You’ll flatten those a bit as you place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Put your thumbprint in the middle. Fill with jam (I usually put the jam in a sandwich bag and cut off the end to make it easier to deal with.)

Bake for around 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Careful not to overbake.

Yields 4 dozen cookies.

~ Adapted from the Words Worth Eating Cookbook‘s recipe for German Christmas Cookies.




from Heather Ross

I have been working on this recipe for quite some time, and I am happy to report that I have succeeded in making batch after batch that actually stay soft for up to a week without using icky corn syrup. The list of ingredients might sound like something that only our yoga teacher would consider to be the makings of a cookie, but trust me. These are chewy heaven.

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon peanut butter (my favorite brand is Arrowhead Mills Organic Creamy Valencia Peanut Butter)
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar (I like Hain Organic)
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar or raw cane sugar (also perfect in your morning coffee!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and set to speed 3, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars until well blended. Some of the sugar will still be granulated.

Add egg and mix well.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together (I use a whisk). Add these ingredients to the butter mixture and blend on speed 2.

Add chocolate chips, mix on speed 1 until well distributed.

Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Press each cookie lightly with a fork to flatten.

Bake for exactly 13 minutes, then remove (cookies will still look very soft and squishy) and place baking sheet on the top of your stove and leave your oven on, for about twenty minutes.

Transfer cookies to a plate or cooling rack and allow to cool.

Makes 12 – 20 cookies, depending on size.

Store in an airtight container if possible.

~ This recipe appeared in Heather’s “Weekend” blog.





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from Mr. Cornelius

  • two slices bread of your choice
  • one slice bologna (or your favorite cold cut)
  • one slice white cheddar cheese
  • 3″- 4″ piece of cucumber
  • two stuffed Manzanilla green olives
  • a little mayo (optional)

1. Wash your paws.

2. Cut each slice of bread into rounds using a 2-1/2″ biscuit or cookie cutter.

3. Slice the bologna into pie-shaped fourths.

4. Cut the corners off the cheese slice, then trim to make a jagged edge all the way around.

5. Slice the cucumber vertically (about 1/8″ thickness), making sure to include the rounded end.

6. If using, spread mayo on one of the bread slices.

7. Carefully roll the baloney pieces and lay on the bread. Place cheese slice and cucumber “tongue” over them.

8. Place other piece of bread on top, and position the olive eyes.

9. Ribbet before eating. Burp afterwards.


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written by Madelyn Rosenberg
illustrated by Heather Ross
published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2014
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.

*Read an excerpt at the publisher’s website.

**Check out this fun book trailer:

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We have a brand new copy of How to Behave at a Tea Partyย to give away to one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite teatime treat is no later than midnight (EST) Sunday, January 25, 2014. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!

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wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. No fancy hats or raised pinkies required to join the culinary fun. ๐Ÿ™‚


*Spreads from How to Behave at a Tea Party posted by permission of the publisher. Text copyright ยฉ 2014 Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrations ยฉ 2014 Heather Ross, published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

**Copyright ยฉ 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


57 thoughts on “[tasty review] How to Behave at a Tea Party by Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross (+recipes and a giveaway!)

  1. Our favorite tea time treat is heart shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The ingredients are always on hand and ready for any tea party. We love tea parties and tea party books. With 7 granddaughters, I can do tea parties with the best of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seven granddaughters! Wow — you’re lucky. I can see why you’re a tea party expert. I love heart-shaped anything. Great idea :).


  2. What a fun book! The wholesome chocolate chip cookies sound really good. I plan to make them. But the frog tea sandwich takes the cake! My favorite tea time treat is a scone- with a bit of clotted cream if possible ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. I hear you on that hint of citrus in cookies, especially lemon. ๐Ÿ™‚ I used to make an orange crisp recipe for my cookie press which was really yummy.


  3. This is my cup of TEA – mine is Cucumber Sandwiches. It goes back to the 1940’s and having Tea Parties with my Granmother in VA. She always took the crust off the bread and made triangle sandwich.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oooh, I’d like to win!

    My favourite thing for tea is … the tea! Or maybe the scones with jam. (But only if they’re gluten free. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The book looks delightful! And, as usual, Jama, your post has made me hungry. As for favorites, I’d be quite happy with scones, muffins, or nutty, chocolatey cookies. And coffee instead of tea, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My favorite tea time treat is definitely scones & cream…..or maybe it’s shortbread cookies, homemade of course….I love tea parties & have them every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like the idea of cucumber sandwiches, but I have never tried them… Course, I’ve never been to a proper tea party either! I know. Thirty and never been to a tea party- it’s just not right. =/ This book looks so delightful! And Mr. Cornelius certainly seemed to be enjoying himself. Who cares about proper! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, it sounds like you should remedy that immediately — throw your own tea party, and be as “proper” as you like. Fun is the best treat you can serve your guests. ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Thanks for the delicious book review. What fun! My favorite tea treats are savory, salmon salad sandwiches.


  9. Isn’t the rascally “kid” in that video adorable? (Hi, M.!) As you can imagine, Jama, I am fond of all kinds of tea party foods. Cucumber sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, the works. Last time we had one, I made little chocolate cups that I filled with raspberries in a raspberry sauce. Boy, were they popular!


    1. Well, who in their right mind could resist the combination of chocolate with raspberries? ๐Ÿ™‚ And I agree with you — that rascally kid is absolutely adorable!


  10. Thanks, Jama (and everybody). Love your details. I think all sandwiches should be frog sandwiches, but other folks have mentioned some things here that I’d love to try out. (And thanks, Tabatha. Everyone needs to channel some inner rascal!)


  11. can’t enter the giveaway but that book is adorable and so are your pictures! how about some vanilla slices at the tea party? I can’t wait to have a tea party with my little granddaughter ๐Ÿ™‚


  12. How cute!! I love it. Reminds me of trying to play tea party with my brothers … all kinds of chaos! I love that frog sandwich! I like scones … maybe orange scones with craisins? Yes. That’s what I’d have at my tea.


  13. Like always this is such a darling post

    My favourite tea time food has to be the lemon curd on the scones.


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