friday feast: Too Many Tomatoes by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta (+ a recipe!)

TOMATOES,ย TOMATOES, TOMATOES!

Sing a song of plump, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes! Is there anything better than freshly picked homegrown beauties with their promise of mouthwatering soups, salads, sandwiches, salsa, and sauces? Or why not just eat them all by themselves? Hold the essence of summer in your hand, inhale the fragrance of lazy sunny days, then bite into that tempting globe of delight, letting the juice run down your chin. Mmmmmm!

Though it’s winter now in my part of the world, this brand new rhyming picture book by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta has me dreaming of dining al fresco with a cup of zesty gazpacho, a sassy tomato tart, bruschetta pomodoro, panzanella, caprese, veggie pizza and fresh pasta with arugula and parmesan. I could easily whip up all these dishes with the barrels and buckets and bushels of tomatoes described in Too Many Tomatoes (Kane Miller, 2016). ๐Ÿ™‚

Art copyright ยฉ 2016 Kent Culotta (click to enlarge)

This joyous, rollicking paean to America’s favorite garden vegetable (and yes, botanically, it’s considered a fruit) is narrated by a spirited young boy who spends the day with his grandparents, helping them pick, crate, and transport the bounty of tomatoes from the garden to the local farmers market.

Grandfather’s garden
is popping with peas.
It’s buzzing with blossoms
and bumbly bees.

It’s bursting with berries
and beans and potatoes
and tall, twining vines of
too many tomatoes.

Ode’s pitch perfect toe-tapping rhymes and Culotta’s exuberant illustrations invite the reader to jump right in and join all the fun. The boy’s enthusiasm is positively contagious as he describes how Grandpa first planted the seeds and how excited they were when sprout after sprout came up.

The garden produced such an abundant yield that they had more than enough to share with friends and neighbors before loading up the rest on the truck to take to their stand at the market.

Down to the sidewalk,
and down to the street,
drippy and slippery,
juicy and sweet.

Red ones and yellow ones,
shiny and round,
jumbling, tumbling
over the ground.

I love how this story is infused with the warmth of family and community, how a seed of good intentions blossoms into gestures of outreach and interaction. All kinds of people were able to enjoy the tomatoes in their own distinctive ways.

One for the teacher,
and one for the tailor.
One for the scientist.
One for the sailor.

One for the painter,
and one for the plumber.
One for the dancer,
and one for the drummer.

(click to enlarge)

Later there’s even a big tomato parade downtown (love those bright red uniforms), followed by a delicious dinner featuring fresh tomato in a green salad, tomato pie, tomato kabobs, and of course pasta with tomato sauce. Truly a tomato lover’s dream come true!

Too Many Tomatoes is great fun to read aloud; the “too many tomatoes” variable refrain effectively amplifies the boy’s excitement and the celebratory mood of the entire story. Kids will also enjoy counting the tomatoes in each picture and seeing how the same vegetable figures in different scenarios (the scientist examines it under a microscope, the painter uses hers as a still life subject, the whistling sailor tosses his in the air as he saunters along).

And it’s nice to see an active, energetic pair of grandparents wholly engaged with their grandson. Grandpa with his fiddle, Grandma dancing, both of them running in the field and marching in the parade with joyous abandon — certainly not your stereotypical rocking chair doddling pair.

Together, Ode and Culotta have created a jubilant feel-good book that will elicit lots of smiles, requests for rereadings, and the inevitable cravings for tomato dishes. There’s no such thing as too many tomatoes when one can reap this much good will, and nothing tastes better than food that is shared.

So, did Eric and Kent like tomatoes when they were kids, and what’s their favorite way to eat them?

Kent: I’m an Italian boy, so my all time favorite go-to dish is pasta with tomato sauce. I’m afraid that I’m not much of a cook. I keep things pretty simple, so I don’t have any special recipes. I do wish that I had my Grandmother’s recipe for her tomato sauce, though. It was the best ever. I was a pretty finicky eater as a kid, but I do remember liking dishes with tomatoes in them. Another favorite was something my mom called “spanish rice” that had big chunks of tomato in it.

Eric: Yes, I think I’ve always liked tomatoes. And I love raising tomatoes. I love the smell of the vines when you’re harvesting. There’s nothing else that has that particular, wonderful smell. I’m always happy to eat tomatoes fresh. A good tomato in season, all on its own, is a real treat! But I’m also a fan of broiled tomatoes (halved, sprinkled with garlic salt, grated parmesan, basil, maybe a little butter), tomato salads (a variety of fresh tomatoes with cucumber, fresh basil, Kalamata olives, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and feta cheese), and any sandwich or pizza done in a margherita style. I’ll share an example as a recipe.

via Marzetti Kitchens

Grilled Open Face Mozzarella Sandwich

From bottom to top…
Slice of artisan bread, spread w/ a bit of olive oil on top side
Lightly dash with garlic salt
Layer of fresh mozzerella
Sliced fresh tomato
Fresh basil
Low broil until warm and absolutely delicious.

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Mmmmmmmm! Time for lunch! Thanks for creating this delightfully delicious book, Eric and Kent!

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TOO MANY TOMATOES
written by Eric Ode
illustrated by Kent Culotta
published by Kane Miller, March 2016
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 40 pp.
Cool themes: nature, gardening, farmers markets, sustainability, family, sharing, multigenerational stories, rhymes
** Visit the Usborne Books and More website to order your copies (official pub date is March, but it’s available now)!

*** Click here for Too Many Tomatoes Lessons and Activities

*** Click here for the Official Book Trailer

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Enjoy this video of Eric shining the spotlight on Too Many Tomatoes:

*

poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Do you think she knows how to juggle tomatoes? Skip on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on this week’s menu. Eat something tomato-y this weekend!

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!

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*Interior spreads from Too Many Tomatoes posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright ยฉ 2016 Eric Ode, illustrations ยฉ 2016 Kent Culotta, published by Kane Miller Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright ยฉ 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

65 thoughts on “friday feast: Too Many Tomatoes by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta (+ a recipe!)

  1. I couldn’t juggle tomatoes to save my life, Jama! But I can see that this is a must-have book! Thanks so much for sharing it with us today, and for helping me decide what to have for lunch!

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  2. I know what Eric means about that tomato vine smell! It is marvelous. “Too many tomatoes” seems like “too many books” — there’s no such thing! This looks like a fun read-aloud, good for repeated reading.๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Jama, Thanks for letting us know about TOO MANY TOMATOES. Eric Ode is amazing, perhaps we all should learn to juggle to get the meter right with rhyming picture books.

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  4. Wow! Juggling tomatoes (well, two tomatoes and one apple!) while reciting verses in rollicking time is quite a feat. Congrats on this new yummy book, Eric and Kent, and thanks, Jama, for sharing it. (Love your observation about those lively grandparents, so warmly drawn.)
    I’m thinking this will make a great pairing with Irene’s forthcoming FRESH DELICIOUS… :0)

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  5. This makes me wish for summer all the more, Jama. What a delightful book. I do love tomatoes too, and love that so many are growing some of the heirlooms. I don’t grow them anymore, but my daughter does, and luckily she shares! Thanks for sharing this book! (Now off for artisan bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil. . .)

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    1. I do like trying some of the heirlooms whenever possible. Lucky for you that your daughter grows her own. I’m definitely craving one of Eric’s open faced sandwiches now.

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  6. I had much fun with this post AND the video. Didn’t know the third darker tomato was an apple until Eric stopped juggling. A fun intro to an important new book. Kudos to both of the creators & to you, Jama, for bringing it to us.๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. This transported me right to summer by the magic carpet of scent. Ahh, I’m smelling the herbs and my tomato vines right now. Your posts always have a certain magic to them, Jama, and I look forward to seeing your name on the PF list. Always.๐Ÿ™‚ Can I survive another day without a homemade marinara and some angel hair? I’m not sure. XOXO

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      1. In summer, my garden is a sea of oregano with dancing cabbage butterflies, interspersed with islands of sage, chives and leeks. Thyme carpets the toes of my Japanese lantern, and my bench is flanked by lavender. That’s a small sample. Blessings of herbs to you!๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. “..a seed of good intentions blossoms into gestures of outreach and interaction”..Although your signature breezy, masterfully engaging reviewer style left my mouth literally watering for tomatoes (preferably on white pizza or in lasagna), it’s your words that most filled me with wonder and satisfaction, whetting my appetite for a picture book authored by you on that very ever-timely topic. Your book would be a sumptuous culinary-poetic-truthful masterpiece; I have no doubt about that! God bless you!

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    1. Thank you for the kind and generous comment and for the encouragement!! Appreciate your good thoughts. Shall we share some virtual lasagna together today?๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes! Thanks for the invitation. When it comes to Italian food, no need to ask twice: I’m in! … And I’m looking forward to MANY children’s books with your wit and wisdom in, and your name on the cover of them!

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  9. This book looks absolutely delightful. I must confess I somehow expected to see a few zucchini peeking out as well. Growing up, we always had too many of both. I will be checking this book out. Thanks for the post.

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  10. The vine smell – yes!! It is unique and fresh and clean! My mom grew 60 tomato plants one year, so I just adore this book. We shared so many tomatoes that year. Everyone loved Mom’s tomatoes.
    I am inspired to garden again.
    Eric Ode is not only talented, but funny and friendly and kind. If you have need of an author visit, he is fabulous.
    We love selling his books!

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  11. Oh, I can smell the tomatoes and plants now. Yum. I have that open pace tomato sandwich in my recipe binder now. Love this book already. Thanks for sharing it, Jama.

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  12. I’ve seen bits and pieces of this book here & there, and it looks so fun – thanks for sharing more of it here! I, too, love tomatoes, and usually grow several varieties each summer – some heirlooms, some hybrids, and a few cherries!

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  13. Now I am yearning for those summer delights:
    “Red ones and yellow ones,
    shiny and round,
    jumbling, tumbling
    over the ground.”
    Thank you Jama! I can’t wait for warm days and tomato picking.

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  14. What a delightful book! I’m enjoying some morning quiet and reading aloud those parts you’ve included–over and over again. They trip delightfully off my tongue! I’m going to have add yet another book to my Wish List! Thanks so much for introducing me to Too Many Tomatoes and Eric Ode.

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  15. When I saw your blog post title, I shouted in my head, “NO SUCH THING!!!” Then I started humming John Denver’s song, “Homegrown Tomatoes.” This is a book that will be fun to share with my Environmental Club as we gear up for too many tomatoes in the community garden!!

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  16. Those sandwiches looks so yummy — now I can’t wait until summer when I can get really good tomatoes. The drawings are terrific and the poem is hopping. From the video, I get the impression that I’d really like Eric Ode.

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    1. I felt the same way. Have never had the pleasure of meeting Eric in person, but he certainly projects a very kind and likable persona.๐Ÿ™‚

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  17. Great review! What a fun book with such positive messages too. That tomato and mozzarella sandwich is making me drool over my keyboard. Must be getting close to lunchtime!๐Ÿ˜‰

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  18. What a great book, I love the poem. But, you can never have too many tomatoes. I love fresh field peas and snaps with a big juicy tomato, and you can’t beat a tomato with mayo sandwich. You’ve really made me hungry!

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  19. After cooking more than one dish with tomatoes this weekend, I read your post! I’ll be buying this for my grandson and his gardening mama!

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  20. Kent may not know how to cook tomatoey dishes, but he certainly knows how to draw them! And Eric knows how to create rhythmic, rhyming fun and learning with our favorite garden delight.๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the visit, Jama, Kent, & Eric!

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