1. This could be the pillow of my dreams — the alphabet + a pocket with a teddy bear! Shall we pause for a moment of deep appreciation? *sigh* Toronto-based Heather Shaw is the artisan behind the P i’ l o collection of home goods, which includes tea towels, bags, mobiles, toys, notebooks, sachets, printed tapes, shawls, stationery and wall art. Everything is carefully made by hand with natural materials (cotton, linen, hemp, rocks) in a coach house studio with the hope that these items will be passed down as family heirlooms.
Both her home and work space are serene and soothing environments filled with inspiration. Heather creates objects of beautiful simplicity — just looking at her collection makes me feel calm, cleansed and relaxed.
2. New book alert! Coretta Scott King Honor author Tanita S. Davis has just published a young adult novel called Peas and Carrots (Knopf, 2016)! Ooh-la-la — is that the best title ever, or what? This story is about 15-year-old Dess and how she adjusts to her new foster family. Check it:
Dess knows that nothing good lasts. Disappointment is never far away, and that’s a truth that Dess has learned to live with.
Dess’s mother’s most recent arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands her with her baby brother’s foster family. Dess doesn’t exactly fit in with the Carters. They’re so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naïve. Dess and Hope couldn’t be more unlike each other, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.
Tanita herself was a foster sister from the age of nine until she graduated from college. I’ve been a fan of her writing since first reading A la Carte (Knopf, 2008) — yes, a foodie book with recipes! — and then, of course, thoroughly enjoyed the award winning Mare’s War (Knopf, 2009), as well as Happy Families (Knopf, 2012), the first YA novel I ever read featuring a transgender character. She is brilliant at exploring family dynamics and personal identity, making the reader question long-held stereotypes and assumptions about race, gender, and body image. I just started reading Peas and Carrots, which is told from Dess’s and Hope’s points of view in alternating chapters, and I love how both voices ring true with raw emotional honesty. The book has already garnered very favorable reviews from School Library Journal, PW, and Kirkus. Check out Tanita’s guest posts at Stacked Books and John Scalzi’s Big Idea, her Five Questions interview at The Horn Book, and her YA Open Mic contribution at Barnes & Noble.
3. Are you a Star Wars fan suffering from mild withdrawal now that all the Star Wars: The Force Awakens hoopla has died down? Have no fear, the Death Star BBQ is almost here! Yes, you can now pre-order this officially licensed stainless steel beauty from The Fowndry. Definitely something to look forward to in those please-come-soon warmer weather days. You will be the coolest griller in your neighborhood. Think of all the chickens and steaks you can annihilate! May the charcoal be with you. 😀
4. Okay, I admit it. I can’t resist cute food and it’s always fun to discover another clever and talented bento maker. Such patience and creativity! Such skill! Li Ming Lee, a Singapore mother of two, has been sharing her wonderful lunch box creations at Bento Monsters since 2011 and she just published her first book last Fall: Yummy Kawaii Bento: Preparing Adorable Meals for Adorable Kids (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015). This treasure trove features 160+ step-by-step tutorials for creating fun, beautiful, appetizing bento boxes that are truly works of art. Sometimes the designs are so adorable you can’t bear to eat them (Oh, twist, twist my arm . . . I guess I could manage if I try hard enough). 😉
If you haven’t yet visited Bento Monsters, you’re in for a real treat. Ming seems to like teddy bears too! Here are several of my favorites:
5. I loved paper dolls when I was little and fondly remember spending hours and hours cutting out clothes, making little houses, and acting out all kinds of stories with them. There were lots of different sets available (loved my Lennon Sisters dolls best), but we never had any custom dolls. Now that would have been something, to have my very own Jama paper doll. 🙂
So I was tickled pink to discover Lily & Thistle’s Mini Me Paper Doll Boutique. They offer a variety of instant downloadable dolls in PDF format (different themes like Around the World, Valentine’s Day, Girls in Sports, Girls in Literature), as well as custom dolls for both girls and boys. In this day and age of electronic everything, it’s refreshing to see a hands-on, inexpensive, old-school form of creative play for kids.
Check out this video featuring Lily & Thistle owner Hannah Stevenson:
6. Heads up, Poets — especially those of you looking to publish a full-length collection of your work! Terrapin Books, a brand new small poetry press started by New Jersey poet and author Diane Lockward, is currently accepting submissions for full length collections of 40-55 poems. She plans to select 2-4 manuscripts, and they will be published as 6×9 paperbacks with color covers. Deadline for submissions is February 25, 2016.
I was very excited and impressed when I heard that Diane was starting her own press, as I’m a longtime fan of her poetry. Her book What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006) was largely responsible for turning me on to culinary verse. I remember writing to tell her how much I loved her work, and how wonderful it was to find an entire collection of poems that was wholly accessible. I’ve since featured many of her poems here at Alphabet Soup, including, “The Best Words,” “No Soup for You!”, “If Only Humpty Dumpty Had Been a Cookie,” “Heart on the Unemployment Line,” and “Blueberry.”
Click here for more details about how to submit your manuscript to Terrapin Books.
7. It’s no secret that I love to play with toys (who, me?) 🙂 I’m also a longtime Leslie McGuirk fan. You may know her through her Tucker the dog children’s books, or any of the other books I’ve featured here at Alphabet Soup: Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant (co-written with Alex von Bidder), If Rocks Could Sing, and The Mogees Move House.
Recently, Leslie and her friend Chris Katilus created Quirkyville, “an imaginary sea world, inhabited by quirky sea creatures. They deal with the same feelings and issues we humans face everyday. Their positive messages inspire us to be ourselves. Each of these creatures teach us that when you take the time to look below the surface, it’s cool to be quirky.”
This colorful and charming collection of 8 plush sea animal characters is now available for purchase online at their new website. I especially like Cezar, a free-spirited anchovy who is tired of being associated with pizza and salads (his afro is really a lump of black caviar). And then there’s Fishycoise, a colorful character in a red chapeau who speaks with a French accent.
Leave it to quirky Ms. McGuirk — she’s always up to something fun. In addition to her children’s books, she continues her work as an astrologer and creativity workshop facilitator, living the good life with her beloved dogs. 🙂
8. Hooray for Classic Character Sticky Notes! Now you can mark favorite passages with these cute 2″ x 1″ adhesive tags. Each set features a total of 240 notes (60 each of 4 different characters). Choose from Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice (yay for Mr. Darcy!), and Romeo and Juliet. These make great “just because” gifts for your bookish friends. More info at Bas Bleu. 🙂
9. Finally, I am in love with Le Petit Chef! This adorable culinary marvel is the brainchild of Belgian boutique animation studio Skullmapping. I’ve always wanted a personal chef, but never dreamed about a diminutive dynamo such as this. See for yourself:
Happy Tuesday and have a good week!
As always, BE KIND.
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.