[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield

 

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

 

Well, no. Not exactly.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Curtain Up!

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🎻ACT ONE, or The Real Story 🎻

It seems nursery rhymers of yore mistook our dear Miss Muffet for a dainty scaredy-cat milquetoast without really considering:

  1. her true potential
  2. some spiders are undeniably cool
  3. the inherent power of cottage cheese.

Now, thanks to Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield, Miss Patience Muffet finally gets her props in a hilarious new picture book, Miss Muffet, or What Came After (Clarion, 2016), proving, once and for all, that where there’s a will there’s a whey. πŸ™‚

Told in sprightly verse as a rousing musical theatre production, the book features a fetching cast that includes an off-stage narrator, a chorus of three (gardener + 2 maids), Webster the spider, and nursery characters Little Bo-Peep and Old King Cole, among others. These clever players had me from their opening lines.

Narrator:

Her given name was Patience.
Her schoolmates called her Pat.
In the garden on a stool
is where one day she sat.
What do we know about her?
Just this much, if you please:
She didn’t care for spiders,
but she did love cottage cheese.

Chorus:

Cottage cheese, cottage cheese,
she eats it every day.
Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
she calls it curds and whey.

In December or in June,
in a bowl, with a spoon.
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.
Very tasty (slightly pasty),
or so we’ve heard her say!

We soon learn that much to her parents’ dismay (her mother yearns for a perfect little miss and her father wishes she’d share his passion for bugs), Pat has a mind of her own.

I do not care for ladies’ stuff:
a feathered hat,
a lacy cuff.

I do not like arranging flowers,
sitting pretty,
wasting hours.

I haven’t any interest
in a beehive
or a hornets’ nest.

I don’t need to identify
a beetle, gnat,
or damselfly.

Mother, Father, I’m not a riddle.
I simply want to play
the fiddle.

I’m not brainy or demure.
I plan someday
to go on tour!

Yes, she’s a girl with pluck and big dreams!

Her mother would have none of it and hides the violin.

While sitting in the garden on her new tuffet, a betrayed and dejected Pat is startled by a tiny voice. A talking spider! Webster is clever, artsy and likes Pat’s music (he needs to steer clear of Pat’s father, though, who’s obsessed with capturing him). After Webster finds the violin, the newfound friends hit the road for a grand adventure that includes hooking up with Bo-Peep (also keen on fiddling), foiling a pair of malicious thieves (“to steal from a fiddler is what I’d call vicious!”), and even performing for the merry old King when his regular fiddlers take ill after eating bad fish.

Through it all, Webster proves his mettle; he’s so much more than “a creature slightly ghoulish” whose only thrill in life is to scare genteel little girls. It is Webster, after all, who finds Pat’s hidden violin, keeps her spirits up, thinks of a way to track down the thieves, and then scares them off by threatening to bite them:

Run, you cowards! Run, you fools!
What’s their plunder? Several jewels,
a bit of silver, a stash of candy,
and there’s the bow. Might come in handy.
Here are hard-boiled eggs and jellies,
bread and cheese to fill your bellies.
Here are pears and two meat pies,
currently attracting flies.
Later there’ll be time to chatter.
You eat the former — I’ll take the latter.
There’s nothing like a bit of food
to brighten anybody’s mood.

Small, but mighty, and he’s right about the food thing. πŸ™‚

Ultimately it is Webster who helps the King’s servants find their third fiddler. And this spider can sing!

Best of all, two girls who defied convention realize their fondest dreams! Go, Pat and Peep!

Patience:

We Fiddlers Three have gained great fame.
(And Madame M.’s
a household name.)

People melt when Webster sings.
We’re entertaining queens
and kings!

My fondest wish has been surpassed.
My parents comprehend
at last.

My sister’s learning to write sonnets.
My mother’s busy modeling
bonnets.

My father plans to classify
our spider’s daily
food supply.

“Happily ever after” is such a fine clichΓ©!
It’s even more delightful
than a bowl of curds and whey!

*

Wait. What?! More delightful than a bowl of curds and whey?

*

Β πŸ‘INTERMISSION πŸ“

Β Sing it, Chorus!

Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese — she calls it curds and whey.

And now, a word from our sponsor:

When it comes to musicians, the cream always rises to the top. What is the secret to their success? Patience, practice, and PAT AND PEEP’S PREMIUM COTTAGE CHEESE!

Remember, when it comes to cottage cheese, never settle for second best. Just one daily serving and you’ll perform three times better. So power your strings with pluck!

We now return to our regular programming.

*

 🍚ACT TWO, or Chewing the Curd 🍚

Some might think it would hard to top oneself after inventing the reverso, an ingeniously challenging poetic form that gives even veteran poets pause. But we’re talking about fun loving Marilyn Singer here, a prolific, versatile writer who’s been known to cut a good rug, frequent the theatre, and continually wow us with her crazy cool verbal artistry.

I don’t know of any other picture books framing poetry in quite this way. I only know it totally works and is an absolute hoot! The stage direction and offstage narration anchor the storyline, while characters alternately versify in monologue, dialogue, and cheeky chorus. The variety of poetic forms, personas and rhythms is well orchestrated in this period dramedy, which begs for recitation, readers’ theatre, and over-the-top live performance.

I love how David Litchfield (The Bear and the Piano) amplifies the humor with his distinctive caricatures. There’s no shortage of bulbous noses, waxed mustachios, or big hair. The main characters, charmingly costumed in fairy-tale-like flouncy skirts trimmed in ribbons and lace, move through a world of country gardens, meadows, dimly lit castles and wood paneled interiors.

I’m especially partial to the chorus with their mouths open wide in song — upon first meeting them with their “cottage cheese” lyrics, I swear I could hear their voices, and I eagerly looked for them from spread to spread.

Patience can’t help but take center stage with her shock of red hair, and just right for the picture book audience is Webster’s furry blue roundness that makes him more endearing than frightening (close-ups underscore his pivotal role in the plot). Litchfield’s use of text boxes for stage direction and speech bubbles for dialogue is nicely integrated with the narrator’s lines, facilitating a seamless reading that nonetheless keeps the reader on his/her toes. Jolly good fun all around!

Who’d have thought a six line nursery rhyme could reach suchΒ  dramatic heights? This book is a great way to introduce munchkins to theatre basics and to foster a love for the musicality of words. Moreover, it’s a thoroughly entertaining reminder to be brave, follow your dreams, and eat your cottage cheese. Bravo!

*thunderous applause*

*

β™₯ ACT THREE, or A Leetle AprΓ¨s-Theatre Snack β™₯

What’s that? Feeling a little peckish?

Well, I’m absolutely famished! This always happens when I laugh too much. πŸ˜€

You’ve been an exemplary audience and deserve a little snack. We will take our lead from the grand finale, when the fiddlers three perform for Old King Cole.

They arrive at the castle, a little bit flustered,
just in time for pudding and custard.

Chorus:

We love pudding. We love custard.
(Also Sunday roast with mustard!)

See why I love that chorus? They know good food!

Just for you, Mr Cornelius made some Tapioca Pudding (a house favorite). Did I ever mention that Len loves pudding so much, he always eats it with the tiniest spoon he can find, just to make it last longer? I don’t tell him that the spoon he’s using is actually for dolls. πŸ™‚

Tapioca Pudding with Teaspoon Chorus. Which spoon would you use?

In case you’re not a fan of tapioca (gasp!) or are still hungry (no surprise), we also made some Cottage Cheese Pie.

Yes, friends, it’s the perfect Miss Muffet dessert — cottage cheese marries custard! We’re certain the Chorus would heartily approve. (Sorry, no Sunday roast with mustard — Mr Cornelius is a vegetarian.) He made this little rhyme:

Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
Party with custard if you please!

This treat is great for those of you who *think* you don’t like cottage cheese. A little frightened of those curdy lumps? Just whizz a cup of cottage cheese in the blender or food processor for a minute or two until smooth. Add it to the rest of the custard mixture and you end up with a creamy rich pie filling. This pie is sometimes called a surprise pie because no one would ever guess there’s cottage cheese in it. I don’t know where it originated, only that the Amish, Croatians, and Russians all have their own versions.

Have a slice or two or three. Don’t be surprised if you instantly wax poetic, or run to the store to buy a violin.

MISS MUFFET'S COTTAGE CHEESE PIE

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 15 minutes prep, 70 minutes baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • one unbaked 9″ pie shell
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Blend the cottage cheese until smooth in a blender or food processor.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the cottage cheese, flour, sugar, salt, eggs and vanilla. Mix well, then stir in the milk until fully incorporated.

Pour the custard into the pie shell and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack, then chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

Tip:

You may wish to place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet while in the oven in case the filling overflows.

*

MISS MUFFET, Or What Came After
written by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by David Litchfield
published by Clarion Books/HMH, September 2016
Poetry Picture Book for ages 6-9, 40 pp.

*

SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY!

For a chance to win a brand new copy of this book, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, October 12, 2016. You may also enter by sending an email with “MUFFET” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced next Friday. Good Luck!

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poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Violet Nesdoly is hosting the Roundup this week. Take her a piece of pie and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere today.

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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.

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Alphabet Soup Fiddlers Three Final Curtain Call

*Interior spreads and excerpts from Miss Muffet, or What Came After posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright Β© 2016 Marilyn Singer, illustrations Β© 2016 David Litchfield, published by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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

77 thoughts on “[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield

  1. Oh this looks so fun and imaginative! I love that you called Marilyn Singer a “versatile” writer. And I will have to try the recipe (after safely blending the cottage cheese, or course! Yes, I am one of those who don’t particularly care for curds and whey….). Thank you, Jama, as ever! xi

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  2. This looks fabulous!! Congrats to the incredibly clever Marilyn and David–what a perfect pairing! And the pie looks oh-so-tasty, but I do think it needs a new name (maybe just take out the cottage cheese reference). πŸ™‚

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  3. I love cottage cheese, eat it often, and I have made a custard pie before, but never like this one. Looks tasty, as does the book, just perfect for you, right, Jama? Thanks for sharing this new “backstory” of Miss Muffet. Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield must have done some extensive investigative reporting to discover this story. It looks terrific. Thank you!

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    1. I like cottage cheese too, especially with fruit. I like that Miss Muffet got to have a whole other adventure thanks to Marilyn and David.

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  4. This book looks whey cool ;). Such a great blend of words & art. And, as always, Jama your post is artful & tasty :).

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  5. I’m hooked! I want this book! I’ve threatened to bribe Mr. Picker before (I know that’s not his name…but you know who I mean.) This time I’m serious!
    Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
    Mr. Picker, pick me please!

    This post is so much fun, Jama. Thanks for sharing peeks of this delightful book. I can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! Mr. Picker indeed! I won’t tell M. Random Integer Generator that you got his name wrong. πŸ™‚ Even so, I suspect he’s still receptive to bribes, especially from beautiful and clever authors. Good Luck!

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    1. Marilyn is one of the most inventive poets and authors writing for children today. Always so much fun to see what she’ll do next. πŸ™‚

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  6. I like picturing Len eating with the tiniest possible spoon! Sounds like a smart idea to me. Two thumbs up for the book — sooo inventive! So many aspects for kids to pore over.

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    1. I don’t have the patience to use a spoon that’s too small for pudding, but Len has no problem. He eats everything else very fast. πŸ™‚

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  7. Leave it to Marilyn to come up with The. Most. Ingenious. PB concepts! Never boring, that one. πŸ™‚ And you, Jama– what a production! You can be my blogging stage manager and director any day. Finally, that pie… my family are custard fanatics, so I will DEFINITELY be giving this cottage cheese pie a try. YUM!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Marilyn is never boring. It’s amazing what she comes up with! So very inventive and creative. Hope your family likes the pie — creamy rich custard!

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  8. Thoroughly enjoyable post Jama! Am starting my Christmas book list and this is a good one to add to it. Also, I think that Len choosing the smallest spoon possible is wonderful. He and Cornelius are so lucky.. they get to taste all the props. Thank you for the Cottage Pie recipe looks yummy!

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    1. I like that you make a Christmas book list. It’s my favorite gift to give people too :). Len and Cornelius are good about eating the props.

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  9. Wow – you always amaze with your fabulous book review posts. This book was made for you, I think–clever, funny, original and foody! Who would have thought that a drama script could be so entertaining. (And I wouldn’t be surprised to see this performed someday.) Thanks as always! (That Cottage Cheese Pie – is it like cheesecake, or more custardy? I’m tempted to try it.)

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    1. When I read the Chorus’ first lines about “cottage cottage cottage cheese,” I was sure Marilyn wrote this book just for me. πŸ™‚ Who could resist?

      The cottage cheese pie is more like a custard pie than a cheesecake. If no one told you there was cottage cheese in it, you would think you were eating a slightly richer custard pie.

      Like

  10. Oh, my! So much to love here! I’ve got to get my hands on this book — such a creative way to introduce students to drama! And cottage cheese pie? Must try!!

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    1. This is definitely a book to have a lot of fun with. Though it’s enjoyable reading it to yourself, I imagine with others playing various roles it would be a riot.

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  11. Oh I love this story. Glad to know Miss Muffet was talented and liked an adventure. The colors in the illustrations are gorgeous too. I’ve never heard of cottage cheese pie, but I think I have to give it a try.

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    1. If you like custard pie, you’ll like this pie. I was also glad to know there was more to Miss Muffet’s story than we’d assumed all this time. πŸ™‚

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  12. What a delightful book, and one I think I need to keep on hand for future grandchildren πŸ™‚

    I love your accompanying photographs, and the cottage cheese pie sounds deliciously unique.

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  13. Thank you, Jama, for this wonderful review of Marilyn’s new book. I’m in awe of her brilliance and versatility! David Litchfield’s illustrations are perfect. Can’t wait to get a copy and share with kids!

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  14. That is one busy book! It would great one for a kid to peruse on a rainy afternoon. And what’s not to love about cottage cheese. With a scoop of good old, canned, mixed fruit, it sends me back to treats of my youth! (Now, I eat it with mixed fruit sweetened with juice instead of the original heavy syrup.)

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  15. Oh, my goodness….busy book? Busy post! But SO. MUCH. FUN. I love the photos and the review and the recipe (which I have taken and will be making later today). What a celebration of poetry. Thank you for the spectacular show!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jama, you must have such fun staging your photos! This is another of your recommendations I’m wanting to get, just to read to my little great niece and nephew. Trying always to lure them away from their ever present electronic devices. Yes, at such young ages too!

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    1. This is quite a unique book, a collection of poems, a play, and a story all in one. Hope you share it with your great niece and nephew. πŸ™‚

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    1. I keep my antennae up for good books at all times. In this case, since I’ve been a Marilyn fan for awhile and do follow her on social media, I heard about this book from her. πŸ™‚

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  17. What a delightful extravaganza of a post! I had such fun reading it from start to finish and am now dying to get my hands on that book!!! I also would love to gobble up a piece of cottage cheese pie as it looks as delicious as the literary feast you prepared for us! The combination of Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield is a winning one indeed. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for all your enthusiasm — happy to hear you liked reading this post. Sending over a virtual piece of cottage cheese pie even as we speak. Enjoy your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. You have a great storyline going here, love the bears all set up to help. Cottage cheese pie sounds lovely, as does this delightful little book. My granddaughter would love it.

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  19. What an ingenious book! I love the concept…and can’t wait to read a copy. (Plus, my ex-wife’s name is Patience, so she’ll be very happy to see her name in print!) By the way, that pie recipe sounds delicious; I’m going to have to make one, but I think I’ll give it a caramelized top, a la creme brulee,

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  20. Another fabulous review and nice to hear that Miss Muffet has more of a story! πŸ˜‰ It looks like a cute book–I love the illustrations. I actually am a cottage cheese fan but I like it with black pepper and lemon juice. Although the pie looks amazing too.

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