Roll out the red carpet and get ready to curtsy: The QUEEN has just landed and she’s brought TEA!
If you’re thinking this new picture book has my name written all over it, you’re absolutely right. I will try my best to maintain a reasonable sense of decorum for the duration of this post, but as you can imagine, it will take every ounce of restraint I possess. Because TEA. QUEEN. ENGLAND. ADVENTURE. TOP HAT, MUSTACHE! All my favorite things!
*deep breath . . .*
That sound you hear in the background is the joyous clinking of tiny teacups in honor of Kate Hosford and Gabi Swiatkowska, a picture book team made in Assam heaven. In How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea (Carolrhoda Books, 2017), it is evident their whimsical tea-loving sensibilities are in perfect sync.
We first meet HRH one morning while she’s being dressed and coiffed by four maids. A haughty one is this Queen, she with the sour expression and wild hair. Every morning, her mustached butler James prepares her tea, and each day “her tea started to taste a bit worse.” Yes, she has a meltdown.
James, she yelled.
This tea is horrible!
She decides right then and there that she “must find the perfect cup of tea.” So off they go on a queenly quest to faraway lands via hot air balloon.
After floating a bit “over hilltops, meadows, and seas,” the Queen commands James to land in Japan, where they meet charming Noriko, whose kitties want to snuggle.
Naturally, the nose-in-the-air monarch finds this quite beneath her, but via James, Noriko convinces her to try. Apparently, one can work up quite a thirst after a round of strenuous kitty snuggling. The Queen requests a cup of tea, and Noriko happily obliges, enlisting her regal assistance to turn on the faucet.
The Royal carefully watches while Noriko sifts, heats, and whisks, then they sit down for a most pleasant cuppa. The Queen’s expression visibly softens as she chats with Noriko and she politely thanks her new friend before leaving.
Then it’s up and away in the hot air balloon, with two more fun and enlightening stops in tea growing regions. There’s vigorous soccer ball dribbling with cheery Sunil in India, and marvelous dance moves with sweet, red-frocked Rana in Turkey. Each time, the Queen helps a bit more with tea preparation. Each time, she grows more amiable and relaxed as she drinks a few more cups and chats a little longer.
Finally, she declares she knows just where the perfect cup of tea can be found. “Home, James!”
Quite changed, Her Majesty invites her three new friends to the castle for a royal tea party. Decidedly more self-sufficient, she dresses and coifs herself (gasp!), and single-handedly whips up a pot of tea. Noriko, Sunil, and Rana are given the red carpet treatment upon arrival, and then they all sit down to a happy, talky, delectable time, but not before the Queen declares (with bugle fanfare) that the perfect cup of tea is one you make yourself and share with others. 🙂
This engaging, feel-good story dramatizes the magic of tea — its ability to bring people together, cultivate good feelings, facilitate conversation, even foster new friendships. With wry humor and obvious affection, Hosford has created in the Queen an interesting, surprisingly relatable character. Who, among us, has not had a fit of ennui or bad temper, or a genuine desire for change?
There are valuable insights here about being open minded about other cultures and willing to try new things. I like the nod to throwing off pretense, being a good sport, and learning to be more independent. Doing for yourself builds confidence and makes it easier to approach others, so you can welcome them into your orbit and broaden your perspective.
Kate also uses the storytelling rule of three to great effect; the same narrative pattern is used for each encounter with repetitive language and tag lines (“Who are you, pray tell?”/”It’s time she tried.”/”May I have a cup of tea?”) — a nice way to underscore the commonality of human experience and make the story even more fun to read aloud. Subtle differences in detail each time reveal the Queen’s gradual transformation.
Gabi’s colored pencil illustrations beautifully extend the narrative and amplify the droll humor of the story. Her Queen is regal and imposing with odd hair, big skirts and tiny hands and feet. Just quirky enough to make her instantly fascinating.
Spot-on posturings and facial expressions convey a wide range of emotions. As the tea-licious adventure progresses, the Queen is by turns aloof, bossy, demanding, wary, surprised, pensive, curious, determined, happy, proud, and hospitable. As a reader you can’t take your eyes off her. She’s so much fun to watch!
I also like the unique and distinctive appearances of the children, the added humor of the Queen’s playful Corgi dogs, and of course I fairly swooned when I first caught sight of James’s pencil thin mustache and top hat (I want a butler just like him). 🙂
Young readers will feel empowered by how these children were able to teach a Queen how to make their own kind of tea, drawing her out of her shell in the process. Tea lovers will especially appreciate Gabi’s tea-making spreads, which contain step by step graphics for preparing Japanese green tea, Indian masala chai, and Turkish tea, which is boiled in stacked pots and served in clear tulip-shaped glasses.
At its heart this engaging and informative cross cultural story is about the rewards of sharing, friendship, doing for yourself and for others. It is good to be reminded that no matter where we go, people are more alike than they are different. Even a stodgy queen has a child’s heart. Don’t miss this wonderful celebration of global tea traditions steeped in kindness!
*death defying somersaults*
*leaping tall buildings in a single bound*
*more deep breaths . . . *
Now that’s what I call restraint.
☕️ JUST A LITTLE BREW LA-LA ☕️
Looks like it’s time to partea!
Not that we need an excuse to sip, savor, chat and chew — it’s just that we love the book so much, we wanted to extend our enjoyment of it.
I did ask Kate and Gabi about their favorite teas — obviously whatever they’re drinking enhances their creativitea. 🙂
Kate likes English Breakfast and Indian chai, while Gabi mentioned a white tea called Avec Les Anges (“with the angels”), and Lady Gla Gla tea! Is that the coolest name for a tea, or what? Unfortunately, Gabi’s teas aren’t readily available here in the U.S., but we can certainly do English Breakfast and Indian chai. Just in case you’re curious, here’s a peek at the Lady Gla Gla:
Mr. Cornelius got busy right away with the Indian chai. He loves the aromatics: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, star anise. A little honey and it was just right. He decided to serve it with some spicy Samosa. Please help yourself:
I hope you’re hungry. To truly make this an international partea, we invited Cornelius’s friend Matsumi from Japan, who requested green tea and mochi.
Dōzo meshiagarikudasai (enjoy your meal) !
Tea! Tea! We must have more tea!
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the English Breakfast. Who better to share it with than HRH Elizabeth? After all, to properly celebrate this book we need royaltea.
She was thrilled to hear about the book, and Mr. Cornelius was honored to read it aloud. There were royal giggles when she saw how the Queen in the book resembled her great-great grandmother Victoria. She noted the Queen’s snappy temperament brought to mind the “off with their heads!” Queen of Hearts.
Of course she loved the Corgis and looked for them with every page turn, but there was a certain wistfulness, too. She confessed being a monarch is sometimes lonely and fully understood the other Queen’s misery.
To go with the tea, the camera shy Le Lapin Rotund whipped up a batch of black cherry macarons. Kate mentioned that Gabi likes macarons and they had shopped for them together this past summer in France, so these are especially for them. Yum!
Go ahead, you may take more than one. 🙂
Sigh. All good things must come to an end. Best thing to do now is to purchase a copy of How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea and host your own international tea party!
Pray tell, what is your favorite kind of tea?
HOW THE QUEEN FOUND THE PERFECT CUP OF TEA
written by Kate Hosford
illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner, March 2017
Picture Book for ages 5-9, 40 pp.
*Includes Author’s Note explaining how tea became such a popular global drink.
♥ Click here to see some delicious photos of the Launch Party at Books of Wonder in NYC!!
♥ Enjoy the Official Book Trailer:
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2017 Kate Hosford, illustrations © 2017 Gabi Swiatkowska, published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner. All rights reserved.
**Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.