an easter tale starring mr cornelius and his checkmates

Happy Good Friday!

We’ve just read Tasha Tudor’s A Tale for Easter, and loved the part that said, “You can never really tell, for anything might happen on Easter.”

In the story, a little girl dreamed that a fawn took her on a magical ride through the woods and fields, where she sawΒ  “rabbits smoothing their sleek coats for Easter morning,” “little lambs in fields of buttercups,” and “Easter ducklings swimming among the lily pads.” She even got to ride up over the “misty moisty clouds,” a place “where the bluebirds dye their feathers, and the robins find the color for their eggs.”

Mr Cornelius especially liked the part about having hot cross buns (or any other treat) on Good Friday, so he invited a few friends over for fun, food, and games. After all, it’s almost Easter, and anything might happen. πŸ™‚



Peter Rabbit was the first to arrive, so Mr Cornelius challenged him to a friendly game of springtime chess. Le Lapin Rotund (aka Hoppy Vanderhare) volunteered to officiate.



Peter would be Team Blue and Cornelius, Team Orange. All the chess pieces just happened to be personal friends — pigs and lambs and bees and ducks and cows and bunnies — who were only too thrilled to participate.



Since he lives in the woods, Cornelius especially likes his acorn pawns, while Peter is partial to his little carrots. Naturally, they’re not ordinary carrots. They can sing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” in five-part harmony.



It didn’t take long for Peter and Cornelius to really get into the game. As other friends arrived, they cheered the players on.



Now, as some of you may know, chess can be a pretty slow game. So while patiently waiting for Cornelius’s next move, Benjamin Bunny recited this little poem:



by Jack Prelutsky

I’m a fine head of lettuce,
a handsome romaine,
I haven’t a cranium
made for a brain.

I’m simple and shy,
I remain on my own.
I’m known in the garden
as lettuce alone.


“Mouthwatering!” said Peter.

“Most clever!” said Hoppy.

“I’m hungry,” said Cornelius, before finally moving his honeybee rook two squares.

Things were going swimmingly as Peter and Cornelius hemmed and hawed, concentrated and strategized. This was a very serious game, after all.



But then anything might happen on Easter.

There might even be a wee bear dressed in bunny ears with a lot of jelly beans. Naturally, she had a chewy poem to share.



by Jack Prelutsky

They came to town, they came to town,
the Jellybean Brigade.
They marched about in bright array,
a rainbow on parade.

They swaggered in the broiling sun,
instead of in the shade.
They’re nothing but a puddle now —
the Jellybean Brigade.


“Pity,” said Peter.

“What color’s the puddle?” asked Hoppy.

“I’m hungry,” said Cornelius, reaching for a cherry jelly bean.

“We can’t let these jelly beans melt,” said the Hippo King. And with that, all the chess pieces cleared the deck, giving the jelly beans center stage.



“Rawther strange game of chess,” said Eloise.

“Any marmalade jelly beans?” asked Paddington.

“Let’s arrange twelve of them in two straight lines,” suggested Madeline.

“Speaking of jelly beans,” said Max the Poet, “Listen to this:”


Guilty as charged.


by Bobbi Katz

Chocolate Easter bunny
In a jelly bean nest,
I’m saving you for the very last
Because I love you best.
I’ll only take a nibble
From the tip of your ear
And one bite from the other side
So that you won’t look queer.
Yum, you’re so delicious!
I didn’t mean to eat
Your chocolate tail till Tuesday.
Ooops! There go your feet!
I wonder how your back tastes
With all that chocolate hair.
I never thought your tummy
Was only filled with air!
Chocolate Easter bunny
In a jelly bean nest,
I’m saving you for very last
Because I love you best.


“Cannibal!” cried Peter, Hoppy and Pink Bunny.

“Chocolate hair?”!! asked Eloise. “Oh my Lord, can I lick lick lick it?!!”

“I’m curiously hungry,” said Cornelius. “Got more chocolate?”

Anything might happen on Easter.

Take Thing 1 and Thing 2. Please.

“Bite the Chess Pieces” was the name of their game. They nibbled and noshed without any shame.



“Cannibals!” cried Peter, Hoppy, Pink Bunny and Jemima Puddle-duck.

“We simply cannot eat our chocolate friends,” said Max the Poet.

“I can,” said Eloise.

“Mais, non!!” said Madeline.

“But I’m still hungry,” said Cornelius.

“Γ‰couter! What are chefs for?” asked Hoppy. “Call in the EGGHEADS!”



A pleasant enough lot. Naturally, one of them had an edible poem to share.



by Clarence Day

Oh who that ever lived and loved
Can look upon an egg unmoved?
The egg it is the source of all.
‘Tis everyone’s ancestral hall.
The bravest chief that ever fought,
The lowest thief that e’er was caught,
The harlot’s lip, the maiden’s leg,
They each and all came from an egg.

The rocks that once by ocean’s surge
Beheld the first of eggs emerge —
Obscure, defenseless, small and cold —
They little knew what an egg could hold.
The gifts the reverent Magi gave,
Pandora’s box, Aladdin’s cave,
Wars, loves, and kingdoms,
heaven and hell
All lay within that tiny shell.

Oh join me gentle friend, I beg,
In honoring our friend, the egg.


“Most eggscellent!” said Peter.

“An egg cup makes a very good hat,” said Eloise.

“I’m still hungry,” said Cornelius.

And with that, Hoppy and Chef Jacques whipped up a nice hot dish of Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast!



Melted jelly beans, half eaten chocolate bunnies, and upended chess games forgotten, everyone dug in and enjoyed.



Finally, after three servings, Cornelius said, “I’ve got a poem too.”



by Carol Ann Duffy

Humpty Dumpty stood on one leg,
Humpty Dumpty was only an egg.
All the King’s horses
And all the King’s men
Had to have omelette for dinner again.


“I’m shell shocked!” said Hoppy.

“Talk about an eggsistential crisis,” said Peter.

“But some of my best friends are eggs,” said Cornelius. “Without them, our resident chefs couldn’t make French toast.”




Everyone turned to see who was shouting.

There, on the window ledge, sat Mr Dumpty himself, alive and well.



“Fact is, I DID NOT fall and I hate omelettes. All that nursery rhyme rattletrap about my unfortunate demise? FAKE NEWS! Fake News, I tell you. You can see I’m fully intact and handsomer than ever.”

*Collective gasp*



“So you see, the yolk’s on you! You guys really crack me up!”

A big cheer from all.

With that, all the checkmates had another serving of Baked French Toast and a Sour Cream Lemon Puff Pastry Shell to celebrate. They also polished off oodles of jelly beans, and some even devoured a few chocolate animal friends (we won’t say who).

I guess it’s true. Anything might happen on Easter. πŸ™‚





So, just in case you’re looking for a couple of easy, last-minute breakfast or brunch recipes for Sunday, consider Sour Cream Lemon Puff Pastry Shells (as pictured in the opening image of this post) and/or Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast — both carefully tested by Le Lapin Rotund (aka Hoppy when sporting carrot ear warmers) and Chef Jacques.

If you’ve used frozen puff pastry shells before, you know how versatile they are for sweet or savory treats. Somehow puff pastry always feels decadent and serving these delectable shells with a lemon curd and sour cream filling will add a festive touch to any holiday celebration.

Just pre-bake the shells per the box instructions (we used Pepperidge Farm brand), let cool for five minutes, then fill with the sour cream-lemon curd filling. Top with fresh berries and some toasted almond slices and you’re good to go. Nothing could be simpler. Again, maximum satisfaction from minimum effort (our new motto). πŸ™‚


Sour Cream Lemon Puff Pastry Shells

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 box frozen puff pastry shells (6 in a box)
  • cinnamon and sugar (1 tablespoon each)
  • 1 – 10-oz jar of lemon curd
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • fresh berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake the frozen puff pastry shells according to box directions, about 20 minutes. Before baking, lightly sprinkle some cinnamon sugar over each shell.
  2. Let the shells cool for at least five minutes.
  3. Mix the lemon curd with the sour cream.
  4. Gently scoop out the center of the shells, then fill with the lemon curd-sour cream mixture.
  5. Top with berries of choice and a few sliced almonds. Serve immediately.


    * The lemon curd was definitely yummy, but I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute a favorite jam (the sour cream nicely balances out the sweetness). You could even fill the shells with plain whipped cream, then top with berries.

    * Go easy on the cinnamon sugar (it tends to burn easily at 425, and I wish I had used less).

~ Adapted from an online recipe at The Reluctant Entertainer




The Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast is a wonderful make-ahead dish. Of course you’ll be busy Easter morning and don’t want to fuss too much with breakfast or brunch. So you assemble everything and refrigerate it the night before. You can even make the topping ahead of time and then just sprinkle it on just before baking.

The secret to this recipe is using King’s Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls. My recipe for Hawaiian Sweet Bread Pudding (posted years ago) remains one of the most popular on this blog. The two recipes are similar, as you’re basically combining an egg-milk custard with pieces of bread.



While the bread pudding calls for a full cup of white sugar, the french toast only uses 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, and just 1/4 cup of brown sugar in the topping.

This recipe was adapted from one I found online at Damn Delicious, which specifies using a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, and a 12-roll bag of dinner rolls (12 oz), layering bread and blueberries several times. I knew that wouldn’t work since my bread pudding recipe uses the same size dish with a 16-oz loaf of sweet bread.

So I used a smaller dish — 8″ x 11″ —Β  and it was just right. If you want to make a larger amount and use a 9″ x 13″ dish, I suggest increasing the amount of bread to at least 16 oz., the milk to 2 cups, and the eggs to 5 or 6. This recipe is quite forgiving, though, so you can juggle the amount of bread and custard to your liking.

Both my sweet bread pudding and this baked French toast are great for breakfast, brunch, or dessert, and are good pot luck choices. May I also add: this baby smells sooooooo good while it’s baking. πŸ™‚


Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print


  • 1 (12-count) package King’s Hawaiian Original Sweet Dinner rolls, cubed
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, or more, to taste
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the Crumb Topping:

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)


  1. Lightly coat an 8″ x 11″ baking dish with nonstick spray. Place a layer of bread cubes evenly into the dish. Top with blueberries in an even layer, repeating twice more and ending with a layer of bread.
  2. Whisk together milk, eggs, maple syrup, lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large glass measuring cup or medium bowl. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Make the crumb topping by combining flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or with your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the bread cubes.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Serve immediately, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.


    * For an 8″ x 11″ dish, my baking time was the full 45 minutes (until the center was no longer wet).

    * The crumb topping can be too sweet for some; just make a smaller quantity or sprinkle on less. I opted against confectioners’ sugar on top of that. This was plenty sweet enough without that extra layer of sugar.




A Special Note to My Passover Friends:

Thinking of you as we all celebrate important holidays this weekend. My favorite Passover picture book is More Than Enough by April Halprin Wayland and Katie Kath. In case you missed it, check out my interview with April, which includes lots of personal photos and a recipe for Charoset!





Hope everyone has a delicious, family-and-friend-filled weekend! Why not put the electronic devices aside and sit down for a good old-fashioned game of chess?



Who knows? Anything might happen. πŸ™‚








We’re happy to announce that the winner of a brand new copy of There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth by B.J. Lee and David Opie is:



Thanks for entering the giveaway, everyone. Have you entered this week’s Surprise Book Giveaway yet? The resident Paddingtons are offering a copy of Margarita Engle’s new verse memoir, SOARING EARTH! Leave a comment here to enter!



The charming and talented Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the Roundup at The Poem Farm. As you probably know, she’s been busy creating an interesting Poemstory for NPM. Put on your bunny ears and hop on over there to cheer her on and to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the bloggy world this week.



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



*whisker twitch*


*Poem sources:

“A Fine Head of Lettuce” and “The Jellybean Brigade” is from A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by James Stevenson (Greenwillow Books, 1994).

“Patience” by Bobbi Katz is from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel (Random House, 1983).

“Ode to the Egg” is from Scenes from the Mesozoic by Clarence Day (Yale University Press, 1935).

“Humpty Dumpty” is Part 3 of a five-part poem entitled “Not Not Nursery Rhymes,” included in New and Collected Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber & Faber, 2014).

**This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee. Thank you for your support!

***Copyright Β© 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

54 thoughts on “an easter tale starring mr cornelius and his checkmates

  1. Wow! What a beautiful, delectable Easter tale! You really outdid yourself, Jama. So many sweet photos and poems. The chess set is fantastic, the bear in a bunny suit so adorable, and I really must make the blueberry lemon french toast.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Jama…..what a full and rich and wonderful post. Unlike Mr. Cornelius, I’m stuffed! But, I’m stuffed in the most wonderful way. Your story telling with the photographs and incorporation of poems is magical. I feel truly that anything might happen. Five out of five stars to this post. I love it and now feel ready for Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Linda. We had fun with this post (though maybe Cornelius overate a little). Hope you have a delicious and beautiful Easter weekend.


  3. Jama! Jama! Jama! I want to walk into this post. I want to be me and to walk into this post. And I want to be five-year-old-me and to walk into this post. This is a picture book! Every part of it makes me so happy and I am now off to share it with our college student children. Such joy. I am charmed once again. Thank you to all creatures…thank you for the recipes I just printed. And thank you for a reminder of Tasha Tudor. Yes, “anything might happen.” xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Amy — and I hope you like the recipes too! Enjoy Easter with your family (will you be making your husband’s favorite pineapple cake?). πŸ™‚


  4. So much to celebrate here, Jama, “anything can happen” on your posts! Tasha Tudor’s words and books make me smile every time. I’ve kept “My Brimful Book” as a favorite for years. The chess game is adorable, from the first players and those carrot singers to the chocolate ‘bites’, smiles all around. Thanks for the recipes, too. I love French toast, will see about making a small version of it soon. Thank you, and Happy Easter! I don’t celebrate Passover, but love April’s book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tasha Tudor has always been one of my favorites. I’d like to collect more of her books. Blue Bear liked the baked blueberry french toast and hopes you make some soon. πŸ™‚ BTW, the carrots are still singing, weeks after I wrote this post . . . (help!).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love those poems, especially the Ja k Prelutsky! Happy Easter from the Bronx! πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯

    Liked by 1 person

  6. thank you for a delightful post. I enjoyed it so much. Where did you get such a wonderful chessboard?

    Happy Easter and Spring to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The chessboard set is a Muffy Vanderbear accessory from years ago. It came with table + 2 chairs (bear and bunny shaped) + chess pieces. There are drawers under the table for storing all the chess pieces. You can probably find this stuff on ebay. πŸ™‚

      Hope you have a wonderful Easter!


  7. OMG, the recipes are awesome. BUT the stars of the show are all the wonderful chess pieces! So, so, so much fun. You always have the best posts. Love the poems and the book and the fabulous photos. Happy all the holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The chess pieces were happy to have their pictures taken. What’s good about them is that they will move to whatever squares you want them to be in all by themselves. πŸ˜€


  8. Outstanding! What a fun post. It must have taken hours to set up, photograph, research and post! Wishing you a very happy Easter with a beautiful springtime on its heels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy, glad you enjoyed. This post was fun but time consuming. I broke up the baking, photographing and writing in increments over a period of a couple of weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a cute and clever post! Love the poetry and the adorable chess set. The French Toast looks delectable. Mr Cornelius throws the best parties. πŸ˜‰
    Happy Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Delicious and delightful post from top with Tasha Tudor (a fav of mine) to bottom. Loved all the characters who came to the Easter party, especially Hoppy and his wonderful orange ear muffs. Your post reminds me of Maurice Sendak’s book HIGGLETY PIGGLETY POP! THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE, and their ending performance–this was a marvelous performance, many thanks! πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I love Higglety Pigglety Pop! (now I must reread it). πŸ™‚ Hoppy wears his carrot ear muffs once a year. Tomorrow he’s back to being Le Lapin Rotund.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a delicious post! Those spring chess pieces are adorable, and the poets were right on with their selections of poems to share. Indeed, anything can happen at Easter.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh my goodness – just back in town and catching up on all this fun. HAPPY EASTER and thank you to all involved up there for this rollicking, raucous and very tasty party – “eggsistential crisis” – ha!
    Special jellybean kisses to Mr. C., and love to all. (Hmmm… feeling a craving for CHESS pie now!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever had chess pie (such a sheltered life). Sigh. Mr C thanks you for the jellybean kisses. He’s just posted a robin picture as the blog header in your honor. πŸ™‚


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