nine cool things on a tuesday



1. Think pink and chew on this: behold the crazy cool bubblegum sculptures of Rome-based artist Maurizio Savini!



Yes, I did say bubblegum. Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to pre-chew his chosen medium. Two assistants help him soften bricks of the stuff into malleable sheets before they’re applied to plaster molds like traditional clay, and then carved with a razor-sharp scalpel.



His subjects include animals, objects from pop culture, and people — sometimes for the purpose of political or social commentary (“pink represents artificiality — when you see it, you associate it with a fake world”). He’s been working with bubblegum for over 20 years, and his pieces are exhibited in galleries all over the globe.



Since bubblegum cannot typically be recycled or composted, Savini’s art is a creative way of “stretching the boundaries of environmental conscientiousness.” Oh, and don’t worry, his sculptures are preserved with a special mixture of antibiotics and formaldehyde, so they can be enjoyed for generations to come. 😀





2. It’s time to order your 2020 Julie Paschkis Vision Calendars!



This 2020 Vision Calendar is a one page poster, printed on heavy stock, 11″ x 17″. The watercolor and ink drawing celebrates the hope that our democracy will be strengthened and the rights of all protected – that 2020 will be a year of clarity and vision in the United States.

Each calendar costs $12. The entire $12 for each calendar sold goes to the ACLU. They make great gifts. Please get several of them! Shipping is free for 5 calendars or more.

A great cause, a beautiful calendar! Zip over to Julie Paprika to place your order.



3. New Book Alert: Barbara Crooker’s Some Glad Morning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), was just released in November.



Some Glad Morning, Barbara Crooker’s ninth book of poetry, teeters between joy and despair, faith and doubt, the disconnect between lived experience and the written word. Primarily a lyric poet, Crooker is in love with the beauty and mystery of the natural world, even as she recognizes its fragility. But she is also a poet unafraid to write about the consequences of our politics, the great divide. She writes as well about art, with ekphrastic poems on paintings by Hopper, O’Keeffe, Renoir, Matisse, Cézanne, and others. Many of the poems are elegaic in tone, an older writer tallying up her losses. Her work embodies Bruce Springsteen’s dictum, “it ain’t no sin to be glad we’re alive,” as she celebrates the explosion of spring peonies, chocolate mousse, a good martini, hummingbirds’ flashy metallics, the pewter light of September, Darryl Dawkins (late NBA star), saltine crackers.  While she recognizes it might all be about to slip away, “Remember that nothing is ever lost,” she writes, and somehow, we do.

Obviously we are huge Barbara Crooker fans (having featured more of her poems here than those of any other contemporary poet), and we can’t wait to sit down with a cup of warm tea and slowly make our way through this new book. Read, relax, savor, absorb, reflect. Did someone say saltines and chocolate mousse? 🙂



4. New Picture Book Biography Alert! I was so excited when It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad (HarperCollins, 2019), was released in October, as I’m not only a Gyo Fujikawa fan, but a Maclear and Morstad fan as well. Triple goodness!



From beloved team Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad (creators of Julia, Child and Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli) comes an elegant picture book biography that portrays the most moving moments in the life of Gyo Fujikawa, a groundbreaking Japanese American hero in the fight for racial diversity in picture books.

Equal parts picture book biography, inspiring story, and a look at racial diversity in America, It Began with a Page is a gem for any book lover, librarian, or child who dares to dream big.

Growing up in California, Gyo Fujikawa always knew that she wanted to be an artist. She was raised among strong women, including her mother and teachers, who encouraged her to fight for what she believed in. During World War II, Gyo’s family was forced to abandon everything and was taken to an internment camp in Arkansas.

Far away from home, Gyo worked as an illustrator in New York while her innocent family was imprisoned. Seeing the diversity around her and feeling pangs from her own childhood, Gyo became determined to show all types of children in the pages of her books. There had to be a world where they saw themselves represented.



Gyo’s book Babies was initially rejected by her publisher, but after she insisted, they finally relented, and Babies went on to sell almost two million copies. Gyo’s books paved the way for publishers, teachers, and readers to see what we can be when we welcome others into our world.

The book includes extensive back matter, including a note from the creators, a timeline, archival photos, and further information on Gyo Fujikawa.

This gem has already received four **starred reviews** from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Don’t miss it!



5. ‘Tis the season to shop for special holiday gifts, so I thought I’d point you to Lita Judge’s wonderful online store. You may be familiar with some or all of Lita’s award winning fiction and nonfiction picture books. I first fell in love with her work when a copy of Red Sled (Atheneum, 2011) magically appeared on my doorstep 8 years ago. Could I resist those charming woodland animals, especially that big brown bear? No, I could not. 🙂

Then came Red Hat (2013), and books about a dinosaur, penguins, and adorable owls Hoot and Peep, among others. Her most recent books are Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live (Roaring Brook, 2019) and Penguin Flies Home (Atheneum, 2019).



Lita grew up loving nature, animals, and wild places (she spent her summers in Wisconsin with her grandparents, who were biologists who studied birds). Today, Lita lives with her husband and animal friends (wild and domestic) in a little red house in the New Hampshire woods.






Through her online store, you can purchase signed copies of her beautiful books, original paintings, and signed fine art quality prints of illustrations from her books. Her love of animals really shines through in all her pictures. Do visit her website to find out more about her books, browse her shop and take a look at her studio, which is just gorgeous! A perfect setting for an artist!



6. Yes, yes, I know you’re hungry. Have you seen the latest title in the Eric Carle and Friends’ What’s Your Favorite series? Sure, What’s Your Favorite Animal? and What’s Your Favorite Color? were quite enjoyable, but of course my favorite is What’s Your Favorite Food? (Henry Holt, 2019)!



A new title in the Eric Carle and Friends What’s Your Favorite picture book series, in which Eric Carle and thirteen other beloved children’s book artists illustrate their favorite foods and explain why they love them.

Everybody has a favorite food. Some enjoy sweet treats like rich honey or ripe, juicy berries. Others prefer the savory comforts of warming matzo ball soup or creamy chicken Alfredo. With beautiful illustrations and charming personal stories, fourteen children’s book artists share their favorite foods and why they love them. Artists include: Aki, Isabelle Arsenault, Brigette Barrager, Matthew Cordell, Benji Davies, Karen Katz, Laurie Keller, Juliet Menendez, Greg Pizzoli, Misa Saburi, Felicita Sala, Dan Santat, Shannon Wright.



I do live for this sort of thing. Fun book! I especially like Benji Davies’s CHEESE house, Isabelle Arsenault’s elegant CAKE, and Matthew Cordell’s rather frenetic monkey PIZZA chefs. He even waxes full throttle poetic about his love for pizza in all shapes, sizes and forms.



Check out this sampler platter of a picture book soon — you’ll enjoy the different artistic styles and the varying descriptions — some just a few words or phrases, others, little poems or paragraphs. I love how the personality of each artist shines through + there are adorable childhood photos of them in the back.



7. Puzzled about something? Set your sights on this round 500-piece Votes for Women puzzle.


In the mid 19th century, scores of women (and men) began fighting tirelessly for the female vote and didn’t stop until they won in 1920. So the least you can do is tackle this 500-piece puzzle that showcases the leaders of the movement. Celebrate a century of suffrage by building this beautifully illustrated circle of voting rights champions, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Frederick Douglass. This colorful challenge comes with a poster-sized pamphlet offering bonus information on this landmark development in American history.


Finished diameter is 23 inches. Fun, challenging, educational gift for ages 10+. 🙂



8. I can hear your stomach growling (my ears are specially trained for this). Up for a little Chinese food? Something that will definitely hit the spot is the recently released picture book, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang and Charlene Chua (Aladdin, 2019):



Meet the funny, fierce, and fearless Amy Wu, who is determined to make a perfect bao bun today. Can she rise to the occasion?

Amy loves to make bao with her family. But it takes skill to make the bao taste and look delicious. And her bao keep coming out all wrong.

Then she has an idea that may give her a second chance…Will Amy ever make the perfect bao?



This is quite a dangerous book because it will make you sooooo hungry. There’s just something about those soft steamed buns (I especially love char siu bao), but of course there are many other types of fillings to tempt your palate.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao is totally charming and delectable, and Kirkus has given it a *starred review*. 🙂

Watch this video to learn how to make Amy’s bao (a downloadable recipe activity sheet is available at Kat Zhang’s website):





9. When is a cookie more than just a cookie? When they’re not only beautiful, delicious works of art, but can also help raise awareness about race and social justice.

Check out Pittsburgh baker Jasmine Cho’s hand-drawn cookie portraits — edible, inspiring treats recognizing notable Asian Americans in history.

Many of the figures she spotlights are not widely known. Take Afong Moy, cited as the first Chinese woman to set foot in the United States (she was put on display in the 1830’s as a curiosity):


Afong Moy


Or what about Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win an Olympic Gold Medal in 1948:


Sammy Lee


Other figures include Yuji Ichioka, a pioneering historian of the Asian American experience who coined the term “Asian American,” and Takao Ozawa, a Japanese American whose petition for U.S. citizenship was denied on the basis of race in a landmark Supreme Court case.


Takao Ozawa


Jasmine’s novel cookies arouse curiosity, then spark lively  conversations. People are naturally drawn to her creations and want to learn more about the subjects.

As the daughter of Korean immigrants who was bullied while growing up in Los Angeles, she is passionate about less invisibility and more representation when it comes to Asian Americans.

Cho has also published a children’s book to further elevate awareness called Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Made History (Yummyholic, 2019).



Enjoy her 2019 Tedx Talk, “Cookies as a Form of Activism.” It’s well worth the eleven minutes to learn about how and why she opened her online bakery Yummyholic and went on to create her cool cookie portraits.



* Cho has temporarily suspended custom cookie orders for the rest of the year while she pursues a degree in art therapy.



Finally, for our BLUE song this week, something to cheer us on: “Blue Skies” was written by Irving Berlin in 1926, as a last minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical “Betsy.”  It was also one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie, with Al Jolson performing it in “The Jazz Singer.”

Willie Nelson had a #1 country music hit with the song in 1978, and in this video, he performs it with Kenny Rogers on stand-up bass during the NBC “Kenny, Dolly, and Willie Special” (1989).
















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

18 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. So glad I clicked through today. Several books in the Amazon cart, several books on hold from the library, big ideas for my annual cookie decorating this year…so much coolness! THANKS!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the Barbara Crooker alert! That one just went on my Christmas wish list. 🙂 So much other goodness, too. IT BEGAN WITH A PAGE also looks amazing and Jasmine Cho’s cookies are unbelievable.

    Thanks for another packed post. Happy Blue Skies Tuesday, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve just added quite a lot to my book list, Jama. I didn’t know about the new Barbara Crooker, so thanks so much for that. I loved hearing about each one, especially about Gyo Fujikawa’s life. The book is at my library! And it didn’t occur to me that Lita Judge has a shop. I imagine I’ll love visiting, but maybe I shouldn’t (ha!). Thanks for Willie and Kenny – so nice! Happy Tuesday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m looking forward to settling down with Barbara’s book once I get my holiday gifts wrapped and mailed. With Thanksgiving coming late this year, it seems the Christmas rush is worse. . .

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lita Judge’s work is amazing, as is her home and studio – she only lives about 45 minutes away, and I’m always in awe when I step inside. (Btw, if you haven’t read her graphic-novel-in-verse “Mary’s Monster,” you need to!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucky you, being able to visit Lita and see her studio in person! I have Mary’s Monster on my gigantic TBR list; heard so many good things about it.


  5. Hooray for pink and blue and all cool Tuesday things. Thanks for always bringing me cheer, Jama, especially now. Love Lita’s books and art and pretty much everything Kyo Maclear writes!!

    I’m also lucky to have visited Lita and her creatures and her light-filled studio since she lives not too far away from my mother in NH. Her art is so beautiful! I agree with Matt–move Mary’s Monsters up on your reading list. Stunning art, gorgeous text.

    And cool cookie portraits!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, another lucky person visiting Lita’s studio! Totally on board with your love of both Lita’s and Kyo’s work. Just wish I had unlimited shelf space to own everything they publish. . .


  6. Wow, that gum! That’s… amazing. And weird. But, amazing! Like butter sculptures.
    Meanwhile, Jasmine Cho’s cookies – and her book – are also amazing and really, she’s a smart woman to take her passion — and our passion for sweets — and combine the two. I look forward to seeing what she does next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jasmine’s cookies are brilliant — I wonder why someone else hadn’t thought to do that long ago. Cookies are a great way to whet the appetite for worthwhile history.


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