1. Since we’re definitely in a “spring is almost here!” mood, we’re starting off with some charming watercolors by Chicago-based artist, illustrator, educator, and writer Michelle Kogan.
I first saw Michelle’s work on the cover of the very first Today’s Little Ditty Anthology (2014-2015), edited by the indefatigable Michelle H. Barnes (there is definitely something magical about Michelles). Michelle K. then joined the Poetry Friday gang, and we’ve been treated to her delightful posts every week, where she shares both her poetry and art (doubly delish).
Michelle is a lifelong nature lover, and her paintings depict the interesting bits of flora and fauna she observes in her various ramblings. She likes to paint outdoors during the summer, either in her own garden or in other nature venues in the Chicago area.
Michelle also paints figures, some of whom appear in her children’s illustrations. A staunch advocate of preserving our natural environment, she hopes her work will continue to inspire more beauty.
Do check out Michelle’s Etsy shop, where you can purchase archival prints, mini-prints, cards, bookmarks, journals and postcards. And of course there’s more art at her Official Website, and poetry and art every week at her blog. Contact Michelle directly via her website for info about classes and workshops, or for poetry, children’s book, or painting commissions.
2. New Book Alert! Just out today, Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss (G. P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR, 2020):
Stunning illustrations and gorgeous haiku lead young readers through the dramatic life cycle of one of America’s most beloved wild animals.
Pip. Pip. Pip. Poking
A hole. Cracking. Cracking. Out
Pecks the white owlet.
Watch as a pair of great horned owlets peep and squeak in their feathered nest. Mama and Papa hunt for food and fend off predators while the chicks grow strong enough to hop and flap between the branches of their tree, then leap and fly away, ready to explore the wild world around them.
In this thrilling nonfiction picture book, a combination of haiku and dazzling illustration shows readers the fierce majesty of one of North America’s most ubiquitous wild animals.
Oh, this sounds so good! You may know Maria (a self-proclaimed bird nerd with a penchant for raptors) from her award winning picture book Hawk Rising (illustrated by Brian Floca), or from any of her other wonderful animal-related titles. I’m looking forward to learning more about great horned owls, enjoying Maria’s poetic text, and gazing at the gorgeous illustrations.
Congratulations, Maria and Jonathan!
3. Been awhile since we’ve had a ceramics fix. Behold the “Votes for Women” collection from the Preservation Society of Newport County!
The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment (which granted most American women the right to vote). Why not celebrate with these cool reproductions of the original tea service commissioned by suffragist Alva Vanderbilt Belmont for a 1909 Votes for Women rally held at Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island?
The complete line includes a teapot for one, cup and saucer, 12-oz mug and 8.5″ luncheon plate, as well as napkins, oven mitts, potholders, buttons, cross body/clutch bags, and trinket boxes. All dishes are dishwasher and microwave safe.
Years ago, I purchased a cup and saucer when we visited Newport with my parents (such a cool place!). Since 2020 is also a Presidential election year, I think I may need to add a teapot and plate. Best part is all purchases support the preservation of the historic houses and landscapes in the area. The icing on the cake? The lovely BLUE trim and lettering! 🙂
For more, visit NewportStyle.net.
4. Time for a little tune. These days we are constantly inundated with noise, bad news and a constant stream of information we can’t even begin to process. Music, please.
Recently I accidentally stumbled upon a cover of one of my favorite James Taylor songs, “You Can Close Your Eyes.” Though I’ll always love him singing it with Carly Simon, I think the Charlie and Stephen Puth cover from a few years ago is my new favorite.
This was actually my introduction to Charlie Puth’s singing (wish I had heard of him sooner). You may know that he was a YouTube channel discovery, first signed to Ellen Degeneres’s label eleveneleven. He’s most known for “See You Again” and “Marvin Gaye” (with Meghan Trainor).
In this day and age of demoralizing discord, these harmonies calm and soothe — beautiful and angelic! Just two brothers singing in their New Jersey kitchen. It kind of gives me hope for the future. Their music teacher mother sure taught them well. In case Charlie is new to you, he’s the one in the knit cap.
5. Another New Book Alert! Also released today is My Daddy and Me by Linda Ashman and Jane Massey (Cartwheel Books, 2020)!
In the spirit of read-aloud family favorites like Guess How Much I Love You and I Love You Through and Through comes a fresh classic about the eternal love between father and child.
Daddy wakes before I rise.
Drinks his coffee. Rubs his eyes.
Sees me standing on the stair.
Picks me up. Smooths my hair.
Am especially excited about this one because I’m a big fan of both Linda Ashman and Jane Massey. Too cool that they’ve teamed up for this adorable board book (you may recall that I posted about Jane’s illustrations not too long ago). Really love Linda’s Little Baby Buttercup, All We Know, and Rock-a-Bye Romp, so I know this new book will be wonderful.
Congratulations, Linda and Jane!
6. Hmmm, looking for a handmade gift — something a little different — for that special someone? Check out PaperArgonauts for unique, feel-good wall charms, love tokens, and Lady Guardians.
UK illustrator Fiona Biddington designs, illustrates, screen prints, and then laser cuts, handpaints and/or embroiders each piece. She is largely inspired by tradition, mythology, and folklore, and uses recycled, sustainable, eco-friendly materials whenever possible.
Her Love Tokens were inspired by the coins sailors would hand cut with the initials of their sweethearts.
Her Medals for Heroes are a modern take on traditional war medals, and her one-of-a-kind screen printed Hearts are based on the sweetheart pin cushion kits WWI soldiers would send home for their sweethearts. The Hearts are lasercut on sustainable birch plywood and polished with a layer of beeswax for protection.
Or what about these colorful, Mexican Milagro-inspired Wall Charms? As with the Hearts, they can be hung as they are to brighten any room, or mounted in a box frame.
Seems we could all use a Lady Guardian with handpainted details to cheer us on and motivate us to stand strong. Be Wild, Be Kind, Take Pride! Frame them or mount them on a stick. Remember to be the best you can be with a friendly guardian to bring more joy and love into your life.
See all of Fiona’s offerings at PaperArgonauts!
7. Love this fabulous Alphabet Books Roundup posted by Jill at Orange Marmalade. She shares 26 books in (of course) alphabetical order. 🙂
I have to say most of them are new to me (where have I been?), so it was happy discovery time all through the post. The titles feature animals, geometric shapes, photography, and very cool illustrations (like Anita Lobel’s On Market Street — an older title I had seen before). There are other luminaries like Sergio Ruzzier, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Paul O. Zelinsky, David McPhail, Jon Agee, and my all-time fave, What Pete Ate from A to Z by Maira Kalman — yay!
Do check out “alphabet jambalaya!: An A to Z of Alphabetical Goodies.” I have a lot of catching up to do!
8. Ceramic quirk: For some cute gift ideas, check out Amy Victoria Marsh’s Online Shop. She’s an illustrator based in Manchester, England, and teaches at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Salford.
The first pieces to catch my eye were the pink ceramic fortune cookies. I like the idea of a fortune cookie that doesn’t crumble or go stale. 🙂 With the Love Fortune Cookies, you have your choice of sayings (“You’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” “You’re my favorite,” etc.), and the standard Fortune Cookies come with a variety of random sayings (“Vision without action is a daydream”).
Amy’s love of Japan is reflected in her other ceramic pieces as well as in her prints and cards (sake, sushi, Sumo, tako). Have fun browsing!
9. Last but certainly not least, the book I’ve been most looking forward to this year is finally out today: Maira Kalman’s illustrated edition of Gertrude Stein’s, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Penguin Press, 2020)!!
Considered one of the richest and most irreverent biographies in history, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was written by Gertrude Stein in the style and voice of her life partner, Alice B. Toklas. Published in 1933 and narrated by Alice, this autobiography begins with her initial move to France in 1907, the day after which she meets Gertrude, sparking a relationship that lasts for nearly four decades. Recounting the vibrant and literary life the two make for themselves among the Parisian avant-garde, Alice opens the doors to the prominent salons they held in their home at rue de Fleurus, hosting fellow expatriate American writers such as Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound as well as artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Man Ray, and speaks of the twilight of the Paris belle epoque.
In this edition, the wildly talented Maira Kalman brings this glittering Parisian world to life, and celebrates Stein and Toklas in vivid color. Her whimsical and inimitable illustrations complement the wit and humor of Stein’s narrative, and elevate the exciting intrigues of these famous women and their friends. Inviting readers to experience this book in a completely new way, the illustrated edition of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas will prompt a contemporary reading of this cherished and singular classic.
What’s there not to love? As you know, when it comes to Maira, I’m such a big fan that I automatically purchase everything she publishes. Rereading Stein’s words will be an extra special treat because I just recently finished two Hemingway books that reference Stein and Toklas: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, by Lesley M.M. Blume (both are good reads if you’re in a Hemingway-ish mood).
Enjoy this short film with Maira playing Alice. She’s outdone herself again!
And now for our blue song, a trip to yesteryear with “My Blue Heaven.” Written by Walter Donaldson in 1924 with lyrics by George A. Whiting, it was used in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1927. Crooner Gene Austin had a huge hit with his recording in 1928; it sold over over 5 million copies, making it one of the best selling singles of all time. It has since been covered by oodles of artists, including Rosemary Clooney, Fats Domino, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra. A simpler, more innocent time for sure.
WHISTLE A TUNE
KICK UP YOUR HEELS
LISTEN FOR BIRDSONG
BELIEVE IN BLUE
VOTE BLUE (It’s Super Tuesday!)
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** Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.