nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Something to make us feel happy, safe, and comforted:  charming watercolor and gouache paintings by Loré Pemberton.

Couldn’t find very much information about Loré online, other than she’s an artist who lives with her family in the northern woods of Vermont tucked between a mountain and a river in a place they call Cold Hollow.



Her style reminds me a little of Phoebe Wahl’s (which I adore), and features rustic woodland scenes, mothers, children and small animals.

There’s a lovely harmony with nature; children enjoy exploring the forest, catching fireflies, walking through the snow, and having outdoor parties.

This painting, called “Holed Up,” seems appropriate for these times. The three figures in red seem quite content in their cozy underground digs.



And this is Mr Cornelius’s favorite: “Mr. Bear’s House.” He would like to have his own little house with a mailbox with his name on it, and have Fuzzy the Fox peek in the window.



Loré fills her pictures with homey details like braided rugs, quilts, and the simple trappings of rustic living.



To purchase prints, visit Loré Pemberton’s Etsy Shop.



2. New Book Alert! Just released last month is a companion picture book to Aram Kim’s No Kimchi for Me, called Let’s Go to Taekwondo!: A Story About Persistence, Bravery, and Breaking Boards (Holiday House, 2020):



Yoomi wants a yellow belt. But she’s afraid to break the board. Grandma to the rescue!

Yoomi and her friends are ready to take on the test for their yellow belts in taekwondo. But Yoomi is afraid to break a board. Meanwhile, Grandma is struggling to learn something new, too.

But Yoomi and Grandma encourage and inspire each other. Yoomi discovers how, with persistence, focus, deep breathing, and above all, a loving Grandma, even the toughest challenges can be overcome.

This companion to No Kimchi for Me emphasizes self-confidence, determination, and the value of family. Backmatter about taekwondo, including some Korean vocabulary, is included.

* A Junior Library Guild Selection



Am excited about reading another story featuring Yoomi and her family. Remember when Aram visited Alphabet Soup to tell us all about No Kimchi for Me? 

This new taekwondo book received a glowing review from Kirkus, who described it as, “A sweet tale of shared perseverance that bursts with color, culture, and energy.”

Check out Aram’s interview with Mr. Schu at Watch. Connect. Read. to learn more.

Congratulations, Aram!!



3. Know what made me really happy the other week? Anderson Cooper’s new baby boy!

I was totally surprised and tickled blue when I heard him announce his fatherhood at the end of his town hall. Welcome to the world, Wyatt Morgan Cooper!



Precisely what we need: new life, hope, and more love at this time of sadness, loss, grief, fear, and uncertainty. It’s especially poignant because I remember when Anderson’s mother died, and how he sadly mentioned that he was the only one left of his immediate family. Tragic to lose your dad at age 10, and have your older brother commit suicide.



Now the Cooper family name will live on in this brand new, fresh-from-God person. Anderson seems positively giddy at his new fatherhood status, and I know he will do a fabulous job at parenting. Hooray for this bundle of joy!



4. What do you mean you’re hungry? Already? Okay, it’s been awhile since we’ve drooled at foodie miniatures. Check out CakeBakeryCharms for lick-worthy charms, keychains, and jewelry.



Melanie’s pieces, all 100% handmade from polymer clay, have great color and detail. She meticulously sculpts and textures each piece before applying a glaze.








Visit the CakeBakeryCharms Etsy Shop to see all the delicious goodies. Wouldn’t it be nice to send a sweet “I’m thinking of you” treat to a special friend? Yes, Melanie takes custom orders. Now I’m really craving some lemon squares . . . 🙂



5. More New Book Alerts!! Three books I’d been looking forward to for a long time finally hit shelves last week, and I’m chomping at the bit to get my grubby little paws on all of them.

First up, Hello Neighbor!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell (Neal Porter Books, 2020):



In difficult times, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood provided a refuge for children and their families alike; a way to understand and talk about what was happening, and find hope for a brighter tomorrow. Groundbreaking in a quiet, generous way, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood introduced a generation of children to the wonders of the world in the comfort of their own living rooms.

Fred Rogers took young viewers to art museums, introduced them to different professions, and talked through difficult subjects like losing a loved one, or experiencing parents’ divorce, with compassion and reassurance.

Share that deep respect, care, and quiet joy in the day-to-day with the only authorized picture book biography of Fred Rogers–lovingly created by Caldecott Medalist Matt Cordell. Lively, colorful illustrations explore Fred Rogers’ early life and the events that led him to create his enduring show. Exclusively published archival photographs, provided by Fred Rogers Productions, offer a behind-the-scenes look at this historic show and the people whose hard work made it possible.

A brief biography of Mister Rogers and a history of the show is included, as well as a note from author-illustrator Matt Cordell about his inspiration and longtime admiration for Fred Rogers and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Perfect for fans of the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks, or anyone who wants to bring home the ideals of compassion, kindness, and patience that make us all good neighbors, this captivating picture book should not be missed.

*A Junior Library Guild Selection

So far, four **starred reviews** from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal and Booklist! So apt that a kind and caring author/illustrator created this book. 🙂



Next, Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence (Scholastic Press, 2020):



Fans of Lauren Myracle and Wendy Mass are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sweet story about first crushes, friendship drama, and finding the courage to stand up for yourself.

Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she’s got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have… together.

But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving in to Audrey’s demands, and soon Keiko’s besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she’s been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn’t have a crush on, the friendship she’s always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.

Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends — even if it means losing one of them — or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?

This is Debbi’s middle grade novel debut, following her wildly popular Jasmine Toguchi early chapter book series, and it’s perfect for younger Jenny Han fans. I enjoyed Lara Jean’s younger sister Kitty, and can’t wait to read about Keiko. This, along with Aram’s Let’s Go to Taekwondo!, are good reads for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Read Chapter One here.



And then — ta-da! — here’s the first title in a brand new chapter book series: Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us, by Lauren Castillo (Knopf, 2020):



From a Caldecott Honor-winning artist comes a cozy classic-in-the-making about finding your friends and sticking together through thick and thin.

Hedgehog lives on a teeny-tiny island with only her stuffed dog, Mutty, for company. When a great storm carries Mutty away, she embarks on a quest to find her friend. Following the trail of clues Mutty left behind, brave Hedgehog meets a wiggly Mole, a wordy Owl, a curmudgeonly Beaver, a scatterbrained Hen and Chicks, and a girl who’s new to the neighborhood, Annika May. With bravery and teamwork, there’s nothing that can stop these seven from finding Mutty, but along the way they discover something even more important: each other.

The first book in a new series from Caldecott Honor winner Lauren Castillo, Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us has the feel of a timeless classic, introducing an unforgettable cast of characters who will star in many more adventures to come.

This book has received **starred reviews** from Kirkus and Booklist, and has been called “a modern-day Winnie-the-Pooh.” The cover alone makes me want to hug myself.

Can you see why I’m excited about reading all three of these? I’m a big fan of Matt’s, Debbi’s, and Lauren’s work, and it feels like a wonderfully warm triple hug to have all three of these new books to cherish and share.

Heartfelt Congratulations to Matt, Debbi, and Lauren!



6. Up for a little Maira Kalman fix?  I hope by now you’ve had a chance to read her latest book, an illustrated version of Gertrude Stein’s, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Penguin Press, 2020). Can’t get enough of Maira’s inimitable style — she personifies cool on so many levels.


Maira Kalman as Alice B. Toklas (photo by Katherine Finkelstein)


Recently, to celebrate Alice’s 143rd birthday on April 30, Maira recorded an interview with her son Alex. Of course Maira got into character, wholly channeling Alice to every last nuance. What would Alice have to say about the pandemic? Enjoy the audio track, courtesy of The Jewish Museum:



That Maira!


photo by Katherine Finkelstein




7. More cool art! Massachusetts artist and illustrator Kim Parkhurst sells her fine wares via her Etsy Shop Toadbriar. She paints, sculpts, and makes all the prints herself. Her work exhibits her love for the old, the unusual, critters and wild things.

These vintage style label prints are what first caught my eye:





Who could resist?

Was happy to see that she also does alphabet prints:





And she has a set of “Houndton Tabby” animal portraits inspired by the characters of Downton Abbey.  We are quite amused. 🙂


Carson Clumber Spaniel


Cora Lady Grantham Dalmatian


Mrs Patmore Persian Cat


Of course Mr Cornelius loves this one best:


Banjo Bear


You can order signed prints here.



8. By way of reminder: Julia Wendell’s new poetry collection, Come to the X (Galileo Press, 2020), is now officially out. Julia was here back in March with her guest post, What I Eat is How I Feel,” which included her poem, “Keep Your Palm Flat,” as well as recipes for Cheese Soufflé and Seizure Salad. Quick like a bunny, order your copy now!




9. Finally, from the department of too adorable, here are three pieces by Russian bear artist Olga Nechaeva. Everything is done by hand, and each comes with a passport with name and date of birth. They’re about 4″ tall and the workmanship is exquisite. She makes mostly bears, but also does rabbits, hedgehogs, foxes, cats and dogs.





You can see more of Olga’s work at Bear Pile. Many of her pieces are already sold, but it’s fun just to revel in all the cuteness (I can hear you squealing already). 🙂



Now for our blue song, Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which was included on his 1965 album, “Bringing It All Back Home.” The lyrics of this ultimate kiss-off song were influenced by Symbolist poets like Arthur Rimbaud. In various readers’ polls, the song was listed as Dylan’s 7th, 10th, and 11th best songs.

The identity of Baby Blue remains a mystery, with various theories suggesting it could be Joan Baez (with whom he was with at the time), various friends (David Blue, Paul Clayton), or perhaps not a particular person at all, but Dylan bidding farewell to his folk music audience. After all, this was his last acoustic song at the infamous Newport Folk Festival (1965), where his electric set had been met with “boos.” As usual, Dylan likes to keep everyone guessing.



Speaking of Joan Baez, we should also listen to one of her best songs, “Diamonds and Rust,” which was written about her relationship with Dylan. It was the title song from her gold selling album (1975), and I swoon every time she sings that his eyes were “bluer than robin’s eggs.”

You can hear the heartbreak in her voice. I think she truly loved him, but he used her to advance his career. I’ve filed their relationship in the category, ‘Brilliant Musician Couples Whom I Wish Had Not Broken Up’ (like James Taylor and Carly Simon).

BTW, Joan covered, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” on her 1965 album, “Farwell, Angelina.”






















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**Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

15 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Yes, Wyatt Morgan Cooper is a cool thing on any day of the week. Perfection in the form of the cutest baby boy. I literally cried when AC shared the news and then again when I saw the pictures. He (both father and son) are beyond adorable. Makes my heart happy. Thanks for including him on your list, Jama. : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really was a special moment when he made that surprise announcement! He supposedly also had a chance to tell his mother before she died that he was planning to have a child (though at that point he hadn’t started the process yet).


  2. So many things to LOVE! I wonder where in Vermont that Lore lives? I will do some research. And the dessert earrings? My Friend Hedgehog? E is for Elephant? ALL Amazing. People are so incredibly talented!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I ordered Hedgehog from her bookshop so I could have an autograph. I should come soon! And everything is wonderful, Jama. I did love seeing about Anderson Cooper’s new son and adore Loré Pemberton’s prints, along with the incredible faux food & Dylan or Baez at the end. Really, I love it all! Happy Tuesday to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many cool things, today! Debbi’s new MG, KEEP IT TOGETHER, KEIKO CARTER, looks fantastic. Loved the two blue songs, too, of course. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My signed copy of KEIKO CARTER is on its way–yay! I love the cover for Lauren’s hedgehog book, and am excited to read it.

    And I LOVE “HOLED UP,” it’s so cozy!

    Thanks, Jama 🙂


  6. Ooh – both the taekwando and the Keiko Carter books look ADORABLE. And the Bear Pile pets are DANGEROUSLY cute. Oh, dear. Those are heirloom types of dolls… my wallet is backing away and protesting…

    Liked by 1 person

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