1. Isn’t it amazing how six months ago, face masks were the farthest thing from our minds, and now they’ve become an essential part of our daily lives? Such an important (and simple) way of showing care and respect for others.
No matter who you are, or what your tastes or needs may be, there’s a mask for you, from disposable surgical ones to different styles of fabric masks in every conceivable color and print, to those with funny pictures or sayings on them, to beautiful pieces of wearable art. With the right mask, you can even make a bold fashion or political statement.
In the beautiful art category, behold these masks featuring the exquisite work of award winning painter, illustrator and teacher Carla Golembe. Been a Carla fan since she illustrated my third picture book, The Woman in the Moon (Little, Brown, 1995), and I can’t get enough of her color saturated jewel-tone pictures, which embrace spirituality, female empowerment, the wonders of nature, and stewardship of the planet Earth. Love the mystical, magical, mysterious quality of her images.
If you must wear a mask, why not feel beautiful while doing it? Think also of the pleasure you afford those who see you. And of course it’s always great to support indie artists whenever possible. Win-win!
Do check out Carla’s wonderful designs at Fine Art America — all can be purchased as face masks. Don’t be surprised if you turn heads wherever you go . . .
2. New Book Alert! Just released August 4 is Jeannine Atkins’s latest collective verse biography, Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math (Atheneum, 2020):
Learn about seven groundbreaking women in math and science in this gorgeously written biographical novel-in-verse, a companion to the “original and memorable” (Booklist, starred review) Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science.
After a childhood spent looking up at the stars, Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet and to earn a salary for scientific research. Florence Nightingale was a trailblazing nurse whose work reformed hospitals and one of the founders of the field of medical statistics. The first female electrical engineer, Hertha Marks Ayrton registered twenty-six patents for her inventions.
Marie Tharp helped create the first map of the entire ocean floor, which helped scientists understand our subaquatic world and suggested how the continents shifted. A mathematical prodigy, Katherine Johnson calculated trajectories and launch windows for many NASA projects including the Apollo 11 mission. Edna Lee Paisano, a citizen of the Nez Perce Nation, was the first Native American to work full time for the Census Bureau, overseeing a large increase in American Indian and Alaskan Native representation. And Vera Rubin studied more than two hundred galaxies and found the first strong evidence for dark matter.
Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates seven remarkable women who used math as their key to explore the mysteries of the universe and grew up to do innovative work that changed the world.
I’m ashamed to admit I was only familiar with two of the seven women included in this book — Florence Nightingale and Katherine Johnson. Thank goodness for Jeannine’s ongoing efforts celebrating the accomplishments of brilliant, fascinating, courageous, innovative women. Always a revelation to read about yet another female breaking gender stereotypes (yay for girl power!). And what better way to learn something new than by reading Jeannine’s exquisitely crafted verse? Of course, enough cannot be said about the importance of having strong female role models for today’s readers.
Congratulations, Jeannine! You’ve done it again!
3. I imagine jigsaw puzzle sales have ticked up in the last several months with everyone spending more time at home. It’s definitely a nice change from staring at a computer screen all day, and a way to engage sheltering-in-place family members in a fun project.
Was happy to see that Susan Branch recently created a 1000-piece puzzle called “For the Love of Books,” featuring her trademark hand-lettering and watercolor art. It measures 27″ x 20″ and is available now for pre-order (shipping in late October). Visit Susan’s website shop for more info. Would make a nice “thinking of you” pandemic gift for that special someone. 🙂
4. Music for Solace: Arlo Guthrie recently released this new adaptation of Stephen Foster’s, “Hard Times Come Again No More.” Though Foster wrote it in 1854 against the backdrop of the Civil War, Guthrie felt that its message and sentiment — regarding human suffering — are more relevant than ever.
Apparently Arlo woke up one morning about a month into the pandemic with this song on his mind and knew he had to record it. With Jim Wilson as arranger/pianist, and Vanessa Bryan as co-lead vocal, this 166-year-old song speaks to our times while connecting us to the past. The video features archival photos chronicling America’s struggles from the Great Depression to the current Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 battle.
Though it’s a song of lament, it’s also a rallying cry, offering hope that together, we will get through this hard time. See if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye.
5. Heads up, Little House fans! The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide by Annette Whipple (Chicago Review Press, 2020), was just released last month.
Eager young readers can now discover and experience Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books like never before. Author Annette Whipple encourages children to engage in pioneer activities while thinking deeper about the Ingalls and Wilder families as portrayed in the nine Little House books. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion provides brief introductions to each Little House book, chapter-by-chapter story guides, and “Fact or Fiction” sidebars, plus 75 activities, crafts, and recipes that encourage kids to “Live Like Laura” using easy-to-find supplies. Thoughtful questions help the reader develop appreciation and understanding of Wilder’s stories. Every aspiring adventurer will enjoy this walk alongside Laura from the big woods to the golden years.
This one is geared for middle graders and sounds not only like an excellent way to introduce the LH series to new readers, but to provide those who already love the books with enjoyable activities and crafts to extend their enjoyment. Be sure to check out The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion Website — a fabulous resource (yes, there are recipes!). 🙂
6. Interested in helping to get the word out about voting in the general election? Check out Postcards to Voters: these are friendly, handwritten reminders from volunteers to targeted voters giving Democrats a winning edge in close, key races coast to coast.
To participate, simply visit the website, sign up, wait for approval, and then they will send you a list of addresses. Write the postcards on your own schedule, and for added fun, do them with your family or with friends via Zoom.
Where can you get suitable postcards? Visit this Postcard.com webpage, where you can order from a number of different collections. May I strongly suggest the Authors and Illustrators for Children (AIC) Collection? 🙂 There are cards designed by such artists as Wendell Minor, Mark Teague, and Amy Huntington. You can purchase sets of 8 – 200 cards.
Handwritten cards can make a big difference — there’s something special about that personal touch. This is probably the most important Presidential election of our lifetimes. Thank you for helping to spread the word!
7. Sip sip sip. Time for tea! Love these fine bone china mugs designed by British artist Alison Gardiner. I have both the Shakespeare and Jane Austen mugs. The figures are quite charming and will definitely make whatever you’re drinking even more delicious. 🙂
The mugs are handmade using traditional methods in Stoke-on-Trent, England. I love the quality and they come boxed, perfect for gift giving. You can also get matching tea towels.
Order yours at The Bee’s Knees British Imports shop, and while you’re there, check out all their other great stuff. They also carry Cornishware, some Emma Bridgewater, as well as Dunoon and Burleigh. Nice for a china fix, whether you’re buying or just looking, and it’s always good to support small businesses (they’re based in Massachusetts).
8. Another New Book Alert! Just released September 1, a new picture book by two of my favorite Julies: Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis. Check out EEK!: A Noisy Journey from A to Z (Peachtree, 2020):
A boisterous trip through the alphabet―letter by letter and sound by noisy sound!
This story begins quietly as Mouse selects a flower for someone very dear to him. Then the fun begins! To complete his journey, Mouse must make his way through the alphabet. One sniff of his special flower―Achoo!―and a bee flies out―Bzzz! Readers will love meeting the colorful parade of characters along Mouse’s trek and will cheer when he reaches his destination and presents the flower to… Well, that part of the story is a surprise!
Author Julie Larios and illustrator Julie Paschkis have collaborated to create an entertaining combination of clever text and lively art. With its fun―and onomatopoeic―sounds, and its parade of colorful characters, this distinctive picture book will delight young fans and inspire them to create imaginary alphabet adventures of their own.
It’s already received a **starred review** from Kirkus, who said, “This clever take on the alphabet book lets readers fill in the story on their own…. Paschkis’ folk-art–inspired illustrations, filled with movement, pattern, and color, practically leap off the page…. An absolute zoo of an ABC book―in the best possible way.”
You all know how much I love cool alphabet books — and because I’m also a big fan of both Julies, this one’s a must-read for me. Seems people named Julie are extra talented. Maybe I should change my name to “Julie”? 😀
Congratulations, Julie L. and Julie P.!!
9. Finally, a bit of cuteness to lift your spirits. BUGS! Don’t worry, these won’t bug you, but they will make you smile and likely want to hug yourself with their adorableness.
Juicy Bugs are created by Dana, who’s based in California. At Dream a Little Co., you can find 60 different “flavors” of juicy bugs, from photographer bugs to butterflies and moths, to dragonflies and even bed bugs (who come with their own wee pillows!).
They’re all handmade of wool felt, wool fabric, cotton floss, wood, and wire, sturdy enough and meant to be played with; each is about 1-1/2″ tall. There are holiday and seasonal bugs, and come in flavors such as strawberry, chocolate, and peach pistachio. Check out the wonderful selection at Dana’s Etsy Shop (you know you want to).
Blue song this week is “Bluebird,” written by Paul and Linda McCartney, performed here at the Rockshow concert/North American Tour 1976. The song was likely written in 1971 while the McCartneys were vacationing in Jamaica, and was included on the Wings album “Band on the Run.” Paul can come flying through my door anytime. 🙂
READ GOOD BOOKS
BELIEVE IN BLUE
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**Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.