1. Mr Cornelius selected this wonderful bear painting for our first Cool Things Roundup of 2021. It was created by UK artist Penny Gaj, who lives and works in one of my favorite places in England, the Cotswolds.
Penny loves to paint imaginary country scenes and trees with a story to tell, blending colors and textures for a dreamy, ethereal effect.
Her pictures are replete with the outlines of branches, twigs, stalks and leaves silhouetted against the sky, rising from rolling hills or lining peaceful woodland paths.
Hares, foxes, squirrels, deer and birds wander freely, with the occasional humans, cats and dogs. 🙂
You can purchase Penny’s art as signed prints, 5×7 cards, A5, and square cards through her official website.
2. New Book Alert: Just released January 26 is Bear Island by Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell (Feiwel & Friends, 2021):
Louise and her family are sad over the loss of their beloved dog, Charlie. “Life will not be the same,” Louise says, as she visits a little island that Charlie loved.
But on a visit to the island after Charlie’s death, something strange happens: She meets a bear. At first, she’s afraid, but soon she realizes that the bear is sad, too. As Louise visits more often, she realizes that getting over loss takes time. And just when she starts to feel better, it’s time for Bear to bed down for the winter.
Once again, Louise believes that life will not be the same. But sometimes, things can change for the better, and on the first warm day of spring, her family welcomes a new member. Here is a lovely, poignant story about loss and healing that will bring comfort to even the youngest readers.
Bear Island has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and glowing reviews from Booklist, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and The New York Times, which said, “Cordell speaks eloquently and respectfully to the universal experience of loss and recovery.”
As big Matthew Cordell fans, we can’t wait to read this one. Bereavement is a difficult subject to broach, especially when it comes to kids. We love that a bear helps Louise process her loss, and always enjoy stories that explore fascinating encounters between humans and wild animals.
Be sure to check out Matt’s wonderful Bear Island conversation with Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (lots of sketches and final art). 🙂
3. City mouse or country mouse? You can have both at The Pumpkin Mouse, where Russian artist Kseny Kudryashova showcases her adorable needle felted creations.
All pieces are completely handmade from merino wool; they are dressed in hand-sewn or knitted clothing, and have the cutest facial expressions. You’ll find gardeners, carolers, scholars, travelers, farmers, angels, doctors, ballerinas, sailors, pirates. They’re free-standing with bendable limbs (important for posing!), and stand just under 4 inches tall.
Love the quality of workmanship, all the wonderful accessories, and Kseny’s careful attention to detail that sets her critters apart.
In case you’re not into mice, she also makes bunnies, cats, owls, hamsters, and other wee animals, all with the same loving care. This is the work of a tender-hearted artist. How can you resist? See more at Kseny’s Etsy Shop!
4. Here’s pie in your eye, or more accurately, for your eye. Awhile ago, I featured some of the exquisite pie crusts created by Lauren Ko, a self-taught Seattle-based home baker and Instagram sensation, who has amassed over 300,000 followers.
Well, last fall she published Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and the Palate (William Morrow, 2020).
The pie-making genius behind the popular Instagram account @lokokitchen reveals the secrets of her mind-blowing creations in this gorgeous full-color cookbook featuring 50 incredible sweet and savory pie and tart designs.
In a few short years, Lauren Ko made all hell bake loose, going from novice pie baker to internet star and creator of today’s most surprising and delightful pie and tart designs. Her unique geometric style uses fruit and dough cut and woven into stunning shapes to highlight color and texture. With an elegant symmetry that matches their knockout flavor, her dazzlingly intricate and inventive designs look difficult to produce, but can be achieved with little more than a knife, ruler, and some patience.
In Pieometry, Lauren reveals her secrets, sharing stories about her designs and the inspiration behind them. Warm and funny, she recounts the spectacular piesasters that led to some of her best creations, and breaks down her most beautiful designs, describing how to make naturally-colored dough, intricate weaves, and striking cut-out patterns. Pieometry provides clear, step-by-step instructions, accompanied by helpful photographs, which any patient baker can follow to build these pies from bottom crust to top in their own kitchens. Lauren makes it easy to mix and match doughs, fruits, fillings, and designs, and each recipe includes suggestions for alternative ingredients. Best of all, the beautiful finished pie and tart photos are just as much of a treat to look at as the pies are to eat. But even if you make a mistake here and there, her flavors save the day!
When it comes to flavor, Pieometry offers a balance of sweet and savory pies that are a feast for the senses, including:
- Of a Shingle Mind: Honey ricotta tart with an herbed pastry shell and beets
- Berried Treasure: Lavender blackberry cream with a shortbread crust and berries
- Wave of Wonders: Cardamom coffee cream with a shortbread crust and pear
- Once in a Tile: Pumpkin black sesame pie with a black sesame crust
- C and Easy: Butternut bacon macaroni and cheese pie with a whole wheat cheddar chive crust
- Squiggle Room: Grilled cinnamon pineapple pie with a basic butter crust
Whether you want to impress at the holidays or just spruce up a family meal, Pieometry is your guide to transforming a rustic traditional dessert into a modern masterpiece.
Pieometry is a New York Times Bestseller and has received **starred reviews** from Booklist and Library Journal. If you want to join the ranks of the upper crust and like playing with your dough, this sounds like the perfect book for you or your pie-loving friends. 🙂
5. Okay, honey, hold on to your hooters. Time for a little pre-Valentine’s Day treat: my secret husband Colin Firth speaking Italian! Apparently he’s discussing the differences between British, American and Canadian actors — their education and training.
I don’t understand a word, but why would anyone need to? 😀
Did you catch those dreamy facial expressions? The wonderful gesturing? The fluency? Bravo! Bene! Whip me with a spaghetti noodle.
You may pick me up off the floor now.
6. All that swooning has made me hungry. You too? Let’s see what our favorite foodie purse maker Rommy Kuperus has been up to lately.
As you may know, RommydeBommy uses hard and soft clay-foam to create her colorful, eye-popping, I-could-eat-you-up designs. She’s essentially a one-woman show, making each and every piece by hand. No production lines here.
She’s based in the Netherlands, and left product design school to create her own brand back in 2015. I don’t know of anyone else who does what she does — making fun bags that look like real food. We enjoyed interviewing her a few years back, and love that she continues to outdo herself with new pieces all the time.
Best part: wearing your food is 100% calorie free. To order one of Rommy’s mouthwatering, over-the-top bags, visit her Official Website.
7. Just the thing to chase away those pandemic, sedentary, winter blues: HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, illustrations by Franzi Paetzold (Pomelo Books, 2020)!!
Need a break? Hop to it! The hundred poems in this book will get you moving from nose to toes! You can climb like a cat, sign the phrase watch me, or do a binky rabbit dance. Discover fun factoids such as why pigeons make good messengers, who invented jumping jacks, and how sleeping can help you learn a new language. You’ll find pandemic poetry about wearing masks and virtual learning—plus poems that inspire you to stand up and speak out. Stretch your body and your mind with a 30-second brain break!
HOP TO IT: POEMS TO GET YOU MOVING is an anthology of 100 new poems by 90 poets—with STEM and social studies connections, thematic mini-lessons, read aloud tips, and extensive back matter featuring useful activities to help maximize student learning and social-emotional development. You can share a new poem or two each week of the school year and get kids thinking and moving as they read aloud their favorite poems using pantomime, sign language, and whole body movements—including deskercise! You’ll also find poems on current topics, such as life during a pandemic, wearing masks, virtual learning, staying connected with friends, and standing up for what you believe in. Take a 30-second indoor recess whenever you need it!
The 90 contributing poets include many award-winning poets and some rising stars, too: Alma Flor Ada, Kathryn Apel, Rebecca Balcárcel, Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Doraine Bennett, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Robyn Hood Black, Susan Blackaby, David Bowles, Jay Brazeau, Joseph Bruchac, Stephanie Calmenson, F. Isabel Campoy, Rose Cappelli, Yangsook Choi, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Natalee Creech, Ed DeCaria, Kristy Dempsey, Linda Dryfhout, Alice Faye Duncan, Zetta Elliott, Margarita Engle, Janet Clare Fagal, Carrie Finison, Nancy Bo Flood, Catherine Flynn, Marilyn Garcia, Charles Ghigna, Xelena González, Joan Bransfield Graham, Paul W. Hankins, Janice N. Harrington, David L. Harrison, Jane Heitman Healy, Rebekah Hoeft, Carol-Ann Hoyte, Ann Ingalls, Karen G. Jordan, Jacqueline Jules, Alan Katz, Sheila Kerwin, Julie Larios, Renée M. LaTulippe, Rebecca Gardyn Levington, Suzy Levinson, Jone Rush MacCulloch, JoAnn Early Macken, Marjorie Maddox, Kevin Noble Maillard, Juli Mayer, Diane Mayr, David McMullin, Sarah Meade, Christy Mihaly, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Mucha, Diana Murray, Lesléa Newman, Eric Ode, Linda Sue Park, Baptiste Paul, Miranda Paul, Moe Phillips, Jack Prelutsky, Deborah Reidy, Leslie Ross-Degnan, Shanah Salter, Darren Sardelli, Michelle Schaub, Robert Schechter, Claire Schlinkert, Laura Shovan, Buffy Silverman, Margaret Simon, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Eileen Spinelli, Elizabeth Steinglass, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Holly Thompson, Linda Kulp Trout, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Sylvia Vardell, Padma Venkatraman, April Halprin Wayland, Carole Boston Weatherford, Tamera Will Wissinger, Janet Wong, and Helen Kemp Zax.
Yes, Poetry Goddesses Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have done it once again — giving everyone what we need at the precise time we need it. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or classroom teacher looking for ways to engage, inspire, or perk things up with the power of poetry, be sure to Hop To It! This anthology checks all the right boxes when it comes to the pandemic, inclusion, diversity, teaching-learning connections, read aloud tips, and the mind-body dynamic. An upbeat, fabulous resource and “playbook” with lots of extra goodies to educate and entertain. Love that many Poetry Friday friends are included, and I enjoyed being introduced to some new-to-me poets.
For some backstory about the book from Sylvia and Janet, check out this post at Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating.
For more sample poems from Hop To It, read Sylvia’s posts at Poetry for Children (you can also check out the other posts in last fall’s Blog Tour).
To learn about all of the amazingly cool poetry anthologies created by Vardell and Wong, visit the Pomelo Books Website.
8. Heads Up, Word Lovers! If you’re looking for a unique personalized gift for a special someone, consider a Love Letter Blanket from the Frankie Print Co.
Simply compose your note, opt for the provided font or the custom font (your own handwriting), choose from one of three sizes, and voilà!
Blankets are 100% unbleached cotton (white/ecru background) and machine washable. Writing (in black) is woven into the fabric rather than printed, so no worries about it fading, etc. It takes about 2 weeks from the time you submit your order to arrival on your doorstep.
Great idea for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. I like that they also have a “Word Search” blanket — perfect for alphabet lovers.
Wrap someone in love! What could be better than a word hug? More info at the Frankie Print Co. Etsy Shop.
9. Finally, here’s a nice foodie roundup: “26 Children’s Books to Nourish Growing Minds.“
“Food Tank is highlighting 26 books that help show young people that food can be a universal language. These stories illuminate the ways that food is used to show love, bring together communities, pass on traditions, and teach lessons. And their authors show that no matter a person’s background and culture, nutritious food shared with loved ones can help bring anyone together.
These 26 children’s books celebrate food, diversity, the love of cooking, and community from seed to fork.”
The list includes mostly fiction picture books, but there’s also a superhero comic book, a couple of nonfiction titles, a novella, and two cookbooks. It’s a mix of old and new — beloved favorites like Grace Lin’s Dim Sum for Everyone!, Rosemary Wells’s Yoko, and Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore and Kristi Valiant, alongside the 2021 Caldecott Medal winner, We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade, and Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora.
I liked learning about several books I missed before, such as A Day with Yayah by Nicola Campbell and Julie Flett, and Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed and Anoosha Syed. Also good to see a poetry anthology, Dear Tomato by Carol-Ann Hoyte, as well as a bilingual picture book, Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos by Kathleen Contreras. And yes, my own picture book Dumpling Soup made an appearance, so check it out! 🙂
** BONUS COOL THING: Blue doodles by UK artist Linzie Hunter. Adorable, no? 🙂
Our blue song this week is a special thank you to GEORGIA, who turned the Senate BLUE by electing Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the January 5 run-offs. A huge, groundbreaking victory, critical for enacting legislation in the new Biden-Harris administration.
This recording was created by Broadway for Georgia, an all-star group of artists from around the country who started their careers in the theatre. 100% of the proceeds of this charity single benefits Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight voting rights organization. You can purchase it at iTunes or via BroadwayRecords.com.
READ GOOD BOOKS
KEEP A SONG IN YOUR HEART
BELIEVE IN BLUE (it’s working!)
BUILD WITH BLUE
*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 © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.