nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy May! April showers bring May flowers, so here’s a pretty bouquet just for you, compliments of UK artist Louise Pigott. 🙂

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the new month than with Louise’s cheery, colorful pictures. 

Louise lives in Cambridge and has been working as a freelance illustrator for about a decade. She’s done children’s books and has created art for the greeting card and stationery industries.

She’s inspired by nature, animals and all things magical, and likes countryside walks, making crystal jewelry, meditating and playing guitar. She also practices astrology and reads Tarot cards.

Also cool: she’s a “self-controlled” chocoholic with “occasional, willing relapses.” My kind of girl! You can’t help but feel happy when looking at her art. 

For more info and to purchase prints, check out her Official Website and Etsy Shop.


2. New Book Alert!! Officially out today: Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle by Cathy Ballou Mealey and Kelly Collier (Kids Can Press, 2021):

A speedy squirrel and a sleepy sloth try to get the job done in this funny, heartwarming tale of two lovable, but unlikely, friends. Though Sloth and Squirrel are good friends, they have different ways of doing things — and different speeds of doing them.

So, when Squirrel gets them jobs as pickle packers to earn money for a new bike, things don’t go according to plan. It seems that the contrasting skill sets of a fast-as-lightning squirrel and a slow-as-molasses sloth can make for a mess of an outcome, and before long, the friends are shown the pickle factory’s door, along with the 677 1/2 jars of pickles they packed incorrectly! Now the pair are bicycle-less, with only pickles to show for themselves. Or so they think — until the resourceful pair come up with an ingenious plan!

This delightful story from Cathy Ballou Mealey is a celebration of friendships of all kinds and a testament to ingenuity and hard work. Packed with funny details that aren’t in the text, Kelly Collier’s engaging illustrations are full of personality and silly, emotionally expressive humor. Together they create a hilarious picture book that’s perfect for a fun and lively read-aloud. At the same time, the positive themes in the book highlight a growth mindset and character education lessons on teamwork, perseverance and initiative.

I’ve read the PDF of this one and it’s rollicking good fun. 677 1/2 jars of pickles ain’t nothing to sneeze at! Have I mentioned that I have a thing for sloths? Just like Sloth in this story, I am s-l-o-w (but still adorable). Love the alliteration in the plucky text and the fun illustrations. Only one pickly problem: My mouth keeps watering and my lips won’t stop puckering. But I love this book. Whether you go fast or slow, score your own copy pronto. Just curious: dill, sweet, or bread-and-butter for you?

Congratulations, Cathy and Kelly!!


3. Speaking of sloths, something else that’s cool any time of year is a visit to the Bossy’s Feltworks Etsy Shop. Long time readers may remember when we interviewed Amy Lum, Kari Van Gelder, and Mandy Troxel, a.k.a. the “bossy ladies,” who’ve been needle felting together since 2006 on Orcas Island, Washington. 

Their handmade, heartmade creations are crafted with loving care and just the right touch of whimsy to make you smile. The wool used in all their pieces comes from Lum Farm sheep. Right now they are offering ornaments and pin cushions, but sometimes you can find freestanding critters.

In addition to adorable farm animals, they also make wee penguins, honeybees, and hedgehogs. And how cute are the chickens, ladybugs, and squirrels in walnut shells?

Mosey on over and check out the adorableness — you just might find the perfect gift for that special someone.


4. Been awhile since we’ve had a ceramics fix. Here’s something you don’t see every day: Amanda Michelle Smith’s unique ceramic paintings.

Amanda, based in Utah, works on handmade ceramic slabs with oil paint and gold luster, adding bits and pieces of sculpted clay (mainly leaves and flowers) for a stunning three dimensional effect. 

The girly world she creates is beautiful, strange, and mysterious. Innocent, yet not so innocent. She says, “My work involves fables that explore questions of social hierarchies, politics, and morality.” 

Definitely outside-the-box and provocative. See more at Amanda’s Official Website. Be sure to click on the images to fully appreciate the exquisite colors and amazing level of detail.  


5. Perfect read for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month: Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books, 2021):

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can. 

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.

Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. An author’s note in the back shares Andrea’s childhood experience with her parents.

This not-to-be-missed rare gem of a picture book has earned a dazzling galaxy of well deserved **starred** reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Shelf Awareness, and Bookpage, who said:

“Wang’s writing is tender and detailed, describing the watercress as ‘delicate and slightly bitter, like Mom’s memories of home.’ With raw honesty, the book’s first-person narration allows readers to see through the girl’s eyes. We experience both the sting of her shame and her newfound understanding alongside her. Caldecott Honor illustrator Jason Chin’s soft, expressive watercolors lean on sepia tones, an appropriate choice for a tale that serves as a recollection of memory. . . . Watercress is a delicate and deeply felt exploration of memory, trauma and family.”

In both word and art, this is a heart clutching story that makes you sigh at its beauty, poignancy, timeliness and resonance.

Enjoy this video of Andrea and Jason discussing Watercress:


6. Since you’re giving me that lean hungry look, take a bite from these mouthwateringly luscious paintings by California artist Pat Doherty.

A long time San Franciscan, Pat works in oil, either on wood panel or canvas. She likes depicting simple objects with a focus on color, texture, and graphic compositions that are pleasing to the eye.

I love that she has a penchant for desserts. But she also paints fruits and veggies, lovely landscapes, florals, and animals.

When she combines food with animals, you get the best of both worlds. How can one resist? 

Visit her Official Website to purchase any of the pieces shown here and to see lots more. Try not to lick your computer screen.


7. The Pie Lady back! Some of you may remember when I made an Apple Pie from Kate Lebo’s cookbook Pie School (Sasquatch, 2014), or when I interviewed her about her illustrated book of prose poems + recipes, A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press, 2013).

Happy to hear Kate has just published her first essay collection, The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with recipes), (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2021). 

Inspired by twenty-six fruits, the essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history. 

A is for aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifting odor―peaches, old garlic. M is for medlar, name-checked by Shakespeare for its crude shape, beloved by gardeners for its flowers. Q is for quince, which, when fresh, gives off the scent of “roses and citrus and rich women’s perfume,” but if eaten raw is so astringent it wicks the juice from one’s mouth. 

In a work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (with recipes). What makes a fruit difficult? Its cultivation, its harvest, its preparation, the brevity of its moment for ripeness, its tendency toward rot or poison, the way it might overrun your garden. Here, these fruits will take you on unexpected turns and give sideways insights into relationships, self-care, land stewardship, medical and botanical history, and so much more. What if the primary way you show love is through baking, but your partner suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather’s plum jam? How can we rely on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them? 

Kate Lebo’s unquenchable curiosity promises adventure: intimate, sensuous, ranging, bitter, challenging, rotten, ripe. After reading The Book of Difficult Fruit, you will never think of sweetness the same way again.

Don’t know about you, but the title alone has me intrigued. Officially released April 6, 2021, the book has received *starred reviews* from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, who called it, “Delightfully unexpected…. Eloquent, well-researched, and thoughtfully conceived and organized, this genre-defying book will appeal to foodies as well as those who appreciate both fine writing and the pleasures of domestic arts and crafts. A one-of-a-kind reading experience.”

Definitely on my Wish List. So many books, so little time . . . sigh.


8. Bearly Believable: Don’t ask me how, when, or why, but one day a FB Page called, “Les nounours des gobelins” growled at me. 

Intrigued, I checked it out and discovered, much to my delight, giant teddy bears lounging and lollygagging around Paris.

Many questions: Who owns these bears? Who’s responsible for taking them to various locations, posing them in all kinds of scenarios, and generally spreading tons of joy?

With my limited college level French, I wasn’t able to get the whole scoop. The page’s description reads:

Chassés par la cupidité des hommes qui ont détruit leur habitat sur les contreforts de l’Himalaya, ils sont arrivés un beau matin au carrefour de gobelins .

Oh, right.

Mr. Google Translator offered this:

Driven by the greed of the men who destroyed their habitat in the foothills of the Himalayas, they arrived one fine morning at the goblin crossroads.

Yes, makes perfect sense . . . goblin crossroads (?).

At least we know they’re from the Himalayas. And nobody likes greedy habitat-destroying men. I’m glad they relocated.

Judging by the photos, it appears that sometimes random people take the bears home, pose with them, and snap more pictures. I love this idea! But it could be a problem to transport such big bears hither and yon.

In any case, they sure do get around and I love seeing what they’ll be doing next. To join the fun, follow Les nounours des gobelins for a daily dose of tenderhearted goodness and unconditional love. Adore them!

🐻 This Cool Thing personally vetted by Mr Cornelius.


9. We started with flowers, and we’ll end with flowers. Have you seen this gorgeous new nonfiction book by New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky? If you’re familiar with Women in Science, Women in Art, and Women in Sports, then you know her books are visual feasts packed with fascinating information. Learning has never been so much fun.

What’s Inside a Flower?: And Other Questions About Science and Nature (Crown, 2021) was released in early February:

Budding backyard scientists can start exploring their world with this stunning introduction to these flowery show-stoppers–from seeds to roots to blooms. Learning how flowers grow gives kids beautiful building blocks of science and inquiry.

In the launch of a new nonfiction picture book series, Rachel Ignotofsky’s distinctive art style and engaging, informative text clearly answers any questions a child (or adult) could have about flowers.

The start of a new series! Can’t wait to see what’s coming next. Check out these sample spreads:

We certainly never had such beautifully illustrated science books back in the dark ages. Lucky kids!!


To play us out, my man Bob Dylan with a blue tunes double bill (he turns 80 on May 24). “Living the Blues” has been performed live once and only once, on “The Johnny Cash Show” on May 1, 1969.

Finally, here’s “Blue Moon” featuring a teddy bear finding love under the Eiffel Tower. Both songs were included on Dylan’s “Self Portrait” double album (1970), in which he used his “Nashville Skyline” country croon. I always wondered how he managed to change his voice so much.















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**Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

19 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. How “May” I ever thank you for including SLOTH AND SQUIRREL in this month’s lovely roundup? So grateful!

    Love the Bossy’s Feltworks sloth hanging out too – their creations are amazing!

    Let’s see the giant teddy bears all reading copies of WATERCRESS next – the most powerful book I’ve read in 2021. And my six degrees of separation claim to fame – Andrea and I are both Wellesley College alumnae!

    Happy Tuesday and everyday Jama!


    1. Yes, that would be something — to see those giant teddy bears all reading Watercress or Sloth and Squirrel. I imagine they’re pretty literate beings — after all, they attend the theatre and patronize some very cool cafes and restaurants. Didn’t know both you and Andrea were both Wellesley alumnae. Small world!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Build back better with blue”, of course! All things considered, the grand-girls & I all love the sloth sharing. I will look for that new book which sounds terrific & hilarious, both, Jama. I do love the bears traveling, too, & those pics with pets & food. Every time people surprise me so delightfully with “new” ideas. And you bring so many to us. Thank you! Have a lovely day today this Tuesday!


    1. Sloths are more popular than I realized! Glad you and the grand girls like them too. Hope you get to see Cathy’s pickle book soon; so much fun! Have a great week.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The day’s just begun for me and I’m already filled to the brim with color and amazement, and appreciation. Thank you, and thanks to all the very talented artists for being brave enough to follow their passion — and let us see too.


  4. Wonderful cool things, Jama! I ordered some gooseberries today…they seem like a difficult fruit, I wonder if they’re in Ms. Lebo’s book? I just followed the “goblin crossroads” bears on Twitter. They offer a nice bit of uplift!


    1. I’ve never had gooseberries — they seem popular in the UK. Enjoy those goblin teddy bears — they might show up in your neighborhood next. 😀


  5. WATERCRESS is such a beautiful and heartfelt book. Andrea is a friend & crit partner, and I am lucky to have seen this blossom over time to the wonderful work it now is, complete with Jason’s art. It will win the Caldecott, and hopefully the Newbery too, and many other awards, all well deserved!!

    Excited to read Cathy’s book–she’s so very funny & punny.

    Lastly–those felt creations are delightful!!


    1. I agree that Watercress will be front and center when it comes to awards season. An exceptional PB!! Cathy’s book is such a delight: pickles will never be the same!


  6. Those bears in Paris brought tears to my eyes. ❤️❤️❤️. Your posts are the best, thank you!


  7. Another bunch of amazing finds! Dill pickles all the way for me. Ruth,


  8. Oh, nooo! More Bossy’s Feltworks! How can you keep doing this to me!!!!
    I LOVED the ceramic paintings and the cheerful prints!! How beautiful! And the ceramicist is in Utah! And we don’t have to figure out the currency! (This is a bad and good problem…)

    WATERCRESS looks like a remarkable book. I am reading more about people wild foraging and it’s something more of us should know how to do.


    1. Good to know the Bossy Ladies are still going strong :). Hmm, I think I’ll do all my foraging online for now, thankyouverymuch.


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