1. Hippity hop, it’s bunny time! What better way to celebrate April and mark the run-up to Easter than with Allyn Howard’s charming rabbits?
If her name is familiar, it’s because we featured her work back in 2020, and in last month’s Cool Things Roundup we mentioned her debut picture book, Spring Parade, written by Camelia Kay (Abrams, 2022).
You may remember that Brooklyn-based Allyn is a master of whimsy with her lovely florals, winsome animals, and colorful I-want-to-live-there interiors – all part of a comforting, lovingly created, feel-good world.
Yes, she draws adorable puppies, bears, birds and kitties, but this month, let’s embrace her wonderful bunnies. 🙂
2. New picture book alert (it’s out today!): Ruff Ruff, check out Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari and Pete Oswald (HarperCollins, 2022)!
Simply be like a dog with this irresistible picture book by beloved author Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by #1 New York Times bestselling artist Pete Oswald that introduces readers to mindfulness.
Join a young child and his dog as they experience every minute of the day to its fullest—from the second they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Readers will love barking, wagging, and sniffing along with the gentle cues in the book.
Interactive backmatter includes prompts for a mindfulness walk that engages all five senses as well as a guided breathing exercise.
Look at that fetching cover — I can tell that dog likes me. Yes, I’m already sold on this one. What a great concept for a picture book! You probably know Maria is a huge animal lover and has written many picture books about dogs. Writing this particular story cheered her up after losing her beloved rescue dog Becca.
Happy Book Birthday, Maria and Pete!!
Sit. Stay. Read.
3. Heads up, Royal Watchers: Platinum Jubilee merch! Exciting to see all the fun souvenirs coming out in celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year on the throne. Victoria Eggs has a nice line of items, including these fine bone china mugs and teacups, which are hand decorated, screen printed and fired in Stoke-on-Trent, England.
The intricately hand-drawn design was inspired by the magnificent dress worn by The Queen during her Coronation in 1952 which featured embroidered flowers from across the Commonwealth including the Tudor rose (England), thistle (Scotland), leek (Wales), shamrock (Ireland), wattle (Australia), maple leaf (Canada), fern (New Zealand), protea (South Africa), lotus flowers (India and Ceylon) and wheat, cotton, and jute (Pakistan).
The line also includes aprons, kitchen towels, canvas tote bags, throw pillows, and coasters. Visit the Victoria Eggs Storefront here.
For some reason, I also find this Queen and Corgi salt and pepper set irresistible. 🙂
Uh-oh. My pocketbook is going to take a BIG hit this year . . .
4. Speaking of the royals, I enjoyed listening to HRH The Duchess of Cambridge read one of her favorite children’s books recently on BBC’s CBeebies Bedtime Stories. I wasn’t familiar with The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson and Paul Howard (Candlewick, 2001), so it was fun hearing about Plop the baby barn owl and how he learned to face his fears. Love her soothing voice, British accent, and all the sound effects (esp. wings beating). 🙂
CBeebies Bedtime Stories is a weekly series featuring famous readers such as Ed Sheeran, Reese Witherspoon, and Tom Hardy. Catherine, a keen supporter of early childhood learning, read the story to help raise awareness of children’s mental health.
5. When is a tea bag more than just a tea bag? When it becomes a mini canvas for internationally renowned New York artist Ruby Silvious, of course!
You may remember when we featured Ruby’s work several years ago. She draws, paints and collages on used tea bags and other non-traditional canvases such as egg shards, pistachio shells, dried leaves and spools. Amazing!
What has she been up to recently? Now she also makes paper shoes, creates mail art, and sells metal prints and postcard sets of her tea bag art. She’s also published another book, Reclaimed Canvas: Reimagining the Familiar (Mascot Books, 2019), a follow-up to 363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journey on Used Tea Bags (Mascot Books, 2016).
6. Just in time for National Poetry Month, a new anthology coming out April 12: The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, edited by James Crews (Storey Publishing, 2022):
Following the success and momentum of his anthology How to Love the World (over 90,000 copies in print), James Crews’s new collection, The Path to Kindness, offers more than 100 deeply felt and relatable poems from a diverse range of voices including well-known writers Julia Alvarez, Marie Howe, Ellen Bass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alberto Ríos, Ross Gay, and Ada Limón, as well as new and emerging voices. Featured Black poets include January Gill O’Neil, Tracy K. Smith, and Cornelius Eady. Native American poets include Kimberly Blaeser, Joy Harjo (current U.S. Poet Laureate), and Linda Hogan. The collection also features international voices, including Canadian poets Lorna Crozier and Susan Musgrave. Presented in the same perfect-in-the-hand format as How to Love the World, the collection includes prompts for journaling and exploration of selected poems, a book group guide, bios of all the contributing poets, and stunning cover art by award-winning artist Dinara Mirtalipova. A foreword by Danusha Laméris, along with her popular poem “Small Kindnesses,” is also included.
I love Crews’s first anthology, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope (Storey Publishing, 2021), and can’t wait to receive my copy of The Path to Kindness. Yes, the content of HTLTW was brilliantly curated, but I also appreciate the “perfect-in-the-hand format.” From the beautiful cover art to the creamy deckle edge pages, I always experience an inner swoon whenever I pick it up. Why shouldn’t reading good poems also be a satisfying tactile experience? In this day and age of electronic readers, these things make a difference. I’m grateful for poems that comfort, soothe, and inspire — much needed balm for our troubled world.
7. Furry goodness for crafty types: Spotted these cute needle felting kits just perfect for spring and Easter at the Tasha Tudor and Family website shop.
You can make a pair of chicks or a cuddly baby bunny (*hugs self*). The kits were designed and made in Scotland by The Crafty Kit Company. They contain everything you need – 100% wool, felting needles, pipe cleaners, glass eyes, foam to work on, wire, etc., and full color step-by-step instructions. And they’re suitable for beginners (age 10+)!
Great addition to your Easter table or as a springtime gift for a special someone, and there’s an extra bonus: your purchase supports global charities.
More info at the TT&F Website. In addition to craft kits, they sell TT art, books, home and kitchen items, greeting cards, etc. So much fun to browse their shop. 🙂
8. Put on your pink glasses, it’s Randy Rainbow time! He’s got a new book coming out April 19 called Playing with Myself (St. Martin’s Press, 2022):
An intimate and light-hearted memoir by viral sensation and three-time Emmy-nominated musical comedian Randy Rainbow that takes readers through his life―the highs, the lows, the lipstick, the pink glasses, and the show tunes.
Randy Rainbow, the man who conquered the Internet with a stylish pair of pink glasses, an inexhaustible knowledge of Broadway musicals, and the most gimlet-eyed view of American politics this side of Mark Twain finally tells all in Playing with Myself, a memoir sure to cause more than a few readers to begin singing one of his greatest hits like “A Spoonful of Clorox” or “Cover Your Freakin’ Face.”
As Randy has said, “There’s so much fake news out there about me. I can’t wait to set the record straight and finally give people a peek behind the green screen.” And set the record straight he does. Playing with Myself is a first-hand account of the journey that led Randy Rainbow from his childhood as the over-imaginative, often misunderstood little boy who carried a purse in the second grade to his first job on Broadway as the host at Hooters and on to the creation of his trademark comedy character. In chapters titled “Pajama Bottoms” (a look back at the days when he wore pajama bottoms on his head to pretend he was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz), “Yes, It’s My Real Name, Shut Up!” (no explanation necessary…) and “Pink Glasses” (a rose-colored homage to his favorite accessory), Playing with Myself is a memoir that answers the question “Can an introverted musical theatre nerd with a MacBook and a dream save the world, one show tune at a time?”
Who doesn’t love Randy Rainbow? His videos certainly got me through Trumpism and the especially traumatic first year of COVID. Nobody does musical theatre-political satire-campiness better. So brilliant. Definitely one-of-a-kind.
Book Tour dates:
In case you’re lucky enough to see him in person for his Pink Glasses Tour:
I know, now you’re craving one of his greatest hits. How about this fabulous tribute to Barbra:
Get the full scoop + ticket info at Randy’s Website.
9. Nostalgia fix: Loving these retro inspired pieces by British designer and illustrator Martin Wiscombe. Born and raised in Lyme Regis, Dorset, he studied illustration and design in the West country. After working in advertising for 15 years, he moved from London to Wiltshire, where he enjoyed country life and specialized in paintings and carvings of farm animals. He then moved back to Lyme Regis after living several years in France.
His homeware and gift range, featuring food items like cupcakes and pork pies, conjures up a lost world of the 1950s. You almost feel like you’re in a soda fountain or checkered floor coffee shop with waitresses in their twirly skirts and peter pan collar blouses.
More at Bees Knees British Imports, one of my favorite places to learn about new British designers and brands.
Our swoon tune this week is Leonid & Friends’ cover of Chicago’s, “Happy Man.”
Are you familiar with Leonid & Friends? They’re an 11-member Moscow-based Chicago tribute band founded in 2014 by multi-instrumentalist, recording studio sound engineer and choir conductor Leonid Vorobyev.
They started on YouTube and began touring after their videos went viral. I was a goner after first hearing “Happy Man” with lead singer Serge Tiagnyriadno. Suffice to say, Leonid & Friends sound more like Chicago than Chicago. Maybe even better.
The thing is, most of the band members are Russian, but Serge is Ukrainian. He is still in Kyiv, while his wife and children have relocated to Poland. The “Happy Man” I listened to during the early part of the pandemic is even more poignant now.
Because of the war, I’ve learned more about the man behind the voice. Serge does FB Live updates daily, (usually around 4-5 p.m. EDT), sharing what’s happening from his vantage point. Sometimes there’s a song with his friend Vlad Butenko, and he usually answers questions from commenters. They’ve also been doing mini live acoustic concerts on Wednesdays as fundraisers for local charities (like maternity or children’s hospitals).
In a recent interview, he mentioned how at the beginning of the invasion he couldn’t sleep for fear of not waking up. I marvel at his composure and optimism despite what he has endured for the last 40 days. He has such a good heart. Serge has had little or no contact with fellow band members and does not know when or if they will play together again.
(ETA: Serge announced on 4/6/22 that he has left the group.)
In mid March, Leonid & Friends posted a video assuring fans that they’re safe in Moscow, but they’re naturally concerned about Serge. They’re against war of any kind and are devastated by what’s happening because of a “mad leader.” Their mission has always been to promote peace through their music, and to be kind and accepting of all people regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
Do visit the Leonid & Friends YouTube channel to enjoy more of their videos. They’re incredibly talented and have shared their hope that “music will get us through.” Can you believe none of the members has ever seen Chicago perform live? They’ve ingeniously replicated Chicago songs just by listening to old recordings. Without the benefit of sheet music, Leonid has transcribed all the music by ear.
You can help Serge and his family reclaim their lives by donating to the Ukraine/Tiagnyriadno Family Fund. To purchase his music on CDs or on streaming platforms, check out this links page (he belongs to other musical groups besides Leonid & Friends, and also does solo projects).
I think this calls for another song (Leonid is the dude in the blue t-shirt playing bass guitar):
KEEP A SONG IN YOUR HEART
EAT GOOD FOOD
READ GOOD BOOKS
THINK BLUE AND YELLOW
🇺🇦 PRAY FOR PEACE IN UKRAINE 🇺🇦
*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase an item using a link on this blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee at no cost to you. Thanks for your support!
**Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.