[tasty review + giveaway] Things We Eat by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

#61 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Hmmm, looks like there’s only one chocolate chip cookie left. Go ahead and take it – I won’t tell. 

While you’re busy nibbling, I’ll tell you all about the brand new ABC food anthology edited by our favorite poetry goddesses, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. 🙂

For Things We Eat (Pomelo Books, 2022), Sylvia and Janet donned their perky chef hats to cook up a tempting smorgasbord of 27 delectable poems just right for eager munchkins ages 3-7. 

They invited 25 hungry poets –  both new and established – to write ekphrastic poems based on appetizing color photos of kids preparing, growing, shopping for, eating and sharing a variety of diverse foods. Janet herself penned two yummy poems for the collection: “Kimchi” and “Alphabet Menu.” 

Along with familiar kid faves such as grapes, pizza, waffles and hamburgers, readers can wrap their lips around avocado, quiche, udon, and xocolatl. They’ll have a ball talking to chickens, fishing at the lake, icing sweet treats and jammin’ with a bunch of berries. And did you know zucchini can be a telephone? 🙂

ABC Menu, letters A – M

The mix of rhymes and free verse makes for a fun read aloud. What better way to learn your ABCs than by feasting on each delectable letter and key word? Like its companion book, Things We Do, Things We Eat is also a great mentor text for budding poets or older kids learning to write.

Backmatter includes wonderful resources for parents, teachers, caregivers, and librarians – tips for reading and sharing the poems, creative activities to extend your enjoyment even more, and a list of helpful web sources about books, reading, nutrition, gardening, and diversity.

ABC Menu, letters N – Z

Icing on the cake: 100% of the profits from this book will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund. They provide support for children whose lives have been disrupted through war, civil disorder, or natural disaster. The program gives immediate support and help, and also aims for long-term community impact, aligning with IBBY’s goal of giving every child the right to become a reader. 

Don’t tell me. You’re starving now, right? Have no fear: Yangsook Choi and Rebecca Balcárcel have graciously granted me permission to share their poems here today, and they’ve even sent along tasty tidbits to go with them.


by Yangsook Choi

Meat minced
Onion diced
Tofu squashed
Cabbage sliced

Filling spooned
Dumpling formed . . .
Mouth delighted
Heart warmed


My grandma (paternal) used to make gigantic dumplings for us when I was little. They were the size of a large potato and most delicious.

I helped too as a ‘roller’. I would flatten the dough by rolling a soju (sort of Korean vodka) bottle over it back and forth to make the dumpling skin.

To bring back the warm memory I sometimes throw a dumpling party where I invite friends to fold dumplings in various free-style.


by Rebecca Balcárcel

The mango trees know magic spells
that grow my favorite fruit.
Sparkles of sun become sweetness.
Water and raindrops make juice.

When rich soil mixes with time,
when bird song and breezes are spun,
mangos will ripen for eating.
First bite -- a zing on my tongue!


The first time I was ever paid for a poem, the journal sent a check for $5.00. Usually, poets get only a copy of the journal, so I was excited. I cashed the check and celebrated with a special trip to the grocery store to buy – you guessed it – a mango!

This is the truth! I wanted to buy something special to celebrate, and I love mangos!


Yum!! I LOVE both dumplings and mangos, and am happy to report that I’ve eaten and enjoyed all 26 foods in this book — many times. 🙂 🙂 🙂

What’s that? You’re still hungry? (Why am I not surprised?)

Well, we do have dessert. I was happy to contribute a poem about my favorite thing to bake. Cookies are one of the four major food groups, right? Not bragging or anything, but when it comes to lost cookies, I’m an expert. Friendly advice: always wipe any crumbs off your face to maintain your innocence.

by Jama Kim Rattigan

Who ate the last cookie?
I really cannot say.
Was it chunky chewy chocolate chip,
baked fresh today?

Crumbs are on my face? How odd.
Haven't got a clue.
If I find the missing cookie,
I'll eat it just for you.


Resident bear chefs have given Things We Eat their highest five spoon rating.

Thank you, Sylvia and Janet, for creating another fun and informative anthology, and congrats to all the Things We Eat poets. Mr Cornelius found some extra cookies just for you!


edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
published by Pomelo Books, March 2022
Alphabet Poetry Anthology for ages 3-7, 79 pp.
*Children’s Book Council Hot Off the Press Selection*

♥️ Learn more about Things We Eat, its companion book, Things We Do, and all the other fine Pomelo Books at their Official Website.



We’re happy to offer a brand new copy of Things We Eat for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post telling us about your favorite thing to eat, no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, April 20, 2022. You may also enter by sending an email with EAT in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!



Thanks to all for entering last month’s giveaway for Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes the “French Chef” by Alex Prud’homme and Sarah Green. We’re pleased to announce that the lucky person who’ll be receiving a brand new copy is:



We know you’ll enjoy reading the book. 🙂


The lovely and talented Janice Scully is hosting the Roundup at Salt City Verse. Zip on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Click here for the 2022 NPM Kidlit Events Roundup. Enjoy your weekend!


Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand just for you with love and the letters C, D, and M.

*Things We Eat text/compilation copyright © 2022 by Pomelo Books.

*”Dumpling” poem copyright © 2022 Yangsook Choi. All rights reserved.

*“Mango” poem copyright © 2022 Rebecca Balcárcel. All rights reserved.

*”Cookie” poem copyright © 2022 Jama Kim Rattigan. All rights reserved.

*Post copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

55 thoughts on “[tasty review + giveaway] Things We Eat by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

  1. Oh goodness! I can’t wait to add this to my collection for the youngest readers. Congrats on your cookie poem, Jama–so fitting. I’m also slain by your vast collection of alphabet blocks and shapes. May I come and play at your house? Invite me in July, and I’ll bring a basket of my favorite P is for peaches!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely idea for a book, and I loved the three poems. My son was adopted from China at 7, and one of his favorite foods are dumplings. It’s hard to pick a favorite food. I do love chicken, especially naughty fried chicken!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cookies are delicious of course, but in my house C is for CHEESE! Hard, soft, creamy, stinky, sharp, subtle, moldy. Eaten alone or on top of just about anything! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve said we’ll have “just a little cheese and crackers” before dinner…. but then it’s ended up being dinner 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sylvia and Janet build the best anthologies. Each one is rich in poetry, inclusion, and educational value. This new one is especially appetizing. Thanks for sharing some of the poems here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mouth delighted/Heart warmed is a wonderful way to think of cookie baking and eating, Jama. You always offer the most delicious foods for a Friday afternoon snack. Thanks for letting me nibble for a while at your blog. I was just going to start baking chunky chewy chocolate chip cookies when I opened your post. Yummy is the word! I am delighted to hear that your cookie poem is published in Sylvia and Janet’s new book. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations, Sylvia and Janet, and contributors! I would really love to be invited to a dumpling party. My favorite food depends on the day. We are getting ready for Passover, when our favorite treat is homemade chocolate toffee made with matzo.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JAMA: You really know how to make a book SHINE. In this case, it might be people SALIVATING over that last missing cookie! Thank you for gracing the pages of THINGS WE EAT with your clever and sassy poem, and THANK YOU for spreading the word in such a delectable way!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and Sylvia deserve lots of extra cookies for doing such a fine job with this book! Thanks again for including my cookie poem — writing it involved doing extra “research.” 🙂


  8. Hello Jama! I love the whole idea and final product of this book. It’s just so special in what it is and how it has it’s own mission in the world. You really outdid yourself with the photography for this post. I can envision Sylvia & Janet making posters of some of these shots. Well done! Finally, I’m delighted that there are tips for librarians. So good to know that they are included.
    PS my favorite thing to eat is guacamole! Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love guacamole too! It’s hard to imagine a time before Pomelo Books — who else offers such rich resources for reading, sharing, and writing poetry? Important too is alleviating some of the “fear” of teaching poetry, making it less intimidating.


  9. Thanks so much for choosing me to win Born Hungary. I am very excited. This book looks like a lot of fun. Congrats on having a poem included! I will pass on the giveaway since I just won. Thanks for another beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Congratulations to everyone, this time especially you, Jama, you sly thing with “I’ll eat it just for you.” My favorite thing when we went to Florida was picking mangoes right off the tree – yum! And while I have never made dumplings, it’s a favorite of mine and the girls when they come over (out of the bag-sorry). So, favorites- mangoes & dumplings, yes, but I really love chocolate chip cookies! I love those letters, too, thought they were Scrabble letters which I do have. Wonderful gift for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I miss the mangoes we used to eat in Hawaii, remember my mother peeling them and the juice running all over her fingers. Dumplings are time consuming to make from scratch; luckily there are frozen ones available to satisfy our cravings. My new alphabet letters are smaller than scrabble tiles (which I don’t have). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Mmm, Yum, such a delicious post Jama– and I love their cover too! Nice ending twist in your cookie poem. Such an enticing book to get kids interested in food. Love the other two poems also, they are oozing with foody goodness. Ah but your presentation takes the CAKE–FANTASTIC! A favorite food that’s hard for I love many but how about persimmons, or avocados, or… thanks Jama! 🥰 P.S. How long has that eye candy pic of V been up–looks pretty good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Michelle. Can’t say I’m a fan of persimmons, but certainly avocados. V is happy you noticed him as the new Eye Candy. Did you see him at the Grammys with Lady Gaga? A very happy fan boy :). He loves jazz.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What wonderful poems–such a great variety. Janet and Sylvia are awesome anthologists, and these books for a cause are just beautiful! My favorite thing to eat (though I most often indulge in sweets) is actually home-baked mac and cheese with sharp cheddar and bit of crispy brown around the edges. None of that “cheese sauce” that is all the rage the past several years. I want it dry and sharp and buttery. Mmm. Now I’m hungry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have me craving some homemade Mac and cheese!! I’m with you on using real grated cheddar (it’s also good mixing a couple of different cheeses sometimes too). I’m guessing that donuts might be your second favorite food? 😀


  13. I poured a glass of milk to go with this delicious cookie of a post, Jama. How delightful! Hearty congrats to all involved ! For a favorite treat, I’d have to say chewy oatmeal raisin cookies fresh from the oven. Golden raisins, please! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I may be the last person to join this blog party, but I just have to say how much I LOVE your blog posts and how lucky Janet and I feel to get the full Jama treatment! You are such an artist with words and images and FUN! Thank you for joining us with your cookie poem– so delectable! Big hug to you!
    P.S. I love your clever photos with our book cover SO much. May we have permission to share them (and give you credit, of course)?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You do such an amazing job with every post – each one feels like I’m reading an illustrated book. Thank you for taking the time to prepare this delightful, delicious preview of the book! All the poems you’ve shared make me hungry 🙂 and I love knowing the backstory to some of the poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Five spoons up for this alphabet post and the latest from the Pomelo editorial queens! the fact that the profits are going to the IBBY Children in Crisis fund is icing on the cake. And how especially wonderful to read a poem of yours in it, Jama! About cookies, no less!! Yummo!!! My glass of milk awaits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet and Sylvia are unstoppable! I do love that the IBBY Children in Crisis fund will benefit. 🙂 Now that you have your milk, I hope you can find a cookie to go with it.


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