nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy February! We’re celebrating the month of love with some of Lee White’s Valentine’s Day prints and cards.

You may be familiar with Lee’s work as a children’s book illustrator (Kate, Who Tamed the Wind; The Maine Coon’s Haiku, I Lived on Butterfly Hill). He’s also done commercial projects for clients such as Disney, Verizon, National Geographic and Marks & Spencer, and teaches painting via The Society of Visual Storytelling, an online art school for artists of all skill levels.

Lee works mainly in watercolor, but likes to include other media such as ink, colored pencil and collage.

To see more of his work or to purchase prints and cards, visit Lee’s Official Website and Etsy Shop. 


2. New book alert: Look what’s coming out February 28: A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat (First Second, 2023):

A middle grade graphic memoir based on bestselling author and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s awkward middle school years and the trip to Europe that changed his life. 

Dan’s always been a good kid. The kind of kid who listens to his teachers, helps his mom with grocery shopping, and stays out of trouble. But being a good kid doesn’t stop him from being bullied and feeling like he’s invisible, which is why Dan has low expectations when his parents send him on a class trip to Europe.

At first, he’s right. He’s stuck with the same girls from his middle school who love to make fun of him, and he doesn’t know why his teacher insisted he come on this trip. But as he travels through France, Germany, Switzerland, and England, a series of first experiences begin to change him―first Fanta, first fondue, first time stealing a bike from German punk rockers… and first love.

Funny, heartwarming, and poignant, A First Time for Everything is a feel-good coming-of-age memoir based on New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat’s awkward middle school years. It celebrates a time that is universally challenging for many of us, but also life-changing as well.

There’s a first time for everything, including a first middle grade graphic memoir by an incredibly talented and versatile author-illustrator. Been a fan of Dan’s work since Chicken Dance (written by Tammi Sauer, 2009) and Carnivores (written by Aaron Reynolds, 2013), not to mention The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, which won the Caldecott Medal in 2015.

Thus far, A First Time for Everything has earned starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, who called it, “a thoughtful memoir with lots of humor and heart.” The Horn Book said, “This is Santat at his best.” Graphic novels seem like they’re very labor intensive to create, and I’ve no doubt Dan has outdone himself yet again with this one. Can’t wait to read it!

Congratulations, Dan!


3. Ceramics fix: Since there’s a lot of “ho-hum” ceramics out there, it’s always exciting to discover a ceramicist who is anything but. 

Oregon-based Sara Swink’s work instantly caught my eye. Her human and animal figures are distinctive and intriguing. What are the stories they are trying to tell?

Sara’s love of clay started at age 8, with the encouragement of her next door neighbor, who was a potter. During high school she learned basic hand building techniques and how to turn on the wheel and mix glazes. She bought her own kickwheel with money earned cleaning houses.

Some twenty years later, she returned to ceramics, taking classes at the Palo Alto Arts Center, followed by a workshop in 1998 with Coeleen Kiebert, whose methodology fuses art making with the psychology of the creative individual. 

Considering Kiebert her mentor, Sara began teaching her approach while simultaneously pursuing an academic education in art history, ceramics, drawing, printmaking and foundry work at several institutions in the SF area.

In 2006 she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she established Clay Circle Studio. She continues to teach and participate in regional shows. Her hand built pieces convey inner feelings and ideas through stories, often with a humorous edge.

For more, visit Sara Swink’s Offficial Website and online shop, where you can purchase wall sculptures (“wallies”) as well as free-standing sculptures. Sara’s Instagram is here.


4. More Kohl’s Cares goodies! Was excited to see five titles from Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond’s classic “If You Give . . . “ series of books added to the collection. In addition to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, the iconic first book published back in 1985, there’s If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give a Dog a Donut, and If You Give a Moose a Muffin, all with incredibly soft and cuddly stuffed animals to go with them – just $5 each!!! “Mouse” is also available in a Spanish edition. 🙂

As mentioned previously, 100% of net profits will support the health and wellness of families in our communities (learn more about the Kohl’s Cares program here).

You know you want me.

The books are 9” x 8” hardcovers, and the plush animals are about 10” tall. Can’t beat these prices and for such a good cause!! Check out the books here and the plush here. Available in-store, for pickup or shipping. 


5. Brrrr! Feeling a little frosty and chilly? Read all about it in Ice Cycles: Poems About the Life of Ice, by Maria Gianferrari and Jieting Chen (Millbrook Press, 2022):

Pancake ice, floebergs, glaciers, icicles . . . cold temperatures create an astonishing variety of ice forms!

From Maria Gianferrari, award-winning author of Play Like an Animal!, comes a beautiful collaboration between verse and science. Brief poems and ethereal illustrations introduce readers to the many different types of ice on land and at sea. Fascinating back matter provides additional information about water as a solid, liquid, and gas, as well as more details about the unique forms of ice mentioned in the poems. Celebrate winter with this evocative and atmospheric exploration of ice!

Until I read this book, I hadn’t realized there were so many different types of ice. Do you know what hummocks and bummocks are? What about cat ice or pancake ice? I knew about icicles, of course, but not brinicles. And I certainly hadn’t really considered the beauty of ice forms until I read Maria’s spare and evocative poems, which describe both visual and aural wonders (“Frost ferns./It swirls and curls./Its fronds unfurl.”; “Ice creaks and cracks./Ice snarls and snaps.”). Kids will enjoy the abundance of sensory images, appreciate the alliteration and onomatopoeia, and find tracing ice cycles on land and sea fascinating (Mr Cornelius loved the polar bear).

Impressive backmatter includes extensive glossaries and lots of resources for further study. Don’t miss this stimulating blend of poetry and science. Can you think of a better way to learn something new?

Enjoy the official book trailer:

Congratulations to Maria and Jieting!


6. Do your footsies need a little warm up? Nothing better than Alphabet Soup socks!!! 

Can these be any cooler? They have my name written all over them – and luckily I received a pair for Christmas last year (just had to tell you about them!).

One sock has the letters of the alphabet, while the other has soup bowls and spoons. These are an 85% cotton, spandex and nylon blend and come in a soup can, of course. One size fits all. I plan to use my soup can as a pen/pencil holder. 🙂

Get yours here.


7. Gary Bunt Update: Some of you may remember when I featured British artist Gary Bunt’s work a couple of years ago.

Remember his charming paintings of the old man (Bert) and his dog? That post is one of the most widely viewed and shared of all the posts on this blog. People can’t get enough of his work!

Was happy to discover Gary now has his own website and he’s also on Instagram! Wonderful to see some of his more recent paintings. He still doesn’t sell prints, just originals, but Bert and his dog are still a favorite subject, along with incredible Modern British Tribute paintings, in which he pays homage to contemporary artists who have inspired and influenced him.

Stanley Spencer
Eric Ravillous
William Scott
William Churchill
Winifred Nicholson
Mary Fedden/Julian Trevelyan

I especially like the one capturing the essence of Mary Fedden/Julian Trevelyan (I featured Fedden’s work here). Bunt’s evocations include paintings hung in windowed rooms with artifacts and mementos related to the artists. I didn’t know Churchill painted. Fabulous!

Do check out Gary Bunt’s Website for info about available oil on canvas originals and to view his archives and cool animations. What’s especially nice is that he includes a short poem on the back of each painting. 🙂


8. More Salley Mavor goodness: It’s always fun to drop by Salley’s Etsy Shop to see what she’s been up to. Since I last featured her work on this blog, she’s added 300-piece jigsaw puzzles and some new notecards. 

She simply creates the most beautiful fabric relief collages anywhere, and whether they appear in children’s books, on posters or bookmarks, these products are a joy to own and make the perfect gifts. I remain in awe of her exquisite craftsmanship and unique vision.

Though she no longer sells doll kits, her designs and patterns are included in her book, Felt Wee Folk: New Adventures. Autographed copies come with a notecard, wee folk playing cards, and faux flowers. 

Treat yourself to a little magic and wonder today at Salley Mavor’s Felt Wee Folk Website and Etsy Shop


9. Chalking it up (again)! It’s been 8 years since we first featured Valerie McKeehan’s amazing chalk art, and we’re happy to see she’s still going strong with her hand-lettered products.

Though Lily & Val no longer sells greeting cards, there’s still a lot of awesome wall art, in addition to wedding guest books, planners & calendars, and kitchen diaries.

Naturally I am still partial to her Recipe Art Collection; these prints have just the right pop of color to whet the appetite for treats such as hot chocolate, strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler. Yum!

Other categories include Nursery Art, Everyday, Inspirational Quotes, Flowers, Halloween/Fall, and Christmas. 

It’s nice to find someone who hand letters all her designs (no lasers). Enjoy this short video where she explains her process.

Visit the Official Lily & Val Website for more.


♥️ BONUS COOL THING: Can’t resist this adorable LED toaster night light – love the way it smiles at me. 🙂 It has a built-in 15 minute timer and 5 adjustable brightness modes. USB charging, up to 6 hours continuous lumination at maximum brightness and 120 hours at lowest. Cute for baby’s room, dorm room, or your room. Nice novelty gift. Check it out:


Our Swoon Tune this month is “On My Own,” performed by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. Written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, this is probably my all-time favorite pop duet. 

The song was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick for her “Friends” album (1985), before being included as the lead single on Patti LaBelle’s album “Winner in You” the following year.

Although the song was never intended to be a duet, LaBelle decided to invite Michael McDonald to help her turn it into one. 

The song was sent to me and I did a version of it but somehow it just didn’t quite work. We were going over things I’d done and we talked about turning it into a duet. Someone asked, ‘If you could do it with anyone, who would you sing it with?’, and Michael was my first choice.

A wise decision, indeed, as their version turned out to be the most successful single ever for both singers. 

Ironically, LaBelle and McDonald recorded their individual parts separately in different cities. The official music video reflects this separation, as they are shown on opposite coasts.

Such a masterful recording featuring two iconic singers at the peak of their careers. Gotta say, I’m a big Michael McDonald fan anyway (love his vocals with the Doobie Brothers as well as his music as a solo artist). Talk about a sexy, soulful voice to fall in love with. You can just feel the heartache. Sigh . . . Wish him a Happy Birthday on February 12. 🙂











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**Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. I love this blog post! I especially love the Bloomsbury print by Gary Bunt. It looks just like my house. I have pictures of loved ones all over the house! I also enjoyed seeing Valerie McKeehan’s recipe prints! Yummy! I actually loved all of it.
    I also loved your mention of Jenny Colgan novels. I recently found her, and have read Christmas at the Island Hotel, The Christmas Bookshop, and up next is The Bookshop on the Corner. They are really so appropriate to read on a cold afternoon with a cup of tea.
    I would like to recommend a new author from the Lake District in England that I recently found. Her name is Ellie Wood, and her first book is The Wildwater Women. Check it out. She is on Instagram and Twitter!
    Enjoy your day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Joanne. Thanks for the heads up on Ellie Wood! Will definitely look for her books. Jenny Colgan is my current go-to guilty pleasure/comfort writer. Love the Mure Island and Little Beach Street series. I’ve read Christmas at the Island Hotel, The Christmas Bookshop and The Bookshop on the Corner too. 🙂 Cool that your house looks like Bunt’s painting!!


    1. Glad you liked the art, Dorothy. It was interesting to see the paintings in Bunt’s Modern British Tribute series — quite a change from the old man and his dog pieces, which seem to be his most popular works.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know I do not “need” that toaster night-light, but it is so adorable! You find the best things, Jama!

    First, thank you so much for including our ice book here! I really appreciate it! Didn’t Jieting do an amazing job, not only with the book’s art, isn’t the trailer just perfect? It literally hits all the right notes!

    Thank you for reminding me about Lee’s art. I do remember loving it especially a lot in Liz’s book, but I will have to re-visit the Maine Coon haiku one, since I love the ice-skating cats.

    Since I’m a bird fan, I especially love that bird puzzle & its 3D feel.

    A very happy Tuesday to you, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jieting did a great job with the art! She’s new to me and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work. Salley Mavor is simply the best at what she does. No one else comes close. And that little night light seems to be calling your name too. Who can resist that little smile? Simple but it gets to me every time. 😀


    1. Wow, Rajiv is such an interesting and talented guy! His chalk art is incredible. Enjoyed listening to him; he seems to live with such pure intention. Thanks for sharing the video. 🙂


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