nine cool things on a tuesday

1. April showers bring May flowers! We’re celebrating the merriest of months with stunning images by Japanese artist Shinya Okayama.

I wasn’t able to find much biographical information about him online in English. Wish I could read Japanese so I could have done additional detective work. 🙂

But we do know Okayama was born in Ibaraki Prefecture in 1982 and that he studied at Sokei Academy of Fine Art and Design (2003-2007).

I stumbled upon his work on Pinterest and was immediately taken with his beautiful colors, extraordinary level of detail, and gentle depictions of children and animals, who are portrayed on equal footing and living in total harmony.

He paints an idyllic world, where children are free to explore their surroundings and enjoy wonderful adventures with many wild creatures on land and from the sea. He injects elements of the surreal in some of his pictures, as boundaries between earth and ocean disappear.

Though Okayama’s figures are realistic, his scenarios are dreamlike, inviting the viewer into a place of fantasy and imagination. I like his gentle approach, reverence for nature, and respect for children, as he captures their many moods while at rest or at play.

See more of his work at DeviantArt (his account is “Perodog.”). More on Facebook and Instagram. He has a shop at BOOTH (but everything is in Japanese).


2. New picture book alert! Coming out May 11 is Grandpa’s Scroll by Ginger Park, Frances Park, and Kim Dong Hoon (Albert Whitman, 2023):

A scroll that a grandfather plans to finish painting with his granddaughter shows how love can overcome differences and distances.

Lily lives in Washington, DC. Her grandpa lives in Korea. They’ve never met but are good pen pals. Just when he is about to visit Lily in the U.S., Grandpa dies. Lily and her mom fly to Korea, where they uncover the rice paper scroll Grandpa had hoped to finish painting with Lily. To honor his wish, Lily writes a poem about her grandfather that sits just below his poem about her, so that in the end, they have finished it together.

Excited to see Ginger and Frances’s latest picture book! You may remember my mentioning the books they published last year in a previous Cool Things Roundup. Frances released a memoir in essays, That Lonely Spell (Heliotrope Books, 2022), while Ginger published a middle grade historical novel, The Hundred Choices Department Store (Regal House, 2022).

Nice to see they’ve co-authored yet another picture book (such versatile writers)! Plan to add Grandpa’s Scroll to your stack of their other books (to include Where on Earth is My Bagel, The Royal Bee, My Freedom Trip, Goodbye, 382 Shin Dang Dong, and The Have a Good Day Cafe). Also look for Frances’s novel, The Summer My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon (Heliotrope Books), coming out in September. Safe to say, the Park Sisters are unstoppable!!

Congratulations, Ginger, Frances, and Dong Hoon!


3. Stamp of approval: May 5 marks the official release date of the anxiously awaited Tomie dePaola postage stamp!! The children’s book community has been abuzz with excitement ever since the new stamp was announced a couple of months ago.

The Forever stamp features the much beloved Strega Nona, the titular character from Tomie’s Newbery Honor winning book published in 1975. Strega Nona was named one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” by School Library Journal. The stamp was designed by art director Derry Noyes with dePaola’s art.

New Hampshire author-illustrator Tomie dePaola passed away in 2020 at the age of 85. There will be a “first-day-of-issue” event at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.


4. Meet you at the Coronation! Yes, in just a few days King Charles III will be officially crowned at Westminster Abbey. You’ve probably received your coveted invitation right? 🙂

I must say, it’s quite a beauty and is so Charles, with its celebration of nature and a nod to his love of watercolors. It’s pretty, delicate and light, nothing stuffy about it.

From The Royal Family Website:

“The invitation for the Coronation has been designed by Andrew Jamieson, a heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator whose work is inspired by the chivalric themes of Arthurian legend. Mr Jamieson is a Brother of the Art Workers’ Guild, of which The King is an Honorary Member.

The original artwork for the invitation was hand-painted in watercolour and gouache, and the design will be reproduced and printed on recycled card, with gold foil detailing. Central to the design is the motif of the Green Man, an ancient figure from British folklore, symbolic of spring and rebirth, to celebrate the new reign. The shape of the Green Man, crowned in natural foliage, is formed of leaves of oak, ivy and hawthorn, and the emblematic flowers of the United Kingdom.

The British wildflower meadow bordering the invitation features lily of the valley, cornflowers, wild strawberries, dog roses, bluebells, and a sprig of rosemary for remembrance, together with wildlife including a bee, a butterfly, a ladybird, a wren and a robin. Flowers appear in groupings of three, signifying The King becoming the third monarch of his name. 

A lion, a unicorn and a boar – taken from the coats of arms of the Monarch and Her Majesty’s father, Major Bruce Shand – can be seen amongst the flowers. Her Majesty’s arms are now enclosed by the Garter, following her installation as a Royal Lady of the Order of the Garter last summer.”

The invitation was sent to 2,000 guests. We are all in a tizzy over what to wear. See you there this Saturday, May 6!! Television coverage in the U.S. begins at 5 a.m. (EDT). The King’s Procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey begins at 5:20 a.m. (EDT), with the coronation service itself set to begin at 6 a.m. (EDT). You can watch via major cable networks (I also like to watch the BBC live feed via YouTube). 🙂


5. Hooray for Paddington 3! Finally received word from the bear himself that a third Paddington movie is in the works!!

It had been touch and go for awhile, but it’s finally been announced that filming for “Paddington in Peru” will begin July 2023 in London and Peru. There’s a new director on board; Dougal Wilson will replace Paul King, who directed the first two films (King currently has his hands full working on “Wonka,” a prequel to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). King, who wrote the story for the 3rd film, will remain on the project as executive producer.

Cast and further details are being kept under wraps for now, but hopefully Ben Whishaw will voice Paddington once again. Of course it wouldn’t be the same without Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, Sally Hawkins as Mrs Brown and Julie Waters as Mrs Bird. It will be interesting to see whether new child actors will play Judy and Jonathan, or whether older Brown children will figure in the storyline.

BTW, do you follow Paddington on Twitter? I have an account but I don’t post anything — I’m there to spy on a few favorites now and then. Paddington’s tweets are the best and so true to character. For April Fool’s day, he posted, “Mrs Bird told me we are out of marmalade.”

Other gems:

“Lkhg7823hbgsidu48 Oh dear, it’s not so easy typing with my nose”

“I think it’s time for a cup of tea with a shortbread biscuit.”

“I’d like a hot cocoa with marshmallows please.”

“It doesn’t cost me anything to be kind.”

There is frequent mention of cake, cocoa, and other snacks (my kind of bear). He garnered over 1 million likes for his tweet during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last year:

“Thank you, Ma’am, for everything.”

Can’t wait for his new movie!!


6. Speaking of the Bear from Darkest Peru, it’s always a good day to score some Paddington merch! The official Paddington Shop has all kinds of goodies for babies, kids and adults. In addition to books (of course), they sell toys, games, t-shirts, accessories like totes and sling bags, party supplies, homewares (sandwich boxes, mugs, flasks, bibs, aprons), and cool gifts galore (craft kits, school bags, stationery and sweets).

Next time you need a gift for a special someone, head over there and help spread the Paddington love!


7. New Poetry Book Alert! Coming out May 14 is In The Museum of My Daughter’s Mind by Marjorie Maddox, featuring art by Anna Lee Hafer (Shanti Arts, 2023):

This new collection of ekphrastic poetry is based on 18 paintings by Marjorie’s daughter Anna Lee Hafer + works by artists Greg Mort, Margaret Munz-Losch, Karen Elias, Ingo Swann, Antar Mikosz, and Christian Twamley.

On a rainy-day excursion, poet Marjorie Maddox and her daughter and artist Anna Lee Hafer visit the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, where, as never before, they realize how their passions for art and poetry intersect. With this exhibit and Hafer’s own surreal paintings as inspiring backdrop, they exchange their responses to joy and trauma more deeply—artist to artist, mother to daughter. These connections between poet and visual artist constitute the core of this ekphrastic collection.

What a perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day! Like those of you who love both words and pictures, I’ve always been fascinated by ekphrastic poetry. It feels like a double gift!

I had a nice taste of Marjorie’s ekphrastic poetry not too long ago when I reviewed her picture book, I’m Feeling Blue, Too, illustrated by Philip Huber (Resource Publications, 2020), and now it’s nice to read a collection of her ekphrastic poems for adults. Wonderful way to “meet” some new-to-me contemporary artists too!

“Here, the beating heart of Marjorie Maddox’s fourteenth book of poetry lies in her emotional and psychic response to her daughter’s eighteen paintings. If art truly imitates life, Maddox blows both wide open, revealing in her brilliant reactions to her daughter’s, and to other artists’ work, her own calls and answers about what binds and distorts living and dying, health and illness, seeing and believing. Throughout, Maddox’s sonically charged language and clever use of repetition produces an electric and unforgettable effect before finally offering us, in the end, the cushion of an easy chair and a wild rest.” ~ Myrna Stone, Author of The Resurrectionist’s Diary

Congratulations Marjorie and Anna Lee — and Happy Mother’s Day!


8. Woof woof! Doggone Cool Picture Book Alert: Have you sniffed out Cinderella with Dogs by Linda Bailey and Freya Hartas (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2023)?

A hilarious picture book featuring a dog-loving kingdom and the most fabulous, far-out fairy DOGmother ever!

Here is a Cinderella story like no other. When Cinderella wishes for a fairy godmother, she’s not expecting one that barks! And this fairy dogmother has a different agenda. Yes, Cinderella will have a new dress, but made of a cozy dog blanket. Yes, they will go to the ball, but they will run there and chase squirrels along the way. There’s nothing like a canine companion to get a girl out of the house and her mind off her troubles! Yes, indeed, dogs do make everything better—and are a reminder that you don’t need “happily ever after” when you have the joy of now. Readers will get a kick out of this retelling with its lovable cast of characters and refreshing ending.

Throw me a bone! This one sounds like a book to sit and stay for. Though I’m not familiar with Linda Bailey’s other books, I am a big fan of Freya Hartas’s art, so I would purchase this one on that basis alone. Pretty fetching, I would say. 🙂

I first learned about Hartas when reviewing another of her picture books, If You Go Down to the Woods Today (written by Rachel Piercey). It features a bear poet, the most amazingly detailed illustrations, and a “seek and find” element.

There’s more: a new companion book is coming out August 8 called Grand Old Oak and the Birthday Ball!!

This charming follow-up to If You Go Down to the Woods Today invites readers to join Bear and his friends through the seasons as they prepare a party filled with love, homemade delights, and woodland magic.

Welcome friends and settle in:
there’s lots to do and see 
as I tell you the story
of our oldest, wisest tree . . .

Old Oak is Bear’s favorite tree in the woodland. With its gnarled trunk, giant branches, and glossy leaves, Oak supports hundreds of Bear’s friends, big and small. So when Bear learns that Oak is turning 500 years old, he decides to plan an extra-special birthday celebration. With original poems by acclaimed writer Rachel Piercey, this delightful tale features dozens of hidden objects to spot.

Yes, I’ve already pre-ordered it. I wonder how many more titles there’ll be in the Brown Bear Wood series?

Am looking forward to reading both of these new titles. Can’t get enough of Freya Hartas!!


9. More May Merriment from Katie Daisy: I love visiting Katie’s Etsy shop, The Wheatfield. I know I featured some of her things recently, but I can’t help myself. It’s impossible not to smile while browsing all her colorful, uplifting, happy-making items — high quality prints, notebooks, cards, t-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc. I highly recommend visiting The Wheatfield whenever you need a lift.

Here are a few items that caught my eye recently:

And my favorite this time around:

There’s honey for Pooh, orange marmalade for Paddington, blueberry jam for Blue Bear, and raspberry preserves for Mr Cornelius and me (our favorite)! Just darling!!

See lots more at The Wheatfield. What are you waiting for?! May days, May days, mad merrymaking May days!!


Our Swoon Tune this month is in celebration of Mother’s Day and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I’m a longtime fan of Keali’i Reichel, an award winning Maui-born musician with a long name and many talents (singer, songwriter, chanter, educator, choreographer, dancer). His voice is so beautiful and soothing and takes me right back to the Islands.

He wrote “Maunaleo” for his mother, Lei. She is compared to the majestic sentinel mountain, Maunaleo, who guards, comforts, nourishes and loves her people. Mālie is the gentle wind of the area. Here are the Hawaiian lyrics followed by the English translation.


He aloha nō ʻo Maunaleo
I lohia e ke kilihuna
Kohu ʻahuʻao no ka uka
He kamalani kamaehu kau i ka hano ē
He kamalei, kamahiwa pā i ka lani ē

Poʻohina i ka ʻohu kolo
Kahiko no ka poli ʻolu
Apo ʻia e nā kualono
He hiʻina, hiʻalo, aloha ē
Hiʻipoli, hiʻilei, hiʻilani ē

Eia kuʻu lei aloha
No Maunaleo i ka nani
ʻOhuʻohu i ka Mālie
He kamalani kamaehu kau i ka hano ē
He kamalei, kamahiwa pā i ka lani ē

No Maunaleo ke aloha kū i ka laʻi ē
Aloha ē, aloha ē


Beloved indeed is Maunaleo
Sparkling in the light, wind-blown rain
A finely woven cloak for the highlands
A cherished one, respected for power and strength
Esteemed, treasured, touched by heaven

Capped by the silver of the rolling mists
An adornment for that gentle heart
Embraced by the surrounding ridges
One to hold close, to hold near, to love
One dear to the heart, precious, exalted

This is my garland of affection
For Maunaleo in its beauty
Glorified by the Mālie breeze
A cherished one, respected for power and strength
Esteemed, treasured, touched by heaven

For Mauanleo is the serenity of deep love
Beloved are you, beloved indeed


One more: this is my favorite Reichel track from his debut album “Kawaipunahele” (1994). It’s a cover of the Beatles’ song, “In My Life,” to which he’s added a Hawaiian chant prelude. Simply sublime.

BTW, his full name is Carleton Lewis Kealiʻinaniaimokuokalani Reichel. Say that fast three times. 🙂












King Charles Coronation Uniform Tea Cosy pattern by JohnsKnitsCreations

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8 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. Always love these roundups! But since I’m a little canine-obsessed, today I’m most excited about Cinderella–with Dogs! Can’t wait to check it out. Oh, and I love all the gorgeous Katie Daisy art too. Thanks, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely way to jumpstart the month of May! So much here to indulge my senses. Paddington! The Coronation… Okayama’s art is stunning as are your descriptions. Happy AAPI Heritage Month, Jama Darling, and thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All kinds of cool things here, Jama. Thanks for sharing the coronation invitation – it’s beautiful. I’m excited for both the Tomie DePaola stamps and Paddington 3!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am a little late to comment, but thank you on this gloomy Thursday in NYC! You have lifted my spirits with all this lovely lovely art and of course, Paddington!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a month late, and surprised you’re still taking comments! 🤣
    But belated thanks for this profusion of joy & wonder & color in myriad forms. (I missed Marjorie’s new book & am delighted to learn about it.)
    Happy June – xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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