Chatting with Debbi Michiko Florence about Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (+ a recipe)

Mochi? Did someone say ‘mochi’? Japanese sticky rice cakes have always been one of my favorite treats!

I’m so happy to welcome Debbi Michiko Florence back to Alphabet Soup today to talk about Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (FSG, 2017), the first book in her brand new early chapter book series officially hitting shelves on July 11. It’s actually being released simultaneously with Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (Book 2). Double the goodness, double the fun!

I’d been keeping my fingers crossed ever since Debbi first mentioned working on Mochi Queen, hoping and hoping over the years that just the right editor would champion this heartwarming story about an 8-year-old Japanese American girl who wants to help her family make mochi for New Year’s. So, it was beyond thrilling to hear that flamingo-and-dessert-loving Jasmine, a spirited and determined royal mess maker, would not only have her own book, but her own series. And how much do I love that the first title in the series is about food? 🙂

Daifuku mochi (sweet bean filling)

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[review + recipe+ giveaway] Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes

Mmmmmm! Don’t mean to make you jealous (yes, I do!), but I’ve got a pot of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove.

Just a little while ago, I fried a little bacon (oh, yes!), put it aside, then sautéed some chopped onion and celery in the drippings. After the onion and celery were happy-happy, I added them to my pot of pre-soaked peas (hello). Now everybody’s gently bubbling together until it’s time to serve them up. Stick around, cause I’ll share a bowl with you right after I tell you about this delectable new picture book.

Debut author/illustrator Rachel Himes has cooked up some plucky mouthwatering magic in Princess and the Peas (Charlesbridge, 2017), a 50’s spin-off of the classic fairy tale.

But don’t expect a hyper-sensitive princess or a pile of mattresses in a faraway kingdom. Himes takes us straight to Charleston County, South Carolina where food, family, and love reign supreme.

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[author chat + recipe + giveaway] Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro and Catia Chien

One of my very favorite things to do is to feature children’s books by first time authors, especially when they’re written by dear online friends.

I’ve been a fan of Elaine Magliaro’s poetry and blog Wild Rose Reader for about ten years now. I first began reading her wonderful posts at Blue Rose Girls before she launched Wild Rose Reader in April 2007.  A retired elementary school teacher and librarian, Elaine is extremely knowledgeable and unfailingly passionate about children’s poetry, which she shared in the classroom for over three decades, and which she herself has written for many, many years.

Though I’ve loved the insightful book reviews, fascinating interviews, and general wealth of amazing educational resources available at Wild Rose Reader, I was always most excited when Elaine posted her own poetry. Over the years, her poems appeared in several anthologies, but now (hooray, hooray!), she finally has her own book!

Things to Do (Chronicle Books, 2017) is an absolutely stunning debut and I’m thoroughly delighted to sing its praises. The fourteen list poems, paired with Catia Chien’s evocative acrylic paintings, chronicle the small, sweet moments of a child’s day. Most illuminate wonders of the natural world: sun, moon, sky, rain, a bird, an acorn, a honeybee, crickets, a snail — from a uniquely childlike perspective that is refreshing, innocent, and thoroughly charming.

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friday feast: renée gregorio’s “Solitude Dinner” (+ a recipe)

“I frequently dream of having tea with the Queen.” ~ Hugh Grant

photo by Jake Chessum

So yes, Hugh’s here.

Funny about that. We have the same recurring dream involving the Queen. Mine would be more along the lines of a daydream, though.

Hugh likes to visit when I’m having breakfast. He’s just as grumpy as I am in the morning, so we don’t talk while we’re eating. We are totally simpatico and I’m polite enough not to mention the big orange juice stain on his shirt. In fact, I give him the last brownie and he doesn’t even have to explain why he deserves it. It takes all my willpower not to call him “Floppy.”

I’m thinking “Notting Hill” is my favorite of all his movies. It could have something to do with Al Green singing “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” but more likely, every time I see that film I remember Saturday mornings at Portobello Road Antiques Market, or the best-I’ve-ever-had lemon sole fry-ups at Geales.

I’m happy to live inside the world of Renée Gregorio’s whimsical poem of gratitude. Here is a kindred spirit who also summons famous and familiar guests to her table. We never really dine alone, do we? At this marvelous place where memory, fantasy, and yearning intersect, it feels good to recognize what truly feeds us.

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[review + recipe] The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang and Alina Chau

While growing up in Hawai’i, I was always a little jealous of my Chinese friends. They got to celebrate two New Years, once on January 1, and again in late January/early February for Chinese New Year. Moreover, their Chinese New Year was actually a two week Spring festival, where all the children received special red envelopes with money in them.

Though I have long been familiar with many Chinese New Year customs, I did not know very much about the fearful single-horned monster portrayed in the dramatic and colorful lion dance. Thanks to a captivating and delectable new picture book, now we can all meet the famous Nian Monster of ancient legend as he descends upon modern day Shanghai and is cleverly outwitted by a feisty young girl.

In The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang and Alina Chau (Albert Whitman, 2016), young Xingling wonders why all the Chinese New Year decorations are red, so her grandmother (Po Po) tells her all about the Nian Monster — a ferocious creature with “jaws as wide as caverns” and “teeth sharper than swords,” who would get so hungry every Spring, he left his home in the mountains to consume entire villages.

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