[tasty talk + giveaway] Cynthia Cliff on Pie for Breakfast: A Baking Book for Children

Good Morning. Please take a seat and put on your fanciest bib, because today we’re having Pie for Breakfast!

We’re so pleased to welcome Virginia author, illustrator and graphic designer Cynthia Cliff to talk about her debut children’s book — a beautifully illustrated picture book-cookbook featuring 13 scrumptious recipes for kids to make with their families.

Young Hazel, who loves to bake with her father, organizes a bake sale to raise money for the school library. She asks her friends to bake delectable treats to sell at the school’s fair, and they come through with international delights such as Pumpkin Empanadas, Basbousa Cake, Apple Custard Muffins, Mini Pineapple Truffles, and Nankhatai Cookies. YUM! 

Her friends and their families are a wonderfully diverse, multigenerational group working in their home kitchens, shopping at the grocers or farmers’ market, and harvesting produce from their own gardens. 

The recipes accommodate different skill levels and special diets (gluten-free and vegan), with directions laid out in easy-to-follow steps.

Cynthia’s charming illustrations are warm and folksy, brimming with details providing clues about the characters’ personalities and family dynamics. The final double page spread showing everyone at the bake sale gloriously celebrates the book’s overarching themes of food, friendship, diversity, and community. 

What a delectable reminder of how food connects and unites us — whether we grow it, shop for it, cook it, share it or eat it together.

Enjoy our chat — lucky us, Cynthia is also sharing a favorite recipe. 🙂

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[chat + giveaway] Ashley Wolff on How to Help a Pumpkin Grow

Today we’re happy to welcome back Ashley Wolff to talk about her latest picture book, How to Help a Pumpkin Grow (Beach Lane Books, 2021).

This delectable charmer about gardening and unexpected friendship is the perfect way to celebrate fall and will definitely make you want to wrap your lips around a piece of freshly baked pumpkin pie. 🙂

The star of this toothsome tale is an amiable, dedicated dog farmer — a handsome border collie modeled after Ashley’s own dog Rufus. Decked out in a red bandanna and matching yellow gloves and boots, Dog eagerly plants his pumpkin seeds in spring, then carefully protects, feeds, weeds, waters, and guards his precious sprouts from any barnyard creatures who may wish to take a nibble.

When hungry Crow eyes up the sprouts, Dog asks him if he wants to “help a pumpkin grow,” so Crow helps with weeding. As time passes and the plants get bigger, Dog also asks Rabbit, Duck, and Goat if they’d like to help too. As the new friends work together, they take pride in vining, twining, and watching their beautiful pumpkins flourish until it’s time to harvest them.

The fun continues as they then gather in the kitchen to “roast,” “toast,” and roll out dough for perfect pumpkin pies. After feasting on them, they happily carve jack-o-lanterns in time for a glowing Halloween.

With its spare, pitch-perfect rhyming text and richly hued and textured acrylic gouache illustrations, How to Help a Pumpkin Grow is sure to become a favorite autumn read aloud (observant munchkins will also love following a wee mouse from spread to spread). With its gentle themes of patience, industry, friendship, cooperation, and pride in accomplishment, this heartwarming story also reminds us that sometimes perceived enemies can turn out to be good friends.

Big thanks to Ashley for stopping by (yes, she’s also sharing a favorite pumpkin recipe). Enjoy!

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[tasty talk] Melissa Iwai on Dumplings for Lili

Wrap me in joy, I’m filled with excitement: Brooklyn-based author/illustrator Melissa Iwai is here to tempt us with her scrumptious new picture book, Dumplings for Lili (Norton Young Readers, 2021) which officially hits shelves today!

You may remember when Melissa last visited several years ago to celebrate the release of Pizza Day, her tasty companion book to the perennial favorite Soup Day. You may also know that in addition to writing and illustrating children’s books, Melissa loves to cook, bake and develop her own recipes, making her the ideal person to spread the dumpling love.

In this deliciously heartwarming story, young Lili is ecstatic when her grandmother (Nai Nai) asks her to help make baos, Lili’s “favorite food in the whole world.” But Nai Nai discovers she’s out of cabbage, which they need to line the bamboo steamer basket. She sends Lili to see whether Babcia, who lives on the 6th floor of their apartment building, has any cabbage.

Since the elevator is down, Lili and her trusty canine companion Kiki skip up the five flights of stairs. After Babcia gives Lili a head of cabbage, she discovers she needs potatoes for her pierogi. 

No problem. Lili and Kiki hop down four flights of stairs to see whether Granma has any. Of course she does, but she needs some fresh garlic to make her meat patties.

Lili and Kiki end up racing upstairs and down, from apartment to apartment, dropping off and then borrowing more missing ingredients for several more grandmothers, who happen to be making tamales, ravioli and fatayer. 

After Lili and Nai Nai finally finish steaming their baos, they join all their neighbors for a special dumpling party in the garden, where they welcome the best dumpling treasure of all. 🙂

Melissa has lovingly blended just the right ingredients for this fun, flavorful tale that celebrates food, family, friendship, diversity and community.
Kids will enjoy tagging along with Lili and Kiki while learning about the different kinds of dumplings being prepared by Nai Nai, Babcia, Granma, Abuela, Nonna, and Teta. Six grandmas with six different dumplings — what could be better?

I love how Melissa wove the Eight Secrets Nai Nai taught Lili for “happy and delicious baos” right into the story (did you know bao dough enjoys catnaps and being hummed to?). Adorable! And of course she included a recipe for Nai Nai’s Baos at the end (after drooling through this story, readers will surely want to try making their own). 🙂

The mixed media illustrations really capture the warmth and personalities of all the characters, and hungry munchkins will want to linger over every spread as they study the delectable details. They’ll love following Kiki’s visual narrative and repeating the grandmothers’ multilingual exclamations in the speech bubbles.

With an engaging storyline that’s part relay, part cooking lesson, Melissa celebrates the humble dumpling as a universally beloved comfort food that joyously brings people together.

Now, let’s hear how Melissa cooked up her new book!

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[review + chat + giveaway] Aram Kim on Sunday Funday in Koreatown

We’re so happy to welcome NYC author, illustrator and book designer Aram Kim back to Alphabet Soup today!

You may remember when she visited to celebrate the publication of her second picture book, No Kimchi for Me! (Holiday House, 2017), where little Yoomi learns to like “stinky, spicy kimchi.” Last spring, Aram published a companion picture book called, Let’s Go to Taekwondo! (Holiday House, 2020), where Yoomi and her grandma encourage and inspire each other when challenged to learn new skills.

Today’s release of Sunday Funday in Koreatown (Holiday House, 2021) is especially exciting, because it means we now officially have the Yoomi, Friends, and Family picture book series!

All art © 2021 Aram Kim

In this heartwarming story, Yoomi’s Sunday just isn’t turning out to be the “Funday” she had planned. That morning, her favorite TV show was cancelled and because they were out of rice, she and her dad couldn’t make kimbap for breakfast together.

Not only did she have to settle for eating cereal, she couldn’t wear her favorite Funday shirt because it was in the wash.

But perhaps her luck would change. Yoomi was excited to ride the bus with Dad to Koreatown. They first stopped at the library bookmobile where Yoomi discovered the book she wanted had already been checked out. Then at the Korean grocery store somebody beat her to the last hot dog twist!

Dad suggested a different treat, which Yoomi liked. Things were starting to look up until she spilled her brothers’ favorite treat all over her second favorite shirt. Oh no!

Love the Kimbap endpapers!

Yoomi was convinced Sunday was totally ruined. But Dad reassured her all was not lost since they were still going to visit Grandma. Could she help turn things around and make it a Funday after all?

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[review + author chat] Margo Sorenson on Little Calabash

Aloha, Friends! If you’re in the mood for a little taste of sunny Hawaii, you’ve come to the right place: Margo Sorenson is back to talk about her latest picture book, Little Calabash (Island Heritage, 2020).

This sweet and satisfying story, illustrated in vibrant, fruity colors by Anneth Lagamo, will delight young readers who enjoy anthropomorphic characters, lively wordplay, and kicking back in the kitchen. 🙂

It’s Keoki’s birthday, and his mom is busy making some delicious treats for his party: haupia pudding, starfruit cookies, and mango cupcakes with guava frosting. As she stirs, mixes, grates, rolls, and pours, she uses a number of different kitchen utensils and calabashes.

But not Little Calabash. He wants to help too, but so far he’s been left out. Is he too small to be of use? Does this mean he isn’t special like the other calabashes?

Some are not so sympathetic.

“Stop your whining,” said the goblet.

You need to chill out,” the refrigerator said, frostily.

“Quit trying to stir up trouble,” said the wooden spoon.

Little Calabash felt a tear form.

Yet others are supportive and encouraging, like the coffee pot, who whispers, “Perk up, kid. You are special. Keep believing in yourself. You’ll see.”

Little Calabash keeps his hopes up, determined to be used for the party. He’s stuck in the back of the shelf, behind the bigger calabashes. Keoki’s mom won’t use him if she can’t find him, right? So he gradually wiggles his way to the front of the cupboard shelf, inch by inch, paying no attention to naysayers like the frying pan, toaster, and teaspoon, who says, “You just don’t measure up.”

Will Little Calabash’s initiative finally pay off? How does Little Calabash make Keoki feel like a big kid on his birthday?

While Margo shows off her skills as an enthusiastic punster, Anneth fills the kitchen with cheeky, emotive culinary characters who sparkle with personality. Kids will never look at kitchen paraphernalia the same way ever again, not after they’ve heard the cocoa mug, mixer, and colander have their say.

Everything has a face, and the various expressions make each piece distinctive. Kids will love poring over the illustrations to check out every tiny detail. Who wouldn’t be tickled by laughing eggs and chopsticks, adorable marshmallows, and an entire platter of smiley fruit? The can opener appears to be quite friendly, while the colander is decidedly aloof. Even the little cork in the olive oil bottle is grinning, while the other calabashes, in all their winsome brownness, come off as warm and lovable.

Kids will root for Little Calabash as they’re reminded that everyone counts, no matter their size. They’ll enjoy pointing out all the different pieces of kitchen equipment and will likely have a good chuckle over the punny dialogue. They can also find out more about the island treats mentioned in the story in the lip-smacking glossary.

Now, let’s hear what Margo has to say about writing the book. We thank her for sharing lots of personal photos and a favorite recipe from Hawaii. And yes, she has her very own calabash!

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