[author chat + recipe] Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim

 

This week most of us will be gathering with family and friends for some serious feasting. We’ll travel from points near and far, bringing homemade dishes, stories to tell, and lots of good cheer.

As we take our places around the table, we can express gratitude for our many blessings, strengthen bonds, forge new connections, and enthusiastically lick our chops. 🙂

We’re especially delighted to welcome Minnesota author Melanie Heuiser Hill to Alphabet Soup today, as her debut picture book celebrates all the joyful deliciousness that comes with sharing a good meal with loved ones.

Around the Table That Grandad Built (Candlewick, 2019) is Melanie’s delectable take on the classic cumulative tale, “This is the House That Jack Built.”  A young girl first describes how her family sets the table with items that have special significance: “sunflowers picked by my cousins,” “napkins sewn by Mom,” “glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding,” “forks and spoons and knives — gifts from Dad’s grandma long ago.”

 

 

And then (my favorite part!) she describes the mouthwatering menu:

This is the squash that took over our garden.
These are the potatoes and peppers we roasted.
And these are the beans, overflowing the bowl!

Yum! And there’s more — foods to reflect the diversity of her family, including “toasty tamales” and “samosas, spicy and hot.” This is all topped off with Gran’s homemade bread, Dad’s huckleberry jam, their traditional rice pudding, and lots of P-I-E-S!! 🙂

 

 

Jaime Kim’s exuberant mixed media illustrations, rendered in warm and cheery autumnal colors, burst with all the busyness and excitement of pitching in for a special feast.

Each step of the way, as Grandad’s handcrafted table is lovingly adorned by little hands laying on all the objects, ending with plates “red, orange, and yellow,” we can feel the wide-eyed, open-mouthed anticipation building.

By the time we see the finished table in all its glory, we share in the characters’ satisfaction of a job well done, where each has played a significant role. Build a table, build a meal, build a family.

Though this book is perfect for the holiday season, it speaks to any festive gathering of family and friends, where togetherness and convivialty reign supreme. Hungry munchkins will enjoy this lively read aloud as they identify and count objects, recognize colors, observe facial expressions, and pick out interesting details in all the pictures.

Now, let’s find out more from Melanie — can you smell her homemade bread baking in the oven? Mmmmm. 🙂

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[author chat + recipe + giveaway] Pick a Pumpkin by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

Hooray for October — time for gorgeous autumn leaves, hot apple cider, pumpkins and squashes galore, toffee apples, hayrides, costume parties, and Halloween!

We’re so pleased Patty Toht is back to talk about her newest picture book, Pick a Pumpkin (Candlewick, 2019), which like its companion book, Pick a Pine Tree (2017), is illustrated by British artist Jarvis.

Pick a Pumpkin captures all the joy, anticipation, excitement, community spirit, and rustic beauty of the season as a family happily picks and carves pumpkins before going out to trick-or-treat.

There’s nothing like visiting the pumpkin patch on a crisp fall afternoon and finding just the right globular beauty:

 

 

Pick a pumpkin
from the patch —

tall and lean
or short and fat.

Vivid orange,
ghostly white,
or speckled green
might be just right.

 

After enjoying spicy punch and toffee apples, mom and her two kids load their pumpkin stash in their truck and head home, where dad and the baby greet them. They clean and polish their pumpkins, gather the tools they need, and invite some friends over to help them carve.

 

 

We follow them through every step, from cutting the pumpkins open, to scooping out seeds and strings, to carving out eyes, noses and mouths. So many different shapes, facial expressions, and pumpkin personalities!

Then it’s time for outdoor decorations:

Cobwebs strung from post to post,
Rings of gauzy dancing ghosts.
Spiders. Tombstones.
Dangling bats.
Skeletons and witches’ hats.

Now that the scene is set, everyone dons their costumes before proudly carrying their pumpkins outside. Then it’s that magical moment when the pumpkins are lit — turning them into spooky jack-o’-lanterns!

 

 

Its red-hot eyes
will gaze
and flicker.

Its fiery grin
will blaze and snicker,
to guard your house
while you have fun.

 

With the neighborhood aglow, mummies, ghosts, witches, skeletons and vampires take to the streets for a howling good time.

 

 

Patty’s rhythmic, exuberant text is a joy to read aloud and is packed with vivid sensory details that place the reader smack dab in the middle of all the action.

Lumpy chunks. Sticky strings,
Clumpy seeds. Guts and things.
With a spoon, scrape sides neatly.
Clean the inside out completely.

And how I love Jarvis’s pencil, chalk, paint and digitally colored illustrations! Gorgeous composition and layering resplendent with fall colors and textures. You can just about hear those leaves crunching underfoot, feel the chilly autumn wind on your cheeks, hear the happy chatter of family and friends as they carve pumpkins together.

 

 

Just as he did with Pick a Pine Tree, where he included a white cat, this time there’s a winsome black cat for keen eyes to track from spread to spread. Not sure if the cat followed the family home from the pumpkin patch, or if he belonged to them in the first place, but he’s adorable as he balances on fences, plays with the blackbirds, peers out the front window, or sticks his little paw into a bowl of pumpkin “guts.”

I can easily see Pick a Pumpkin becoming a fall classic; it positively glows with fun and goodness!

Now let’s hear from Patty! 🙂

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monica wellington on pastries and pirouettes

So pleased to welcome author, illustrator and teacher Monica Wellington to the blog today. I’m sure you’ve shared many of her 40+ children’s books in your classroom, library, or with your own kids or grandkids at home. She has a knack for creating kid friendly books that make learning fun and interesting, books that beg rereading and soon become beloved favorites.

I confess I first learned about Monica from her foodie books (no surprise). Who would not love Apple Farmer Annie, Pizza at Sally’s, Mr. Cookie Baker, or Crêpes by Suzette? Naturally all of these picture books include delicious recipes. The simple lines and bright cheery colors in her art are pure, mouthwatering joy. And have you seen her Color and Cook series (Cookies, Cupcakes, Snacks, Tea Party!)? 🙂

Our focus today is on Crêpes by Suzette (newly back in print), and Dear Ballerina, Monica’s latest picture book, just released by Holiday House on March 19, 2019. These two books represent enduring threads in Monica’s life. She’s a devoted Francophile, has loved the ballet since childhood, and her daughter Lydia figures in both stories (Lydia currently dances with the New York City Ballet, and her childhood pictures pop up in Crêpes by Suzette ).

You may know that besides the new paperback edition, Crêpes by Suzette is also available as an interactive App – a veritable feast of French culture (art, language, music, food, travel) presented as a multimedia experience (formidable!).

Dear Ballerina, with its soft pastel palette, is not only a nice introduction to ballet basics, but also a touching story of mentorship that will inspire young dancers everywhere.

Monica lives and works in New York, where she teaches children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts. If, like me, you’re a longtime fan of her books, you’ll enjoy our conversation, which is flavored with a delectable taste of Paris and some lovely personal photos.

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Barbara Crooker on The Book of Kells (+ a giveaway!)

 

Recently, I shared two food poems from Barbara Crooker’s new poetry collection, The Book of Kells (Cascade Books, 2018). As promised, she’s here to tell us more about working on the book while on retreat at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland.

The first 21 poems in the book (Section One) are a meditation on the The Book of Kells itself, with ruminations on the lettering, ornamentation, inks, vellum and various subjects depicted in the world’s most famous Medieval illuminated manuscript. The remaining three sections include poems about Ireland (flora, fauna, countryside) as well as Barbara’s observations about her spring and fall residencies.

You will note that Barbara considered food an important part of her residency experience (my kind of writer!). We thank her for detailing a few of her meals, and for sharing so many lovely personal photos of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre building and grounds.

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Tyrone Guthrie House

 

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Chatting with Author B.J. Lee about There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth (+ a recipe and giveaway!)

Talk about Bayou Bliss!

Today we have the distinct honor of welcoming children’s author and poet B.J. Lee to Alphabet Soup to celebrate the official release of her debut picture book, There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth, illustrated by David Opie (Pelican Publishing, 2019)!!

B.J.’s a former librarian whose poems have appeared in oodles of periodicals and anthologies, including Highlights for Children, Spider Magazine, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, One Minute Till Bedtime, The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, Dear Tomato, and the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry.

Yes, this girl’s been busy scribbling away in her Florida hideaway, and her first picture book is rollicking good fun. She’s taken the classic “There Was An Old Lady” cumulative nursery rhyme and given it a Floridian spin — a cool way to introduce kids to some of the critters who hang out in her part of the country.

Seems B.J.’s Gator swallows a moth — who knows why — and it makes him cough. Only one thing to do: swallow a crab to grab the moth. But the crab “skittered and scuttled and gave him a jab.” What to do? Swallow an eel to nab that crab!

As you can imagine, this was just beginning of Gator’s problems. He keeps swallowing more creatures, bigger and bigger each time (have you seen the stomach on that guy?) until he actually gulps an entire lagoon! Hoo Boy!

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to this guzzling gator and all those bewildered animals in his belly. Kids will love turning the pages to see what animal’s next (ray! pelican! panther! manatee! shark!). Of course this story is a riot to read aloud with its catchy rhymes, repetition, bouncy rhythm and amphibious alliteration (cough, cough). And David Opie has amplified the hilarity with his emotive, dynamic illustrations.

Just had to ask B.J. all about her publishing journey, tinkering with the text, and yes, she’s sharing a recipe (did someone say PIE?)!

🎈HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, B.J.! 🎈

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