[spooky review + giveaway] The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler

Hello my pretties! Ready for a spookalicious story?

*cackles and strokes chin wart*

No matter where we grew up, most of us can remember a mean or eccentric neighbor, a creepy old house that was supposedly haunted, or a place we were afraid (or not allowed) to frequent for one reason or another.

It was the kind of thing where we were both curious and terrified at the same time. We hungered for more even as we trembled in our boots. It’s wonderful how local lore and enduring legends figured in our childhoods, how we bore witness to the dynamic process of their evolution.

In The Pomegranate Witch (Chronicle Books, 2017), Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler serve up a deliciously eerie and suspenseful tale of five neighborhood kids who battle a green twiggy-fingered Witch for fruit from her haunted, zealously-guarded pomegranate tree.

Beyond the edge of town,
where streetlights stopped and sidewalks ended,
A small boy spied a farmhouse in a field long untended —

And before its sagging porch, amid a weedy foxtail sea,
Found the scary, legendary, haunted pomegranate tree.

The gnarled tree loomed high and wide; its branches scraped the ground.
Beneath there was a fort, of sorts, with leafed walls all around.
Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,
But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits.

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[review + recipe] eat this poem by nicole gulotta

“Both the cook and the poet are makers. One holds a knife, the other a pen. One grinds fresh pepper over a mound of tender lettuce, while the other adds a period to the end of a sentence or a dash to the end of a line. With available ingredients — vegetables and herbs, rhymes and words — layers of flavor and meaning are infused in the pan and composed on the page.” ~ Nicole Gulotta (Eat This Poem, 2017)

Some of you may remember when Nicole Gulotta wrote a guest post for Alphabet Soup several years ago featuring an Apple Crumb Muffin recipe inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem “Apple Pockets.”

As a longtime fan of Nicole’s literary food blog, Eat This Poem, I was happy to see her first book come out earlier this year. This summer I finally had a nice chunk of time to give it a careful reading, savoring each word, each poem, each recipe.

Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017) features 75+ new recipes paired with poems by 25 of America’s most beloved poets (Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry). Just as she does at her blog, Nicole includes thoughtful commentary on each poem, followed by personal stories about the recipes.

All are presented thematically in five sections: On What Lingers, On Moments in Time, On Growth, On Gathering, and On Splendor. Recipe categories include Breakfasts, Salads, Soups, Snacks and Small Bites, Meat and Seafood, Vegetables/Vegetarian, Desserts and Drinks.

Enjoy Diane Lockward’s “Blueberry,” then read about Nicole’s Christmas morning family tradition of opening stockings by the fireplace while eating muffins (she then tempts us with a recipe for Blueberry Bran Muffins).

Contemplate Joy Harjo’s “Perhaps the World Ends Here” (one of the first food poems I ever shared at Alphabet Soup back in 2007), and then read about how Nicole’s great-grandmother used to slather a chicken in fresh oregano before roasting it for family dinners. Nicole’s recipe for Oregano Roast Chicken had me drooling (imagine the aroma of olive oil and savory spices wafting through your kitchen on a Sunday afternoon).

Do you know Sharon Olds’s bittersweet poem “First Thanksgiving” — about a mother anticipating her daughter’s return home after her first few months away at college? Nicole offers a recipe for Wild Rice with Chestnuts and Leeks, inspired by a semester abroad in London. In December, she took walks around the city the last week she was there to take it all in before returning home. She chanced upon a stall selling hot roasted chestnuts and tasted them for the first time, a wonderful moment that became an indelible memory.

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[tasty review+ giveaway] the knish war on rivington street by joanne oppenheim and jon davis

To knish or not to knish?

Believe it or not, I’ve never eaten a knish. Woe is me and my sheltered life!

(click for Mrs. Stahl’s Potato Knish recipe)

My dear knish, how I long to wrap my lips around your flaky- dough-wrapped mashed potato and fried onion goodness! I was born to love you, as I do all dumplings. I know I’ve dallied with your knishin’ cousins in the past — Cornish pasties, empanadas, samosas, calzone — but you are the only one featured in a brand new picture book, a spirited, savory story that clearly shows why you are worth “fighting” for. How I dream of strolling into a kosher bakery and snatching you up!

The Knish War on Rivington Street by Joanne Oppenheim and Jon Davis (Albert Whitman, 2017) takes us to NYC’s Lower East Side in the early 20th century.

When Benny and his family came to America, his mama baked delicious knishes, round dumplings filled with kasha, cheese, or potatoes, which his papa sold from a pushcart. Soon they were able to open a little store, a knishery, the first of its kind on Rivington Street.

Everyone loved Molly’s knishes, quite a “tasty bargain” at 5 cents each! All was well until the Tisch family opened their knishery right across the street. Mrs. Tisch’s knishes were fried and square, and what’s more, they were advertised as being “Famous” and priced at only 4 cents each.

Well, Papa wasn’t going to let anyone put them out of business. He made a new sign for the shop window, touting Molly’s knishes as “the only real and original” ones, and lowered his price to 4 cents.

When the Tisches lowered their price to only 3 cents each, it was all out war. Benny and Solly Tisch paraded up and down Rivington Street with their placards. Papa began handing out raffle coupons with every purchased knish. Naturally Mr. Tisch did the same.

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[review + recipe] Fanny in France by Alice Waters and Ann Arnold

Bonjour Mes Amis!

Are you in the mood for a little trip to France?

I was so excited last Fall when I learned that renowned chef and restaurateur Alice Waters had written another children’s book about her daughter Fanny. I remember well when I first saw Fanny at Chez Panisse in a bookstore back in the mid 90’s.

You know that feeling when you see a book that looks interesting, and you casually pick it up, and as you’re fanning through the pages, your pulse starts to quicken and your senses go on high alert because, because — oh my, what’s this? wow! LOVE, yes! it’s love at first sight!?

I had not seen a book like that before — a children’s story with illustrated recipes! Usually stories were stories and recipes lived in cookbooks. But to combine the two? Brilliant!

So began my obsession newfound interest in food-related children’s books and illustrated cookbooks. I also wanted to move to Berkeley, California, immediately so I could dine regularly at Chez Panisse.

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Barking About Pet Crazy by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (+ a giveaway!)

Jump, roll over, sit, and stay . . . it’s time to sniff out Pet Crazy, the third title in the popular Poetry Friday Power Book series created by poetry goddesses Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. Yip!

Just for this post, you may bark, meow, cluck, or tweet your approval at any time. Perfectly acceptable. After all, it’s hard to curb your enthusiasm for this fun and frisky interactive story-in-verse and writing journal rolled into one, just purrrrfect for kids in grades K-3 (or bears of any age).

Pet Crazy includes 36 poems in all, with three poems featured in each of 12 PowerPacks.

PowerPacks include:

  1. Powerplay Activity
  2. Anchor Poem
  3. Response Poem
  4. Mentor Poem
  5. Power2You Writing Prompt

The anchor poems in Pet Crazy were written by Kristy Dempsey, Janice Harrington, Carole Boston Weatherford, Eric Ode, Helen Frost, Tamera Will Wissinger, Elizabeth Steinglass, Laura Shovan, Padma Venkatraman, Eileen Spinelli, April Halprin Wayland and Don Tate. Five poems culled from the Poetry Friday Anthology series take their place alongside seven newly penned verses.

Janet Wong has written original response and mentor poems, cleverly weaving all into a charming story about young Ben, who yearns for a dog of his own, friend and cat lover Kristy, and Daniel, Ben’s best friend, who gives Ben an unusual pet for his birthday.

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