[clucky review] Eggs from Red Hen Farm by Monica Wellington

What do crêpes, soufflés, frittatas, and quiches have in common? Why, yes, they’re all made with eggs!

Unless they’re from a family that raises chickens, many kids see eggs in the fridge or grocery store without ever considering where they came from. 

In Monica Wellington’s brand new interactive picture book, Eggs From Red Hen Farm: Farm to Table with Mazes and Maps (Holiday House, 2022), young readers are invited to tag along as two happy young farmers take their eggs to market. 

The story opens with Ruby and Ned collecting eggs from their hen house. After they sort and count the eggs, they load them onto their red truck. Off they go, “past the ponies, the fire station, and the bulldozer, to the farmers’ market.”

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[sticky review] Paddington’s Easter Egg Hunt by Michael Bond and Karen Jankel, with art by R.W. Alley

Guess what?! The Easter Bunny left a surprise on our doorstep – a brand new Paddington Bear picture book! WooHoo!

Needless to say, all the furry Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers, especially the 70-something resident Paddingtons, are simply beside themselves. After several jubilant paw pumps and back flips, they cartwheeled from room to room before finally settling down long enough to actually crack open the book.

This new story is a welcome treasure, truly a rare gift for all Paddington fans, since dear Mr Bond passed away in 2017 (and we’ve all missed him terribly). But. It seems his agent discovered an old story Mr Bond had written with his daughter Karen Jankel for a charity newsletter back in 1995. Why not turn it into a picture book?

So Paddington illustrator extraordinaire R.W. Alley created some brand new illustrations, and, I must say, he’s really outdone himself. 🙂

In this toothsome tale, Paddington’s organizing an Easter Egg Hunt for his neighborhood’s fundraising extravaganza. Much to his dismay, the chocolate eggs he wanted to buy from the supermarket are sold out. After checking a boutique shop down the road, he learns their eggs are too expensive. “They cost fifteen pounds each?” – and that was for the smallest egg. He needs at least 20. Activate hard stare.

What to do? 

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[tasty review + giveaway] Things We Eat by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

#61 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Hmmm, looks like there’s only one chocolate chip cookie left. Go ahead and take it – I won’t tell. 

While you’re busy nibbling, I’ll tell you all about the brand new ABC food anthology edited by our favorite poetry goddesses, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. 🙂

For Things We Eat (Pomelo Books, 2022), Sylvia and Janet donned their perky chef hats to cook up a tempting smorgasbord of 27 delectable poems just right for eager munchkins ages 3-7. 

They invited 25 hungry poets –  both new and established – to write ekphrastic poems based on appetizing color photos of kids preparing, growing, shopping for, eating and sharing a variety of diverse foods. Janet herself penned two yummy poems for the collection: “Kimchi” and “Alphabet Menu.” 

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[tuneful review] Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music by Willie Nelson & Bobbie Nelson

“We had so little money but so much love.” ~ Bobbie Nelson

As a longtime Willie Nelson fan, I was especially pleased to learn that he and his older sister Bobbie had published their first ever children’s book last fall. 

Co-written by Texas children’s author Chris Barton and illustrated by Kyung Eun Han, Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music (Doubleday BFYR, 2021), is a picture book adaptation based on the Nelsons’ joint memoir, Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band (Random House, 2020).

Though much had already been written by and about Willie, the memoir was essentially the first time folks got to hear from and learn about Bobbie, who officially became Willie’s bandmate in 1973. Now, with this new picture book, Willie and Bobbie tell the moving story of their childhood, as they forged an unbreakable bond through their shared love of music.

With alternating perspectives, brother and sister have seamlessly woven a narrative of two distinct voices in lyrical and spiritual harmony.

As Bobbie says, “Family and music have been one and the same ever since Mama Nelson placed my hands on the keys of a piano, and Daddy Nelson put a guitar in Brother’s arms. Music has been our way of feeling, giving, and receiving love. It sustains us to this day.”

Willie and Bobbie’s grandparents, Mama and Daddy Nelson, taught music in Arkansas before moving to Texas.

Willie and Bobbie were raised by their grandparents during the hardscrabble Depression years in the small town of Abbott, Texas. Daddy Nelson was a blacksmith, and Mama Nelson tended the home and worked in the fields picking cotton and corn. 

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[now serving] Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef” by Alex Prud’homme and Sarah Green (+ a giveaway!)

“Those early years in France were among the best of my life. They marked a crucial period of transformation in which I found my true calling, experienced an awakening of the senses, and had such fun that I hardly stopped moving long enough to catch my breath.” ~Julia Child (My Life in France, 2006).

When it comes to big appetites, Julia Child is hard to beat. 

Beyond food, Julia craved knowledge, adventure, and travel, and she thrived on excellence. Large in stature with an outsized personality to match, Julia took a big, juicy bite out of life and wholeheartedly shared her largesse. 

In this delectable new picture book biography, Julia’s grandnephew Alex Prud’homme highlights Julia’s early years in France, a time when she found love, discovered her true calling, and worked hard to achieve her goals of becoming a good cook and beloved teacher.

We’re first introduced to Julia McWilliams as a physically active, 6’2”, voraciously curious force of nature. Because her parents had a cook, she never saw the point of spending any time in the kitchen.

I was born hungry, not a cook.

She’d “always dreamed of having adventures and becoming a famous writer.” During WWII she volunteered as a clerk typist for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Ceylon. It was there that she met her future husband, Paul Child, a painter, photographer, and bon vivant who had lived in Paris and could speak fluent French.

They got on very well despite their differences: he was ten years older, shorter, and “much quieter.” But they bonded over a mutual love of “food, books, and travel.”

Paul encouraged Julia to try foods from around the world; she encouraged him to take an elephant ride. She still couldn’t cook, but she did create her first recipe – for shark repellent!

After the war, Julia and Paul moved back to America and got married. Determined to be a good wife, she took cooking lessons to impress Paul. Her first meal, cow brains simmered in red wine, was a disaster because she’d rushed through the recipe. This only made her more determined than ever to become a better cook.

A couple of years later, they traveled to France for Paul’s new job at the U.S. Embassy. En route to Paris, they stopped at La Couronne in Rouen for lunch. Not just any lunch, of course, but the famous sole meunière meal that would prove life changing.

Julia inhaled the wonderful aroma of fish cooked in butter. Then she took a bite of the sole, experienced ‘a magnificent burst of flavor,’ and closed her eyes. She had never tasted anything so fresh and delicious. She tried to chew slowly, to savor every morsel, but the lunch was so good that she gobbled it down.

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