[review + giveaway] For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day

“Everything in nature is a wonderful miracle!/Isn’t the little bird flying through the big sky a miracle?” ~ Amma

Walk barefoot in the sand and curl your toes in the water. Listen to the “winging, singing, whispery sounds” of earth’s creatures. Marvel at a ballet of butterflies, a sky full of stars. Feel the cool air after a fresh rain.

For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day (Eerdmans BFYR, 2021), is a joyous love letter to the world and all we hold dear within it, truly a wonderful way to acknowledge nature’s vast bounty of gifts as well as the friends and family who sustain us.

With about 70 child friendly selections carefully curated by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, this beautifully illustrated inspirational anthology features 51 diverse voices affirming the spiritual rewards of being present and expressing gratitude for wonders large and small.

Young readers are treated to untold delights from morning to night — ordinary moments throughout the day that happily and surprisingly warrant celebration. 

How marvelous to wake up with sloppy puppy kisses, greet the sun that’s bouncing on the bedroom wall like a yellow beach ball, and feel God’s presence everywhere, especially within ourselves. It’s empowering to know that as we experience the world through our own personal lenses, we’re validating our place in it.

MY BEAUTIFUL DAY
by Marion Schoeberlein

I borrowed a poem from the sky,
and music from a bird,
I stole a chime out of the wind,
and from the rose a word,
I borrowed a song from the hills,
a psalm from the silver rain,
I took the footsteps of angels
out of a cobbled lane,
from each little thing I fashioned
something in my own way,
with God's help I put in my heart
a wonderful, beautiful day!

Simple, accessible language and an abundance of sensory details engage readers throughout the book, encouraging them to slow down, look closer, savor, and appreciate. Whether a charming two-line snippet of wisdom or a lyrical five stanza blessing, there’s a welcome positivity and reassurance in the soul nourishing words.

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[tasty review + giveaway] Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence and Yuko Jones

Even before I took my first bite of this delectable new picture book, I was in love. Just look at that cover! Yuko Jones’s appealing depiction of young Niki had me grinning and giddy with anticipation. I immediately wanted to know more about her. So much joy, spunk, and pride in that adorable face — I could just eat her up!

I was not familiar with Chef Niki before reading Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021). A pioneer of modern Japanese kaiseki cuisine, she founded the upscale Michelin two star restaurant n/naka in Los Angeles. In the decade since its opening in 2011, n/naka has risen to national prominence as the most celebrated kaiseki restaurant outside Japan.

Master Kaiseki Chef Niki Nakayama

This beautifully written, inspiring book shows how Nakayama defied expectations throughout her life, never giving up on her dream to chart her own destiny in a profession still dominated by men.

via n-naka.com

What is kaiseki? Considered the pinnacle of Japanese haute cuisine, it’s a traditional culinary art form consisting of an exquisitely presented multicourse meal prepared with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Courses follow a specific sequence balancing the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food, thereby creating a singular story embodying the chef’s essence.

via n-naka.com
via n-naka.com

What makes the cuisine at n/naka unique is how Chef Niki has integrated her Japanese and American heritage and upbringing in Southern California within the template of traditional kaiseki. Just as her meals consist of 13 courses, Jamie and Debbi chose to tell her story in 13 scrumptious bites.

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[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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[tasty review] ABC El Salvador by Holly Ayala and Elizabeth Gómez

#59 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Hola, ¿cómo estás?

At this very moment I’m enjoying a piece of Quesadilla Salvadoreña along with a nice warm cup of atol de elote. Want some? 🙂

Now we’re all set to travel around San Salvador and the town of Witzapan with young Xiomara (pronounced see-oh-MAR-ah). Friendly and oh so proud of her home country, Xiomara introduces us to her family, shows us places she likes to visit, and shares interesting tidbits of history, geography and culture in both Spanish and English.

Young readers will enjoy ABC El Salvador whether they are familiar with El Salvador or not. Since kids’ books on the subject are few and far between, Salvadoran children all over the world will be happy to see themselves represented in this book. 

Those unfamiliar with this unique place — the smallest country in continental America — will have fun learning the Spanish alphabet through Xiomara’s personal perspective.

She’s a girl after my own heart, since she begins with Atol, a sweet corn beverage she likes nice and warm (bien calientito!).

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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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