[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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[author chat + recipe + giveaway] Penny Parker Klostermann on A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

Once upon a time a wicked witch lured an unsuspecting brother and sister to a mouthwatering gingerbread house, a girl dressed in red ventured through the woods with a basket of wine and cake for her ailing grandmother, and a jealous queen disguised as a farmer’s wife offered a poisoned apple to her beautiful step-daughter.

Let’s not forget the runaway pancake, the pumpkin that magically turned into a golden carriage, the single pea hidden under a pile of mattresses, the boy who traded a dairy cow for a bag of magic beans, or the cheeky girl who entered a strange cottage and helped herself to a just-right bowl of porridge.

Surely food is the best part of fairy tales, which is why I’m especially excited that once upon a time last week, A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale by Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle officially hit the streets!

I loved their previous picture book (Penny’s debut), There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (Random House, 2016), duly noting that Penny included a cook and his recipe book in her rollicking, rhyming, burpity-licious word feast (hilarious but “not polite!”). So, imagine my delight upon seeing how Penny cooked up a temptingly toothsome fractured fairy tale, seasoned with generous amounts of humor, surprise, suspense, wonder, and joy.

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Chatting with Author/Illustrator Aram Kim about No Kimchi for Me! (+ a recipe and a giveaway!)

Today I’m pleased and excited to welcome Aram Kim to Alphabet Soup. It’s official release day for her brand new picture book, No Kimchi for Me! (Holiday House)! This mouthwatering story follows on the heels of her heartwarming debut, Cat on the Bus (Holiday House), published in 2016.

I’ve been an Aram Kim fan ever since I first spotted one of her cat bakery illustrations online a couple of years ago. When I visited her website, I instantly fell in love with her pictures of multi-ethnic children and anthropomorphized animals. Her distinctive style exudes a refreshing child-like innocence — emotive, joyful, friendly, accessible, thoroughly charming. Best of all, she likes to draw all kinds of food! A kindred spirit for sure.

When we first connected via email awhile ago, we instantly bonded over our mutual love of food and children’s books, and I was excited to hear she was working on a picture book about kimchi pancakes. Fabulous idea! Since there are very few picture books featuring Korean food, Aram’s book is a rare treat.

In No Kimchi for Me!, Yoomi tries to find a way to eat her grandmother’s kimchi. She likes everything else Grandma makes (“dried seaweed, tiny anchovies, soft egg omelets”), but she draws the line at “stinky, spicy kimchi.”

To make matters worse, her two brothers call her a baby and refuse to play with her because she won’t eat kimchi. Yoomi’s determined to show them she’s definitely NOT a baby, and experiments with different ways of making kimchi more palatable. On a chocolate chip cookie or a slice of pizza? What about hiding it in some ice cream? Well, no.

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[review] Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio and Charlotte Riley-Webb

The first time I heard Billie Holiday’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” I was confused. What was she . . . could she be . . . NO! . . . and then the awful realization that she was singing about lynching — one of the most horrific, unconscionable atrocities in American history.

Strangely enough, before I read Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio and Charlotte Riley-Webb, I hadn’t really thought of “Strange Fruit” as a protest song, at least not the kind of protest song popular at Labor Union rallies à la Woody Guthrie, or sung in unison at 60’s civil rights marches or counterculture anti-war sit-ins. Protest songs roused and inspired people to stand up to social injustice; they unified, mobilized and galvanized.

Mister and Lady Day

Of course “Strange Fruit” did all of these things, but I think it should be in a category of its own. It shocked and outraged people, leaving many anguished and ashamed. It was, and still is, hard to listen to, and it was hard on the singer, as it brought to bear her own struggles with racism, violence, drug and alcohol addiction — all the ugliness she had experienced as an African American woman. Billie’s performances of “Strange Fruit” could be thought of as visceral theater. Singing it became an act of courage, as she was sometimes “verbally or physically harassed” afterwards.

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[review + author chat] Candice Ransom on Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Do you remember your first day of kindergarten?

Though I had the usual first day jitters, it turned out fine in the end. I loved my kind teacher Mrs. Fujimoto, painting on a real wooden easel, listening to funny stories, taking a nap on my new denim sleeping bag, and best of all — snack time with milk and graham crackers. 🙂

Reading Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten (Doubleday, 2017)  kindled such fond memories. Written by the delightful, diverting, kitty-loving Candice Ransom and illustrated by Christine Grove, this must-read picture book is absolutely adorable and officially hits shelves today.

Candice’s cat Faulkner loves the new book, which is her 137th!

It seems Amanda Panda (who loves the color brown, wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, and can run really fast downhill), isn’t suffering from first day jitters at all. She knows precisely how her day will go: she’ll print her name “in big, important letters on the board,” build “the tallest block tower,” and run “the fastest of anyone.” After all, her big brother Lewis did all of these things, so why wouldn’t she?

All art © 2017 Christine Grove

Well, she hadn’t counted on Bitsy — a diminutive, cutesy, head-to-toe-in-pink pest, who glombs onto Amanda as soon as they board the school bus.

For some reason, Bitsy is bent on being Amanda’s new best friend. But she takes the wind right out of Amanda’s sails, grabbing all the attention as she repeatedly beats her to the punch. Bitsy hogs blackboard space with her big annoying handwriting, builds a Kitty Castle that Ms. Lemon loves, and even contributes to Amanda losing a downhill race. With Bitsy as Head Princess, it’s definitely “the end of the world.” But Amanda has a plan.

She’ll go to second grade instead.

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