[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield


Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.


Well, no. Not exactly.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Curtain Up!


🎻ACT ONE, or The Real Story 🎻

It seems nursery rhymers of yore mistook our dear Miss Muffet for a dainty scaredy-cat milquetoast without really considering:

  1. her true potential
  2. some spiders are undeniably cool
  3. the inherent power of cottage cheese.

Now, thanks to Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield, Miss Patience Muffet finally gets her props in a hilarious new picture book, Miss Muffet, or What Came After (Clarion, 2016), proving, once and for all, that where there’s a will there’s a whey.🙂

Told in sprightly verse as a rousing musical theatre production, the book features a fetching cast that includes an off-stage narrator, a chorus of three (gardener + 2 maids), Webster the spider, and nursery characters Little Bo-Peep and Old King Cole, among others. These clever players had me from their opening lines.


Her given name was Patience.
Her schoolmates called her Pat.
In the garden on a stool
is where one day she sat.
What do we know about her?
Just this much, if you please:
She didn’t care for spiders,
but she did love cottage cheese.


Cottage cheese, cottage cheese,
she eats it every day.
Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
she calls it curds and whey.

In December or in June,
in a bowl, with a spoon.
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.
Very tasty (slightly pasty),
or so we’ve heard her say!

We soon learn that much to her parents’ dismay (her mother yearns for a perfect little miss and her father wishes she’d share his passion for bugs), Pat has a mind of her own.

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Winnie-the-Pooh and The Royal Birthday by Jane Riordan and Mark Burgess (+ Honey Chocolate Pie)

Mr Cornelius practicing the royal wave.

Hello Hello!

What’s the best way to honor two beloved British icons with 90th birthdays this year?

Feature them both in a beary good story, of course.🙂

All art copyright © 2016 Mark Burgess.

Mr Cornelius is convinced 2016 is extra special and that 90 is a magic number. On January 13, much to the delight of the 50-something resident Paddingtons, Michael Bond turned 90. On April 21, HRH Queen Elizabeth turned 90 (with her official birthday celebration taking place just over a week ago), and this coming October marks the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s first book.

Goodness. This is like a golden trifecta for us anglophiles who are mad for Brits, books and bears! Just so happens that Her Majesty loved the Pooh books when she was little, and the year she was born, Mr. Milne dedicated his Teddy Bear and Other Songs (1926) to her.

What does this Palace Guard have stashed under his hat?

Earlier this year, Mr Bond was asked to write an address for the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 90th Birthday. His “Reflection on the Passing of Years” was read aloud at the service by Sir David Attenborough (and yes, he turned 90, too, on May 8). This piece, a special gift for the Queen, described the experience of life for those born in 1926. Is there any better gift than the gift of words?

So we could say that in effect Paddington has “met” the Queen, but until this new story Pooh had not.


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friday feast: a little poem and pie for mother’s day


In my mother’s kitchen, there was always a gallon jug of Aloha Shoyu and a 100 lb. bag of calrose rice in the cupboard; garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds and green onions in the fridge, and papayas and bananas on the counter.

The middle child of 12 and second oldest daughter, Margaret was known in the family for her good Korean food, a style of cooking she learned from her mother and continued to develop through decades of practice. She never used written recipes for the Korean dishes, magically turning out batches of kimchi and other banchan, platters of bulgogi, kalbi, jap chae, shrimp and vegetable jhun, and bowls of mandu with the studied efficiency and honed techniques of a master chef.


Margaret’s 8th grade graduation picture. This is our oldest known photo of her. How did she look as a baby, toddler or grade school student?


Though she had a hutch full of English bone china, I think she valued most the set of stainless steel pots and pans she once purchased from a door-to-door salesman when I was 9 or 10. “Don’t ever give these away when I’m gone,” she reminded my brother and me repeatedly. “They don’t make cookware like this anymore.” She was right of course. Those pieces served her well for over 50 years and thousands of meals.

This simple ladle, used by my mother and grandmother to serve countless bowls of dumpling soup, was placed in Margaret’s casket when she died in 2014. What I would give for just one more bowl of her soup.

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friday feast: Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess and Kris Di Giacomo (+ chocolate mud puddles)

“No modern poet, to my knowledge, has such a clear, child-like perception as E.E. Cummings — a way of coming smack against things with unaffected delight and wonder . . . This candor results in breathtakingly clear vision.” (S.I. Hayakawa)

When I first heard a few months ago that a new picture book biography of E. E. Cummings was being published by Enchanted Lion Books, my heart literally skipped a beat. Cummings is, after all, my all-time favorite poet. Then when I learned the book was being illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, who did Take Away the A (one of my favorite alphabet books), it was all I could do to contain my excitement until the book finally hit shelves earlier this month.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

In Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings, debut picture book author, scholar, educator and poet Matthew Burgess recounts Cummings’s life from his magical childhood in Cambridge, through his days at Harvard, to when he finally settled in Greenwich Village, where he lived for nearly four decades.

Kids will enjoy seeing how Cummings loved playing with words from a very early age, received lots of encouragement along the way, and found the courage to remain true to himself, ultimately becoming one of the most innovative and inventive poets of the 20th century, a true champion of individuality whose lyrical experiments with grammar, syntax, and punctuation continue to baffle and delight.

(click to enlarge)

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friday feast: a taste of kate lebo’s pie school cookbook (+ apple pie recipe)

“The best way to make pie is to learn how to trust yourself and follow your nose — and the rest of your senses. That’s a poet’s advice too.” ~ Kate Lebo

Some of you may remember when Seattle pie poet Kate Lebo visited Alphabet Soup back in January to talk about A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press, 2014) — a delightfully quirky collection of prose poems, recipes, baking tips and ephemera. *licks lips*

In essence a fantasy zodiac that upends our assumptions about what poetry is and can be, her pie poems invited us to look at ourselves, face our fears, and articulate our desires.

Now we can delve even further into our tantalizing pie obsessions with Kate’s brand new cookbook, Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter (Sasquatch Books, 2014), a between-the-covers sampling of her popular Pie School pastry academy classes. Oh, what a beauty it is!

Sure, there are many good pie cookbooks out there with tasty recipes and advice about how to fashion the perfectly tender flaky crust. But how many of these contain chapter intros and recipe header notes that read like prose poems? How many that serve up pie making process, social history, personal anecdotes, gorgeous photos, vintage chic, sass and class with such verve and heart?

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