[lipsmacking review] Hannah’s Tall Order by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren

#58 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

I hope you’re really, really hungry, because this story is quite a feast. Put on a very big bib, please.

May I tempt you with green peppers, figs, tomatoes, marshmallow fluff?

Care to wrap your lips around a buttery slice of avocado, dive into a tub of whipped cream, or slather yourself with a side of honey or ketchup?

All of this and more are yours when you read Hannah’s Tall Order by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018).Β  This hilarious, somewhat messy, lick-the-pages story serves up a tastebud tickling smorgasbord between two slices of bread.

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Step into Maggie Dietz’s “The Yellow House, 1978”

“The kitchen is where we deal with the elements of the universe. It is where we come to understand our past and ourselves.” ~ Laura Esquivel

“Yellow House, Summer Afternoon” by Suzanne Siegel


Which room in your house says the most about you?


“Washing Dishes” by Deborah DeWit (2010)


by Maggie Dietz

The kitchen in the house had a nook for eating, a groove
for the broom behind the door and the woman moved through
it like bathing, reaching ladles from drawers, turning to lift

the milk from the refrigerator while still stirring the pudding,
as if the room and everything in it were as intimate to her as her body, as beautiful and worthy of her attention as the elbows

which each day she soothed with rose lotion or the white legs
she lifted, again and again, in turn, while watching television.
To be in that room must be what it was like to be the man

next to her at night, or the child who, at six o’clock had stood
close enough to smell the wool of her sweater through the steam,
and later, at the goodnight kiss, could breathe the flavor of her hair —

codfish and broccoli — and taste the coffee, which was darkness
on her lips, and listen then from upstairs to the water running
down, the mattress drifting down the river, a pale moonmark

on the floor, and hear the clink of silverware — the stars, their distant
speaking — and picture the ceiling — the back of a woman kneeling,
covering the heart and holding up the bed and roof and cooling sky.

~ from Perennial Fall (The University of Chicago Press, 2006)


Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)


The kitchen (no surprise) is my favorite room in the house, with the dining room a close second. Someone wise once said that the kitchen is the heart of the home — so very true. It’s the place where family and guests gather most often, where delicious dishes (and sometimes ingenious ideas) are cooked up, where news of the day is shared, where we read our mail and shine our shoes.

It’s a place of culinary triumph and catastrophe, of hopes, laughter, test runs, and occasionally, bravery (yikes, yeast!). Whenever I make one of my mother’s or aunt’s recipes, I hear their voices cheering me on. I’m grateful for good times past, and the chance to make some new memories steeped in their legacies.


“Yellow Saucepan” by Felicity House


I have a particular fondness for our current kitchen because it’s the first one I designed myself from scratch. Nothing fancy, mind you, but much thought was given to work stations, varying counter heights, storage spaces, ease of maintenance, how I envisioned myself “moving” in the room. The maple cabinets are sage green and pale yellow milk paint, the island is natural cherry, and we have a black and white checkered floor (much like what’s pictured in Deborah DeWit’s painting).

But it’s not only my kitchen — I like yours too. If I visited your house, it would be the room I would be most curious to see, because it would tell me the most about you. πŸ™‚


“The Spanish Kitchen” by Sergio Sanchez


The first two stanzas of Maggie Dietz’s poem drew me in right away. I do think most women — at least the ones who like to cook — have an intimate knowledge of almost every square inch of their kitchens. When they’re totally “in the flow” of cooking (which sometimes requires improvisation) or baking (with its streamlined precision), there’s a beautiful brand of zen to speak of. I appreciate the nod to domesticity in an age when women are expected to do it all.


“The Kitchen Maid” by William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941)


I love all the telling, sensory details in Dietz’s poem, from the pudding stirring to the child smelling the “codfish and broccoli” flavor of the woman’s hair, to the “clink of silverware,” to the final image of “the back of a woman kneeling,/covering the heart and holding up the bed and roof and cooling sky.”

I like thinking that a favorite room is an extension of self, a reflection of personality. Here’s to thriving in one’s element, feeling empowered by it. There’s definitely something golden about being the mistress of one’s domain, wherever that may be.


“Tea, Yellow House” by Keiko Ogawa


“The Right Word” by Deborah DeWit (2007)


What struck you most about this poem?




*rubs hands together*

We are doubly excited because we have two winners to announce today!

Thanks to everyone for entering and leaving such nice comments at both posts. πŸ™‚


Are you ready?

*drum roll, please*




For a signed copy of THERE WAS AN OLD GATOR WHO SWALLOWED A MOTH, the winner is:

🐊 AMY MERRILL at Mrs. Merrill’s Book Break!! 🐊




And the winner of a brand new copy of HOME BUILDERS is:

ELIZABETHΒ  C. at Literature and Limes!!





β™₯️ Big thanks to B.J. Lee for donating a signed copy of her new Gator book, and to Penguin/Random House for a brand new copy of Home Builders.


The lovely and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup at Check It Out. Mosey on over for the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!



Roger Duvoisin (One Step, Two, written by Charlotte Zolotow, 1955)


Copyright Β© 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

Settling in with The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani (+ a giveaway!)

What we enjoy most about living in the woods is seeing our wild animal friends. You may remember my mentioning that we regularly feed the foxes, gently move land tortoises away from car danger, and always keep binoculars handy to help us identify new birds.

Any deer sighting is cause for celebration; when there are fawns we melt into puddles of adoration over the spots and white tails. Watching a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk zig and zag while learning to fly is both educational and amusing, and we love the haunting, ethereal hoots of owls late at night.

In The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin YRG, 2019) we see how a variety of woodland creatures find shelter and build homes for their soon-to-arrive offspring. Many of the featured animals live in our back yard and woods, so we are familiar with the seasonal hubbub of activity described in this charming picture book.

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Chatting with Author B.J. Lee about There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth (+ a recipe and giveaway!)

Talk about Bayou Bliss!

Today we have the distinct honor of welcoming children’s author and poet B.J. Lee to Alphabet Soup to celebrate the official release of her debut picture book, There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth, illustrated by David Opie (Pelican Publishing, 2019)!!

B.J.’s a former librarian whose poems have appeared in oodles of periodicals and anthologies, including Highlights for Children, Spider Magazine, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, One Minute Till Bedtime, The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, Dear Tomato, and the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry.

Yes, this girl’s been busy scribbling away in her Florida hideaway, and her first picture book is rollicking good fun. She’s taken the classic “There Was An Old Lady” cumulative nursery rhyme and given it a Floridian spin — a cool way to introduce kids to some of the critters who hang out in her part of the country.

Seems B.J.’s Gator swallows a moth — who knows why — and it makes him cough. Only one thing to do: swallow a crab to grab the moth. But the crab “skittered and scuttled and gave him a jab.” What to do? Swallow an eel to nab that crab!

As you can imagine, this was just beginning of Gator’s problems. He keeps swallowing more creatures, bigger and bigger each time (have you seen the stomach on that guy?) until he actually gulps an entire lagoon! Hoo Boy!

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to this guzzling gator and all those bewildered animals in his belly. Kids will love turning the pages to see what animal’s next (ray! pelican! panther! manatee! shark!). Of course this story is a riot to read aloud with its catchy rhymes, repetition, bouncy rhythm and amphibious alliteration (cough, cough). And David Opie has amplified the hilarity with his emotive, dynamic illustrations.

Just had to ask B.J. all about her publishing journey, tinkering with the text, and yes, she’s sharing a recipe (did someone say PIE?)!


Β *

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when donuts call your name

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy donuts. And that’s kind of the same thing.” ~ Anonymous

They’re calling me again. I donut know why I can’t resist them.

Ring, filled, glazed, powdered, frosted with sprinkles — they’ve perfected their siren song. At least I’m not alone in this. πŸ™‚


“Five Dunkin’ Donuts in a Box” by Beverly Shipko


by Edwin Romond

Each day of each month
like Odysseus with his sirens
I’d hear pastries calling, “Come over! Come over!”
and I’d picture glazed and blueberry
doughnuts, almond croissants and cinnamon
coffee rolls, apple fritters and chocolate
scones, and I feared an international crisis
if I ever said no to a Bavarian cream.
Sometimes at night with the moon white
as a powdered sugar munchkin
I’d wake and worry there was one
lonely toasted coconut doughnut left
in a tray all by himself and charity
would demand I get dressed, cross the street
and eat him. Oh, that year of Christmas
tree cookies, Old Glory sprinkles
on 4th of July muffins, and the faith
inspiring Ash Wednesday hot cross buns
that made me thank God for counter girls
who saved my seat by the window, bakers
who took midnight requests, and for Macy’s
who sold expandable stretch waist jeans.

~ This poem first appeared in The Stillwater Review

First Dunkin’ Donuts shop opened in Quincy, Massachusetts (1950)


Since Dunkin’ Donuts originated in New England, it’s fitting that I had my first official DD there — in Bedford, New Hampshire, to be exact.

We were newly married and visiting Len’s family. I remember my father-in-law raving about DD’s coffee and chicken noodle soup. He never mentioned the donuts, though. It seems going out for DD coffee on a Saturday morning was THE thing to do.

We often stayed at Len’s brother’s house, and one morning Len picked up a box of munchkins for breakfast. Up until then, my little nephew — he might have been 2 or 3 years old at the time — had never eaten donuts in any form. Of course he LOVED them, calling them “Nonuts.” We didn’t know then that my SIL had been restricting his sweets. Oops.

So my first Dunkin’ Donut was actually a plain glazed munchkin, and I’ve been hooked ever since. They’re small and (you gotta admit) cute. There’s less of a guilt factor too. Whoever decided to call those donut holes “munchkins” was absolutely brilliant. Such an adorable name. There might even be scientific proof that eating munchkins makes you cuter. πŸ˜€

I love Romond’s poem because it’s so relatable. Though I’ve never lived right across the street from a donut shop, just having a Dunkin’ Donuts in the same town is dangerous enough. My highly refined donut radar can pick up those siren signals within a 30 mile radius, at least. So whenever I hear the cry of a cruller, the moanings of a marble frosted, or the lamentations of a long john, I feel it is my civic duty to come to the rescue. I know they long to be eaten. I just want to make them happy.

I would certainly not want to be the last and lonely toasted coconut donut left on the tray. Poor thing. I may be cowardly with some things, but putting donuts out of their misery isn’t one of them. Mine, like Mr. Romond’s, is a noble calling.

Mr Cornelius rescues a toasted coconut donut.


What’s your favorite donut? πŸ™‚



The lovely and talented Tara Smith is hosting the Roundup at Going to Walden. Take her a chocolate frosted donut and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend (eat lots of DONUTS)!



If they’re good enough for him, they’re good enough for me.

Copyright Β© 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.