[scrumptious review + recipe] Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins

 

What ingredients would you need to have a wonderful, jubilant, extra-happy, a little bit mysterious winter holiday?

Hmmm, perhaps two furry brown animals (one adorably stout, the other tall and sleek), a perky, yellow-feathered birdie, a warm hollow with a cozy fire, and CAKE!

For added flavor (why not?), add a bustling tea room with chatty critters in the middle of the woods, a basket of dried fruit, and three mistakes (that’s the mysterious part) — and you have the utterly charming new picture book, Wintercake (Greenwillow, 2019), written and illustrated by Newbery winner Lynne Rae Perkins.

You could say this one was written with my name all over it. I will say it’s one of my top three fave picture books of the year, and definitely one of my all-time favorite holiday books. After all, I do love little furry animals (I’m married to one), we do live in the woods (I dream of opening a tea room), and after eating enough cake, I could very well be described as stout. 😀

What’s that? You’re a little concerned about the ‘mysterious mistakes’? I thought as much. Don’t worry, because in this story, we see how mistakes can lead to good things — an adventure, new friends, new traditions — all cause for celebration. Let me explain . . .

 

 

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[author chat + recipe] Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim

 

This week most of us will be gathering with family and friends for some serious feasting. We’ll travel from points near and far, bringing homemade dishes, stories to tell, and lots of good cheer.

As we take our places around the table, we can express gratitude for our many blessings, strengthen bonds, forge new connections, and enthusiastically lick our chops. 🙂

We’re especially delighted to welcome Minnesota author Melanie Heuiser Hill to Alphabet Soup today, as her debut picture book celebrates all the joyful deliciousness that comes with sharing a good meal with loved ones.

Around the Table That Grandad Built (Candlewick, 2019) is Melanie’s delectable take on the classic cumulative tale, “This is the House That Jack Built.”  A young girl first describes how her family sets the table with items that have special significance: “sunflowers picked by my cousins,” “napkins sewn by Mom,” “glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding,” “forks and spoons and knives — gifts from Dad’s grandma long ago.”

 

 

And then (my favorite part!) she describes the mouthwatering menu:

This is the squash that took over our garden.
These are the potatoes and peppers we roasted.
And these are the beans, overflowing the bowl!

Yum! And there’s more — foods to reflect the diversity of her family, including “toasty tamales” and “samosas, spicy and hot.” This is all topped off with Gran’s homemade bread, Dad’s huckleberry jam, their traditional rice pudding, and lots of P-I-E-S!! 🙂

 

 

Jaime Kim’s exuberant mixed media illustrations, rendered in warm and cheery autumnal colors, burst with all the busyness and excitement of pitching in for a special feast.

Each step of the way, as Grandad’s handcrafted table is lovingly adorned by little hands laying on all the objects, ending with plates “red, orange, and yellow,” we can feel the wide-eyed, open-mouthed anticipation building.

By the time we see the finished table in all its glory, we share in the characters’ satisfaction of a job well done, where each has played a significant role. Build a table, build a meal, build a family.

Though this book is perfect for the holiday season, it speaks to any festive gathering of family and friends, where togetherness and convivialty reign supreme. Hungry munchkins will enjoy this lively read aloud as they identify and count objects, recognize colors, observe facial expressions, and pick out interesting details in all the pictures.

Now, let’s find out more from Melanie — can you smell her homemade bread baking in the oven? Mmmmm. 🙂

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[delectable review + giveaway] What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street? by Felicita Sala

 

Something smells good at N. 10, Garden Street. Delicious, actually!

 

Oh yes! Those savory aromas wafting from the windows of that charming apartment building are making my mouth water. Who lives there? What are they cooking? Better still, may we have some? 🙂

In her new picture book-cookbook, What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street? (Prestel Publishing, 2019), award-winning author/illustrator Felicita Sala invites us into the kitchens of some of the Garden Street residents so we can see for ourselves just what they’re up to.

 

 

We first meet Pilar, who’s preparing a batch of Salmorejo, a purée consisting of tomatoes mixed with stale bread, garlic, olive oil, and salt that originated in southern Spain. Smiling to herself, she seems quite content wielding her immersion blender, confident that the finished dish will be delicious.

Next door, Mr. Ping stir fries broccoli while his nephew Benjamin looks on. Benjamin calls broccoli “little trees.” Across the hall, Maria is mashing avocados for Guacamole, while upstairs, Señora Flores squeezes lime juice into her pot of Black Bean Soup.

 

 

As we turn the pages, we meet more neighbors, all busy slicing, stirring, chopping, and combining ingredients. Some of these home cooks appear pensive and contemplative, while others are blissful or playful, but all are enjoying themselves, whether they’re working alone or with helpers. Perhaps young Josef and Rafik, who are rolling Meatballs, are having too much fun (Josef is spooning something onto Rafik’s head). Or what about impish, red-headed twins Jemima and Rosie arguing over “who took the last banana”? Their freckly-faced smiles promise all will be forgiven once their Banana and Blueberry Bread comes out of the oven.

 

Though there’s a vanilla pod shown in the ingredients, the recipe doesn’t specify when to add it.

 

When all the cooking’s done, everyone takes their dishes downstairs for a big pot luck feast in the back garden. What a large, glorious table, set with homemade specialties from around the world! Rest assured, all these lovingly prepared foods taste even better because they’re being shared in the happy spirit of fellowship and community.

 

 

 

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[lickalicious review] The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle by Anne Renaud and Milan Pavlović

 

Remember eating an icy cold Popsicle® on a warm summer’s day when you were little? Your lips would freeze as you licked, slurped, and bit into it, the juice running down your chin. And then, when you were done, you proudly stuck out your tongue to show everyone how it had turned red, orange, or purple.

But for all the Popsicles® you’ve enjoyed in your lifetime, did you ever wonder who actually invented them? You may be surprised to hear it was an 11-year-old boy.

In their delightful new picture book, The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle: The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat (Kids Can Press, 2019), author Anne Renaud and illustrator Milan Pavlović serve up all the frosty essentials in colorful, lickalicious detail.

 

 

Inquisitive, bright, and enterprising, California native Frank Epperson was born with the heart and mind of an inventor. As a boy, he “pondered important questions,” such as:

Do goldfish sleep?

Do ants have ears?

Do woodpeckers get headaches from pecking all day?

His ability to direct positive energy towards developing his ideas proved advantageous early on. Since inventing required experimentation, he was constantly doodling, designing, tinkering, testing, analyzing and scrutinizing.

By the time he was ten, “he had already masterminded his first invention: a handcar with two handles,” which ran twice as fast as one-handled cars. How he loved whizzing around the neighborhood in it!

 

 

Frank also enjoyed experimenting with liquids, especially flavored soda waters. He “had his heart set on inventing the yummiest, most thirst-quenching, lip-smacking soda water drink ever!”

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[tealicious review + recipe] Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party by Erin Barker

On a fine autumn day, what could be better than finding this lovely handwritten note in your mailbox?

You are cordially invited to a tea party in the back garden at dusk. ~ P

You probably know I’m always up for a tea party, and this one just happens to be doubly delightful. It’s being hosted by none other than the ever dapper Mr. Pumpkin, who really knows how to rock a waistcoat and top hat (I could never resist a top hat). Besides, taking tea at twilight is just too tempting. 🙂

Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party, a seasonally spooky story and counting book in one, was written and illustrated by Cincinnati-based author and illustrator Erin Barker, who first sketched a “pumpkin-head guy” having tea with a “skeleton person” for Inktober back in 2016.

They weren’t your average run-of-the-mill pumpkin and skeleton, though. They were dressed up as proper English gentlemen, and were saying things like, “I dare say,” and “Indeed.” Erin’s Instagram followers loved the sketch, and months later her editor suggested the characters should have their own book. So Erin developed a charming storyline inspired by her own love of hosting get-togethers with friends and good food.

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