“Hedonist’s List of Desert Island Essentials” by Vivien Steels

“Hawaii Retreat with Palm Trees, Sunset” via Beyond Dream Art.

It’s always fun to play with the “stranded on a desert island” trope: what item, other than food and water, would you take/most like to have with you?

Before the age of laptops and smart phones, people cited favorite books, or maybe a diary or radio. It’s quite a challenge to figure out exactly what physical possession you just couldn’t live without.

But what if the opposite were true: that you could be on that island with anything your heart desires (no limit with regard to quantity or practicality)? Say the word, and it’s yours.

British poet and artist Vivien Steels has come up with quite a provocative scenario.


“Hot Chocolate” by Brett Humphries (oil on board, 2020).
by Vivien Steels

Blue iceberg from Arctic shores
melting into cool, mountain streams.
Chocolate Emporium effusing cocoa --
door always open, shelves always filled.
Cooking pot permanently flame-hot
to bubble water within its depths for
Chinese Jasmine-scented tea,
fragrance rising in coils of steam.
Tent, the size of small bungalow,
with bathroom 'en suite' included.
Bombay Curry House,
waiters and cooks ever-ready
to conjure spiced masterpieces
served on white plates.
Library, walls resplendent with books,
superb poetry section --
no overdue charges.
Softest duvet fattened with duck down,
hammock fittings to lasso two palm trees
under indigo sky christened with stars.

~ This poem first appeared in 21st Century Poetry (October 2001).
“Significance” by Elena Tuncer (oil on canvas).


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[Chat + Giveaway] Aram Kim on Tomorrow is New Year’s Day

Today we’re welcoming back NYC-based author, illustrator, book designer and art director Aram Kim to talk about her brand new picture book, Tomorrow is New Year’s Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year (FSG, 2022).

This year, Lunar New Year falls on Sunday, January 22. While many of us may think of Lunar New Year as Chinese New Year, there are actually other Asian communities (including Vietnamese and South Korean) who also observe this important holiday at the same time, each with their own set of traditions.

I was especially happy to see Tomorrow is New Year’s Day because I don’t know of any other picture books about Korean Lunar New Year. Aram has created a much needed, charmingly illustrated, truly delightful story centered around family, togetherness, and the joy of celebrating age-old cultural traditions.

Since it’s her favorite day of the year, Mina is excited to share the customs of Seollal with all her classmates. Dressed in traditional clothes (hanbok), she shows them how to play games, do sebae (a special bow to respect elders), and how to make tteokguk (rice cake soup). She’s proud to have both parents there to help, but her little brother Miro is in a bad mood. Will he spoil her special day?

I love Aram’s colorful, emotive illustrations. You can just feel the happiness and excitement of Mina’s classmates (as well as Miro’s obstinance), and there are lots of interesting details for eager eyes to discover in each picture.

She varies single and double page spreads (some with speech bubbles) with step-by-step action sequences, displaying a masterful use of scale and cool perspectives (check out the yutnori board game illo). There’s also an illustrated recipe! Dare I say, I find her art absolutely adorable (Cat on the Bus fans have surprises in store too). 

Let’s find out more from Aram, who was born in Ohio, grew up in South Korea, then later returned to the U.S. to study art and work in children’s book publishing. 

Saehae bok mani badeuseyo! Happy New Year!


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2022 Poetry Friday Archive

1. Three Pooh Poems by A. A. Milne + Chocolate Crisps

2. “The Look” by Carol Ann Duffy

3. “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

4. PHOEBE DUPREE IS COMING TO TEA by Linda Ashman and Alea Marley

5. “The Sound Collector” by Roger McGough

6. “Ode to My Toaster” by Allan Chochinov

7. “Happy Families” by Lindsay Macrae

8. “Biker Diner Serenade” by Edwin Romond

9. “What is the Pond Doing?” by Diana Hendry

10. SISTER, BROTHER, FAMILY: An American Childhood in Music by Willie Nelson & Bobbie Nelson

11. 2022 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup

12. THINGS WE EAT by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

13. Three Cups of Tea with Miss Emily

14. “What Do You Know of Eggs?” by Nancy Jentsch

15. “No. 115 Dreams” by Jackie Kay

16. “Mother’s Day Memo” by Anita Pulier + Poetry Friday Roundup

17. Joe Brainard’s “I Remember” + his art

18. “Remember” by Joy Harjo

19. VIENTO, VIENTITO/ WIND, LITTLE WIND by Jorge Argueta and Felipe Ugalde Alcántara

20. Platinum Jubilee Celebration with poem by Joseph Charles MacKenzie

21. “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Moldin

22. Paul McCartney 80th Birthday Celebration

23. “Queenhood” by Simon Armitage

24. “Prayer for Joy” for Stuart Kestenbaum

25. ON A GOLD-BLOOMING DAY by Buffy Silverman

26. SPINE POEMS: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse by Annette Simon

27. “If You Could Do Anything Else, What Would You Choose?” by Brian Doyle

28. “I Opened a Book” by Julia Donaldson

29. “How to Escape from Prison” by Roger McGough

30. “Special Glasses” by Billy Collins

31. “The Aunts” by Linda Lee (Konichek)

32. MY POET by Patricia MacLachlan and Jen Hill

33. “A Thanksgiving Poem” by CJ Beaman + Poetry Friday Roundup

34. “In Praise of Dreams” x 2 (Wislawa Szymborska and Gary Soto)

35. THE ILLUSTRATED EMILY DICKINSON and THE ILLUSTRATED ROBERT FROST edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave, illustrated by David Miles

36. Christmas Tea with Madeline, Anne Shirley and Eloise

*A permalink to this archive can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

Ho Ho Ho and Fa la la: Three Spunky Cups of Christmas Tea (+ a holiday blog break)

Merry Merry!

You know what they say: Christmas is for kids. Well, here at Alphabet Soup, we hope to bring out the kid in you.

Look who dropped by for tea: Madeline, Anne Shirley and Eloise! Three spunky girls we all love for their inimitable personalities. They each agreed to share a little something from their stories if we bribed honored them with special treats. We were more than happy to oblige, yet with these three, you just never know.

So here’s to a little magic, some quality kindred spirit time, and lotsa ho ho ho zippity jingle Christmas cheer. Put on a cheery bib and ring when you’re ready to join the fun! 🙂



Bonjour, Madeline!

Who can forget your iconic opening rhyme:

In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.
They left the house at half-past nine
in two straight lines, in rain or shine.
The smallest one was MADELINE.

She was happy to tell us about one of her favorite adventures. It took place one Christmas Eve, when everyone (including Miss Clavel) was in bed with miserable colds. It was up to brave Madeline, the only one up and about, to take care of them.

Art by Ludwig Bemelmans.

When a rug merchant knocked at the door, Madeline purchased all twelve of his rugs, a good solution for their “ice-cold in the morning feet.” But the rug merchant soon regretted the sale, for without his rugs he felt very chilly outdoors. Madeline welcomed him back into the house, where she gave him medicine to help him thaw out. 

Wishing to show his gratitude, the rug merchant agreed to help with the dishes.

His magic ring he gave a glance
And went into a special trance –
The dirty dishes washed themselves
And jumped right back upon the shelves.

Then, with a profound abracadabra, the rugs turned into magic carpets, flying all twelve girls home to surprise their parents on Christmas day. 

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Sarah van Dongen’s Cozy World

Yum! It looks like somebody’s been very busy in the kitchen. Cakes piled up everywhere! And they’ve been at it for awhile –see the curly red-haired girl on the table who’s resting on the pink cake?

Maybe I should volunteer to help them eat some of their creations. Surely they could spare a cupcake or two. 🙂

Amsterdam-based illustrator Sarah van Dongen.
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