celebrating 40 years of brambly hedge with apple cake

Over the stream and across the field is the world of Brambly Hedge…

Are you a Brambly Hedge fan? 

If so, then you probably know that Autumn 2020 marks 40 years since British author/illustrator Jill Barklem published the first four picture books in her charming series — Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Story, and Winter Story.

Released simultaneously by HarperCollins, they proved immensely popular among readers of all ages despite being written primarily for young children. To date they’ve been translated into 13 languages and have sold over 7 million copies.

I was drawn to Barklem’s incredibly detailed illustrations long before I actually read the stories. This is not surprising for a longtime Beatrix Potter fan who can’t resist anthropomorphized animals dressed in smart clothes. In fact, I probably first saw Barklem’s adorable mice on pieces of Royal Doulton china. 

Once I familiarized myself with all the characters and spent ample time in their idyllic English countryside, I was totally hooked. Brambly Hedge continues to attract generations of new readers with its emphasis on traditional values and universal themes such as family, friendship, community, seasonal self-sufficiency, and sustainability.

Author/illustration Jill Barklem in her studio.

A nature lover since childhood, Jill was inspired by the countryside where she grew up, especially the ancient woodland, Epping Forest. At age 13 she suffered a detached retina, which prevented her from participating in sports, so she spent her afternoons indoors, concentrating on art and botany. Her love of drawing flowers and twigs eventually prompted her to study illustration at St. Martin’s School of Art in London.

She did not look forward to the long commute from Epping to London on the underground every day — but eventually made good use of her time by escaping into her own richly imagined world of mice who lived in the trunks and roots of trees and hedgerows.

This is how Wilfred Toadflax, Primrose Woodmouse, Poppy Eyebright, Mr and Mrs Apple, and all the others were first conceived. After graduating from St. Martin’s, Jill briefly worked for Lion Publishing, penning a few picture books and illustrating Bibles, but she didn’t feel she was doing her best work.

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happy blue day, america!

Hooray Hooray Hooray!

For the past four years, we thought, dreamed, and believed in blue. This week, after we voted for blue, it finally came through.

Art by Matthew Cordell

Congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for prevailing in a historic election.

What a relief (maybe we’ll be able to sleep at night again?)!

And now, chocolate chip ice cream for everyone!

*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

quiet, please

Felice Casorati


No noise, chatter, busyness or worry.

Deep breaths.

Silence, sweet silence.




by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

~ from Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition, translated by Alastair Reid (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001)


“La Solitude du Christ” by Alphonse Osbert (1897)


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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. For this important, historic day, let’s start with food, glorious food, courtesy of British artist Lucy Crick. She lives and works in Suffolk, and has been painting still life oils since art school.

She’s all about “dramatic lighting, careful staging, and attention to detail,” which adds a touch of magic to her otherwise everyday subjects.

Her work reflects her love of the traditional still lives of the Dutch Golden Age, and she paints mainly on board or wooden panels. I suppose one could categorize her paintings as “photorealistic.”

Are you drooling yet? Feast a little more at her official website. 🙂


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good morning?

Sleepy Cornelius


Wake up! Wake Up!

Don’t want to.

But if you had some tea?


by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer

It is the bleakest of
as I crawl from my bed,
red-eyed, rumpled, and
decidedly unrefreshed.
My right hip seems not to
be working,
my left shoulder has a
already a sinus headache
is brewing
and, oh, Lord! — look at
my hair!
Limping, snuffling,
creaking, moaning,
I make my way toward
the kitchen . . .
grope about in the dark
for the kettle,
grope about in the dark
for the tea tin,
turn on the stove, feel my
spirits rise up
as I reach for a cup in
needy anticipation.
Thank you, God, for the
glorious gift of Earl Grey.

~ from She of the Rib: Women Unwrapped (CRM Books, 2006)



by Miguel Vallinas


Sound familiar? I think Ms. Ferrer must be spying on me or reading my mail or something. How did she describe me and my morning routine so well?

What’s that? Yours too?

I guess we’re all in this together. Have you noticed that with age it gets harder and harder to get up and going? Oh the grogginess and slowness! Oh the struggle to move!

Not that I was ever one to bounce out of bed, kick up my heels, and burst into song or anything. But man! It’s become quite a challenge lately.


by Lissy Elle Laricchia


I’ve never been a morning person (no phone calls before noon, please!). One of my college roommates even called me Grumpy. I think ‘Silent and Contemplative’ would have been more accurate. Some of us simply prefer to greet each new day with a modicum of gentleness. 🙂

In any case, this poem made me smile in recognition — a welcome bit of levity in these dark times. BTW, did you know Jayne Jaudon Ferrer is the one who launched Your Daily Poem back in 2009? If you’re a subscriber, you probably already knew that. Well, I just found out after many years of enjoying the site. See what I mean about being slow to wake up?





Thanks to all who entered the giveaway for JOEY: The Story of Joe Biden a few weeks ago. Things are getting exciting (and nerve wracking), now that the election is just a few days away.

After several cups of Earl Grey, Mr Cornelius (who isn’t a morning person either), picked the winner, who is:



🎉 WOO HOO! 🎉

We know you’ll enjoy the book!

And thanks again, everyone, for your comments and enthusiasm. 🙂


La la la la Lovely Linda is hosting the Roundup at TeacherDance. Waltz on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Stay safe, be well, wear your mask, and VOTE (no more malarkey)!



All set now and ready to go!

What’s your morning high octane drink: coffee or tea?


from “Camellia and the Rabbit,” by Petra Storrs and Becky Palmer


*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.