friday feast: Chatting with Julie Paschkis about Flutter & Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido (+ a giveaway!)

Several years ago, in order to illustrate Monica Brown’s Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People (Henry Holt, 2011), Julie Paschkis immersed herself in Neruda’s poetry and took Spanish language classes.

She fell in love with Spanish, its sounds and structure. Already a lover of words, she found these new words both interesting and fascinating, so much so, that she incorporated them in her paintings to stunning effect. She had created her own brand of visual poetry inspired by Neruda’s words.

Her love affair with the language didn’t end with that book. As one thing can sometimes beautifully lead to another, Julie discovered that her unfamiliarity with Spanish freed her to write poetry. The fourteen free verse animal poems in Flutter & Hum/Aleteo y Zumbido (Henry Holt, 2015) were first written in Spanish, then translated by Julie into English. And as she did with the Neruda book, she added words inspired by the poems to her illustrations.

In this exquisite tapestry of three languages — Spanish, English, and Art — we are treated to Julie’s charming insights and observations of creatures inhabiting land, sea and air, inviting us to appreciate them in new and surprising ways. Did you ever wonder what a turtle might be hiding in her shell?

TURTLE

The turtle hides
in her shell.
But maybe there is space,
a place
for hidden treasure.
Just for pleasure
she could put an emerald
and a ruby or two
there.

When she walks
she listens to the rattle of the gemstones.
That is why she goes so slowly —
she doesn’t want to spill
her secrets.

*

LA TORTUGA

La tortuga se esconde
en su caparazón.
Tal vez hay un vacío,
un espacio
para un tesoro escondido.
Sólo por gusto
la tortuga podría meter
una esmeralda y unos rubís
allí.

Cuando anda
escucha el traqueteo del tesoro.
Por eso ella anda lentamente —
para no deja caer
sus secretos.

And the snake? He writes “a slippery poem/with his body . . . He only knows one letter: ssssssssss.” There’s also a whale that dances “In a dazzle of bubbles.” Sheer delight!

The poems vary in mood from playful (a dog’s wagging tail “fans wild happiness/into the wild world”) to peaceful and evocative (“Out of the darkness/an owl hoots./An echo./The night train/is leaving”) to ethereal (“I am a fish in the sea of dreams”).

I really love the CAT:

Fat cat
naps on a map.
When she gets up
s  h  e     s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  s
from Arequipa to Zanzibar
and her belly bumps  Topolobampo.
Elastic cat.

*

LA GATA

La gata gorda
se duerme en un mapa.
Cuando se levanta
s e    e s t i r a
desde Arequipa hasta Zanzibar
y su barriga choca contra  Topolobampo.
La gata elástica.

Isn’t ‘Topolobampo’ the best word ever? Even if we didn’t know it’s a city in Mexico, we get a good sense of how the cat’s moving in that winsome alliterative line, so much fun to read aloud. Flutter and Hum truly celebrates words, languages, and instinctual creative expression. It certainly contributes to our appreciation of how and where poems might emerge, and it’s fun to imagine Julie playing with both Spanish and English and exploring some of the magical places in between.

As someone who loves hand lettering, I fairly swooned over Julie’s gorgeous paintings. As words slither on long blades of grass, swirl in the ripples of pond water, ride atop the backs of crows (“crass/brash,” “craven/crooked,” “brujo/brusco”), float in clouds, adorn both halves of a juicy strawberry (“fresh, blush, ripe, giddy, gozo, julio, frivolo”), and stream in dark ocean waves (“nightfall, fill, flow, flung, luna, lustra, bunco, oscuro”), we hear these juicy words spark and sing, bask in their collective serenade, feel the heart quicken. Her careful choice of words, as well as how they are paired or juxtaposed, creates a new energy, another poetic revelation.

Readers will also enjoy the little touches of humor: the parrot is “cheery, cheeky, beaky,” the whale, “buoyant”/”oh boy,” and that irresistible cat,  “now/then,” “here/there.” Surprise gifts in the fine details, a veritable feast of words. Perfecto!

I know you’ll enjoy hearing more from Julie herself, and we thank her for visiting today, and for creating this treasure of a book. Perhaps the turtle should stash a copy in her shell? 🙂

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chatting about the goodbye cancer garden with janna matthies and kristi valiant (+ a special giveaway!)

Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I invited children’s author Janna Matthies and illustrator Kristi Valiant to tell us about their critically acclaimed picture book, The Goodbye Cancer Garden (Albert Whitman, 2011).

Kristi and Janna

This sensitively written, uplifting story is based on Janna’s personal battle against breast cancer and is an invaluable resource for families facing similar struggles. Without downplaying the seriousness of this life-threatening illness, the book illustrates the importance of focusing on the positive, acknowledging sadness and worry, expressing gratitude and sticking together.

In January, when Janie learns her mom has cancer and probably won’t be better until “pumpkin time,” she suggests the family plant a vegetable garden:

Watching it grow, and eating healthy veggies, will remind us Mom’s getting better. Then before we know it . . . Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!

They continue to nurture their garden of hope and healing as Mom has surgery and endures chemo, hair loss, radiation, aches and fatigue. Step-by-step, day by day, they move toward their goal with the kindness and support of friends, relatives, and of course, each other. Their harvest time celebration, marking the end of treatment with a bounty of homegrown veggies, couldn’t be sweeter.

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♥ an apple cake chat with julie paschkis ♥

Open the pages of Julie Paschkis’s charming new picture book, Apple Cake (Harcourt, 2012), and you’ll instantly fall in love.

That’s because Julie’s “Recipe for Love” contains the perfect ingredients: a dashing, ardent suitor named Alfonso, a beautiful, kind and brilliant bookworm named Ida, a sprinkling of magic, flights of fancy, and an irresistibly delicious made-from-the-heart cake.

Alfonso loves Ida but she never notices him despite his flamboyant bouquets and serenades:

So clever Alfonso makes Ida a special cake using butter from the sun, sugar scraped from a cloud, an egg from the highest tippy top nest, flour stars, and salt ladled from the sea. He stirs the batter by diving into the bowl himself, adds three wishes, and cooks the cake over fiery dragon’s breath. And Ida — nose-always-in-a-book Ida — smells the apple cake, takes a peek and finally looks at Alfonso!

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blog tour stop #3: chatting with grace lin about starry river of the sky

 

I’m so pleased and excited to welcome back Newbery Honor award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin to Alphabet Soup and to congratulate her on the publication this week of Starry River of the Sky (Little, Brown, 2012)!

When I featured Where the Mountain Meets the Moon back in 2009, I gave it my highest five spoon rating and hoped it would get a Newbery nod. Her hybrid folklore fantasy (with gorgeous full-color illustrations) felt like a modern classic. How could she possibly top herself?

Three-legged toad

In Starry River of the Sky, Grace once again creates a wondrous tapestry of  Chinese folklore seamlessly interwoven within the main narrative. Lyrical prose, mystery, adventure, suspense, magic, an odd cast of characters, humor and delightful surprises characterize this enchanting companion novel about a young runaway who is “taught by kindness” and finds peace through empathy and forgiveness.

Angry, stranded Rendi begrudgingly works as an innkeeper’s chore boy in the remote Village of Clear Sky. He’s baffled and annoyed by its peculiar, unhappy residents and is troubled by the missing moon and the sky’s nightly moans.

When the mysterious Madame Chang arrives with the gift of storytelling, fortunes begin to change. She challenges Rendi to reciprocate with stories of his own, which gradually reveal who he really is and why he ran away. As he learns to trust the other villagers, Rendi realizes the stories hold answers to his many questions about how to save the dying village and resolve his own familial conflict.

 

“Master Chao seemed not to notice and brought Peiyi in front of him. He gently pushed her tangled hair from her cherry-blossom-pink face. She stood as still as a carved statue, with only her eyes moving, as her father dipped his finger into the wine mixture and carefully wrote ‘wang’, a symbol of power, with it on her forehead. Rendi watched from the doorway, and a strange, jealous anger filled him.” (Chapter 2)It’s an emotional journey of self discovery for Rendi, but all are transformed by the stories they hear and tell, as new friendships are forged, and moon, mountain, balance and harmony are restored.

The simply told stories are laced with profound universal truths. They circle back and build upon each other, suggesting the interrelationship of all things, adding rich layers of cultural and historical context. Starry River of the Sky is exquisitely crafted, by its own example a paean to the power of story — its ability to enlighten, heal, inspire, unite, and reconcile.

Woodblock-inspired drawings head each chapter.

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starry river of the sky blog tour!


Starry River of the Sky, the long anticipated companion novel to Grace Lin’s Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown, 2009), is officially out this week!

Alphabet Soup is pleased and honored to be participating in the six-stop Blog Tour, which begins today and runs through next Tuesday, October 9. Grace will be visiting each blog, so be sure to bookmark all the stops so you don’t miss anything.

**STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY BLOG TOUR**

Monday, October 1: Bookie Woogie

Tuesday, October 2: The Enchanted Inkpot

Wednesday, October 3: Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Thursday, October 4: Pragmatic Mom

Friday, October 5: Charlotte’s Library

Tuesday, October 9: Abby the Librarian

Grace is also planning a very special virtual Book Launch Party tomorrow at her blog, with games, prizes, and other goodies! I can’t wait to see what she’s cooked up.

Meanwhile, check out the official book trailer:

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Have a great week and make sure to get your hands on a copy of Starry River of the Sky, which has already earned a whopping 5 *starred* reviews! This is truly storytelling at its very best!

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.