friday feast: are your tomatoes laughing?

Seriously, who could resist a poetry book called Laughing Tomatoes?

Well, I certainly couldn’t, but I shamefully admit I didn’t actually know about this fabuloso feast of pure delight until just a few months ago.

This Pura Belpré Honor Award-winning bilingual 20-poem collection by Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcón and Maya Christina Gonzalez was first published by Children’s Book Press back in 1997. Where was I?!

Likely staring at grumpy, aloof tomatoes and not appreciating strawberries for the “sweet tender hearts” they are, living a bland life full of ho-hum edibles, certainly not hearing the warm morning sun calling to me through my window, and — *shakes head* — totally oblivious to dew, “the fresh taste of the night.”

But now, having read this glorious, jubilant celebration of Spring and its earthly delights, family, culture and community, my life is complete!

I’m happy to say Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/Jitomates Risueños y otros poemas de primavera is one of my favorite children’s poetry books ever. 🙂

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soup of the day: happy birthday, bunny! by liz garton scanlon and stephanie graegin

bunny nine

Happy Happy Birthday Birthday!

It’s time to put on your party clothes and fancy shoes: for our first Soup of the Day for 2013, we’re celebrating a birthday book’s book birthday! Got that?

And I’m doubly, even triple-y excited because it was written by one of my favorite author/poets, Liz Garton Scanlon, and beautifully illustrated by Brooklyn-based artist Stephanie Graegin, who did such a brilliant job that it’s hard to believe it’s her very first picture book. You know how much I love featuring “first books.” 🙂 I totally agree with Kirkus, who called Stephanie “an up-and-coming artist to watch” in their *starred review*. Hooray!

But more about Happy Birthday, Bunny! (Beach Lane Books, 2013), right after we suit up for the festivities.

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friday feast: a full moon is rising by marilyn singer and julia cairns

Happy first Poetry Friday of September!

Today,  I’m excited to share several poems and spreads from Marilyn Singer’s new poetry collection, A Full Moon is Rising (Lee & Low, 2011). Have you seen it yet?

Marilyn invites young readers to come along on a whirlwind tour of the world, providing the perfect opportunity to discover some interesting full moon celebrations, customs, beliefs, facts and natural phenomena. The 17 poems, written in a variety of poetic forms, takes us to places like Turkey, China, India, Colombia, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, and  Morocco. Did you know the world’s highest tides are in the Bay of Fundy, Canada? Have you ever heard of the Pushkar Camel Fair? You must read about the mudflats in Broome, Australia — when a full moon shines on them, it creates an image of a staircase leading to the moon through the sky!

Julia Cairns’s beautiful, evocative watercolor spreads capture the emotional heartbeat of  each poem, feelings ranging from wonder and fascination, to joyous celebration, to lighthearted fun and dreaminess. I love the blend of poetry and science, the nod to diversity, the reverence for the moon as the ultimate unifier. Singer’s poems remind you to look up: your gift, a chance to marvel at full moon magic like never before.

Three of my absolute favorite poems center around food (surprise!). Put on your moon-gazing face and make sure your bib is fastened tight as we travel to Israel, China, and Iowa!

Haifa, Israel

Come in, come in,
     daughter, son, neighbor.
Come into this sukkah,
with its canvas walls,
its leafy ceiling of palm and pine.
Come rejoice in this fair harvest,
     in the harvests long past,
     and the ones yet to come.
Here, the pomegranates are sweet,
     the grapes are sweeter,
and the vanilla white moonlight frosting us
through the fragrant roof
     is sweetest of all!

Hong Kong, China

Look up!
Rabbit, dragon, butterfly, carp:
lanterns parading by.
Look around!
All of us together,
sampling these sweet cakes —
red bean and lotus paste —
each with a surprise inside:
a salty egg, round and golden
as the glorious eighth moon.

A Farm in Iowa, USA

Every September Grandpa tells the tale
his grandfather told him,
     of reaping all this wheat
     by moonlight brighter than the headlights
     on all our combines combined.
And every year the hard-work story changes
     from old-time binders to older scythes,
     from three long nights to a longer six,
     from six strong workers to maybe ten.
But the bread, oh that bread, his grandma made?
That always stays the same!

* * *

Oh my word, I need some homemade bread and a couple of mooncakes now. And that “vanilla white moonlight frosting us” — *swoon*.

Yes, you need to click through to your favorite online bookseller and order A Full Moon is Rising right this second. Heads up: the next full moon is September 12th.  You’ll definitely want your copy in hand by then for a proper celebration!

The luminous Tricia Stohr-Hunt has this week’s Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Check out the full menu of poetry being served up around the blogosophere.

poems by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Julia Cairns
published by Lee & Low Books, May 2011
Full Color Picture Book for ages 6+, 48 pp.
Includes an introduction explaining lunar phases and fascinating endnotes for each poem that will no doubt inspire further study.

Cool themes: Moon lore, diversity, poetry, science, celebrations, foreign cultures, myths and legends.

♥ For an interview with Marilyn and Julia, links to some of the glowing reviews this title has earned so far, more gorgeous spreads, and to listen to Marilyn read three poems, visit Lee & Low’s website. I love Marilyn’s reading voice ☺!


**If you promise to keep your moon face on all day, you may have some mooncake. Have a great holiday weekend!


***Spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2011 Marilyn Singer, illustrations © Julia Cairns, published by Lee & Low Books, 2011. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

happy 4th birthday, alphabet soup . . .

And Hello, Shiny New Blog!

Welcome, new readers, and thank you, old friends, for following us here (I imagine you were lured by the aroma of sugary buttercream, decadent dark chocolate and shy strawberry). I’ve always admired your incomparably keen olfactories. ☺

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate a blog birthday than by moving into a brand new cyber kitchen. The fur-clad sous chefs and I are having fun practice-cooking and sniffing out all the shiny new buttons and toys features here on WordPress. As much as we loved our LiveJournal kitchen, things over there were getting a little too hairy, so we decided it was time to find a new place to play.

Hard to believe that since 2007, I’ve written over 1000 posts, uploaded over 7000 images, and consumed 3,457 a few cupcakes. Yes, many sacrifices were made along the way — visiting bakeries and restaurants, trying out poetic recipes, stalking meeting cookbook authors, and scientifically analyzing the correlation between dark chocolate and writing productivity.

Ah, but it was worth it, every last guzzle and crumb, because it was all for YOU — the best looking, hungriest smartest, most congenial readers in the entire blogosphere. Thank you for everything you’ve taught me. Writing for a blog audience is quite different from anything I’ve ever done before. It’s an ongoing challenge to maintain the discipline needed to cook up palatable content on a regular basis, and I’ve learned the importance of trusting one’s instincts. In the end, you have to simply be yourself, be honest, and have faith that it will be enough.

Only through blogging could one encounter dancing chickens, discover teddy bear bento, taste Olivia Walton’s applesauce cake (there’s booze in the frosting!), and ponder those intriguing bumps on the surface of French macarons. I still get a little giddy thinking about interviewing rock star children’s lit people like Lee Bennett Hopkins and Marla Frazee, and continue to marvel at the untold generosity of the kidlit community.

It’s been a blast meeting some of you in person — food was always part of the plan, of course! The world’s best baker made a lemon cake in the alphabet soup kitchen last year, while his wife, a notable Coretta Scott King Honor author, pranced about with reckless abandon in teddy bear slippers. Recently I shared some mini carrot cake cupcakes with a brilliant author/poet in the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, and had dinner with another dear writer friend in the 18th century tavern where Thomas Jefferson held his inaugural ball.

Food, history, books, people — ingredients that continually spice up my life soup. Blogging has piqued my passion for seeking out more food in fiction. What are those characters eating and why? (I don’t fully trust a character who never eats anything.) And what was the author eating while he/she was writing the book? A simple bowl of porridge, with its socio-economic, cultural overtones, tells a story all its own, and I love tracking down each and every spoonful through time and space.

An enthusiastic observer, chronicler, fledgling food historian and detective, I am lucky to be so well fed, but will always hunger for more. And how I love to dish it up! The table is set and I see you’re wearing a killer bib. Have as many cupcakes as you like, thanks again for the company, and bring on the 5th course of alphabet soup!


Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.