[juicy review] How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet


For hungry minds, there’s nothing like feasting on a good book, from that delicious anticipation of first cracking open the cover, to devouring each and every word, to basking in the afterglow of a story well told.

In How to Read a Book (HarperCollins, 2019), Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander and Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet celebrate books with a tantalizing banquet of juicy words and captivating art, illuminating the sensory, intuitive, and wildly imaginative aspects of the reading experience.

In this lyrical ode, which began as a World Read Aloud Day poem and later appeared on a National Poetry Month poster, Alexander employs an extended food metaphor to mouthwatering effect. Reading a book, he suggests, is like consuming luscious, ripe fruit — something to savor with full presence of heart and mind.



First, plant yourself beneath a tree or (if you prefer) sit on a stoop like Langston Hughes:

Once you’re comfy,
peel its gentle skin,
like you would
a clementine.

The color of

The scent of morning
and sweet
butterfly kisses.

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[catTEA review] The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake

Holy catnip!

It’s a big day for Beatrix Potter fans: The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is officially out in the world (UK release September 1, U.S. release September 6)!

Ever since we first heard tell of this book back in January, all of us here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen have been counting down the days, hours, and minutes to this much anticipated event.

After all, it’s not every day that a long lost manuscript written over 100 years ago by such a beloved author is rediscovered and brought to life with brand new illustrations by celebrated illustrator Quentin Blake.

Potter wrote The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots in 1914, but had not finished illustrating it. Two years ago, editor and publisher Jo Hanks stumbled upon a reference to Kitty’s story in a letter from Beatrix to her publisher in an out-of-print collection of her writings. In the Warne archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Hanks found three Kitty-in-Boots manuscripts — two handwritten in children’s school notebooks and one typeset in dummy form — along with a colored sketch of Kitty and a pencil rough of foxy arch-villain Mr. Tod.

Supposedly Potter’s only finished illustration for the book, intended as the frontispiece. Courtesy Frederick Warne & Co./V&A.

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soup of the day: c.r. mudgeon by leslie muir and julian hector

Alphabet Soup Curmudgeons give this book a 3 pins up!

It’s Tuesday, it’s Tuesday!

For eminently sensible hedgehog C.R. Mudgeon, Tuesday is the day to pick a fresh fig for dessert.

For all of us here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen, this particular Tuesday is the day we get to shake shake shake our maracas, cause we’re celebrating the official release of C.R. Mudgeon, a brand new picture book by Leslie Muir and Julian Hector!

*cues in mariachi band music*

Before I tell you about some of the things I love most about this charming book, a couple of party favors. First, put on these hedgehog slippers if you’re like C.R. Mudgeon himself — a creature of habit who likes things just so and gets grumpy when faced with change:


If you’re a little firecracker who makes friends easily and likes to spice things up, put on these sassy red polka dot pumps, cause you’re just like C.R. Mudgeon’s new bushy-tailed neighbor, Paprika:


Yes, we have party hats! Team Celery for all you hideaway hedgehogs, Team Chili Pepper for you squirrely squirrels.


Now, I know you’ve been wondering about the maracas. Plenty to go around. Paprika wants you to choose your favorite design, but DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT shake them until instructed to do so.

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lunch box love (part one)

What’s in Cornelius’s lunch box?

For many kids, the best time of the school day is opening their lunch boxes to see what delicious treats are inside.

Will they find their favorite PB&J, baked chicken drumsticks, or a special bento? I can remember having only one lunch box as a child — it was a red and black plaid tin, and I might have taken it to school fewer than six times. I was enamored with the prospect of soup in the thermos, a baloney sandwich, Fritos, and a Hostess cupcake. But after facing a smashed or soggy sandwich once or twice (my mom insisted on including an apple), I went back to cafeteria food.

These days, I’m envious of kids who take their lunches in insulated totes and bags, or whose food is lovingly packed in divided plastic containers (there’s a whole new world of lunch box fashion going on). Sandwiches remain a traditional favorite, but in this day and age of smoothies, wraps, and rice balls, all it takes is thinking outside the box just a little to make lunch more varied, interesting and fun.


For some great ideas, check out MY LUNCH BOX, a cool selection of 50 recipes created by Hilary Shevlin Karmilowicz. They’re packed in a spiffy recipe box illustrated by Rebecca Bradley, and feature Mains, Sides and Treats. Mix and match recipes from each category for a healthy, balanced mid-day meal, or pick any one of them to supplement things you usually pack.



If you want to stick with sandwiches, consider reinventing them — what about a Cheesy Pleasy Pocket, Chillin’ Chicken Caesar Wrap, or a Banutty (peanut butter between two slices of homemade banana bread)? Choose a quick quesadilla, make sure your dogs are dapper, fill up on frittata after hamming around. Not into sandwiches? Go for soup or salad: Chicken Noodle in a snap, Chow-Down Chicken Chili, Pizza Pasta Salad. My favorite? Alphabet Soup (Ms. Karmilowicz is a wise woman). And for those days when you’re short on time or energy, there are some no-recipe suggestions, which require only two or three ingredients and a few minutes to pull together.


What about the sides? Choose from veggie dips to muffins to pinwheels to more salads to eggs to fruity cheese kabobs. Then top everything off with a healthy treat: yogurt fondue, granola bars, smoothies, and carrot cupcakes, to name a few. As with the Mains, you’ll find no-recipe ideas for Treats and Sides.

Each cheerfully illustrated recipe card will inspire budding foodies to experiment in the kitchen (steps requiring adult supervision are clearly marked). Extra recipe cards, colorful stickers and tips for keeping foods hot or cold round out the collection. Great for encouraging parent-child participation, likely to make lunch the most anticipated meal of the day. There’s something to be said for appealing presentation, lots to be said for family bonding and the satisfaction of mastering new skills. Kids seem to especially love something they’ve made themselves — what better way to engage, excite and nourish!

MY LUNCH BOX: 50 Recipes for Kids to Take to School
by Hilary Shevlin Karmilowicz
illustrated by Rebecca Bradley
published by Chronicle Books, 2009
Recommended for ages 9-12, 146 pp.


Ham and Cheese again?

♥ In Lunch Box Love, Part Two, kids learn about where their food comes from. Tune in next Monday!

♥ Related post: My Darling, My Bento



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