[furry review] If You Go Down to the Woods Today by Rachel Piercey and Freya Hartas

Brush your fur, wash your paws, and spiff up your whiskers — it’s time to join Bear as he shows us around his magical woodland home with cheery poems to read and wondrous things to find.

If You Go Down to the Woods Today by Rachel Piercey and Freya Hartas (Magic Cat Publishing, 2021), is, as Kirkus called it, “a tour de force of interactive two-dimensional nature.” And when they say “tour de force” they really mean it.

I read many poetry picture books throughout the year, and this is one of the few that literally had me squealing with delight and disbelief when I first saw the art. Wow!

“Bunny’s Birthday”

Before reading any of the poems, I joyously pored over the incredible pictures, my eyes getting wider and wider because there was just so much to see!

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[lipsmacking review] Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World by Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis

What’s your pleasure? Polishing off piroshki in Saint Petersburg, sipping a quick cup of saffron tea at a Mumbai train station, or nibbling on crunchy deep-fried scorpions in Beijing?

In Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World (Beach Lane Books, 2021), my two favorite Julies — Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis — tempt readers with sweet and savory treats sure to rouse appetites and stir wanderlust.

There’s always something special about grabbing a quick bite al fresco, whether you’re wandering a city street or byway, browsing a busy outdoor market, or sitting in a stadium cheering on your favorite team. Few can resist the tantalizing aromas emanating from a well appointed food truck and ordering something cooked right on the spot by a friendly vendor. 

The fourteen short, 4-6 line poems feature an appealingly diverse mix of familiar as well as exotic eats. Our culinary journey begins right here in the USA, with a nod to the immigrants whose various foods, cultures and traditions have informed our palate and enriched American society. 

CARTS IN THE PARK
New York, New York, USA

Syrian shawarma wrapped in a pita?
Biryani? Pork carnitas?
Maybe I’ll get a hot falafel.
Schnitzel? Pretzel? Sesame noodles?
Cajun? Lebanese? Cuban? Thai?
So many choices! What should I try?

Julie L. serves up a savory mouthful with delectable words — food names are fun to read aloud and a nice reminder that while it may be wonderful to visit faraway places, we can enjoy so many mouthwatering vittles without ever leaving the country.

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[review + recipe] Beatrix Potter, Scientist by Lindsay H. Metcalf and Junyi Wu

Sometimes in late summer, especially after we‘ve had a lot of rain, giant white mushrooms sprout up in our woods. Their tops can grow as large as dinner plates if the deer don’t take a bite out of them first.

They seem quite magical; I like to imagine fairies or gnomes using the flat mushroom tops as writing desks or tabletops, happily setting out their acorn teacups for special guests.

I actually became more interested in mushrooms about 20 years ago after learning about Beatrix Potter’s fascination with fungi, and then seeing her incredibly beautiful botanical drawings.

While most everyone knows Beatrix as the author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books, and perhaps as an ardent conservationist who helped preserve some 4,000 acres of pristine countryside in the Lake District, few may know she was also a dedicated naturalist who devoted about a decade of her life to mycology (the study of fungi), with a special interest in mushrooms.

I was understandably excited when Beatrix Potter, Scientist (Albert Whitman, 2020) came out last summer, because so far it’s the only picture book biography that takes a closer look at this lesser known aspect of Beatrix’s life.

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[review] Kiyoshi’s Walk by Mark Karlins and Nicole Wong

After watching his grandfather compose a haiku with brush and ink, Kiyoshi asks, “Where do poems come from?”

Wise and gentle poet Eto answers by taking Kiyoshi on a meditative  walk around their city to demonstrate how sensory perception, mindfulness, imagination, and emotional reflection all play a role in inspiring new poems.

As they stroll along familiar streets, they take note of seemingly ordinary occurrences — a cat perched atop a pile of oranges at the grocers, a flock of pigeons swooping down from a rooftop, a lone teddy bear left behind next to an abandoned building.

For each observation, Eto writes a new poem, to which Kiyoshi responds with new insight. About the oranges, Eto writes:

Hill of orange suns.
Cat leaps. Oranges tumble.
The cat licks his paw. 

Kiyoshi puzzles awhile, and then asks, “Does this mean poems come from seeing things?”

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1.  Nothing cozier than settling down in your favorite armchair, book in hand, cat purring, tea and cake at the ready (don’t you love the blue and white china?). 🙂

Self taught UK artist Lucy Almey Bird grew up in rural Somerset, and likes to paint domestic scenes from everyday life. I love the “kinder, gentler” tone of her pictures, many of which show people reading and relaxing, enjoying the fresh air, or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.

Pretty details catch your eye, such as the patterns on clothing or wallpaper, and intricately drawn leaves, branches, or wildflower blossoms. 

The child of creative parents, Lucy was encouraged to draw and paint from an early age. Regular trips to museums and art galleries ignited her passion for art. She works primarily with acrylic on board, and you can order prints by emailing her via her website.

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2. New Picture Book Alert! Just released March 30, 2021: Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari and Felicita Sala (Abrams, 2021)!

A lyrical, gorgeously illustrated look at the majesty of trees—and what humans can learn from them.

Stand tall. 
Stretch your branches to the sun. 
Be a tree!

We are all like trees: our spines, trunks; our skin, bark; our hearts giving us strength and support, like heartwood. We are fueled by air and sun.

And, like humans, trees are social. They “talk” to spread information; they share food and resources. They shelter and take care of one another. They are stronger together.
In this gorgeous and poetic celebration of one of nature’s greatest creations, acclaimed author Maria Gianferrari and illustrator Felicita Sala both compare us to the beauty and majesty of trees—and gently share the ways in which trees can inspire us to be better people.

As someone who lives in the woods, and who’s also a big fan of both Maria’s and Felicita’s work, I am extra excited about seeing this one. Doesn’t it look beautiful?

Be a Tree! has already received **starred reviews** from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, who said, “This book has the advantage of lyrical, accessible poetry and vibrant watercolors from an ever changing palette.”

Sigh. I may have to go outside and read this book to our trees. 🙂

Congratulations, Maria and Felicita!

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