Julia Donaldson: Smile at the Camera!

Take a sip of milk and nibble on a cookie. Today we’re sharing a poem from Julia Donaldson’s Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum (Macmillan, 2004).

Are you ready? Look up at the camera and say “cheese!”

Art from CMM by Nick Sharratt.
by Julia Donaldson

Everyone's smiling, grinning, beaming,
Even Clare Biggs who was really scheming
How she was going to get revenge
On her ex-best friend, Selina Penge
(front row, third left, with hair in wisps)
For stealing her salt and vinegar crisps.

And Martin Layton-Smith is beaming,
Though he was almost certainly dreaming
Of warlock warriors in dripping caves
Sending mindless orcs to their gruesome graves.
(Next to him, Christopher Jordan's dream
Has something to do with a football team.)

And Ann-Marie Struthers is sort of beaming,
Though a minute ago her eyes were streaming
Because she'd been put in the second back row
And separated from Jennifer Snow.
And Jennifer Snow is beaming too,
Though Miss Bell wouldn't let her go to the loo.

And Miss Bell, yes even Miss Bell is beaming,
Though only just now we'd heard her screaming
At the boy beside her, Robert Black,
Who kept on peeling his eyelids back
And making a silly hooting noise
(Though he said that was one of the other boys).

Eve Rice is doing her best at beaming.
Yes, Eve is reasonably cheerful-seeming,
Though I think she was jealous because Ruth Chubb
Had -- at last! -- let me into their special club.
(In order to join the club, said Ruth,
You had to have lost at least one tooth.)

And look, that's me, and my teeth are gleaming
Around my new gap; yes, I'm really beaming.

~ copyright © 2004 Julia Donaldson (Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum, published by Macmillan).


~ from Class Picture Day by Margaret McNamara and Mike Gordon (2011).

Class pictures are a lot of fun. As the poem describes, there are interesting stories behind those seemingly innocent smiles.

It’s actually kind of miraculous to see a school photo where everyone is behaving themselves. Sometimes there’s a kid who makes a face right as the camera clicks, another who decides to call out something at the last minute – hence an open mouth – or another who blinks. Those who photograph children have to be extra patient; being able to bring out the best in one’s subjects is a true talent.

Continue reading

Ho Ho Ho and Fa la la: Three Spunky Cups of Christmas Tea (+ a holiday blog break)

Merry Merry!

You know what they say: Christmas is for kids. Well, here at Alphabet Soup, we hope to bring out the kid in you.

Look who dropped by for tea: Madeline, Anne Shirley and Eloise! Three spunky girls we all love for their inimitable personalities. They each agreed to share a little something from their stories if we bribed honored them with special treats. We were more than happy to oblige, yet with these three, you just never know.

So here’s to a little magic, some quality kindred spirit time, and lotsa ho ho ho zippity jingle Christmas cheer. Put on a cheery bib and ring when you’re ready to join the fun! 🙂



Bonjour, Madeline!

Who can forget your iconic opening rhyme:

In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.
They left the house at half-past nine
in two straight lines, in rain or shine.
The smallest one was MADELINE.

She was happy to tell us about one of her favorite adventures. It took place one Christmas Eve, when everyone (including Miss Clavel) was in bed with miserable colds. It was up to brave Madeline, the only one up and about, to take care of them.

Art by Ludwig Bemelmans.

When a rug merchant knocked at the door, Madeline purchased all twelve of his rugs, a good solution for their “ice-cold in the morning feet.” But the rug merchant soon regretted the sale, for without his rugs he felt very chilly outdoors. Madeline welcomed him back into the house, where she gave him medicine to help him thaw out. 

Wishing to show his gratitude, the rug merchant agreed to help with the dishes.

His magic ring he gave a glance
And went into a special trance –
The dirty dishes washed themselves
And jumped right back upon the shelves.

Then, with a profound abracadabra, the rugs turned into magic carpets, flying all twelve girls home to surprise their parents on Christmas day. 

Continue reading

nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy May! Let’s celebrate this month of flowers with UK artist Lucy Grossmith’s exquisite paintings.

Lucy grew up in the Lincolnshire countryside and now lives and works in Suffolk, England. She’s always been surrounded and inspired by nature and enjoys walking outdoors, where she sketches and makes mental notes of flora, fauna, colors, textures, and weather conditions – all ingredients for her work.

She paints with acrylics on canvas or textured paper, focusing on gardens, wildlife, countryside, and coastal landscapes. 

Love the soft, feminine feel to her pictures and the delicate detail.

For more, visit her Official Website (“heart to art”) where you can purchase original paintings or fine art giclée prints.


Continue reading

[clucky review] Eggs from Red Hen Farm by Monica Wellington

What do crêpes, soufflés, frittatas, and quiches have in common? Why, yes, they’re all made with eggs!

Unless they’re from a family that raises chickens, many kids see eggs in the fridge or grocery store without ever considering where they came from. 

In Monica Wellington’s brand new interactive picture book, Eggs From Red Hen Farm: Farm to Table with Mazes and Maps (Holiday House, 2022), young readers are invited to tag along as two happy young farmers take their eggs to market. 

The story opens with Ruby and Ned collecting eggs from their hen house. After they sort and count the eggs, they load them onto their red truck. Off they go, “past the ponies, the fire station, and the bulldozer, to the farmers’ market.”

Continue reading

[sippable review + giveaway] The Chocolate King by Michael Leventhal and Laura Catalán

What could be more comforting on a cold winter’s day than rich, velvety hot chocolate? Sip the steamy, frothy goodness from your favorite cup and all’s right with the world.

No matter how you get your daily chocolate fix – bar, bonbon, chip or cocoa – a good way to enhance your enjoyment is to learn more about chocolate’s fascinating history.

Like me, some of you fellow chocoholics are familiar with chocolate’s origins in Mesoamerica and how Don Hernán Cortés brought cacao to Spain after conquering the Aztecs in the early 16th century. But did you know Jewish traders played a critical role in popularizing chocolate around the world?

In his debut picture book, The Chocolate King (Apples & Honey Press, 2022), Michael Leventhal highlights chocolate’s little known Jewish connection. When Spanish Jews were forced to flee the country during the Inquisition, they took their chocolate making skills with them.

This tasty bit of historical fiction is set in early 17th century Bayonne, where we meet young chocolate lover Benjamin. Not only does he love to eat chocolate, he knows more about it “than most people in the whole of France.” 

Continue reading