[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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[tasty review+ giveaway] Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn! by Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles

So glad you popped in — you’re just in time for some hot, lightly salted (with a little bit o’ butter) popcorn! 

America’s favorite snack — so friendly, affordable, and accommodating — is pure magic. All it needs is a little heat and it’s more than happy to make itself. 🙂

Ever wonder how those hard little kernels manage to turn themselves into a mountain of fluffy, flavorful bites?

In Let’s Pop, Pop, Popcorn!, a brand new picture book by Cynthia Schumerth and Mary Reaves Uhles (Sleeping Bear Press, 2021), we get a “seed to snack” peek at the process of growing, harvesting, and finally popping tasty, lick-the-salt-off-your-fingers popcorn. Mmmmmm!

In jaunty rhyming verse, half a dozen enthusiastic kids tell us about each step of their special project.

Dig the ground up with a hoe.
Plant the seeds and hope they grow.
Sunshine warms them in the earth.
Raindrops fall to quench their thirst.

They work together, sharing tasks such as hoeing, planting, watering, weeding, and of course, waiting.

How excited they are to see the first shoots come up, as they work diligently to protect their tender green plants, which grow from knee high to waist high, and finally, “past our heads.”

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[zesty review + recipe] Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Tie on your apron!
Roll up your sleeves!
Pans are out, oven is hot.
The kitchen's all ready,
where do we start?

From its very first cheery HELLO! . . . to its final glorious SLURP!, this exuberant, soul-nourishing story demonstrates the good that can come when ordinary people work together to help others.

In Our Little Kitchen (Abrams BFYR, 2020), Caldecott honoree Jillian Tamaki takes us inside a bustling community kitchen, where every Wednesday a crew of hardworking volunteers prepares a meal for their neighbors.

They’re a resourceful, ethnically diverse bunch who get the job done with their no-nonsense brand of high energy, cacophonous teamwork.

Upon arrival, young and old waste no time in assessing available ingredients: “what we’ve grown, what we’ve kept, been given, and bought!”

In the garden they find ripe tomatoes and zucchini, though “the lettuce is holey,” the carrots too small. But in the fridge, a purple-haired teen boy jubilantly discovers carrots, celery and radishes.

They know how to make the best possible use of what’s on hand, cutting the brown bits off apples to make a sweet crumble, tossing day-old bread into the oven (“Soft and warm, good as new!”), and earnestly contemplating what to do with the abundance of food bank beans: “bean salad? bean soup? bean tacos? bean stew?”

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[review] A Gift for Amma by Meera Sriram and Mariona Cabassa

It’s market day in India. Would you like to tag along as a young girl picks out a special gift for her mother?

Just to be clear, this is no ordinary outdoor market — at least not as it’s presented in this gorgeous new picture book by Meera Sriram and Mariona Cabassa.

The market in A Gift for Amma (Barefoot Books, 2020) is a bustling bazaar of blossoms, spices, powders, sweets, fabrics, and feathers — an eye-popping rainbow of luscious colors that rouse the senses.

Once we step into the world of this artfully crafted story, we find ourselves awash in fiery vermilion, cool terracotta and soothing indigo with an eager shopper as our guide.

She faces quite a conundrum though, since there are many wonderful things to choose from, and we can feel her energy and enthusiasm as she describes each item in terms of color:

SAFFRON orange strands in tiny scoops.
Would Amma like to season rice?

Orange marigolds swing over doors —
Swish, swish! Should I make her a garland?

With just two lines per page, Sriram’s spare, lyrical text powers an engaging narrative brimming with sensory details that make every scene come alive.

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