[review + recipe + giveaway] Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes and Laura Freeman

 

Kamala Harris is precisely the vice presidential nominee we need at this particular moment in time. Being chosen to run alongside Joe Biden in the most consequential election of our nation’s history is a notable, glorious, glass-ceiling-shattering triumph.

Senator Harris hadn’t fully entered my radar until I  saw her grill Brett Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court Senate Confirmation Hearings in 2018. Wow! She was tough, articulate, whip smart, and definitely someone to watch. Early last year, I eagerly read her memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey (Bodley Head, 2019), and was wholly inspired by her compassion, work ethic, professional accomplishments, and steadfast commitment to social justice and public service.

 

 

Just two weeks after she was chosen to be Vice President Biden’s running mate, a new picture book biography, Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes and Laura Freeman (Atheneum BFYR, 2020), officially hit shelves. Talk about perfect timing!

But then, everything about Kamala’s life story (her immigrant background, family history of political activism, impressive barrier-breaking, step-by-step rise in the ranks) suggests she was almost divinely destined to be the first African-American and first South Asian-American female candidate to run on a major party ticket during these turbulent times of systemic racism, economic inequities, public health crises, criminal injustices, and gender discrimination.

Thanks to Nikki Grimes’s succinct, artfully crafted free verse narrative, and Laura Freeman’s vibrantly gorgeous art, young people not only have an engaging overview of Harris’s life from birth to her withdrawal from the 2020 presidential nomination, but also an inspiring portrait of her character and true essence as a human being.

Grimes frames Kamala’s story as a conversation between a black mother and daughter. First grader Eve is upset because a boy in her class called her stupid for wanting to be President when she grows up. Eve’s mom says he’s wrong, and proceeds to tell her all about Kamala, a girl from right there in Oakland who hopes to be President one day.

 

Life is a story
you write day by day.
Kamala’s begins with a name
that means “lotus flower.”
See how her beautiful smile
opens wide, like petals
fanning across the water’s surface?
But you don’t see the flower’s roots. Her roots.
They grow deep, deep, deep down.
Let me show you.

 

Freeman’s beautiful double page spread provides a dramatic entrée into Kamala’s world, depicting her amidst pink lotus blossoms as a happy toddler, sensitive child, intent student, and an adult glowing with confidence. Grimes uses the floral/roots metaphor to great effect, as it prepares the ground for tracing the origins of Kamala’s ancestry, guiding principles and political aspirations. We sense this story will be an edifying blossoming, as we dig below the surface to learn how Kamala grew into the strong, determined leader, truth seeker, trail blazer, and role model she is today.

Young readers will especially appreciate the many pages devoted to Kamala’s early formative years: how her Jamaican father met and married her Indian mother in Berkeley before Kamala was born in Oakland, how they took her with them on civil rights marches, where she repeatedly heard words like “freedom,” “justice,” and “peace” even before she understood what they meant.

After her sister Maya came along, they enjoyed “faraway adventures together,/like visiting their grandparents in Zambia,” soon learning that “fighting for justice/ran in the family.”

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nine cool things on a tuesday

 

 

1. Think pink and chew on this: behold the crazy cool bubblegum sculptures of Rome-based artist Maurizio Savini!

 

 

Yes, I did say bubblegum. Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to pre-chew his chosen medium. Two assistants help him soften bricks of the stuff into malleable sheets before they’re applied to plaster molds like traditional clay, and then carved with a razor-sharp scalpel.

 

 

His subjects include animals, objects from pop culture, and people — sometimes for the purpose of political or social commentary (“pink represents artificiality — when you see it, you associate it with a fake world”). He’s been working with bubblegum for over 20 years, and his pieces are exhibited in galleries all over the globe.

 

 

Since bubblegum cannot typically be recycled or composted, Savini’s art is a creative way of “stretching the boundaries of environmental conscientiousness.” Oh, and don’t worry, his sculptures are preserved with a special mixture of antibiotics and formaldehyde, so they can be enjoyed for generations to come. 😀

 

 

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2. It’s time to order your 2020 Julie Paschkis Vision Calendars!

 

 

This 2020 Vision Calendar is a one page poster, printed on heavy stock, 11″ x 17″. The watercolor and ink drawing celebrates the hope that our democracy will be strengthened and the rights of all protected – that 2020 will be a year of clarity and vision in the United States.

Each calendar costs $12. The entire $12 for each calendar sold goes to the ACLU. They make great gifts. Please get several of them! Shipping is free for 5 calendars or more.

A great cause, a beautiful calendar! Zip over to Julie Paprika to place your order.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Just in case you’re suffering from the winter blues or cabin fever, drink in some of the gorgeous colors, patterns and textures of Este MacLeod’s paintings.

Born in South Africa, Este now lives in London, where she creates beautiful, stylized landscapes, florals and still lives. What a master of layering and composition! There is a certain dreaminess about her work that nourishes the viewer. Shake off the blahs, wake up and embrace the world in living color!

She even has a BLUE alphabet!!! Squee!!

Check out her Floral and Birds Gallery — truly a feast for the eyes.

Limited edition prints, notebooks, tea towels and originals are available for purchase at her Etsy Shop.

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2. New Book Alert! Sometimes you find the nicest surprises in your mailbox. Recently, THE BOOK OF YAWNS by Carolyn Blasinsky (Blazing Sky & Co., 2018) magically appeared.

This adorable board book is just the thing to get the little ones to wind down at bedtime. Full color photographs of eight wild and domestic animals show them practicing the fine art of yawning. Their facial expressions, whether weary, drowsy, or comical, are just plain priceless, and the simple, repetitive text saying “night night” to each animal is hypnotic.

The thing is, after you’ve turned a few pages, you start to get sleepy too. Yawns are contagious! Whether in the forest, ocean, open plains, arctic or back yard, these creatures demonstrate what we all have in common. I especially like the monkey, tiger and seal. Guess who the last animal in the book is?

Mr Cornelius’s favorite is this polar bear!

 

I asked Carolyn, who is my neighbor, to provide a little backstory about the book:

I’m a graphic and web designer and have always wanted to do a children’s book – I was just waiting for the right idea to strike. With a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old I read to them nightly and one book showed a character yawning which made us all yawn and I thought – what about a book all about yawns?! Children love animals and it seemed like the perfect combination. I like simple books that are easy to read (for tired parents at night) and love great photographs and clean, beautiful design. Plus – it helps get my little readers sleepy and ready for bed! My kids love the book and I’ve learned a lot in the process. It’s been an interesting project!

A special treat for animal lovers, THE BOOK OF YAWNS is the perfect new baby, shower or toddler gift. I would  *yawn*  tell you more  *y -a-w -n*  but I really need  *y — a. –w — n*  to take a nap.

Get your copy at the Blazing Sky & Co. website.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

 

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Faith Shearin’s “A Few Things I Ate” (+ a recipe!)

Lucky me, poet friend and kindred spirit Andrea Potos had the Poetry East Spring 2017 Food Issue sent to me shortly after it came out last year. You can bet I’ve been savoring and feasting on it ever since (thanks again, Andrea!).

This special issue, published by DePaul University, contains 49 poems presented in seven courses (truly the perfect meal), along with seven delectable recipes and a bevy of beautiful fine art paintings.

In the Main Course section, I was especially taken with Faith Shearin’s poem, “A Few Things I Ate.” The conversational style drew me in immediately, and I love how Faith built a captivating narrative with an embellished list of telling details, how she subtly wove in deeper regrets as well as fond memories. It’s wonderful how carefully chosen specifics can be so universally relatable.

Are we not all a product of what we’ve eaten throughout our lives? The countless foods, with their why’s and whens and wherefores, reveal our unique, personal stories.

I thank Faith for permission to share her poem, for answering my questions about it, and for her yummy recipe. Enjoy!

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Tailleuses de soupe by François Barraud (1933)

 

A FEW THINGS I ATE
by Faith Shearin

There are a few things I’m sorry I ate: a piece of fried chicken
in an all-night diner that bled when I cut into it,
a soup in an elegant French restaurant where I encountered
a mysterious ring of plastic. Also: a bowl of spaghetti served
with so many long strands of hair I wondered who,
in the kitchen, had gone bald. I’m sorry I ate the fast food
cookies that tasted like paper the same way I am sorry
I let certain men kiss me or hold my hand. I’m especially sorry
I ate a certain hot dog on a train that had been twirling for days
on a lukewarm display. Forgive me for all that cafeteria food
in college: packaged, bland, frozen so long it could not
remember flavor. And, hungry in my dorm, I ate bags
of stale lies from vending machines, once even a pair
of expired Twinkies filled with a terrible chemical cream
I am still digesting. After my daughter was born I bought
so much organic baby food my husband found the jars
everywhere: little glass wishes. One winter I ate exotic fruits
from upscale stores so expensive I might have flown instead
to a distant tropical island. Then, careless, I ate
from containers only my microwave understood. I know
what food is supposed to be but often isn’t; I know
who I might have been if I ate whatever I should have eaten.
Remember the time we ate Ethiopian food and spent
a week dreaming so vividly our real life grew pale?
Or the day we ate so much spice in our Thai food
that our mouths were softer? I’m not sorry I ate
all those ice cream sandwiches from my grandmother’s
freezer and drank those Pepsis with her on the way
to Kmart to buy more pink, plastic toys. She liked
the way sugar made me lively, and anyway,
she was suggesting the possibility of pleasure.
She made a vegetable soup that simmered all day
on the stove: growing deeper, more convincing,
and a carrot cake with cream cheese icing that floated
on my tongue like love. Now I am middle-aged. I am fat
and eating salads or, before bed, talking myself
into rice cakes that taste like despair. My father
is diabetic and must have everything whole wheat
and lean and my sister can’t have any salt. I’m sorry
I ate all that cereal when we first got married,
by myself in the kitchen, the milk pale and worried.
Remember how I covered my fruit with cheese
and mayonnaise? I’m not sorry, whatever
you might say. Then there were the lunches
we ate on the beach, watching the seals
sun themselves: thick chicken sandwiches wrapped
in a foil so silver they must have been valuable.

~ posted by permission of the author, © Poetry East: No. 90 (Food), Spring 2017.

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[sweet review + recipe] A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal

Please help yourself to a Pineapple Macadamia Bar

On Christmas Eve, millions of kids all over the world will be leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, and many will also provide a few carrots for his trusty reindeer.

Though my family did not do this when I was little, I’ve more than made up for it since. Any holiday tradition involving cookies is fine by me, and Santa deserves the very best. 🙂

Until I read A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal (HMH, 2017), I didn’t know very much about Santa in the context of other cultures. As an egocentric American, my concept of “cookies and milk” was very generic — a few sugar cookies here, a gingersnap there, chocolate chip cookies everywhere. That’s understandable when you tend to think Santa belongs only to you.

Silly me, Santa belongs to everyone, and he enjoys lots of deliciously different treats (not all are cookies) as he travels hither and yon. Yes, he swigs a lot of milk, but he’s also able to wet his whistle with tea, beer, sparkling cider, eggnog, hot chocolate and wine. Lucky man!

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