Sometimes when people really like something they’ll say: I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Could be heaven and Mars are the same place. As long as there’s pie!
I’m convinced Judi Barrett wrote the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs book just for me. A story about edible precipitation, with mashed potato snow, hamburger storms and SOUP rain (forcryingoutloud) has my name written all over it, does it not? My toes still tingle when I read about the giant pancake that covered the school, and how the residents of ChewandSwallow set sail on rafts made from giant pieces of stale bread (holy peanut butter).
And then, some 19 years later, Ms. Barrett gifted me with Pickles to Pittsburgh. I swooned over the giant airlifted hot dogs and tuna fish sandwiches and a charitable world where “there is always enough food for everyone.”
What could be sweeter than having a lovely lady bring you a tray of freshly baked cupcakes?
Please help me welcome debut author Natasha Lowe, who’s just published an indescribably delicious middle grade novel that I absolutely adore!
The Power of Poppy Pendle (Paula Wiseman/S&S, 2012) is about a girl with a passion for baking who inherits an extraordinary gift of magic. Poppy’s parents enroll her in Ruthersfield Academy, an exclusive school for witchcraft, with high hopes she’ll follow in the footsteps of her famous Great-Granny Mabel.
But Poppy is miserable. She’s teased mercilessly in school because she’d rather create new recipes than cast spells. She repeatedly tells her parents she doesn’t like magic but they just won’t listen. Frustrated and angry at being misunderstood, and unwilling to give up her dreams of becoming a master baker someday, Poppy takes matters into her own hands, misusing her magic powers to disastrous results.
I’m so pleased and excited to welcome back Newbery Honor award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin to Alphabet Soup and to congratulate her on the publication this week of Starry River of the Sky (Little, Brown, 2012)!
When I featured Where the Mountain Meets the Moon back in 2009, I gave it my highest five spoon rating and hoped it would get a Newbery nod. Her hybrid folklore fantasy (with gorgeous full-color illustrations) felt like a modern classic. How could she possibly top herself?
In Starry River of the Sky, Grace once again creates a wondrous tapestry of Chinese folklore seamlessly interwoven within the main narrative. Lyrical prose, mystery, adventure, suspense, magic, an odd cast of characters, humor and delightful surprises characterize this enchanting companion novel about a young runaway who is “taught by kindness” and finds peace through empathy and forgiveness.
Angry, stranded Rendi begrudgingly works as an innkeeper’s chore boy in the remote Village of Clear Sky. He’s baffled and annoyed by its peculiar, unhappy residents and is troubled by the missing moon and the sky’s nightly moans.
When the mysterious Madame Chang arrives with the gift of storytelling, fortunes begin to change. She challenges Rendi to reciprocate with stories of his own, which gradually reveal who he really is and why he ran away. As he learns to trust the other villagers, Rendi realizes the stories hold answers to his many questions about how to save the dying village and resolve his own familial conflict.
“Master Chao seemed not to notice and brought Peiyi in front of him. He gently pushed her tangled hair from her cherry-blossom-pink face. She stood as still as a carved statue, with only her eyes moving, as her father dipped his finger into the wine mixture and carefully wrote ‘wang’, a symbol of power, with it on her forehead. Rendi watched from the doorway, and a strange, jealous anger filled him.” (Chapter 2)It’s an emotional journey of self discovery for Rendi, but all are transformed by the stories they hear and tell, as new friendships are forged, and moon, mountain, balance and harmony are restored.
The simply told stories are laced with profound universal truths. They circle back and build upon each other, suggesting the interrelationship of all things, adding rich layers of cultural and historical context. Starry River of the Sky is exquisitely crafted, by its own example a paean to the power of story — its ability to enlighten, heal, inspire, unite, and reconcile.
Alphabet Soup is pleased and honored to be participating in the six-stop Blog Tour, which begins today and runs through next Tuesday, October 9. Grace will be visiting each blog, so be sure to bookmark all the stops so you don’t miss anything.
As far as I’m concerned, any time Grace publishes a new book, it is cause for big celebration. I’m a huge fan of both her gorgeous picture books and her heartwarming novels about Pacy Lin, Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat. When I interviewed Grace last year, she had recently returned from visiting China and Taiwan, and she talked about how she hoped to incorporate some of the sights and sounds of her fascinating experiences in a new book.