1. You might think this PB&J sandwich is a photograph, but it’s actually an oil painting! This amazing piece of art was created by Mary Ellen Johnson of Hartsville, South Carolina.
“My work explores the deep connection that food has with humanity. I find the subtle and yet not so subtle power it possesses fascinating, The main focus of my work is to capture this deep connection. My paintings delve into the complicated and curious relationship that we have developed with food throughout our existence. Food has a direct link to our survival and has bound its roots deep within our cultures, societies, and families. It’s everywhere we go and it has worked itself into a pinnacle part of our everyday lives. It’s like a language really because we charge it with so many connotations and meanings. The smell can take you back to a time long ago, the sound of things like bacon frying in a pan can perk you up in the morning, and the sight alone can make your mouth start salivating. Food has great power over us and I’m interested in showing this power in my work. I want the viewer to be confronted by these lofty monstrosities of food and ponder their own relationship with the food that they eat.
1. A monocle, a top hat, a mustache? Definitely the cat’s meow! Am loving Vickie Liu’s adorable donuts and cookies. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Vickie calls herself an amateur baker and professional eater. She started baking in high school and studied architecture and interior design in college.
It was only after getting her degree that she was finally able to devote more time to indulging her passion for decorating sweets. She’s developed quite a following on Instagram and her future plans include launching a lifestyle blog and running a home bakery. Her creations fall into the category of “too cute to eat,” but I think I could be convinced. Yum.
2. Heads up, unpublished children’s book authors of color: check out the Roll of Thunder Publishing Contestsponsored by Penguin Random House in partnership with We Need Diverse Books.™
“In 1974, the Council on Interracial Books sponsored a writing contest seeking out diverse voices. Mildred D. Taylor was the winner of the African-American segment for the manuscript that became Song of the Trees (Dial, 1975), her first book. It introduced the Logan family and was followed by Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), which won the Newbery Medal.
Forty years later, in partnership with We Need Diverse Books™, Penguin Young Readers celebrates this momentous publication by launching a debut children’s fiction contest to find talented, ethnically diverse authors writing for readers ages 8-14.
Submit your manuscript for a book about diversity for ages 8-14 and you could receive a publishing contract from Penguin Random House LLC!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:01:01 AM Eastern Time on April 26, 2016 and 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time on June 21, 2016. Open to people of color (or those who self-identify as other than white) who are residents of the fifty United States, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories and possessions, aged 18 and older.
PRIZE: The confirmed winner will receive a book publishing contract for the publication of a novel for ages 8-14 by Penguin Random House LLC, with an advance of $35,000, plus royalties as follows: (i) on hardcover, 10% up to 50,000 copies and 12.5% thereafter; (ii) on paperback, 6% up to 50,000 copies and 7% thereafter; (iii) on audio, 8% of net; (iv) ebook, 25% of net; (v) world rights/all subrights at a 50/50 split; and (vi) an option on their next children’s or YA novel.
Judging will begin on or about June 28, 2016, and one winner will be chosen from the final group of ten (10) submissions narrowed down from all entries received. Entries will be judged based on (i) overall storytelling; (ii) creativity; (iii) originality; and (iv) writing ability, with equal weight given to each criterion.”
A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists.
Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. Through careful observation she discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented her findings in gorgeous paintings of the life cycles of insects.
More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. To him they were merely a source of income, but to Mary they held a stronger fascination. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past.
Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell helped her mapmaker father in the whaling village of Nantucket. At night they explored the starry sky through his telescope. Maria longed to discover a new comet—and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did.
Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.
I’m a huge Jeannine fan in general and loved Borrowed Namesto pieces, so I’m really excited to read Finding Wonders. Her books are meticulously researched and she is brilliant at excavating and fashioning telling detail to masterful effect, giving the reader an intimate, uniquely nuanced view of her subject(s). She has such a beautiful way of crafting words, whether poetry or prose. Don’t miss this one!
Kids will enjoy learning how to make healthy dishes inspired by fresh local produce and Gleeson’s beautiful natural surroundings (have you seen her idyllic cabin in the woods?). “In addition to its recipes—which span meals, party food, snacks, and beverages—this nonfiction book includes ideas for crafty table decoration, party ideas, an illustrated guide on kitchen safety, and a glossary of culinary terms.”
2. Have you checked out Litographs? They make cool t-shirts, tote bags, temporary tattoos and posters using the full text of literary works. They’re adding new designs all the time to their collection of classic and contemporary books. I like that they’ve partnered with the International Book Bank to send a new book to a community in need for every t-shirt, tote bag, poster or every 5 tattoos they sell. They offer free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Check out this video to see how they make their t-shirts:
3. I’m still thinking about Margie Culver’s “15 Dog Books” series at Librarian’s Quest. If you follow her blog you know that Margie writes the best book reviews — always insightful and thoroughly engaging. After she lost Xena, her beloved chocolate lab and constant companion of 15 years, she decided to pay tribute to this extraordinary dog by featuring 15 recently published dog books (picture books, chapter books, novels, and Maira Kalman’s Beloved Dog).
As much as I loved the reviews, I enjoyed even more the anecdotes and stories about Xena she included in each post. Whether you’re a dog lover or not, I think you’ll be moved and inspired by how Margie describes the deep human-canine connection, the intelligence, fierce loyalty, courage, and playfulness of dogs she’s experienced firsthand and as these traits are explored in the stories, several of which are told from a dog’s point of view.
There’s something for every reader in Margie’s chosen 15, whether you’re a fan of humor, suspense, family stories, or adventure. Click here to go to the first post in the series featuring Michael J. Rosen’s The Tale of Rescue, illustrated by Stan Fellows (Candlewick, 2015), and you’ll likely want to read on and on.
4. Every once in awhile, while casually browsing Pinterest, I’ll stumble upon a cute illustration that makes me smile. Not too long ago, “Cat Bakery” by Aram Kim meowed at me, so naturally I had to find out more about the artist. I was tickled pink to discover that in addition to adorable dog and cat pictures, NYC-based Aram has a thing for drawing food! 🙂 I promptly bookmarked her site with plans to contact her in the future.
It could have been the cats, the bakery, spicy kimchi, or a mutual love of dumplings, but out of the blue Aram emailed me a couple of weeks ago, after following a 7-Imp link to my review of Miracle on 133rd Street. She was happy to discover Alphabet Soup and told me she’s currently working on a food-related picture book called Kimchi Pancakes. Yum! Her debut picture book, Cat on the Bus (Holiday House, 2016), will be out this Fall. Generous Aram also created a special “Cat Bakery” blog header for Alphabet Soup (feast your eyes ⬆⬆⬆). Totally purrrfect, of course! Is there anything better than connecting with kindred spirits? Just goes to show the power of FOOD! Be sure to visit Aram’s website to see more of her charming work!
5. Any time you need a little lift, click over to the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, where you can visit with mama panda Mei Xiang and her adorable cub Bei Bei. While it’s fun to watch Mei munch munch munch on bamboo leaves and catch Bei Bei rolling around on the floor or napping, probably the most adorable thing is when Mei cuddles with Bei Bei. So sweet and heart-melting! But you have to be vigilant and check in frequently. Love watching them!
6. Always a pleasure to drop by They Draw & Cook to see what’s new. This tasty site now features more than 5400 recipes illustrated by artists from around the world, and founders Nate and Salli have so far published 10 books — some are collections featuring single artists, while others feature a curated selection of artists. The Illustrative Chef, the latest in the single artist series, features the bold and vibrant stylings of Edinburgh based former-professional-chef-turned-illustrator Liv Wan. If her bright, eye-popping colors don’t wake you up, nothing else will.
In addition to the recent TDAC book, Liv has published a cookbook of Taiwanese recipes and a children’s book about the Edinburgh Zoo. She’s also worked on projects for the likes of The Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, the Highland Council and the UK Foodies Festival, among others. I love her food maps!
Based on the diaries Susan has kept since she was in her 20s, THE FAIRY TALE GIRL is book one of a two part series. Together the books are an illustrated memoir, charmingly designed in Susan’s style with her whimsical watercolors and personal photographs. It’s an enchanting story of love and loss, mystery and magic that begins in a geranium-colored house in California, and ends up, like any good fairy tale, on the right side of the rabbit hole, in a small cottage in the woods on the New England Island of Martha’s Vineyard.
THE FAIRY TALE GIRL humorously explores Susan’s journey as an artist and as a girl/woman, from the 1950s through the 1980s. In the first book of the series we get a revealing view of Susan’s early life as the oldest of eight children and the marriage she imagined would be forever; it’s filled with inspiration, romance and discovery, and a leap into the unknown.
If you’ve read The Fairy Tale Girl, how did you like it?
8. Just in case you missed it, wanted to point you to Cynthia D. Bertelsen’s excellent blog series, “On the Shelves of Elves: A Baker’s Dozen of British Cookbooks for the Christmas Season” at Gherkins and Tomatoes.
Even though traditional American cuisine is British to the core, with borrowings – not appropriations – from other cultures, the media lately has been full of commentaries such as this. In an attempt to put a more scholarly and rational spin on it, I am beginning by pointing out 13 relatively recent British cookbooks, all with a historical slant. Just in time for Christmas giving, BTW, these books well illustrate the vast and diverse and key source recipes that indeed formed the roots of what is called Southern, and American, cuisine.
This series is obviously an Anglophile’s delight, great not only for those interested in culinary history and exploring the wider context associated with traditional British foods and its influences on American cooking, but with books such as Mary Gwynn’s WI Cookbook (2015), that traces the activities of the Women’s Institute, we see how the roles of women changed over several decades as they gradually moved from the private world of their households into the public sphere inhabited by men.
Fine and fascinating, for the W.I. appeared to be much like the Junior League, a similar American organization for women. Both groups arose at a time when social mores restricted women’s activities and both groups produced cookbooks for charitable purposes, a practice that began during the Civil War years in America (1861-1865).
Start here with Book #1, Florence White’s Good Things in England (1932), then check out the other 12 titles in the series, all listed in the post.
9. Speaking of food illustration, I’ve mentioned Boston-based artist Kendyll Hillegas a couple of times since I interviewed her back in 2014, and with good reason. She continues to amaze me with her meticulously crafted realistic food portraits. She was one of the most generous Indie Spotlight interviewees, taking the time to describe her process step-by-step in great detail.
All along, she’d been answering illustration questions on her tumblr blog, Instagram, etc., and now, due to popular demand, she’s started her own YouTube Channel, where she’ll continue to offer tips and demonstrations for aspiring artists and illustration junkies. Now you can see just how she works her magic, layer by layer, with fascinating time-lapse videos. Check out the work of this very talented artist if you haven’t already done so; she also just happens to be one of the sweetest people I’ve met online.
Here’s her introductory video:
Alrighty, that’s it for this time. Have a great Tuesday and a happy, productive week! Don’t forget to be kind.
Whenever I need a little lift, I take a loveliness break at Lucile’s Kitchen. It’s always such a pleasure to see what new prints or posters she’s added to her shop. Her carefree sketchy style is distinctive and arresting — fruits and veggies seem to dance on the page, and the composition of her illustrated recipes is always interesting with its layers and textures.
Paris-based illustrator Lucile Prache, who’s been studying ballet since childhood, thinks of her creations as dance pieces — they may look easy and effortless on the surface, but a lot of hard work is behind them. She uses watercolor, ink, pencil, Chinese brushes and Wacom Cintiq tablet to create her stunning pieces, everything from French pastries to Vietnamese pho to recipes for chocolate cake and Japanese dumplings. And tea, lots of tea! 🙂
Lucile counts among her influences a love of travel journals and Chinese calligraphy, which she’s been studying since the 80’s. Besides creating the prints she sells at Etsy, she works for a number of corporate clients (fashion magazines, advertising), has illustrated several cookbooks, and is currently working on two more featuring French regional cooking. I love the vitality, whimsy, and joie de vivre in her work, a welcome breath of fresh air. Enjoy!
Just about now you’re probably craving a little something sweet — perhaps a donut, cupcake or macaron? Or maybe PIE! YES!
So here’s a sampler platter of goodies created by London-based artist Nathalie Amber. She was kind enough to allow me to feature several of her luscious watercolors in my blog header this month, and I thought since you were probably drooling over those you’d want to see more. I threw in a few veggies and botanicals to balance our diet. 🙂 In a word, YUM.