SOUP’S ON: James Rumford in the Kitchen Interview!


Today I have the distinct honor and privilege of welcoming award winning children’s author/illustrator, James Rumford, to alphabet soup! As I mentioned in the profile I posted recently, Jim has published over a dozen picture books; most are works of historical fiction or biography, which display his passion for and unsurpassed knowledge of ancient languages, alphabets and numbers.

A native of Long Beach, California, Jim is a world traveler who has lived in Manoa, on the island of O’ahu, for the last thirty years or so. There he creates gorgeous picture books that are a distinctive blend of art, calligraphy, lyrical text, and innovative book design. Jim also makes beautiful handmade books for his own company, Manoa Press.

In 2008, Jim published Silent Music (Roaring Brook Press), and Chee-lin: A Giraffe’s Journey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). I asked him about these two projects, his love for languages, and all about his general creative process. You will see, by his answers, why he has been called a Renaissance Man.

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keep your eyes on the hands: Carla Golembe’s The Story of Hula

Tired of winter’s bleak, gray landscape? Feeling a little cooped up and color starved?

You’ve come to the right place!

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we have three winners!

The official alphabet soup kitchen helpers have had a busy month.

At the beginning of January, they were told the most well behaved bear would get to draw the winning names in the Dumpling Soup giveaway.

Ever since then, they’ve done everything they can think of to impress me.

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those bawdy hawaiians

Recently, while searching for a Hawaiian mele to share with you, I came across a lovely video of the Peter Moon Band (PMB) performing "Mauna Loa." 

It’s vintage, quintessential Hawaiiana, so typical of the "no hurry" mindset I miss so much. The sweet, sublime harmonies draw out the emotions of the lilting melody, and I was so sipping ambrosial liquid from a coconut shell and walking along the beach at sunset with Tom Selleck, when a disturbing thought occurred to me: I had no idea what they were singing about.

I guess the common assumption is that most Hawaiian songs are about green mountains, tropical flowers, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and the rolling waves of the sea. Some of them probably are, but I found, much to my amusement and amazement, that this one wasn’t.

Listen to the song, let it transport you, then try to guess what it’s about. So deceptively sweet!

Apparently, this song is about a spurned lover, a man who’s married to a promiscuous woman with hips as wide as a ship. He’s giving her the final brush-off, comparing himself to the roach eaten hanky used to wipe her pointy shoes.

Hawaiians are famous for using a sly, centuries-old poetic device called kaona, or multi-layered metaphor. Innocuous images are often used to mask a not-so-innocent statement. There is much carnality and bawdiness in Hawaiian songs, and kaona allows the singer to convey double or triple entendre, with relative ease. Hence, the metaphor of the ship named "Mauna Loa," never returning to the same port.

Next time you hear a Hawaiian song mentioning rain or mist, take heed; these images are the poetic equivalent of lovemaking. *fans self*

the real thing: graham salisbury

If you asked me who’s writing the very best Hawai’i-related children’s fiction these days, the answer would be very simple: Graham Salisbury.

For almost two decades, I’ve read his short stories and middle grade novels with awe and admiration, grateful that someone has been able to accurately capture the soul, spirit, and authentic flavor of the Islands. I’ve read other books set in Hawai’i — there are palm trees, beaches, and volcanoes galore, but when it comes to portraying characters who feel so believably local that I’m sure I must have known them at some point in my life, Salisbury’s the man.

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