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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special valentine’s day art giveaway!!


Do you remember the lovely painting I included in my very first post of 2009, called "The Road to Heavenly Hana?" Well, the very generous and talented artist who created it, Renee Coates, is sponsoring a special Valentine’s Day giveaway just for readers of alphabet soup!

That’s right! You may win a signed, limited edition print of your choosing just by going to, and telling us which painting you like the most!

I asked Renee to tell us a little about herself, her work, and her websites, 52 Pieces and 52 Prints:

I’m primarily inspired by Hana Maui, where I grew up and nurtured my love of painting.  I try to convey the essence of Hana, with its lush foliage, tropical scenery, and kind-hearted people.  I love transforming ordinary objects or landscapes with vibrant color and unusual shapes.  I try to offer people a way to see the world a new way through my paintings.

My favorite medium is oil, and I also love collaging.  My favorite subjects are Hana scenes (which I’m currently focusing on for the months of Jan. and Feb. on 52 Prints), but I also have a fondness for cows and horses.  Our family home in Hana is near Hana Ranch, so we had a lot of cows roaming our back yard!  I think they are interesting creatures with a prominent bone structure that I find fun to paint.

"Seven Pools" by Renee Coates

My main goal with 52 Pieces and 52 Prints is to give everyone a way to incorporate art into their lives.  For so long, the art world has roped itself off from everyday people who are often intimidated by the brick-and-mortar establishment.  Now, the internet gives patrons a way to connect with the artist and ask questions, give feedback, and COMMUNICATE!  52 Prints makes buying art fun and engaging, giving everyone a great way to fill their walls with limited edition prints that won’t break the bank.

At 52 Pieces, each week an original  6" x 6" oil painting (signed, with certificate of authenticity) is posted on Sunday at 12:59 p.m. (EST), and auctioned off on Ebay.

Then, 100  7" x 7" prints of each of these paintings are made and sold at 52 Prints, according to "snowball pricing." Print #1 goes for $1, Print #2, for $2, and so on, until all pieces in the limited edition are sold. All prints are of identical quality and come hand-signed with a certificate of authenticity.


Simply go to 52 Prints, select which of the 7" x 7" prints you like most, then tell us in a comment here, no later than midnight (EST), February 13th. Renee will randomly select a name on Valentine’s Day, and send the winner #14 of the chosen print. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to own a little piece of Hawai’i!

Renee, whose work is characterized by rich, saturated color in a "Gauguin-esque" style, has received national acclaim for her artistic achievements, including the National Alliance for Excellence Award, and the State of Hawaii’s Sterling Scholar Award in Visual Arts. We thank her for making Valentine’s Day extra special and for sharing the love!

Be sure to check out 52 Pieces regularly for each week’s new painting. You can read more about the inspiration behind each piece on Renee’s blog. If you’d like to be notified by email whenever a new original painting or print is available, click here.

**For Obama fans: Renee has created a special T-shirt in honor of the first President born in Hawai’i. See it here.


*All images posted by permission of the illustrator, copyright © 2009 Renee Coates. All rights reserved.

keep your eyes on the hands

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*