Please help yourself to a nice warm cup of Genmaicha (green tea with brown rice) and a piece of chi chi dango mochi. I remember many a time when my mother made a pot of Genmaicha after a good meal — a soothing way to cleanse the palate and set the stage for some lively ‘talk story.’
A couple of weeks ago, I searched Lee and Low’s website for books I hadn’t yet read and found the perfect picture book to share for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Cool Melons — Turn to Frogs!: The Life and Poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub and Kazuko G. Stone was first published in 1998, so many of you are probably already familiar with it. How did I miss it? I’m so glad I finally read it, as now it’s one of my favorite haiku picture books ever.
I love how every aspect of this book embodies the essence of haiku — its complex simplicity, beauty, elegance, and ability to open the eyes, refresh the mind, and inspire contemplation.
When we were preparing for my mother’s memorial service last month, we found several files full of newspaper clippings, photos and documents relating to her service in the Women’s Army Corpsduring World War II.
It was interesting to see the orders calling her to active duty, a roster of the first 59 women from Hawai’i to enlist, correspondence about awards and medals she had earned, and her certificate of Honorable Discharge. But what my brother and I probably cherished most was a short chronology she had written about her experiences.
Her simple words were an unexpected gift that made us appreciate anew her courage and resolve during uncertain times. She was living on O’ahu when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. She was willing to leave her family and friends to serve in the military at a time of rampant racism and sexism, not knowing where in the world she would be sent once she finished basic training.
“What would happen if all the poets in the world wrote poems to save our forests, rivers, animals, earth, air and oceans? Wouldn’t that be something?” ~ Wordsworth the Mouse Poet
Happy Poetry Friday!
I’m delighted and honored to welcome back award-winning author, poet and educator Frances H. Kakugawa to Alphabet Soup!
You may remember when I shared her beautiful and poignant poem, “Emily Dickinson, I Am Somebody,” (written in the voice of an Alzheimer’s patient), and we learned more about how writing poetry can help ease the heavy burden of caregiving.
Today, Frances is here to tell us a little about her heartwarming, award-winning series of children’s picture books featuring Wordsworth, the poetry-writing mouse. All three stories, a unique combination of poetry + prose, celebrate the power and wonder of poetry, the enduring value of friendship, and the primacy of the imagination.
Imagine a magical Hawaiian night with a fat, round moon streaming its silvery light on ocean and shore, illuminating a mango tree drooping “with heavy, ripe fruit.”
A mother and daughter sit on the lanai of a tiny blue house that is “tucked under the tree’s broad branches,” engaging in a fanciful dialog of “what if” questions and answers. There’s no limit to little Ānuenue’s* curiosity and wild imaginings, no boundaries to her mother’s love.
What if I ate up all those mangoes one by one, and I got so full of them that I turned into a mango tree?
Then I would bring you fresh, cool water to drink every morning. I’d gently pull out any weeds that block the sun and keep the soil healthy for your roots to grow deep and strong. And I would spend my days resting in your shade so that I could tell you about the fantastic adventures of your great-great-grandparents.
Moon Mangoes, a warmhearted, stunningly illustrated picture book that Papertigers reviewer Aline Pereira calls, “an ode to children’s imagination and a meditation on parental love,” has all the makings of a modern classic alongside such perennial favorites as Mama, DoYou Love Me? and TheRunaway Bunny.
I love the pairing of Lindy Shapiro’s lyrical, poetic narrative with Kathleen Peterson’s highly evocative, color saturated spreads rendered in rich jewel tones. Here is a universal theme presented with a distinct Hawaiian flavor, illuminating the lush, natural beauty of the islands and the spirituality and animism characterizing the native peoples.
When I was little, every so often my father would take us for a drive around the island. This was an all-day affair, where we’d see what we could see and eat what we could eat all over O’ahu.
I loved spotting the lunch wagons parked along the Honolulu waterfront, hoping to feast on an onolicious plate lunch with beef stew, teriyaki, or breaded mahimahi. No matter what you ordered, you always got two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. But usually we’d drive right on by because it wasn’t lunch time yet. This only intensified my fascination with lunch wagons: I thought it would be so cool to cook on a little stove in a truck and wait on people through the window on the side. 🙂
I don’t know exactly when people in Hawai’i started calling lunch wagons, “food trucks.” But they’re still a big part of the local scene, enticing the always hungry on side streets and main streets with longstanding island favorites as well as gourmet treats.