hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Philip Nel

I write books about children’s books. I also teach, read, edit, grade, and occasionally sleep.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I like a cup of tea because it caffeinates me, but not as much as coffee does. (I also like coffee, but it tends to amplify my manic tendencies to the point of distraction.)

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2012); Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, Volume One: 1942-1943 (co-editor with Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics Books, 2013); Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby, Volume Two: 1944-1945 (co-editor with Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics Books, 2014). Forthcoming: Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and Why We Need Diverse Books (Oxford University Press, tentative pub date, late 2016).



☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK:  Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins (Chronicle Books, June 2015).

☕ Visit Phil Nel’s Kansas State University Homepage and his blog Nine Kinds of Pie. Phil also contributes to The Niblings Facebook Page. 🙂

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Check out The Crockett Johnson Homepage!

☕☕ ☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Enjoy Phil’s recent post, “Seuss on Film.”  Interesting to see clips from the 1940’s, 1958, and 1964. The first, “Unusual Occupations,” is the earliest known film footage of Dr. Seuss. 🙂



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

Special Valentine’s Day hotTEA of Children’s Literature: Erik Weibel

Erik is a 13-year-old eighth grader who loves to read. He started his blog, This Kid Reviews Books, when he was nine. Erik writes a monthly book review column for his local free newspaper and is a Scholastic News Kid Reporter. He holds two black belts in martial arts but only uses his skills for good…or does he? MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Loose-Leaf Irish Breakfast Tea – I like the sweet smell, and steeping it for at least 7 minutes to make it taste a bit bitter (I know weird). I put no cream or sugar – sometimes a drop or two of lemon juice.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: The Adventures of Tomato and Pea – Book 1: A Bad Idea (CreateSpace, 2013), and a short story entitled, “The Accidental Agents” in the Kissed by an Angel anthology edited by Robyn Campbell (CreateSpace, December, 2015). Proceeds from Kissed by an Angel benefit the Sturge-Weber Foundation.

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: The Redwall Cookbook by Brian Jacques and Christopher Denise (Philomel, 2005). 

☕ Visit Erik’s blog This Kid Reviews Books!

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Read an excerpt from “The Accidental Agents”:

“I didn’t mean to blow it up,” I said as I slipped into the back seat of our minivan.

“Don’t worry about it, Oscar. It happened last year. They’ve probably forgotten about it,” Mom said. She nervously checked her phone as she piloted our van out of the driveway.

My little sister, Sam, sat next to me bobbing up and down on her seat, humming along to music only she could hear. She was clenching and relaxing her hands, never still for a minute. The doctors said she has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). SPD makes her brain work differently. That means what Sam sees and hears gets mixed up and she constantly tries to make sense out of it. Sam also has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and anxiety disorder too. I think I’d be hyper and anxious if I had all the information in the world coming at me a million miles a second and none of it made sense. My mom said labels are dumb and Sam just has SAM (She’s Absolutely Marvelous).

It’s one of the reasons we attend The Klinkman Alternative Learning Institute (KALI). The kids at our old school made fun of her. Sure, Sam can’t read as well as other kids and maybe she has some odd quirks, but she knows stuff. Like, she can tell you the best spot for fishing by just looking at the environment around a pond and she can build a campfire in a downpour. She can even tell the type and altitude of an airplane flying overhead just by its sound. Don’t let her tiny body fool you either. Sam can toss a 2×4 in the air and snap it in half with a sidekick before it hits the ground.

She saw me watching her blonde curls bounce to her imaginary music and stuck her tongue out at me.


Mom was biting her fingernails again. I thought it was odd she had her briefcase on her lap instead of on the seat next to her.

I hoped it wasn’t the explosion that she’s stressing about.

Sam was one of the reasons we now go to KALI. I am the other. I’ve been labeled genius, prodigy, and gifted. I’ve also been labeled braniac, egghead and poindexter. Labels are dumb. Unlike Sam who tries to take in all information around her, I get hung up on over-analyzing everything.

It took me 45 minutes yesterday to brush my teeth. Well, not so much brushing my teeth. I was calculating the circumference of the water droplets coming from the bathroom faucet and theorizing how large they have to be to break the surface tension of the water to fall. Before I knew it, I was late for school (again).

I won’t even go into the computations that go through my head while tying my shoes. Mom tried to get me sneakers with Velcro to stop that, but Velcro has some fascinating properties…

I digress.

Traffic on the beltway going into Washington, DC was pretty light today.

You are probably wondering about the explosion. Last year, Principal Rozo started a new program for the students at KALI. The “Young Apprentice Program” is pretty much bring your kid to work day, but we also had to do a job and write a report about it. I was excited because we got to go to work with our mom at the NSA (National Security Agency). The director of the NSA invited newspaper reporters in to do a story on the event.


☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Check out my interview with Erik about his book The Adventures of Tomato and Pea! 🙂




Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Jane Dyer

I began my career as a kindergarten teacher and my students’ parents said I should be illustrating children’s books. My first book was GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS in 1984, and I have illustrated over sixty books since then. (Pictured here with my lamb Blossom in our summer playhouse in Western Massachusetts.)


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: My newest favorite tea is Peppermint Bark from The Republic of Tea, which is made with organic green rooibos, peppermint, vanilla, and cocoa. But I begin each morning with their Double Dark Chocolate Maté. As you can see, there is a theme here.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: The House That’s Your Home, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Schwartz & Wade, February 2015). Forthcoming: All We Know, written by Linda Ashman (HarperCollins, March 2016).


☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK(s): Thundercake by Patricia Polacco (Philomel, 1990); Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters and Ann Arnold (HarperCollins, 1992)Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (HarperCollins, 2006) and Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook, written by Gary Goss (Sky Pony Press, 2013).

☕ Visit Jane Dyer’s Official Website and blog.

☕ ☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Read aloud of Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons:


☕ ☕ ☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love:



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Matt Tavares

Matt wrote and illustrated his first picture book as his senior thesis at Bates College in 1997. That book, Zachary’s Ball, was published by Candlewick Press in 2000. Since then, Matt has published fifteen more books, and is working on more. Matt lives in Maine with his wife and two daughters.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Coffee, with a bit of Hood golden egg nog (when seasonally appropriate), preferably out of my Mazza Museum mug.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESS: Growing up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made it from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues (Candlewick, February 2015). Forthcoming: Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin (Candlewick, April 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner (Clarion, 1992).

☕ Visit Matt Tavares’s Official Website. Don’t forget to check out his online shop, where you can order signed giclée prints and hardcover copies of all his books!

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Growing up Pedro Book Trailer:


☕ ☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Matt and Growing Up Pedro were recently featured on Portland’s Channel 8 News “Made in Maine” Segment:



Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Ethan Long

Ethan Long is an internationally recognized children’s book author with over 70 titles to his credit, including the Geisel Award-winning Up, Tall and High, Chamelia and the New Kid in Class, and Tickle the Duck! He is also the creator of Tasty Time with Zefronk, which currently airs worldwide on the Disney Channel. Ethan lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife and three children.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Tea is good. Coffee is ok if you put cream and sugar in it. But hot chocolate made from scratch…mmm. One heaping tablespoon of Hershey’s Cacao Special Dark and one and a half tablespoons of sugar, and of course, hot, hot water or milk.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Fright Club (Bloomsbury, August 2015), Ms. Spell (Holiday House, July 2015); In, Over and On the Farm (Putnam’s, August 2015), and Good Night! (Abrams Appleseed, September 2015). Forthcoming: Thank You! (Abrams Appleseed, January 2016)Lion & Tiger & Bear: Tag! You’re It! (Abrams, March 2016). 


☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola (Prentice Hall, 1975).

☕ Visit Ethan Long’s Official Website

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Book Trailers for In, Over and On the Farm + Ms. Spell!



☕ ☕ ☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Watch an episode of Tasty Time with ZeFronk — Ze Pancakes!



Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.