[book review] No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood by Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast

Do you have a bossy older sibling? Wish you could eat ice cream for breakfast instead of oatmeal? Why ride the bus to school when a helicopter would be so much better?

Ah yes, life’s little injustices! If you can’t change them, may as well laugh about them.

In No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood (Orchard Books, 2016), eminent New Yorker contributors Calvin Trillin and Roz Chast serve up big helpings of funny with their poems and pictures about various and sundry everyday things that can drive kids nuts. No matter our age, we’ve all been there. Ever have a wardrobe crisis in the morning?


Oh, this is such a silly rule —
That people must wear pants to school.
A better rule, a wise man said,
is wear your underpants instead.

This little morning complaint is just the beginning. There are complaints about school and for the evening, too. As the title states, no fair! no fair!

Many of the 23 rib-ticklers in this collection were inspired by real-life experiences from Trillin’s children, grandchildren, and his own childhood. Young readers will giggle in recognition at the ploys used to convince one’s parents to get a pet, the earnest desire to send back a new baby brother, and horror of all horrors — sitting next to a scoocher sister who won’t stay on her side of the backseat. Grrrrrr.

She’s over the line,
she’s over the line.
She occupies space
That’s rightfully mine.

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9 Cool Things on a Tuesday

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.

Wow! Love her work. Absolutely stunning and calorie free. Feast on more at Mary Ellen’s Artodyssey blog and Facebook Page. One more for the road:


2. New book alert! Check out Monster Trucks by Anika Denise and Nate Wragg (HarperColllins, 2016) — just what you need for Halloween reading, right? Yep, I’m always looking out for you.🙂

Readers will delight in this lively read-aloud story with a clever and surprising twist at the end—perfect for Halloween and year round!

Ready, set, go! The monster truck race is on in this frightfully delightful picture book.  On a spooky speedway, Monster Trucks moan! Monster Trucks grumble! Monster Trucks groan!

Join Frankentruck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, and more as they race to the finish line. But one of these trucks isn’t quite who you think.

Yes, there’s a trailer🙂.

This one’s already earned a **starred review** from Publishers Weekly. Read Anika’s blog post for some cool backstory about the book!


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[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield


Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.


Well, no. Not exactly.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Curtain Up!


🎻ACT ONE, or The Real Story 🎻

It seems nursery rhymers of yore mistook our dear Miss Muffet for a dainty scaredy-cat milquetoast without really considering:

  1. her true potential
  2. some spiders are undeniably cool
  3. the inherent power of cottage cheese.

Now, thanks to Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield, Miss Patience Muffet finally gets her props in a hilarious new picture book, Miss Muffet, or What Came After (Clarion, 2016), proving, once and for all, that where there’s a will there’s a whey.🙂

Told in sprightly verse as a rousing musical theatre production, the book features a fetching cast that includes an off-stage narrator, a chorus of three (gardener + 2 maids), Webster the spider, and nursery characters Little Bo-Peep and Old King Cole, among others. These clever players had me from their opening lines.


Her given name was Patience.
Her schoolmates called her Pat.
In the garden on a stool
is where one day she sat.
What do we know about her?
Just this much, if you please:
She didn’t care for spiders,
but she did love cottage cheese.


Cottage cheese, cottage cheese,
she eats it every day.
Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
she calls it curds and whey.

In December or in June,
in a bowl, with a spoon.
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.
Very tasty (slightly pasty),
or so we’ve heard her say!

We soon learn that much to her parents’ dismay (her mother yearns for a perfect little miss and her father wishes she’d share his passion for bugs), Pat has a mind of her own.

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Indie Artist Spotlight: Julie Schronk of Just Folks

“Our Big Family” © 2016 Julie Schronk


Each of Julie Schronk’s whimsical folk art paintings feels like a big-hearted welcome, a friendly invitation to step right into the scene to join all the fun.

Fancy an old fashioned church picnic, quilt show or yard sale? Maybe you’d prefer a lazy afternoon at your favorite fishing hole, a stroll down main street, or a quick bite at the local diner. Julie’s cheery, engaging slices of old-timey Americana, rendered in vibrant colors and bustling with activity, brim with just the kind of quirky details that beg a closer look.

“By the Sea”

Originally from Dallas, Julie now lives in Hillsboro, Texas, where she paints traditional, Black, Bayou and bohemian folk art. She calls herself a memory and storyteller painter who kindles memories of bygone days and inspires people to imagine their own stories in her pictures.

Julie’s now in her 16th year of creating and selling her acrylic originals, which have been shipped to almost every state in the union and to countries such as France, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand.

I love the warmth and convivial vitality in Julie’s pieces, which are like mini cultural history lessons with their depictions of cotton gins, juke joints, country stores, Amish barns, farmyards, and city skylines.

“Night Fishin’ on the Bayou”
“Trolleys” is Julie’s favorite painting.

I’m so happy to welcome Julie to Alphabet Soup today to tell us more about her joyous paintings and a bit about her children’s books. I know you’ll enjoy stepping back in time and hearing how this talented artist works.

*  *  *

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Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.


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