Chatting with Debbi Michiko Florence about Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (+ a recipe)

Mochi? Did someone say ‘mochi’? Japanese sticky rice cakes have always been one of my favorite treats!

I’m so happy to welcome Debbi Michiko Florence back to Alphabet Soup today to talk about Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (FSG, 2017), the first book in her brand new early chapter book series officially hitting shelves on July 11. It’s actually being released simultaneously with Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (Book 2). Double the goodness, double the fun!

I’d been keeping my fingers crossed ever since Debbi first mentioned working on Mochi Queen, hoping and hoping over the years that just the right editor would champion this heartwarming story about an 8-year-old Japanese American girl who wants to help her family make mochi for New Year’s. So, it was beyond thrilling to hear that flamingo-and-dessert-loving Jasmine, a spirited and determined royal mess maker, would not only have her own book, but her own series. And how much do I love that the first title in the series is about food? ūüôā

Continue reading

9 cool things on a tuesday

coolpoldark

1. With the world going mad, we need someone easy on the eyes to lift our spirits. Who better than Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark? Season 2 of the series is not coming our way for awhile, so in the meantime, indulge your fantasies about this fine specimen of manhood with the 2017 Poldark Calendar by Andy Rose Photography. Aidan Turner month by month, all year long! Ooh-la-la. Calendar images are also available as prints, or on mugs, fridge magnets, throw pillows, and tea towels. Imagine a Poldark mug full of warm Irish Breakfast tea! Mmmmm.

poldark calendar2

*

2. ¬†Heads up Wizard of Oz fans! The first four books in Debbi Michiko Florence’s new Dorothy and Toto early reader chapter book series published by Picture Window Books are now available for pre-order! The series officially launches in August for library editions (trade paperbacks out in October), and the stories look adorable. Here’s the synopsis for Dorothy and Toto: What’s YOUR Name?:

Dorothy’s made a new friend in the Land of Oz. But every time he sees her and her little dog, Toto, he calls her by a nickname, much to Dorothy’s dismay. With its sweet, gentle tone, this title is a reminder that the best friendships are built on honesty and trust.

dorothycollage1

dorothycollage2

The other books are Dorothy and Toto: The Hunt for the Perfect Present, Dorothy and Toto: The Disappearing Picnic, and Dorothy and Toto: Little Dog Lost. Can’t wait to read them!

*

3. New poetry book alert! The Doll Collection, the first themed anthology published by the newly established small press Terrapin Books, was just released at the end of March. The first anthology to focus solely on dolls, it contains 88 poems by such poets as Gail Gerwin, Adele Kenny, Michael Waters, Susan Rich, Kim Roberts, Charlotte Mandel, Andrea Potos, Richard Garcia and Jeffrey Harrison.

 

Why do dolls compel us so much? What are their meanings? What lessons do they have to teach us? The Doll Collection explores these questions. This wonderful anthology of poems asks us to rethink dolls. Not just toys, dolls signify much more than childhood. Dolls shape our thinking about the female body, about race and class. Dolls influence our understanding of childhood. Symbols of perfection, they both comfort and terrify. Dolls represent, as Freud would say, the “uncanny.” They are replicas, simulacra, souvenirs and secrets. They are objects we recall with intense nostalgia but also bodies we dismember and destroy. They might be made of cornhusks, clay, rags, paper, cloth, wood, porcelain, celluloid, bisque, plastic, or metal. For centuries, dolls have taught us how to understand our world and are windows to other worlds. Dolls are portals to our pasts and to ourselves. Dolls open the doors to our imagination. (from the Introduction, by Nicole Cooley)

You may remember my mentioning that Terrapin Books was founded by New Jersey poet Diane Lockward, whose poems have been featured here at Alphabet Soup many times, along with poems by several other poets featured in this anthology.

*

4. Looking for a unique party favor — maybe for a special birthday, anniversary or graduation party? What about cookies that look like the guest(s) of honor? Check out Parker’s Crazy Cookies! The all-natural vanilla-flavored cookies are low sugar, low fat, and contain no trans fats or high fructose corn syrup. All you have to do is pick a ship date and send them your artwork or photo. You’ll receive a rough draft (open to revisions) within 24-48 hours. Once they receive your approval, your cookies will be freshly baked on the day you requested shipment.

coolcookies4

coolcookies3

coolcookies

This looks like a fun, novel idea. You can also order pet look-alike custom cookies or choose from their all occasion Cookie Collections.

*

5. I’m a big fan of stop motion films and love “Fresh Guacamole” by PES, where familiar objects are used as ingredients. This film was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2013 and is the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar. Brilliant!

*

6. And now, Star Wars fans, behold Darth Grater, a silicone cheese grater that’s “an elegant kitchen implement from a far more civilized age.” Now you can use the unlimited power of the force to add flavor to your cooking. Looks ‘great’ doesn’t it (tee hee)? Coming to a galaxy near you in October 2016. Available now for pre-order. May the cheese be with you.

 

*

7. Here are several beautiful lampshades you definitely wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) want to wear on your head, but they sure would dress up a special lamp perched on an end table in a favorite room.

 

 

The Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter Tea Party shade was the first to catch my eye, but I also love the Woodland Wonders and Bright Birds. All are designed and handmade by Katherine Lainton of Genie Lampshades in the English Cotswolds. They come in several sizes and are suitable for ceiling pendant light fittings or lamp bases.

 

 

*

8. What’s in your tortilla? How about pens and pencils? Check out this fun tortilla pencil case! This tasty beauty holds 12 writing implements and rolls up for convenient storage in your bag or backpack. Nice way to keep things organized. About 10.6″ in diameter. Now, that’s a wrap!

cooltortilla

cooltortilla2

*

9. Finally, I’m addicted to the wonderful “Life Where I’m From” videos. They feature 9-year-old Aiko and her family, who are originally from Canada but are currently living in Japan. Aiko’s father has produced a number of videos to show kids around the world what everyday life is like for them. There are videos about preparing dinner, doing the laundry, showing their apartment, and eating at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, among others. Aiko is adorable and has an endearing screen presence. Her mom is Japanese and her dad is Canadian. Fascinating and educational for all ages, pleasant to watch, easy to get hooked. Here’s the Sushi Restaurant video, which made me wish we had these in the U.S.:

*

All for now, have a good week!


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

a great way to help teen tsunami victims in japan!

Wanted to give you the heads up about TOMO: Friendship Through Fiction — An¬†Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press, March 2012), that was published just last week to benefit teens in the Tohoku region on Honshu, the area hardest hit by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster.

There is a wonderful interview with Holly Thompson, editor of this incredible anthology, at Debtastic Reads. You can learn  more about the project and the Japanese and international authors who contributed their stories for this wonderful charitable initiative, and enter for a chance to win a free copy by leaving a comment no later than March 16, 2012.

“Tomo” means ‘friend’ in Japanese, the perfect title for a book that was created to let teenagers in Japan know that we haven’t forgotten, and want to continue to support them as they rebuild their lives.

Click through, read the interview, enter the giveaway, purchase a copy for yourself or the teens in your life, and help spread the word through all your social networks! TOMO is available at your favorite online bookseller or directly through Stone Bridge Press.

Check out the TOMO blog for even more about all the contributors and the 36 stories in the anthology.

Arigato!

————————————-

Copyright ¬© 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

 

 

tales from high mountain by tara austen weaver

A couple of years ago, I discovered a blog called Tea and Cookies — it was listed by the London¬†Times as one of the 50 Best Food Blogs in the World. I was hooked instantly by Tara Austen Weaver’s fascinating stories of food, travel, cultures, family and friends, and oohed and ahhed over all the gorgeous photos in each and every post.

Just found out that “Tea,” as Tara’s friends call her, has written a book about the first few months she lived high in the mountains of central Japan. Always up for an adventure, she set forth for Takayama when she was just 22, fresh out of grad school. Tales from High Mountain: Stories and Recipes from a Life in Japan¬†is a chronicle of her immersion in a foreign culture, living in a centuries-old, rural town with an established family. There are feasts, festivals,¬† ancient temples, and many new “rules” and customs to learn.

Continue reading