[spicy guest post] Pippa Park’s Favorite Korean Stew by Erin Yun

So pleased to welcome NYC author Erin Yun to the blog today. Her debut middle grade novel, Pippa Park Raises Her Game (Fabled Films Press, 2020), is a contemporary reimagining of the Dickens’s classic Great Expectations.



Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.



There are so many things I love about this book: timely themes (ethnic identity, social class, assimilation, friendship, family dynamics), an engaging fast-paced plot, believable characters, just-right humor and tween drama, and lots of mouthwatering food descriptions that make me long for my mom’s Korean cooking. Who could resist a delicious Chuseok feast of homemade galbi, gimbap, japchae, and sweet rice cakes?

Like her plucky heroine Pippa, Erin loves walnut cakes with red bean filling as well as kimchi-jjigae. Wish I had a bowl right now! 🙂


Continue reading

11 cool things on a tuesday


1. The old saying, “good things come in small packages,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to these cool leather-bound miniature books by Colorado artist Ericka VanHorn. These are 1/12 scale and reflect Ericka’s love of fantasy, whether it’s wizards, witches, or steampunk.


Potions book.


Miniature herb table.

In addition to handmade mini books, she creates old curiosities like hourglasses, collector’s cabinets, celestial instruments, potions, scrolls, wands, and candelabras. Most of her items are one of a kind and sell quickly, so the best way to keep up with new pieces is to subscribe to her mailing list. Her brand is “EV Miniatures,” and you can see more of her work at her website (currently under construction), on Pinterest, or at her Facebook page.



Kitchen in Wordsworth’s childhood home.

2. Just in case you’re suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal (and missing Mrs Patmore and Daisy in particular), take a look at these wonderful historic kitchens, all of which are open to the public. I especially like the working kitchen in Wordsworth’s childhood home in Cumbria with its hanging herbs, Queen Victoria’s holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight (built at 3/4 scale to teach children life skills), and the kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, at one time the largest kitchen in England (it would have to be to feed Henry VIII’s court of 600). Love the big fireplaces, work tables and rows of copper pots! Nice places to tour, but I wouldn’t want to actually work in any one of these with their hard-on-the-feet stone floors.

Grey’s Court, Oxfordshire


3. From the Cooler than Cool Department especially for Poetry Month: haiku to go. Really! Have you heard of The Haiku Guys & Gals? They’re a group of performance poets based in NYC, LA, DC, the Berkshires, and traveling worldwide. Next time you organize and/or host an event, consider commissioning these talented people to write on-the-spot custom haiku for all your guests. What could be more fun? Hand them a subject, watch them compose a 5-7-5 mini masterpiece on their antique typewriters. That’s what I call a cool party favor!


Read this article by Haiku Guys & Gals co-founder Lisa Markuson, who recently quit her job to become a full-time haikuist! What?! Yes! Talk about taking a leap of faith and following your dreams. Her words about confidence will inspire and hearten you. I also LOVE this wonderful review of the ovenly bakery in NYC (prose + senryu) from The Haiku Guys & Gals blog.

What’s that? You’re craving a haiku right this minute? Click over to the site and request a free haiku. Just provide a subject (as specific as possible), and you will receive a custom haiku in your mailbox within 48 hours. Of course I had to test this out for myself. I submitted “Colin Firth in the Kitchen” as my subject. And look what came back:

he can take an egg
and turn it into heaven–
hearts, into butter

LOVE! A swoon-worthy senryu! Do they know me, or what? I can tell Colin likes this poem too. Oh yes, I can tell. 🙂

Gratuitous CF pic.


4. Perhaps you have noticed that I am a little more than mad for English pottery. I’ve been collecting for years, most recently Emma Bridgewater pieces — so I was happy to read Emma’s memoir, Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), which shows how she built her business from the ground up with the help of family and friends, factoring in various life events, hard work, serendipity, and flying by the seat of her pants.


I think part of what draws collectors like me to Bridgewater pottery is that it feels personal. Usually when you buy dishes or other home goods, they’re made by a big faceless company and you have no idea who designed the styles and patterns. But Emma is a real person, married to another talented artist, Matthew Rice, and they seem to live an idyllic life in the English countryside, so you feel like you’re buying into that fantasy when you buy the dishes.



Anyway, I loved the memoir and can’t wait to read Emma’s new book Pattern (& the Secrets of Lasting Design), which comes out at the end of May. It features the stories and inspirations behind her iconic designs, the research and collaborations that went into the creative process. This sounds like essential reading for Bridgewater collectors and design students, or anyone who might enjoy the human story behind a familiar piece of crockery. Years after many of the big pottery factories in Stoke-on-Trent closed, Bridgewater continues to thrive, and unlike some manufacturers who’ve transferred production to Asia, Bridgewater still makes all their pieces on-site. I like seeing that coveted “Made in England” backstamp. 🙂 You can read more about Emma here.


5. Korean food lovers! Found this piece about Korean small plates/side dishes, or “banchan” as they are called, interesting. I’ve eaten many of them, but learned about quite a few new ones. Blistered Shishito Peppers, Dried Squid and Gochujang, Daikon and Garlic Pickles, anyone? It certainly proves that when it comes to Korean cuisine, variety is the spice of life. Take a look if you’re curious about the names and ingredients of these palate pleasers beyond the usual varieties of kimchi and muchim.


6. New picture book alert: happy to report that Hawaii-born author Frances Kakugawa has published the fourth book in her popular Wordsworth the Poet series! The new one is called Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket (Watermark Publishing, 2016):

Wordsworth has hardly seen his friends all summer. They have been too caught up in their electronic devices to pay attention to anything around them, and now they are tangled in wires and gadgets! A mysterious old mouse tells him that the secret to saving his friends is in his pocket—what does he have that can help? Emphasizing creative play, imagination and the fun of the outdoors over the allure of video games, computers and cellular phones, this new Wordsworth adventure is a gentle reminder for families that it’s important for young minds to unplug and enjoy real-world friends and activities. Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket is the fourth book in the award-winning series of books featuring the poetry-loving mouse.

Sounds like many electronically ensnared adults should read this book too. What happened to the fine art of face to face conversation? Is it possible for people to go anywhere without constantly checking their cell phones? Like me, Frances is concerned about how overdevelopment is harming the planet and how technology has de-humanized society. If you missed it, read the interview we did when the third Wordsworth book was released a few years ago. All the Wordsworth books celebrate the power and wonder of poetry.


7. Heads up, Little House fans! Just released at the beginning of March: The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by William Anderson (HarperCollins, 2016):

Available for the first time and collected in one volume, the letters of one of America’s most beloved authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a treasure trove that offers new and unexpected understanding of her life and work.

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a vibrant, deeply personal portrait of this revered American author, illuminating her thoughts, travels, philosophies, writing career, and dealings with family, friends, and fans as never before.

This is a fresh look at the author in her own words. Gathered from museums, archives, and personal collections, the letters span over sixty years, from 1894 to 1956, and shed new light on Wilder’s day-to-day living. Here we see her as a businesswoman and an author through reflections on her beloved Little House books; her legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom; and her readers and as a wife and a friend. In her letters, Wilder shares political opinions and reminiscences of frontier childhood. Also included are letters to her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who filled a silent role as editor and collaborator while the famous Little House books were being written.

Wilder biographer William Anderson collected and researched references throughout these letters, and the result is an invaluable historical collection, tracing Wilder’s life through the final days of covered wagon travel and her years of fame as the writer of the Little House books. Here we see her as a farm woman, a country journalist, and a Depression-era author. This collection is a sequel to her beloved stories and a snapshot of twentieth-century living.

Definitely on my Wish List!


Melton Mowbray Pork Pie

8. A delicious treat for Tolkien fans: “Food in the Hobbit” from the Oakden website. Besides their hairy feet, I love that hobbits usually eat 6 meals a day (two dinners!). 🙂 This article provides a historical context for the foods they enjoyed + traditional recipes (seed cakes, pork pies, scones, mince pies, breads, griddle cakes). Oakden sells handmade reproductions of authentic and traditional English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh cookware, baking plates, griddles, and bakestones. Best to keep your larder stocked in case some hungry dwarves should drop by.


9. If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve gone crazy for coloring books and you just happen to be a Julie Paschkis fan, GOOD NEWS: she just added a coloring book to the cool items for sale at Julie Paprika. Since she believes coloring is a wonderful communal activity, her pages are unbound and perfect for sharing with friends. Just picture it — a laid-back evening around the table, everyone busy coloring and chatting and sipping wine or tea. . . Read Julie’s post about Imagination Unbound, which includes 21 images printed on heavy card stock suitable for crayons, markers, pencil, and watercolor.


10. Love this video about Japanese school lunches. This is in sharp contrast to some situations in America, where students have only 15 minutes to wolf down a slice of greasy pizza between classes. In Japan the entire lunch period is a learning experience, a time to practice social etiquette and to share responsibilities for food service and clean-up. Love that everyone brings his/her own set of chopsticks, a placemat, and a toothbrush. The whole thing is so civilized and nurturing. Why can’t we do this in our schools?


11. Finally, if you’re still suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal, rest easy: the brilliant and oh-so-thoughtful Julian Fellowes is coming to the rescue with his new novel, Belgravia (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)! The hardcover print version won’t be out until July 5, but in the meantime you can read the novel in 11 weekly installments just like they did back in Dickens’s day. Episodes 1 & 2 will be released and available for download on Thursday, April 14, 2016. Read or listen on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.


There’s also a Progressive Blog Tour for Belgravia, with reviews and discussions of each weekly episode on different host blogs. The blog tour kicks off at Austen Prose on April 14, where you can view the full schedule. Download the app from the official Belgravia website, where Julian provides more details in a video. Kindle users, go here.


Hope you enjoyed this month’s coolness!

Happy Tuesday, and Happy Week!


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

hot stuff: linda sue park!

Call out the fire department!

We’re serving up some hot stuff for the last course in our Asian Pacific Heritage Month potluck, courtesy of 2002 Newbery Award winner, Linda Sue Park!

Her newest book, Keeping Score (Clarion, 2008), is a warm, captivating, insightful, and sometimes heart-wrenching historical novel set in the 50’s, featuring 9-year-old Maggie Fortini, baseball lover to the core.

No, you don’t have to like or even know much about baseball to love this book. A few paragraphs in, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Maggie-o, as her dad calls her (after his favorite Yankees’ player, Joe DiMaggio). Like everyone else in the neighborhood (except her father and newfound friend, Jim, a firefighter like her dad), Maggie is a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Her loyalty and perseverance are unwavering, as is her fierce determination to make things right. She is heartbroken when her team loses again and again, despite everything she’s done to “help” them, like praying really hard and keeping score for every game.

Jim’s the one who taught Maggie to keep score, and their special bond adds another dramatic layer to the story, since Jim is drafted, sent to Korea, and then stops writing to Maggie after awhile. This prompts her to learn more about the war, but it doesn’t allay her disappointment or uncertainty — a lot to cope with, especially for a girl who takes everything to heart, and ultimately feels responsible for things beyond her control. What happened to Jim in Korea? Can she help make him better? Will the Dodgers ever win the World Series? Much as she wants that, she’d be willing to let the Giants win if it would help Jim.

Keeping Score is superbly crafted, another example of Linda Sue’s masterful storytelling. I don’t think I’ve ever read a finer portrayal of what it really means to be a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool fan. Maggie-o is as pure as they come. And I learned some new things about baseball, the Korean War, and hope. 

Today, Linda Sue is sharing her recipe for Korean bee-bim bop (rice topped with vegetables and meat). It is included in her picture book, Bee-Bim Bop (Clarion, 2005), which is a delightful read aloud written in verse, about a child helping her mother make the dish.

Linda Sue: “There are as many versions of bee-bim bop as there are families who cook it. This recipe is one that we make at home . . . Mung bean sprouts, sesame seeds, kochee-chang, and kimchee are available at many large supermarkets as well as Asian grocery stores.”

(serves 4)

2 cups white rice


2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 green onions (scallions)
5 T soy sauce
2 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame seeds, roasted (optional)
1 T sesame oil (optional)
1/8 tsp black pepper


1 lb. tender, lean beef (such as sirloin tip)


2 carrots
2 pkgs. frozen spinach, defrosted, or 1 lb. fresh spinach, washed
1 lb mung bean sprouts

Other ingredients

4 eggs
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

1. Cook rice with 4 cups water, either in a rice cooker or pot. If using a pot, let the water boil, then lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until the rice is tender and all of the water has been absorbed.

2. Mince the garlic and chop the green onions. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a big bowl.

3. Slice the beef across the grain into very, very thin slices. Put the beef into the bowl with the marinade. Stir well with a big spoon. Wash your hands. Then stick your hands into the bowl, grab handfuls of beef, and squish all of it around for 2-3 minutes (to make it tender). Set beef aside.

4. Beat the eggs with a fork until the whites and yolks are completely mixed together.

5. Coat a nonstick frying pan with 1 tsp. of vegetable oil and heat on medium for about a minute. Pour about 1/4 of the egg, and rotate the pan quickly so the egg spreads out in a thin layer on the bottom. After a minute, flip the egg using a wide spatula, and cook another minute. Cook the rest of the egg this way until you have about 4 thin pancakes.

6. When the pancakes are cool enough to handle, stack them on top of each other and roll the stack tightly. Cut the roll into 1/4-inch slices. Toss the slices in a medium size bowl, then set aside.

7. Julienne the carrots and fry them in about 1 T of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high flame until tender. Set aside.

8. If you are using frozen spinach, thaw, then squeeze some of the water out of it. If you are using fresh spinach, cook in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, drain, let cool for a few minutes, then squeeze some water out. Stir fry thawed or precooked spinach in 1 T of vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes until tender. Empty the spinach into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

9. Pour 1 cup water into a large saucepan, add 1/4 tsp salt, bring to a boil. Add bean sprouts, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the sprouts and empty them into a bowl.

10. Cook the beef with marinade in a large frying pan over high heat, about 2-3 minutes.

To serve:

Put the rice, bowl of egg strips and vegetables, and the pan of meat where everyone can reach them. Each person puts a pile of rice in the middle of a soup bowl or plate and some meat and vegetables on top. Top with egg ribbons. If you like spicy food, add some ko-chee-chang (hot pepper paste). Now mix everything together. Serve with kimchee* on the side if you wish.

(Adapted from the printed recipe found in the book, which contains directions for a child to help an adult.)

For more about Linda Sue and her books, visit her website and blog.

On Keeping Score:

New interview and review at papertigers.org.

Original essay by Linda Sue at Powells Books.

Book excerpt at Amazon.com.

**for some yummy kimchee, click here!