nine cool things on a tuesday


1. It’s always nice to see new prints in Katie Daisy’s Wheatfield Shop — bright colors are just what we need to get us in the mood for Spring. Of course I have a weakness for hand lettered alphabets and I couldn’t resist the reminder to “Be Kind to Others.” These inkjet prints of her original watercolor and acrylic paintings come in three sizes. Lots more to choose from!




2. New Book Alert! Look what’s coming out next Tuesday, March 22Let’s Go to the Hardware Store by Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai (Henry Holt, 2016)! This is the same team who created the wonderful picture book Truck Stop (Viking Books, 2013), about a family who runs a diner and gets ready to serve a nice hot breakfast to all their regular customers (blueberry muffins! pancakes! bacon and eggs!).


This time, a family who’s just moved into a new house needs to do some fix-ups, so they visit the hardware store to get some tools and supplies:

When the new house needs fixing up, it’s off to the hardware store to find the tools and materials needed to get the job done―a hammer, a screwdriver, a shiny tape measure, and even a stepladder.

This family outing explores a familiar errand that fascinates plenty of young children: the hardware store. Anne Rockwell’s perfectly pitched story and Melissa Iwai’s child-friendly illustrations make this book ideal for the preschool audience.



Anne Rockwell is a household name to picture book lovers; it’s such a treat whenever she publishes a new book. And of course Melissa Iwai won me over big time when she published Soup Day (Henry Holt, 2010). 🙂 Love her cheery palette and engaging details (such a fun way to introduce kids to some basic tools). Her pictures make me miss the small neighborhood mom and pop hardware stores. Everything’s a big superstore these days. Click here to read Melissa’s post about doing the illos for the book.


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Please Look After Michael Bond on His 90th Birthday. Thank You.

via The Sunday Times


The one and only Michael Bond is 90 years old today!

All of us here at Alphabet Soup — especially the 50-something resident Paddingtons — are in a full out tizzy of joy. We’ve been rereading the stories, noshing on marmalade sandwiches, sloshing about in our wellies, and ever-so-politely tipping our bush hats to honor the man who gave us our beloved bear from Darkest Peru some 57 years ago.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man. This small kindhearted gesture would prove to be delightfully fortuitous, spawning a bear chapter book written in just 10 days, 25 more published novels, numerous picture books, board books, an avalanche of Paddington-related toys and other merchandise, several television series, a play, and an award-winning motion picture. Paddington’s likeness has appeared on postage stamps and marmalade jars, and a Paddington balloon was recently introduced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Paddington as a stop-motion puppet for his FilmFair television series (1975).

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please look after Love from Paddington by Michael Bond. thank you.

Guess who’s having a birthday?

Michael Bond, who created Paddington, my most favorite bear character in all of children’s literature, turns 89 today!

photo by Sue Foll

Thought we’d celebrate by taking a look at his latest novel, Love from Paddington (HarperCollins, 2014), the 14th chapter book in his beloved series featuring the marmalade-loving, well-mannered, endlessly charming “rare sort of bear” from Darkest Peru.

Thanks to Mr. Bond, we now have vital proof that bears are indeed good letter writers. LFP contains 15 of Paddington’s letters to his dear Aunt Lucy describing how he met the Brown family at London’s Paddington Station, and about some of the unexpected “misadventures” he gets into (for he’s “just that sort of bear”).

This is the first of the novels to be written in Paddington’s own words, so expect to be totally delighted and amused by his endearing personality and refreshing innocence. Who else could manage to wallpaper himself or saw a table in half while constructing a magazine rack? What happens when he climbs atop a horse, plays a game of cricket, or attends the theatre for the first time? Let’s just say it isn’t every day a marmalade sandwich lands smack dab on a bald man’s head.

It’s hard to pick a favorite episode, but I do love the time Paddington helps out at the barber’s. If some bear accidentally shaves some man’s hair off, the least he can do is glue it back on — and, of course, make further amends with his knowledge of antique Spode Blue Italian bone china (how I love a bear who knows his crockery!).

The man had told me not to touch the top of his head, but it was too late. Whereas it had been covered by a mass of thick black curls, now there wasn’t a hair to be seen. He was completely bald!

There was only one thing for it. I reached for my tube. Mr. Sloop had said his floor was covered with unwanted hair, so I wouldn’t be short of material to repair the damage.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but there were so many different kinds of hair, and so many different colors, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

Whatever the mishap, Paddington always lands on his feet and things work out in the end much to everyone’s relief. Love from Paddington is a great way to whet the appetite for the other books in the series, where these stories are described in greater detail. Those who’ve already read the previous books will enjoy hearing Paddington’s unique take on these somewhat sticky adventures, enjoying yet again his strong sense of right and wrong, his capital bargaining skills, his admirable hat-raising politeness, his enduring kindness, his unmatched appetite for chunky marmalade sandwiches, and his masterful hard stare.


Written to coincide with the Paddington movie release, the book contains wonderful pen-and-ink drawings by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley. Ms. Fortnum was the first to depict Paddington on the page back in the late 50’s, and Mr. Alley, Paddington’s current illustrator, has been drawing him since 1997. I think there have been at least 6 different illustrators through the years, but it’s nice to have the first and the most recent represented in this book.

art by R.W. Alley
art by Peggy Fortnum
art by Peggy Fortnum

I’d like to think that part of Paddington’s enduring appeal is the theme of unconditional acceptance and tolerance. He is an immigrant, after all, and an ursine one at that — yet the Browns happily welcome him into their home and he becomes a member of the family just like that. Good manners (often lacking in these crazy times) never go out of style — something I’ve always loved about this bear. Could you resist him if he tipped his hat at you? 🙂

But ultimately Paddington is just plain lovable and fun. I enjoy reading his observations about the sights, sounds, and the people he encounters in London. I’ve always said that rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man.

Thank you, Mr. Bond, for giving us Paddington!

Happy Happy Bearthday!!



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written by Michael Bond
illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley
published by HarperCollins, December 2014
Chapter Book for ages 8-12, 144 pp.

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*Don’t forget: the Paddington movie opens January 16!



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




five paws up for paddington bear’s apple tart

The furry helpers in the Alphabet Soup kitchen are just counting down the days till the new Paddington movie premieres in the U.S. on Christmas Day, which just happens to be Paddington’s winter birthday (he also celebrates June 25).

Though we’re disappointed Colin Firth decided to leave the project, and that the bear in the first movie trailer didn’t quite feel like the same character from the books, we’re still very pleased that Paddington will likely win over millions of new fans.

HarperCollins is re-releasing some of the Paddington novels and picture books, Michael Bond has written a new novel, Love From Paddington (hitting shelves in December), and there’s the wonderful Paddington Trail with 50 bear statues scattered around London. And what about all the coolio movie tie-in merchandise? Yes, please!

New Paddington Bear finger puppets are faboo!
The set comes with Paddington and Aunt Lucy finger puppets, a two-sided backdrop and 24 stickers.

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happy 50th anniversary to paddington bear!!

The Paddington Closet

Today we’re celebrating our most esteemed guest of honor at the Teddy Bear and Friends Picnic — Paddington!

This October marks 50 years since A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond, was first published by William Collins & Sons in 1958. Paddington has certainly done well for himself since then, with a total of 70 titles translated into 40 languages, and over 35 million books sold. Not bad for a little stowaway from Darkest Peru.


The 28 resident Paddingtons have been gearing up for this birthday celebration for quite some time, but I must report yet another fiasco that could have very well pooped this party for good.

Everything was going swimmingly the past two months until I posted the “Vote for Your Favorite Bear Poll.” We assumed it would be a face-off between Paddington and Pooh, but as it turns out, Pooh won by a mile, and only ONE PERSON voted for Paddington.
   “Paddington Bear” by R. John Wright (2000)

Now, if it had been a close race, the Paddingtons would have accepted defeat gracefully, knowing full well the power of the Disney Machine. They would have had an extra marmalade sandwich and cup of cocoa, and that would have been that.

But only one vote?

The resident Paddingtons were crushed to smithereens. They prostrated themselves with grief:

“Nobody likes us. Nobody likes us. Nobody likes us.”

*Hard stare now emanating from your computer screen*


Friends, they will not be consoled. The only remedy I can think of is to tell you about two books published especially for their 50th Anniversary, and to sing Paddington’s praises in my loudest voice. Very easy to do, since he’s my personal favorite!

First, there’s an adorable mini book about Paddington’s favorite food, called My Book of Marmalade (HarperCollins, 2008). Marmalade is what sustained our bear on his long voyage from Darkest Peru to Paddington Station in London. He made the jar Aunt Lucy gave him last the entire trip, thanks to a skill he learned as a cub: eking. This is the fine art of making a chunk last for several days (easiest for those without functioning teeth). As you may know, Paddington is never without a marmalade sandwich tucked under his hat for emergencies. Some of these have been known to remain there for weeks.

Stickiness is part of his charm, and Mrs. Bird, the housekeeper, loves him all the more for it. In this book, Mrs. Bird shares her special recipe for marmalade, with a few suggestions for other uses. There’s also “Marmalade: A Potted History,” “Marmalade Dos and Don’ts,” “Marmalade Facts,” “How to Remove Marmalade Stains,” and the thoroughly engaging “Marmalade Memories.” Peggy Fortnum’s pen-and-ink drawings decorate the book throughout, on orange and white pages complete with orange paw prints. This is a great gift book for all ages, and a must-have for diehard fans.

Paddington Here and Now (HarperCollins, 2008), is the 12th in Michael Bond’s chapter book series, the first installment in 30 years. Has Michael Bond lost his touch? Not a chunk! All the familiar and cherished elements remain: elevenses with Mr. Gruber at his antiques shop in Portobello Road; Mr. Curry, the grumpy next door neighbor; the Browns — patient, protective, and ever amazed by their resident bear; and Mrs. Bird, the stern housekeeper with a heart of gold.

Paddington, of course, has seven new adventures, the kind only he can have (he’s famous for saying,”Things just happen to me. I’m that sort of bear”) — such as painting Mr. Curry’s front gate with non-drying, anti-burglar paint, having his shopping cart towed away, being interrogated about his immigration status, and trying to pay for a first class vacation for seven using one air mile. You have to love his resourcefulness, ingenuity and unending desire to do his very best no matter the task at hand.

 One of R.W. Alley’s illustrations from PADDINGTON HERE AND NOW

Moreover, Mr. Bond (who received an OBE for his contribution to children’s literature), has skillfully managed to give this book a contemporary feel. There is mention of stir fry, air miles, the London Eye, and Paddington’s encounter with an undercover reporter while working in the garden. Ever so polite, Paddington answers all questions posed by this annoying, intrusive man, who like some journalists, hears what he wants to hear in order to write a sensationalized story (echoes of the National Enquirer here). It is clear that Paddington, despite his naivete, has the upper hand with his arsenal of hard stares, British wit, and perfect comic timing.

These “assaults” of the modern world blend perfectly with the timeless elements prevalent in the series, such as the issue of immigration. Paddington’s tenuous stowaway status brings out the protective nature in all of us (who could resist a tag that says, “Please look after this bear. Thank you”), and it certainly resonates with anyone trying to find a home in a strange, foreign country.

Bronze statue at Paddington Station, London, England

One of the main reasons Paddington appeals to me so much is that at no time in any of the books, does anyone ever question either the appropriateness or outrageousness of adopting a live bear. It is universally acknowledged, in a matter-of-fact manner, that Paddington is real and he’s accepted by the Browns without prejudgment. He’s often referred to as a “gentleman bear,” and his behavior and intentions are exemplary, even as his actions wreak havoc. Here and Now contains deliciously detailed pen-and-ink drawings by R.W. Alley (interview here).

Let’s see if they’re feeling better now:


Some seem to be rallying. Their full recovery from this devastating blow is now entirely up to you. If your only exposure to Paddington has been limited to a few of his picture books, or seeing his likeness on a sippy cup, and you haven’t actually read the original chapter book series or shared it with your children, make it a priority! There’s definitely more to Paddington than meets the eye. And don’t forget the marmalade!

 More good stuff:

Visit illustrator R.W. Alley’s website.

Fabulous article/interview with Michael Bond at the TimesOnline. Did you know he wrote the first Paddington novel in just ten days? And that the character of Paddington was based on his father? Or that he was thinking of the child refugees in wartime Britain and Europe when creating Paddington?

Read about the Marmalade Festival held in the Lake District every year (lovely photos).

Paddington’s Official Website. I especially love this page, featuring the different illustrators that have been honored with depicting his likeness.

COOL FACTOID: A Paddington soft toy was the first object passed through by English tunnellers to their French counterparts when both sides of the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) were joined together. My husband Len, the civil engineer, served as consultant on this project!

Oh, and one more thing:


  Please look after yourself. Thank you!

Interior spread from PADDINGTON HERE AND NOW posted by permission,
copyright © 2008 R.W. Alley, published by HarperCollins. All rights reserved