nine cool things on a tuesday (+ 2 extra cause it’s holiday time!)

1. Ho ho ho and Merry Merry! Tis the season for sending cool holiday greetings to your nearest and dearest. What could be better than Clover Robin’s gorgeous cut paper creations?

Buy these individually or in sets of 4 large or 5 smaller size. There’s “Joy,” “Winter Hare,” “Festive Wreath,” “Jug of Festive Foliage,” and my favorite, “Teatime.” They’re blank on the inside and come with natural colored 100% recycled envelopes.

You may remember we featured London-based Clover Robin’s charming cut paper collages not too long ago. Check out her Etsy Shop to order these festive cards or any of her other lovely botanical cards and prints.

*

2. This one caught my eye because I’m a big Becca Stadtlander fan. Just released in early October, Made by Hand: A Crafts Sampler, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer (Candlewick, 2018), spotlights 14 handmade objects crafted between 1798 and 1950.

A beautiful, one-of-a-kind volume invites readers to marvel at the time, effort, and care that went into creating handmade toys, tools, and treasures of the past.

Whirr, buzz, hum. Before busy machines in factories turned out most of what we need and use, people crafted these items by hand. From a globe to a pie crimper, a butter churn to a rocking horse, this unique collection highlights fourteen one-of-a-kind objects — each one drafted, stitched, painted, or engraved by hand. Author Carole Lexa Schaefer draws inspiration from real historical artifacts to create thirteen short works of fiction, imagining the hands that might have made and used each item. Several artifacts can be traced to their origin, while others remain complete mysteries, making for a fascinating patchwork of fact, guesswork, and imagination. Illustrator Becca Stadtlander breathes color and charm into this handmade history, bringing to life the different objects, people, and times. The result is a singular glimpse of everyday objects and treasures alike — back when such things were made by hand.

I’ve always been a fan of handmade, “heart-made” objects, and can’t wait to see this book. I love the blending of craft + history + a touch of fiction + Becca’s art. 🙂

*

Continue reading

please look after author and illustrator r.w. alley. thank you.

Break out the marmalade, Paddington Bear turns 60 this year!

On October 13, 1958, Michael Bond published the first book about our favorite ursine from darkest Peru, A Bear Called Paddington. The novel was inspired by a stuffed bear Bond rescued from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve, and it took all of ten days to write.

Today, Paddington boasts an international following with some 70 titles translated into 30 languages, with 30 million copies sold. A beloved British institution, Paddington shows no signs of slowing down with two very successful feature films, oodles of merchandising, and commemorative coins issued by the Royal Mint.

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by chatting with award winning author/illustrator R.W. Alley, who’s been drawing Paddington since 1997. Though there have been several other Paddington artists through the years (Peggy Fortnum was the first), to my knowledge only Mr Alley has illustrated Paddington quite as long, and in all formats — novels, picture books, board books, and early readers. He’s also the only American among the Paddington artists.

Bob first visited Alphabet Soup for the Robert’s Snow Auction in 2007, and I’m honored to welcome him back to reflect on his 20 years as official Paddington illustrator, with thoughts about Paddington at St Paul’s (HarperCollins, 2018), the last Paddington picture book Bond wrote before he passed away in June 2017.

 

UK and USA Paddington at St Paul’s covers

Continue reading

nine cool things on a tuesday

1. How about a pop of color and whimsy? Love the charming crochet assemblages created by Finnish textile artist and teacher Tuija Heikkinen.

A far cry from the kitschy crocheted doilies of yore, Tuija’s designs and illustrations consist of separate crocheted elements arranged in fun, pretty, cheerful ways. Nice to see how she’s reimagined the craft!

See more at her Instagram, where you can also check out her sewing and embroidery projects.

*

2. Coming Soon! Look out for Margo Sorenson’s YA/crossover adult novel Secrets in Translation, to be released October 19, 2018 by Fitzroy Books.

In this celebration of Italian life and culture, seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for the summer to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve year old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring! Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned for their limoncello production, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano becomes frighteningly real. As Alessandra is drawn further into an elaborate conspiracy, she must risk everything to protect herself, her family, and those she loves, and in the process finds herself—and her Italian heart.

I read this one over summer break and loved it! It was the perfect escape from all the madness. I’m still sighing over Margo’s beautiful descriptions of Positano and enjoyed meeting the interesting and intriguing characters in her story. Happy to report that Margo will be doing a guest post here at Alphabet Soup during pub week. Limoncello, anyone? 🙂

*

Continue reading

by the number: musings and milestones (+ a giveaway!)

Hello, my pretties, We’re back!

Hope you had a terrific summer. You’re still adorable, I see. Did you have some work done, or is that just your inner radiance shining through? 🙂

Let’s play the numbers game.

*

 

🍸40 🎉

Forty years ago our families traveled to London from Hawai’i and New Hampshire for our wedding. An Elizabethan banquet with syllabub and boar’s head paté, “Greensleeves” on the lute, a cake with royal icing impossible to cut.

With each passing year we grow more into our essential selves: a practical, handy, scruffy-round-the-edges people-person engineer and a book-bear-truth-loving tea fanatic hopeless dreamer and writer. It was fate — two people from opposite ends of the country meeting and marrying in England. What are the chances? Once restless wanderers adrift, we found a true home in each other. Ruby: symbol of romance, friendship, deep and profound love. A good anniversary for Len and me (of course I was a child bride). 🙂

*

 

  🥄 🍲 25 🥢

My first published picture book, Dumpling Soup, winner of Little, Brown’s New Voices, New World Multicultural Fiction Contest, celebrates its 25th year in print this month. For a writer, there is only one first book, and it will always be special.

Long before the current diversity movement, there was a brief window of time when publishers sought “multicultural stories” for the children’s market. Though that got my foot in the door, it proved to be a passing fad, and writers of color like me largely remained at the bottom of the totem pole. Fast forward a couple of decades: today, “diversity” is the new buzz word in publishing — it encompasses not only ethnicity, but religious and cultural diversity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical disabilities. It’s taking some time, but progress is being made. Every child should be able to see him or herself in a book. All children should be given the opportunity to widen their perspectives, which will in turn help them understand how people everywhere are basically more alike than different.

 

Do you see the green potted plant to the right of the blue door?

 

Some Dumpling Soup trivia: During the revision stage, not one, but three editors provided written feedback on the manuscript; all the characters in the book are based on real people, some of whom have died since the book came out (Aunty Elsie, Aunty Ruth, Uncle Myung Ho, my mother); I named the main character after my cousin Marisa, who is now a mom with 2 kids; I was once contacted by an indie filmmaker about a possible DS movie (sadly, it didn’t pan out).

 

Here is dumpling me standing on the real front step where the plant is in the illustration.

 

A heartfelt thank you to all the teachers, librarians, parents, booksellers and readers who’ve helped keep the book in print all this time.

Happy 25th Anniversary to Dumpling Soup!

*

 

 🥣 11 🥣

Thanks for the cool kitchen towel, Sylvia Vardell!

 

Eleven random bits and bobs for Alphabet Soup’s 11th birthday:

1. I almost named the blog “A Word in Edgewise,” but decided on “Alphabet Soup” because at the time I was writing a chapter book about an alphabet collector, and because FOOD.

2. The part I like best about doing a post is inserting the images after I’ve finished writing the text (still hardest for me). I usually don’t begin writing until I have all the pictures lined up.

3. I’m happy to report that last year’s Photobucket fiasco is finally behind me. It took me 4 solid months, working every single day, to recover most of the linked images. This involved saving every image from 1800+ posts one by one to my computer, re-uploading them to my WordPress Media Library, then re-inserting them into their respective posts. Thousands of images. Extremely tedious. The good part was discovering old posts I completely forgot about, deleting deadwood, and fixing the screwy formatting on some old Livejournal posts.

4. The post that got the most hits this past year is the one featuring UK-based ceramicist Katrin Moye. In fact, it’s the most popular post of all time. Hooray for Pinterest users! The most popular interview is still the one I did with Little House actor Sidney Greenbush back in 2009 (she and her twin sister played Carrie on the TV series). Most popular recipe: Hawaiian Sweet Bread Pudding.

5. The most frustrating thing about doing this blog is when an interview falls through. I approach an author or artist about an interview, they agree, I invest considerable time researching or reading their work, send them questions, and then they blow me off.

Please, if you’re an author or artist and 1) don’t have time to do an interview, 2) don’t want to do an interview, or 3) something comes up and you can’t follow through after you’ve received my questions, PLEASE say no up front, or have the courtesy to tell me you’ve changed your mind for any reason (I’m an understanding and patient person, but cannot abide rudeness).

Fortunately this is a rare occurrence, mostly with indie artists rather than children’s book authors, but still. There is a picture book author who did this to me a few years ago after I sent two polite reminders (which I hate to do), and I will NEVER feature her books here ever.

6. This goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: I have the BEST blog readers on the planet — smart, literate, polite, generous, funny, candid, loyal. You’re not bad looking, either. The thing is, if I let myself think, even for a minute, about how much more you probably know about the subjects I’m writing about than I do — I would totally freeze up and not be able to write a single word. So thanks for letting me pretend. 🙂

7. I haven’t been doing Soup of the Day posts recently because all of the alphabet pastas I formerly used are no longer available. The ones out there now are either too thin and delicate or too small. Sigh.

8. Secret husband Colin Firth seems to have reconciled with his wife Livia after a rough patch (they were separated for awhile and Livia had an affair with an Italian journalist who then stalked her). We wish Colin an extra Happy 58th Birthday on September 10. My, but he ages well . . .

 

Colin and Livia (Venice, 2017)

 

9. One of the perils (actually most fun part) of doing this blog is acquiring more books, bears, china and other miscellaneous props. A few things I now own thanks to blogging: three miniature violins, several 19th century pink luster teacups and saucers (thanks to Tasha Tudor), magnetic Shakespeare play set, loads of finger puppets, Beatrix Potter figurines, green army men, mini soccer balls, a teensy wheel of Camembear cheese, a custom knitted scarf and winter hat for Mr Cornelius, Wonder Woman and Hillary Clinton action figures. Ebay is my second home. I am now poor. But all this is so educational. 🙂

 

from the Props Department

 

10. One of the funniest things to happen while taking a picture was having the pink exercise bear’s arms go flying across the room. She’s ceramic, and her arms are spring loaded. I tried to position her arms a little and something snapped. BOING. Luckily Len is handy. It was a bear to fix. 😀

11. I’ve been lucky at not having had many recipe disasters — they’re more like disappointment at some things not turning out as photogenic as I had hoped. I did have to make Prince Harry’s favorite Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins twice, though. First time I added too much peanut butter, which didn’t sink to the middle of the muffins as the recipe promised. They were a mess but the squirrels liked them.

Happy Blog Birthday, Alphabet Soup!

*

 

 🐻 30 🐻

Guess how old Mr Cornelius is? At heart, he will always be about six years old, just like Paddington. But he actually turned 30 in August. Did you know “Cornelius” is his screen name? He’s a handmade artist bear I purchased back in 1988 at a teddy bear show in Timonium, Maryland. The artist is still making and selling bears, and I must say, she does exceptional work; Cornelius has held up so well despite being tossed in suitcases and traveling hither and yon and made to pose in countless photos for the blog.

When I first started blogging here at WordPress in 2011, I contacted the artist about an interview, explaining that one of her “Bitsy Bears” was my blog mascot. I thought it would be a nice way to find out more about how she created Cornelius and plug her cottage business at the same time. She agreed without hesitation, I sent her some questions, then waited 2 years for her to get back to me.

Finally, I sent a polite follow-up email, mentioning that I knew she was probably very busy, but I’d still be interested in receiving her answers. Nothing. I do think the ease of using the delete button allows some to forget there’s a REAL PERSON with good intentions waiting on the other end. I don’t get angry, but I’m an elephant. I don’t forget.

 

I haven’t told Cornelius about any of this. He would be very disappointed. Anyway, since it’s his 30th birthday, I will reveal his given name: TUCKER. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. You heard it here first. 🙂

 

Among his many talents, Cornelius is a master of 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles.

*

 

 💼 60 🥪

Sixty years ago this October, Michael Bond published the very first book about the beloved bear from darkest Peru, A Bear Called Paddington. Paddington’s easily my favorite literary bear (can you tell?), and my favorite children’s book character of all time.

I didn’t read any of the Paddington books growing up; I was introduced to him by one of my 9th grade students in London. She gave me a Paddington ruler, which made me anxious to read all the stories. Seems Paddington was more a UK thing than an American thing (Pooh is more well known here because of Disney). Thanks to two crackerjack movies, Paddington’s popularity has recently widened in America.

I guess I like and appreciate Paddington because he is a bear for the times — an immigrant/stowaway who maintains a positive attitude no matter what. He’s accepting of others and has a way of bringing out the best in people. He’s also unfailingly kind and polite — traits we could certainly use more of these days.

Paddington was very “real” to Michael Bond, like a member of the family. So much more than a character in a book. We live with 70+ Paddingtons, and I feel the same. He’s a constant source of comfort, solace and amusement; we don’t mind the sticky marmalade pawprints one bit.

Very happy to tell you that Paddington illustrator R.W. Alley will be visiting Alphabet Soup next month. He will be talking about the last Paddington picture book he illustrated, Paddington at St Paul’s (released in June), as well as sharing general thoughts about drawing Paddington since 1997. Can’t wait!

*

 

 🎉 1 + 50 DUMPLING SOUP GIVEAWAY! 📒

To celebrate Dumpling Soup’s 25th Anniversary, we’re giving away a signed  hardcover of the book + a $50 Amazon gift card. The hardcover is the original trade edition published by Little, Brown, a copy from my personal stash (only the paperback is still in print). This is different from the Library Edition being published by Perfection Learning (don’t like how they reproduced the cover).

For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Tuesday, September 18, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with DUMPLINGS in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!

*

Looking forward to a great Fall (my favorite season). Thanks for your continued support!

HAPPY READING

HAPPY WRITING

HAPPY EATING

RESIST

PERSIST

THINK BLUE


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Hooray, Hooray! It’s official release day for Groundhug Day by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)!

Moose is having a Valentine’s Day party, and all his friends are so excited! Everyone except Groundhog, that is. If Groundhog sees his shadow outside, he’ll hide in his hole for six more weeks and miss the party!

Determined to help their friend join them, Moose, Squirrel, Bunny, and Porcupine put their heads together and come up with a plan. But will it be enough to get Groundhog out to play?

This heartwarming picture book by the author of Vampirina Ballerina, with adorable illustrations by Christopher Denise, is sure to be a hit, whether readers are bursting for spring or snuggling up for six more weeks of winter.

As a fan of Anne Marie’s Pigloo and Vampirina series, and many of Christopher’s books – especially his Redwall and bear books (Baking Day at Grandma’s, Me With You), I’m really looking forward to reading this one. How can anyone look at that adorable cover and not want to scoop this book up immediately?  Lovable animals, hearts, balloons, pink cake on the table . . . sigh. I am so there. Get yours now so you’ll be all set when Groundhog’s Day and Valentine’s Day roll around.

*Check out this Goodreads giveaway running now till December 12: enter for a chance to win one of two copies signed by both author and illustrator.

Happy Book Birthday, Anne Marie and Christopher!

*

2. Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Jedi Master Chef used the Force to whip up out-of-this-world treats. No secret ingredients or light sabers necessary when wielding just the right spatula for just the right batter. Check out this set of Star Wars™ spatulas — one medium and two mini — all with durable silicone heads (heat resistant up to 600 degrees), and guaranteed not to chip or crack. Love the rounded beech wood handles, too!

If you’re a muggles-pleasing kitchen wizard, you might prefer one of these Harry Potter™ spatulas. Whether you’re Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Ravenclaw, you’ll be able to create pure magic for those you love (Mrs. Weasley’s fruitcake, a treacle tart, or peppermint toad, anyone?). Mix, fold, scrape, scrape.

*

Continue reading