[review + recipe] On Wings of Words by Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander

 

Each bird, bee, blossom, butterfly — was a source of joy and wonder for young Emily Dickinson. In this beautiful new picture book biography, aptly illustrated with a butterfly motif, we witness her singular metamorphosis from a keenly observant child into one of the most original and innovative poets in American literature.

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander (Chronicle Books, 2020), traces Dickinson’s life from her birth on a snowy December evening in 1830 until her death in May 1886, with a unique focus on how her writing liberated, challenged, and sustained her, and why she eventually chose a life of solitude in order to be her truest self.

Berne’s lyrical narrative is artfully interwoven with Emily’s own words, creating an intimate sense of immediacy as we become privy to the poet’s “letter to the World.”

 

 

We first see how young Emily “met the world,” exploring her natural surroundings with great curiosity and affection. Nothing was too small or insignificant to warrant her full attention, and she “found new words for everything she was discovering.”

The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly . . .
The brooks laugh louder
when I come.

Emily loved so many things — her brother Austin, her school friends, and most of all, books, for each “was an adventure, a distant journey on a sea of words.” From early on, she was intense and passionate, with strong desires, deep thoughts, and heightened emotional highs and lows.

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[review + yummy cake recipe] Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit by Linda E. Marshall and Ilaria Urbinati

 

Once upon another time, I was lucky enough to visit England’s glorious Lake District, where vistas of pristine lakes, rolling green pastures dotted with sheep, lush vales, charming stone cottages, miles of slate and dry stone walls bordering fertile farmland, and magnificent fells rising in the distance took my breath away.

I was curious to see the area after learning that England’s greatest poets and writers had flocked there for three centuries. Though studying the Romantic poets in college had stirred my wanderlust (my “friends” Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Blake, and Byron enabled me to envision this paradise on earth), it wasn’t until I fully tuned into Beatrix Potter’s connection with Lakeland that I became totally smitten. Visiting Hill Top Farm made me a forever diehard fan.

 

Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey

 

Beatrix didn’t just love the countryside, she helped preserve it for future generations. And she established this amazing legacy at a time when it was not proper for women to “travel, attend college, or work.” Her groundbreaking accomplishments are highlighted in this wonderful new picture book, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit, by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Ilaria Urbinati (little bee books, 2020).

Young readers will find it interesting that in addition to writing the beloved Peter Rabbit books, Beatrix was also a natural scientist, savvy businesswoman, sheep farmer, and ardent conservationist.

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[lickalicious review] The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle by Anne Renaud and Milan Pavlović

 

Remember eating an icy cold Popsicle® on a warm summer’s day when you were little? Your lips would freeze as you licked, slurped, and bit into it, the juice running down your chin. And then, when you were done, you proudly stuck out your tongue to show everyone how it had turned red, orange, or purple.

But for all the Popsicles® you’ve enjoyed in your lifetime, did you ever wonder who actually invented them? You may be surprised to hear it was an 11-year-old boy.

In their delightful new picture book, The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle: The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat (Kids Can Press, 2019), author Anne Renaud and illustrator Milan Pavlović serve up all the frosty essentials in colorful, lickalicious detail.

 

 

Inquisitive, bright, and enterprising, California native Frank Epperson was born with the heart and mind of an inventor. As a boy, he “pondered important questions,” such as:

Do goldfish sleep?

Do ants have ears?

Do woodpeckers get headaches from pecking all day?

His ability to direct positive energy towards developing his ideas proved advantageous early on. Since inventing required experimentation, he was constantly doodling, designing, tinkering, testing, analyzing and scrutinizing.

By the time he was ten, “he had already masterminded his first invention: a handcar with two handles,” which ran twice as fast as one-handled cars. How he loved whizzing around the neighborhood in it!

 

 

Frank also enjoyed experimenting with liquids, especially flavored soda waters. He “had his heart set on inventing the yummiest, most thirst-quenching, lip-smacking soda water drink ever!”

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[mouthwatering review] magic ramen by andrea wang and kana urbanowicz

“Mankind is Noodlekind” ~ Momofuku Ando

 

Know what would really hit the spot right about now?

A warm bowl of instant ramen. Care to join me?

 

 

I can’t even guess how many years I’ve been going from “hungry to happy” with Top Ramen and Cup Noodles. They’re pretty unbeatable (and ubiquitous) as comfort food — quick, convenient, portable, shelf stable, cheap, tasty and satisfying. It’s the kind of thing you take for granted, the food that helped you get through college. 🙂

But do you know who actually invented instant ramen?

 

 

I first heard of Taiwanese-born Momofuku Ando in an article that appeared in David Chang’s inaugural issue of the now defunct Lucky Peach magazine (2011). What a fascinating and inspirational story! Anyone who’s ever slurped up their fair share of ramen should know the who, what, when, how, and why of what the Japanese consider to be their best invention of the 20th century.

 

 

Now, thanks to Andrea Wang and Kana Urbanowicz, hungry, noodle-loving kids can read all about it in a new picture book, Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando (little bee books, 2019). They will see that because of one man’s compassion, ingenuity, persistence, and entrepreneurial smarts, people all over the world can make their own delicious ramen “anywhere, anytime” in just a few minutes. 🙂

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[tuneful review] Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World by Gary Golio and Rudy Gutierrez

“There’s a melody in everything. And once you find the melody, then you connect immediately with the heart. Because sometimes English or Spanish, Swahili or any language gets in the way. But nothing penetrates the heart faster than the melody.” ~ Carlos Santana

Just as there are celebrated rock singers whose vocals are instantly recognizable (Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks), there are electric guitarists whose signature stylings and timbres we’d know just about anywhere.

Carlos Santana is rightfully ranked among the greatest rock guitarists of all time, alongside such masters as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. When you hear the pure, piercing tone of his guitar as it caresses a melodic line (oh, those amazing solo riffs and sustained notes!), there’s no mistaking whose fiery, impassioned “voice” you’re hearing.

Santana pioneered a unique fusion of rock, blues, jazz, and Latin, African and Cuban rhythms in the late 60’s and early 70’s — a distinctive sound that continues to electrify audiences today. With early hits like “Black Magic Woman” and “Evil Ways,” the rare addition of percussion instruments (congas, timbales) to guitar and organ flavored the music with an old world, positively primal feel. The aptly named, strictly instrumental “Soul Sacrifice,” with its driving polyrhythms and rousing solos, pulsates with an energy that fairly inhabits the listener, taking him/her on a transformative musical journey.

Though I’ve enjoyed Santana’s music since college, I knew very little about Carlos Santana’s childhood, so I was especially pleased to see that New York Times bestselling music biographer Gary Golio had recently published Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World (Henry Holt, 2018). Illustrated by Pura Belpré Honor and Américas Award recipient Rudy Gutierrez (who created Santana’s iconic Shaman CD cover), this captivating picture book describes Carlos’s early years in Mexico as he seeks a personal, authentic mode of musical expression.

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