[review + author chat] Candice Ransom on Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Do you remember your first day of kindergarten?

Though I had the usual first day jitters, it turned out fine in the end. I loved my kind teacher Mrs. Fujimoto, painting on a real wooden easel, listening to funny stories, taking a nap on my new denim sleeping bag, and best of all — snack time with milk and graham crackers. 🙂

Reading Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten (Doubleday, 2017)  kindled such fond memories. Written by the delightful, diverting, kitty-loving Candice Ransom and illustrated by Christine Grove, this must-read picture book is absolutely adorable and officially hits shelves today.

Candice’s cat Faulkner loves the new book, which is her 137th!

It seems Amanda Panda (who loves the color brown, wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, and can run really fast downhill), isn’t suffering from first day jitters at all. She knows precisely how her day will go: she’ll print her name “in big, important letters on the board,” build “the tallest block tower,” and run “the fastest of anyone.” After all, her big brother Lewis did all of these things, so why wouldn’t she?

All art copyright © 2017 Christine Grove

Well, she hadn’t counted on Bitsy — a diminutive, cutesy, head-to-toe-in-pink pest, who glombs onto Amanda as soon as they board the school bus.

For some reason, Bitsy is bent on being Amanda’s new best friend. But she takes the wind right out of Amanda’s sails, grabbing all the attention as she repeatedly beats her to the punch. Bitsy hogs blackboard space with her big annoying handwriting, builds a Kitty Castle that Ms. Lemon loves, and even contributes to Amanda losing a downhill race. With Bitsy as Head Princess, it’s definitely “the end of the world.” But Amanda has a plan.

She’ll go to second grade instead.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Another bit of serendipity when I stumbled upon Helen Timbury’s beautiful work. Helen is an Aussie graphic designer, illustrator and printmaker and I’m especially enamored of her linocut prints.

Nature seems to be her primary inspiration. She offers linocut workshops and you can purchase signed limited edition prints and boxed sets of notecards at her website shop. Gorgeous stuff!

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2. New book alert! Today is official pub day for Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing by Leda Schubert and Raúl Colón (Roaring Brook Press, 2017).

Listen.
There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.
With his head thrown back
and his Adam’s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo
or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up.

In this gorgeously written and illustrated tribute to legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger, author Leda Schubert highlights major musical events in Mr. Seeger’s life as well important moments of his fight against social injustice. From singing sold-out concerts to courageously standing against the McCarthy-era finger-pointing, Pete Seeger’s life is celebrated in this bold book for young readers with gorgeous illustrations by Raúl Colón.

Great to hear of another PB biography about Pete Seeger. This one has received a *starred review* from Kirkus, and I’m very anxious to read it. For more, check out this cool interview with Leda at Cynsations. Congrats to Leda and Raúl!

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[review] ‘Iwalani’s Tree by Constance Hale and Kathleen Peterson

Were you a daydreamer when you were growing up? Was there a special place you frequented to be alone with your thoughts?

Told as a gentle free verse poem, ‘Iwalani’s Tree is an enchanting story about a girl from O’ahu’s North Shore who has a special bond with an ironwood tree that’s her secret friend, muse, elder, and solace.

I like to lean on a low branch of a tree
that stands way way down the beach,
toward Ka’ena,
just on the spot
where the land becomes sand.

Some people call it a paina,
some call it an ironwood.
It has fuzzy brown bark,
a trunk strong and good,
and long willowy needles
that whisper in the wind.

She goes on to explain that the tree is a kind of refuge, a place to go “when the house is too hot/or my brother is bothering me/or the neighbors are making much too much noise.” She leans against its trunk and plays beneath its branches, carrying on conversations with the tree, who never demands or judges, only listens.

In the tree’s presence, ‘Iwalani’s dreams take flight. What better place than in the cool shade, with only the “Sounds of the sea and the sand and the waves and the wind,” the tree whispering as the wind tickles its needles?

Sometimes, when there’s a brisk wind (he makani Mālua), the tree “yowls scary sounds.” Then, ‘Iwalani also hears the mongoose, owl, hawk, and wild boar. She asks the tree what it does all day and night, and the tree, who “speaks” only when the wind blows, tells ‘Iwalani she dreams — after all, she has “legs to rrrrun down the beach/and arms to rrrreach for the sea.” ‘Iwalani thinks that’s silly, but soon changes her mind.

One night there’s a big storm and ‘Iwalani wonders whether her tree will be able to withstand the harsh conditions.

Huge white waves smash onto the sand.
A howling wind tears the leaves off trees.
Lightning cracks the sky open like a coconut.

The next morning ‘Iwalani frantically races down the beach, relieved to find her tree still standing, but something has changed. So much sand has been pulled away, that the tree’s big roots are exposed. They resemble “giant knees and feet.” Having lost so much of its needles, the tree’s branches now resemble “giant elbows and fingers” stretching toward the sea.

So the tree was right all along; it really can have legs to run down the beach and arms to reach for the sea! ‘Iwalani continues to observe how the tree changes with each succeeding storm, only too pleased to while away the hours in its company, dreaming and dreaming.

Communing with nature affords ‘Iwalani many peaceful hours of introspection and a fresh appreciation of the world around her.

Hale’s soothing lyrical verse (which seamlessly incorporates a few Hawaiian words), and Peterson’s lush and evocative jewel-toned illustrations, celebrate Hawai’i’s natural beauty and the ongoing reverence locals have for ocean and shore. I like how the artist’s pastel strokes give the pictures a marvelous texture. This story is also an ode to the child’s imagination, the power of dreams, and the freedom to be oneself.

The lulling, meditative tone makes this a nice bedtime book. In a noisy, competitive world where children are sometimes over-scheduled and raised to believe bigger, faster, and flashier are better, this quiet, contemplative story offers an opportunity for parent and child to slow down and reflect.

The tree’s branches bend and lean
over the beach.
Her shadow makes a pool of cool,
and her fallen needles float out
like Mr. Tanaka’s great green net.

A good introduction to free verse with its sensory detail and poetic devices such as personification, imagery, rhyme, rhythm, onomatopoeia, assonance and alliteration, ‘Iwalani’s Tree also has great curriculm connections with science and geography. The author offers teaching guides for each of these disciplines at her website.

I especially enjoyed reading this story, since it transported me to my warm and friendly home state. I could just about feel those gentle trade winds caressing my cheek and hear the tree whispering in the wind:

whaaaaaah shhhhh paaaaah
whooooshh aaaaaaaaahhhh

Quite hypnotic; it was easy falling under this story’s magic spell. I definitely felt calmer and more centered after reading it, and recommend it to those desiring a tranquil Hawaiian story with universal themes. Back matter includes information about the ironwood, legends about the ironwood and Ka’ena Point, and a pronunciation guide for the Hawaiian words used in the text. Don’t miss this rare gem!

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‘IWALANI’S TREE
written by Constance Hale
illustrated by Kathleen Peterson
published by BeachHouse Publishing, September 2016
Picture Book for age 4-8, 32 pp.
*Literary Classics Seal of Approval
**Study Guides for Poetry, Science and Geography available here.

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Our fearless PF leader Mary Lee Hahn is hosting the Roundup at A Year of Reading. Drift over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Constance Hale, illustrations © 2016 Kathleen Peterson, published by BeachHouse. All rights reserved.

**Please Note: Some of the colors in the illustrations shown here differ from the book.

Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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[review, recipe, nonsense] Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt

And now, from the department of strange children’s books you can’t help but love, here is Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt (New York Review Books, 2013).

Yes, that Dorothy Kunhardt — of Pat the Bunny fame. 🙂 Junket is Nice is Kunhardt’s first book, published in 1933, seven years before Pat the Bunny. Thank goodness New York Review Books re-issued Junket is Nice as part of their Children’s Collection (which features little known or forgotten titles), or I might never have learned about junket, which is described on the back cover as “a delicious custard and a lovely dessert.”

It’s a simple story, really. Call it “inspired nonsense.” Yet I can see why it would appeal to kids and young-at-heart adults.

click to enlarge

Seems there’s this man with a bushy red beard wearing red slippers eating a very large bowl of junket. Spoonful after spoonful, eating and eating and eating like there was no tomorrow.

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People were surprised at how hungry this man was and they soon began to arrive from far and near just to watch him eat. They all told their friends and more and more people kept coming and coming until every single person in the world was there, including a little boy in red socks riding his tricycle.

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Special Guest Post: Deborah Hopkinson on Independence Cake

Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson is here to talk about Independence Cake (Schwartz & Wade, 2017), her brand new picture book that officially hits shelves today.

Illustrated by Giselle Potter, this scrumptious “revolutionary confection” is a fictionalized account of how Amelia Simmons, who would go on to write the first American cookbook, bakes 13 Independence Cakes to celebrate George Washington’s inauguration.

Since I loved Deborah’s Fannie in the Kitchen (2001) and Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (2016), I am especially excited about this new book: American culinary history! English dishes! Tea biscuits and flapjacks! CAKE! Another serving of this tasty read, please.

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As an author for children and teens, I visit schools all over the country, and like to begin by asking students the difference between nonfiction and historical fiction. My new picture book, Independence Cake, is most decidedly fiction, as the subtitle makes clear: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History is Unfortunately Unknown. In this light-hearted story with delicious illustrations by the incomparable Giselle Potter, we meet an orphan girl named Amelia, who is sent by the town to live with the fictional Bean family to help the exhausted mother of six sons and no daughter (“Definitely a recipe for domestic disaster in 1789”).

(click to enlarge)

The real Amelia Simmons authored American Cookery, the first American cookbook. On the title page she identified herself as “An American Orphan.” Although historians know little about her, she may have been a “bound girl,” or indentured servant. In any case, the actual Amelia no doubt led a much harsher existence than her fictional counterpart.

In my story, Amelia’s reputation as a cook results in the town asking her to bake a special cake for George Washington at his 1789 inauguration. Amelia makes thirteen: one for each of the original colonies, which are carefully packed in wagons and driven off to New York to be pronounced “delicious” by the first president. (As the author’s note declares: this is entirely a confection!)

What is true about Amelia Simmons is that her cookbook expanded on traditional English cooking to include culinary influences and available ingredients in America. The legendary food historian Karen Hess, in an introduction to the second edition of American Cookery, published in Albany in fall 1796, speculated that the author may have lived near the Hudson Valley and been influenced by Dutch settlers. Simmons used terms such as “slaw” based on the Dutch “sla” for salad, and “cookey,” from “koekje.” In some recipes, Simmons substituted cornmeal for the oatmeal of English cooking, reflecting the influence of Native American traditions. Simmons seems to have been intentionally creating something new: the long subtitle of her cookbook notes that recipes are “Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life.”

The recipe for “Independence Cake” first appears in this second edition, directly following one for “Election Cake,” of which it is a variation; both contain raisins, brandy, and spices, similar to a traditional English fruitcake or plum cake. The cakes were part of the holiday spirit that surrounded early election days. Amelia’s patriotic fervor may have led her to call one “Independence Cake.”

I like to imagine Amelia as an American version of Daisy in Downton Abbey – a cook eager to try new things and embrace the future, although clearly Amelia had a pinch of Mrs. Patmore in her too. Here’s a snippet from her book in which she opines about the character-building properties of cultivating apple trees:

Apples…. ought to be more universally cultivated, excepting in the compactest cities. There is not a single family but might set a tree in some otherwise useless spot, which might serve the two fold use of shade and fruit; on which 12 or 14 kinds of fruit trees might easily be engrafted, and essentially preserve the orchard from the intrusions of boys, &c. which is too common in America.

If the boy who thus planted a tree, and guarded and protected it in a useless corner, and carefully engrafted different fruits, was to be indulged free access into orchards, whilst the neglectful boy was prohibited–how many millions of fruit trees would spring into growth–and what a saving to the union. The net saving would in time extinguish the public debt, and enrich our cookery.”

Although I wrote Independence Cake long before the 2016 presidential election, I noticed some bakers took the election season as an opportunity to share historical tidbits about the culinary tradition of election cakes. I’ve included a few below.

And speaking of elections, given Amelia’s interest, noted above, in extinguishing the public debt, she might well have wished for a political career herself.

Except, of course, in 1789 women couldn’t vote. But that’s another story.

To read more about the history of Election Cakes:

NPR: A History of Election Cakes
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/10/23/498974733/a-history-of-election-cake-and-why-bakers-want-to-makeamericacakeagain

Bon Appetit: “Election Cake” Makes a Modern Day Resurgence
http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/trends-news/article/election-cake-history

What’s Cooking America: Election Day Cake History and Recipe
https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Cakes/ElectionCake.htm

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Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of more than 45 books for young readers including picture books, historical fiction, and nonfiction.  She has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for picture book text twice, for Apples to Oregon and A Band of Angels. Other titles include Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the IRA Award; and Sky Boys, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book. In addition to Independence Cake (May 2017), she just published a contemporary picture book, A Letter to My Teacher (April 2017).

Deborah’s nonfiction includes Titanic, Voices from the Disaster, which received a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction honor and a Robert F. Sibert Honor and Dive! WWII Stories of Sailors and Submarines in the Pacific. Her nonfiction picture book, Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole, won an Oregon Book Award.

Visit Deborah Hopkinson online at www.deborahhopkinson.com, or follow her on Twitter @deborahopkinson and Instagram @deborah_hopkinson

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INDEPENDENCE CAKE: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History is Unfortunately Unknown
written by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Giselle Potter
published by Schwartz & Wade (May 2017)
Historical Fiction Picture Book for ages 4-8, 44 pp.
*Includes Authors Note and Original Recipe
**Starred Review from Publishers Weekly**

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📕 MORE 📘

♥ Check out the other stops on Deborah’s Double Blog Tour!

♥ Enjoy this interesting blog post about Election Cakes (+ a recipe) at Revolutionary Pie.

♥ See my reviews of Fannie in the Kitchen (+ Griddle Cakes) and Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig.


Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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