9 Cool Things on a Tuesday

1. You might think this PB&J sandwich is a photograph, but it’s actually an oil painting! This amazing piece of art was created by Mary Ellen Johnson of Hartsville, South Carolina.

“My work explores the deep connection that food has with humanity. I find the subtle and yet not so subtle power it possesses fascinating, The main focus of my work is to capture this deep connection. My paintings delve into the complicated and curious relationship that we have developed with food throughout our existence. Food has a direct link to our survival and has bound its roots deep within our cultures, societies, and families. It’s everywhere we go and it has worked itself into a pinnacle part of our everyday lives. It’s like a language really because we charge it with so many connotations and meanings. The smell can take you back to a time long ago, the sound of things like bacon frying in a pan can perk you up in the morning, and the sight alone can make your mouth start salivating. Food has great power over us and I’m interested in showing this power in my work. I want the viewer to be confronted by these lofty monstrosities of food and ponder their own relationship with the food that they eat.

Wow! Love her work. Absolutely stunning and calorie free. Feast on more at Mary Ellen’s Artodyssey blog and Facebook Page. One more for the road:


2. New book alert! Check out Monster Trucks by Anika Denise and Nate Wragg (HarperColllins, 2016) — just what you need for Halloween reading, right? Yep, I’m always looking out for you.🙂

Readers will delight in this lively read-aloud story with a clever and surprising twist at the end—perfect for Halloween and year round!

Ready, set, go! The monster truck race is on in this frightfully delightful picture book.  On a spooky speedway, Monster Trucks moan! Monster Trucks grumble! Monster Trucks groan!

Join Frankentruck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, and more as they race to the finish line. But one of these trucks isn’t quite who you think.

Yes, there’s a trailer🙂.

This one’s already earned a **starred review** from Publishers Weekly. Read Anika’s blog post for some cool backstory about the book!


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[review, recipe, giveaway!] Miss Muffet, or What Came After by Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield


Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.


Well, no. Not exactly.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Curtain Up!


🎻ACT ONE, or The Real Story 🎻

It seems nursery rhymers of yore mistook our dear Miss Muffet for a dainty scaredy-cat milquetoast without really considering:

  1. her true potential
  2. some spiders are undeniably cool
  3. the inherent power of cottage cheese.

Now, thanks to Marilyn Singer and David Litchfield, Miss Patience Muffet finally gets her props in a hilarious new picture book, Miss Muffet, or What Came After (Clarion, 2016), proving, once and for all, that where there’s a will there’s a whey.🙂

Told in sprightly verse as a rousing musical theatre production, the book features a fetching cast that includes an off-stage narrator, a chorus of three (gardener + 2 maids), Webster the spider, and nursery characters Little Bo-Peep and Old King Cole, among others. These clever players had me from their opening lines.


Her given name was Patience.
Her schoolmates called her Pat.
In the garden on a stool
is where one day she sat.
What do we know about her?
Just this much, if you please:
She didn’t care for spiders,
but she did love cottage cheese.


Cottage cheese, cottage cheese,
she eats it every day.
Cottage, cottage, cottage cheese,
she calls it curds and whey.

In December or in June,
in a bowl, with a spoon.
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.
Very tasty (slightly pasty),
or so we’ve heard her say!

We soon learn that much to her parents’ dismay (her mother yearns for a perfect little miss and her father wishes she’d share his passion for bugs), Pat has a mind of her own.

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[Review + Chat + Giveaway] Elisa Kleven on The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy

Though there are runaway pancakes, latkes, matzo balls, rice cakes, tortillas, and dumplings, when it comes to fleet-footed fleeing food, no one can top the gingerbread man.

As a scrumptious treat, he’s been around for centuries. Did you know Her Royal Gingerness Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped cookie? She liked to give important guests gingerbread likenesses of themselves.🙂

As a beloved cumulative folktale, The Gingerbread Man first appeared in print in late 19th century America. This cheeky rascal has been on the run and taunting his pursuers ever since!

Still, for as many times as you’ve read his story, have you ever felt sorry for him or wondered what could have happened if there hadn’t been a wily fox to snatch him up?

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[catTEA review] The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake

Beatrix Potter contingent queues up to take a first peek!

Holy catnip!

It’s a big day for Beatrix Potter fans: The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is officially out in the world (UK release September 1, U.S. release September 6)!

Kitty with and without her dust jacket.

Ever since we first heard tell of this book back in January, all of us here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen have been counting down the days, hours, and minutes to this much anticipated event.

After all, it’s not every day that a long lost manuscript written over 100 years ago by such a beloved author is rediscovered and brought to life with brand new illustrations by celebrated illustrator Quentin Blake.

Potter wrote The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots in 1914, but had not finished illustrating it. Two years ago, editor and publisher Jo Hanks stumbled upon a reference to Kitty’s story in a letter from Beatrix to her publisher in an out-of-print collection of her writings. In the Warne archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Hanks found three Kitty-in-Boots manuscripts — two handwritten in children’s school notebooks and one typeset in dummy form — along with a colored sketch of Kitty and a pencil rough of foxy arch-villain Mr. Tod.

Supposedly Potter’s only finished illustration for the book, intended as the frontispiece. Courtesy Frederick Warne & Co./V&A.

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hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Cheryl Willis Hudson

Cheryl Willis Hudson is the editorial director of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent children’s press co-founded with her husband Wade Hudson. Just Us Books focuses on the Black experience for children. Cheryl also oversees editorial operations at Marimba Books, a sister-multicultural publishing imprint owned with her husband and two children, Katura and Stephan. Cheryl is the author of over two dozen books for young people.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: For mornings my fav is Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee with a splash of Amaretto cream…yum, yum, yum! You can’t beat this drink for kick-starting the day. After 3 pm I love Red Zinger or Camomile tea, sipped hot with honey from my Grandmother Viola’s fancy teacup. This reminds me of both my grandmothers who introduced me to the idea of having “high tea” in the afternoon.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Songs I Love to Sing by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Marimba Books, 2015); Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by John-Francis Bourke (Candlewick, 2013), and My Friend Maya Loves to Dance by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2010).


  • AFRO-BETS Book of Shapes (to be re-issued by Just Us Books, Fall 2016)
  • AFRO-BETS Book of Colors (to be re-issued by Just Us Books, Fall 2016)
  • I’m a Big Brother Now by Katura J. Hudson, illustrated by Sylvia Walker (Marimba Books, a new picture book for Fall 2016)
  • Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past and Present by Gil L. Robertson (Just Us Books, a new book of biographies for Fall 2016)
  • Sights I Love to See by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Marimba Books, Spring 2017)

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, illustrated by James Ransome (HMH, 1995). I love the focus on family memories that are demonstrated so lovingly in this picture book. I grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia where crabbing is a popular summer pastime and eating crabs (by the bushel) is part of an annual family reunion tradition. My grandmother Viola Brown made her own beautiful Sunday hats and also cooked wonderful crabcakes. Although they are never as delicious as my grandmother’s, I can’t resist ordering crabcakes whenever they appear on a restaurant menu. Aunt Flossie’s Hats always reminds me of my own happy childhood.

☕ Visit Cheryl Willis Hudson’s Official Website.

☕ Check out the Just Us Books Website to see all the wonderful books available from this publisher.

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Don’t miss Cheryl’s must-read guest post at The Brown Bookshelf (part of their 28 Days Later showcase for 2016). She discusses her passion for children’s books, her personal publishing journey, as well as how and why she and her husband Wade established Just Us Books in 1988.

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