Chatting with Author Matt Forrest Esenwine about Flashlight Night (+ a recipe and giveaway!)

Today we’re pleased to welcome back New Hampshire-based author, poet, voice over artist and Poetry Friday friend Matt Forrest Esenwine to Alphabet Soup.

Since his very first picture book will officially hit shelves this coming Tuesday, September 19, we wanted to congratulate him and hear all about Flashlight Night, which was illustrated by Fred Koehler and published by Boyds Mills Press.

Written in rhyming couplets, the story follows three kids (two boys and a girl) who camp out in a tree house and roam around the back yard in search of adventure. The older boy leads the way with his trusty flashlight, that magically transforms everything in its beam to an imagined world of wonder, excitement and harrowing escapes.

opens up the night.

Leads you past old post and rail
along a long-forgotten trail

into woods no others dare,
for fear of what is waiting there

 They venture “down a dark and ancient hall,” encountering an Egyptian tomb, then pass through “a peculiar door” and board a ship on the high seas, where they must battle a sword-brandishing pirate and a giant purple squid.

Koehler’s ingenious illustrations depict the dramatic transformations from real to imagined: a striped cat becomes a ferocious tiger, water trickling from a garden hose becomes a torrent of rushing water, the space beneath the deck is the long-forgotten tomb, the above-ground pool is the ocean.

Each page turn heightens the suspense as the trio is ultimately rescued via hot air balloon. Once safe and sound back in their tree house, they resume reading together, the flashlight illuminating a stack of books that inspired their adventure.

Adventure lingers,
stirs about —
until a voice says,
“Shhh . . .lights out.”

I love how Fred expanded on Matt’s spare, evocative text with vivid, action-packed scenes marked by enriching textures and a boatload of interesting details. Kids will enjoy studying the demarcation between light and dark, and I was happy to see a girl and an African American boy included. And yes, we especially like the younger boy in footie pajamas carrying his teddy bear. 🙂

Flashlight Night has already earned a coveted *starred review* from Kirkus, which praised its “delicious language and ingenious metamorphoses.” This book is a wonderful celebration of imaginative play, the magic of reading, and creating your own old-fashioned fun. No need for fancy, expensive electronic toys. Here’s to a flashlight, a few books, and the unlimited power of the imagination!

How did Matt conceive of this story? Did he enjoy many flashlight nights when he was a kid? And what delicious recipe is he sharing with us today?

We thank him for visiting and extend our heartfelt congratulations on a fabulous picture book debut. Hooray for Flashlight Night!



How does it feel to have your first picture book out in the world? Was there a flashlight adventure from your own childhood that inspired this story?

It feels great! It’s also a bit surprising, to be honest, because I snuck into the world of children’s literature by way of poetry, so I had always thought my first book – should I be fortunate to even have a first book – would be a poetry collection.

There was no particular flashlight adventure on which this was based, although growing up in rural New Hampshire (and still living here!) has definitely influenced my writing.

Tell us briefly about your book’s path to publication, from initial spark to finished manuscript. Overall, was there anything that particularly surprised you?

I was driving home late one summer night in 2014, following an informal gathering of local SCBWI members, when the idea of a flashlight “opening up the night” suddenly came upon me. I suppose it had something to do with my lonely headlights piercing the darkness, all alone on a Massachusetts road.

I started putting some words and images together and came up with the opening stanza and most of the closing stanza right then. (At this point, I didn’t know if it was a poem or picture book). During the course of the following week, I continued working on it and had the first draft completed by the end of the week. A few more weeks of tweaking here and there, and it was done – which was probably the most surprising part of the entire process!

Which part of the writing process do you enjoy most? Do you have any particular writing rituals to get you started and/or keep you going?

Writing a poem is like creating a word puzzle, which is probably why I love it so much; as a kid, I used to create word finds and crosswords for my teachers to pass out in class (remember mimeographs and Xeroxes??). So now I get to play with words as a career, which is complete joy – no matter how mind-boggling or nerve-wracking the poem or story might be. I love finding the right words not only for descriptive purposes, but for alliterative and rhyming purposes, as well.

And the only ‘ritual’ I have with regards to writing is sitting in my chair, banging out text. When I was younger, I used to wait for inspiration to strike, but now that I’ve been doing this for so long, I realize Jane Yolen’s BIC Rule (Butt In Chair) is really the best advice!

Beginning picture book writers are often told to avoid rhyming texts. Do you have any tips for keeping sing-song rhythms and predictable rhymes in check?

As many others before me have stated, the story needs to come first. I’ve written a couple of manuscripts in prose, but most are in verse simply because the stories lend themselves to it. So if your story doesn’t need rhyming text, it can probably do without it. But if it is going to rhyme, one needs to try to avoid the simple, expected rhymes – and try to use more imaginative words when possible.

For example, in Flashlight Night, I could have used words like “boat,” “strange,” and “dark” to describe some of my scenes, but I instead chose “vessel,” “peculiar,” and “inky,” which are so much fun to say! So whether you are rhyming or not, spend some extra time with your text and see what you can do to enliven the vocabulary a bit. Even if a child is unfamiliar with a word, the definition can very often be gleaned based on the context of how it’s being used.

Matt reading a tasty picture book with his kids.

Once your manuscript was accepted, did you have to do many revisions? What are some of the things you learned from working with your editor?

It’s funny…Jane Yolen told me to be prepared for a long list of revisions, which is not uncommon, of course – yet my editor only requested 4 or 5 edits, which I took care of pretty quickly! While I tried to be ambiguous about certain scenes in order to allow an illustrator to have plenty of fun with the text, my editor, the wonderful Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills Press, pushed me even more to find better words (see my comment, above, about word choice!). And our illustrator, Fred Koehler, went a completely different route with my original ending, so I ended up needing to alter the last couple of pages of text in order to get his vision and mine to marry.

Which children’s book authors and poets do you think have had the most influence on your work? Were there any particular picture books that inspired Flashlight Night?

I can’t say any one picture book specifically inspired Flashlight Night, but I will say that every poem, song, and story I’ve read has somehow influenced my style and interests. I attribute my love of rhyme and poetic structure to Robert Frost and William Shakespeare; my appreciation for children’s poetry to Dorothy Aldis and Shel Silverstein; my sense of humor to Monty Python and Stan Freberg; and my love of mystery to Chris Van Allsburg and Isaac Asimov.

 Without a doubt, I am continually influenced by many of the wonderful folks in children’s literature today with whom I’ve had the pleasure of befriending: Lee Bennett Hopkins, Charles Ghigna, David Harrison, Jane Yolen. I recall Charles once telling me a couple years ago that he was my biggest fan – which totally floored me! Jane once made my heart soar when she said a particular short verse I’d written was ‘masterfully rhymed.’ And I remember when Nikki Grimes started following me on Twitter and told me she was a fan…and I couldn’t help wonder why, ha! I kept thinking, “You’re NIKKI GRIMES – why on earth would you be a fan of ME?!?”

 I wouldn’t have even met my editor, Rebecca, had Lee not taken a vested interest in my career and introduced us a few years ago; for that, I’m forever in his debt.

Fred Koehler’s illustrations are brilliant. Did the two of you communicate at all about the art for the book (or did you include any illustration notes with your manuscript)? Was it his choice to include three children in the story and the stack of books at the end?

Fred & I didn’t communicate that much during the process, although Rebecca kept me in the loop as to what his vision was and how he was approaching the task. The only illustration note I included in my manuscript was to indicate at the very end that a child was reading a book under the covers; without that note, the story would not entirely make sense. So I think Fred did a fantastic job of taking my words and imagery and really making it his own. The book is truly greater than the sum of its parts!

Describe how it felt to see Fred’s illustrations for the first time. Which is your favorite and why?

The first illustration I saw was an initial sketch Fred made for Rebecca – before he even signed the contract – to show her his idea for the style of the illustrations and his concept for the sub-narrative of reality being the darkness while the fantasy is illuminated by the light. He ended up selling the picture before we met, so I’m disappointed I don’t have it, but it will always be a favourite of mine. My other favourite – which seems to be a favourite of everyone who sees the book – is the spread featuring the Kraken crawling through the stones.

Please describe what might be in Matt Forrest Esenwine’s flashlight beam at age 5 or 6. What’s in his beam now?

Hmmm…when I was 5 or 6 I was living in Pinardville, New Hampshire, a little area just outside of the state’s largest city, Manchester. It was suburbia, but we had a little bit of woods and a stream running behind our property, so I used to enjoy pretending I was a hunter or a policeman or Zorro, fighting off the bad guys!

 These days, I’m happy to say my flashlight beam and my reality have been merging: my dream of becoming published in children’s literature quickly became reality in 2015 when I had a poem published in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed), and between then and 2019, I’ll have had 24+ children’s poems published and two picture books – so that line separating reality from fantasy has grown quite thin!

What do you hope kids will take away from your book?

A sense of wonder (I know, a cliché answer, but it’s true!) and an inspired imagination.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Flashlight Night?

I would just add that this book is proof that with determination, hard work, and time spent learning one’s craft, dreams can be realized. I’ve been writing all my life and have had numerous adult poems published around the country, but I did not decide to approach children’s lit as a serious career change until 2010, so the fact that I’ve come as far as I have speaks volumes to the importance of time, talent, and tenacity. And as I always say, whatever I lack in talent I try to make up for in hustle!

What’s next for you?

My second picture book, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books), co-authored with Deborah Bruss (Book! Book! Book!, Big Box for Ben) comes out this spring! I also have a couple of poems in different places: ‘Soccer Sides’ can be found in Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Poems are Teachers (Heinemann), out this fall; ‘Bus Driver’ will appear in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new anthology, School People (Boyds Mills Press, Spring, 2018); and three other poems will be included in three other anthologies scheduled for Fall 2018 and 2019.

I also have about 7 or 8 manuscripts I’m submitting to various publishers and agents at present, including one rhyming picture book inspired by a certain kid-lit/foodie blogger we both know!

Could you please share a favorite recipe, something you make with or for your kids?

The recipe [for Salted Chocolate Chip Cutouts] is something I came up with earlier this year. A friend of mine told me he loved my chocolate chip cookies and asked what I do to make them taste so good; I told him the only thing I do ‘differently’ is that I tend to use a dash more salt than normal, which helps balance the sweet-saltiness. So I started thinking about how to better define that balance – and one day when the kids & I were making sugar cookies (they both love baking), it hit me: Use salt on top instead of sugar!

Of course, you can’t use as much, because it would make the cookies way too salty — but by keeping salt out of the recipe, it helps underscore those two tastes.

It took awhile to get the dough just right (I wanted a classic chocolate chip cookie dough flavor, but it had to be able to roll out and maintain its shape) — but I think this fits the bill.

Matt’s son rolling out the dough.


Matt’s daughter cutting out flashlight-shaped cookies.



Brushing on butter.


Sprinkling on coarse sea salt.



Matt's Salted Chocolate Chip Cutouts

  • Servings: makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on size
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

This recipe uses salt not only as a flavor enhancer but as a garnish, so it’s important to use unsalted butter in the recipe so the cookies don’t come out too salty. Also be sure to not use too much salt on top – just a light sprinkling is all you need!


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, and 2 tablespoons melted, reserved
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
  • Coarse salt (like Kosher or sea salt)


Mix flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat ½ cup butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, water, and vanilla until blended. On low speed, add flour just until well combined – do not overmix – then stir in chips by hand. Dough will be a bit crumbly; that’s ok. Chill at least 30 minutes, or even a couple days in advance.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch (if in doubt, dough should be no thicker than the width of a chip), cut into shapes, and place 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Be careful not to handle the dough too much, or the chips will start melting. Brush on the melted butter, then sprinkle with salt – but with not too heavy a hand! Bake until slightly browned: 6-7 minutes for softer cookies, 7-8 minutes if you prefer crispy. Let rest a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

*Recipe by author Matt Forrest Esenwine, as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.


written by Matt Forrest Esenwine
illustrated by Fred Koehler
published by Boyds Mills Press, September 19, 2017
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
*Starred Review from Kirkus*

🐙 Visit Matt’s blog, Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme, for all the latest news about Flashlight Night: reviews, bookstore appearances, giveaways, etc.

🐙 Check out the Flashlight Night Blog Tour, which continues next week:

Friday 9/15                  Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Monday 9/18               KitLit Exchange/ Loud Library Lady
Tuesday 9/19               Penny Klostermann Book Blog
Wednesday 9/20        Unleashing Readers
Thursday 9/21             KidLit Frenzy
Friday 9/22                  Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Monday 9/25               Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tuesday 9/26               Nerdy Book Club




The publisher is generously providing a copy of Flashlight Night for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, September 20, 2017. You may also enter by sending an email with “FLASHLIGHT” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!



The ever charming and talented Michelle Heidenrich Barnes is hosting the roundup at Today’s Little Ditty. Sail over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week!


Mr Cornelius made a Pirate Snack to celebrate Flashlight Night.

*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2017 Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrations © 2017 Fred Koehler, published by Boyds Mills Press. All rights reserved.

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






















2016 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Events Roundup


Did you know that National Poetry Month is “the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives every April”? And 2016 marks the 20th Anniversary of NPM!

Visit for the full scoop on how you can participate, including 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month, Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 21, 2016), Poem-a-Day, and especially for students and teachers, the Dear Poet Project. Check the state-by-state listings to find poetry-related events near you. And there’s still time to order your free Poetry Month poster (designed by Debbie Millman)!

Now, here’s a list of what some kidlit bloggers are doing. If you’re also celebrating Poetry Month with a special project or blog event, or know of anyone else who is, please leave a comment here or email me: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so I can add the information to this Roundup. Thanks!

*    *    *



🌺  Irene Latham at Live Your Poem has recruited 30 poets for her fifth annual Kidlit Progressive Poem. This is a wonderful community writing project where a poem travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a new line. Laura Purdie Salas will kick things off on April 1 at Writing the World for Kids. Here’s the full schedule of participating bloggers:


1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write


🌸 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem will also continue ARTSPEAK!, the poem-a-day project she started during 2015 in which she responds to images found in the online collection at the National Gallery of Art. This year all the art and poems will be on the theme of “Plant. Grow. Eat.”


🌼  Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect will be spotlighting April holidays and celebrations with her special project:

“Inspired by World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of (written by J. Patrick Lewis) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations: Holiday Poems for the Whole Year in English and Spanish (compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong), this time around I’ve decided to focus on daily, weekly, and monthly celebrations held during the month of April. In addition to information about each celebration, I’ll offer up poems, books of poetry, children’s books, and more.”

Click here for a list of topics to be covered.


🌹 Jone MacCulloch will be sharing student poetry daily at Check It Out. She’s also once again doing her annual Poetry Postcard Project, where Silver Star ES students send out illustrated poetry postcards to anyone requesting them. Sign up HERE if you’d like to receive one. This is a wonderful project — eight years running so far — I always enjoy receiving my postcard each April.


💐 This year, Mary Lee Hahn’s poetry month project is “Bygones” — poems inspired by old personal photographs.

“When Mom and I were sorting through a drawer full of old pictures last December, I was struck by the forgotten faces and the unknown stories that were captured on film. This April, I’ll bring 30 of the photos back to life through poetry.”

Check in daily with Mary Lee at her personal poetry blog, Poetrepository (poems will be cross-posted at A Year of Reading).



🌻 Keep a song in your mind, heart, and step all month long with Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe. She’ll be featuring Poetry-Music Match-Ups! Pairings will include original poems with music that goes with it, poetic song lyrics, poems written AS song lyrics, poems inspired by songs, songs written about poems, and favorite nursery rhymes. These will be Heidi’s own match-ups as well as those submitted by other kidlit poets and bloggers.


💐 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes has a very special month planned at Today’s Little Ditty. She will be hosting the one and only, multi-award winning poet Marilyn Singer and her new book of reverso poetry based on Greek myths, Echo Echo. Festivities will begin on April 1 with a Spotlight Interview and writing challenge. Don’t miss it!


🍄 Look out! The Putrid Poetic Ponderings of Louis J. Pasternak, AKA Dr. Skullstench is coming your way! Laura Purdie Salas will be sharing her chapter book as a serial, one day at a time, at Writing the World for Kids. This story is part prose and part poetry:

It all begins when Louis’ teacher, Miss Sweetmallow, tells the class they are going to write poems. To say Louis is unenthusiastic is an understatement. But then Miss Sweetmallow says the magic words: “You can write them about anything you want.” Louis decides this might not be so bad as he shares his interest in blisters, head cheese, inappropriate hairdos, and more in 25 poems, each one an example of a particular poetic technique or form.

Along the way, Louis (that’s Dr. Skullstench to you) decides writing poetry isn’t so bad, and he tries different platforms to share his work, from the morning TV announcements to the class talent show. But Miss Sweetmallow prefers a more lyrical approach to poetry and tries to sway Louis toward writing beautiful poems. Will she succeed? Will Louis share his gross vision of the world? Will the talent show go off without a poetic hitch? Find out in The Putrid Poetic Pondering of Louis J. Pastenak, AKA Dr. Skullstench.

Laura also has a cleanly formatted PDF of this funny read aloud available for download here, perfect for classroom sharing.


🌺 Don’t miss this year’s Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo) festivities hosted by Angie Karcher. Now in its third year, this month-long writing challenge is especially geared for children’s writers aspiring to write rhyming picture books and to add poetic techniques to their prose. In addition to an awesome roster of guest posts by authors, agents, and editors, Angie has added a Classroom Challenge, where teachers and students try to read as many rhyming picture books as they can during the month of April. This year’s guests include Margarita Engle, Linda Sue Park, Tricia Lawrence, Penny Parker Klostermann, Anika Denise, and Sylvia Vardell. Click here for all the details. Don’t forget, you must register by April 8 to be eligible for daily prizes.


🌸 Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit is hosting a National Poetry Month Blog Tour:

“This year, I’m hoping that I can get some wonderful blogs to participate in the 2016 blog tour for poetry. I would love to get some great new interviews, reviews, poetry readings, innovative poetry activities, and some visual artists interested in sharing some poetic renderings.”

In addition to the blog tour stops, Serena will also be featuring her own posts each day this month.

Click through to sign up for the link-up any time during the month of April.

*Don’t miss this post, “Musings on Poetry,” where Serena and Jill from Rhapsody in Books discuss why poetry isn’t more popular and share some of their favorite poems and poetic excerpts.


🌺 Get ready to Wallow in Wonder with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm!

“For my 2016 National Poetry Month project, I will celebrate learning and writing from learning, writing poems from each daily Wonder at Wonderopolis. As I did with the Dictionary Hike in 2012, I am looking to surprise myself with a new inspiration daily. This year, such inspiration will show up in my inbox each morning. I will print it and carry each Wonder around all day…and in the afternoon or evening, I will write and post the poem for the next day.”

Amy invites students, teachers, anyone — to play along. Simply leave links to your poems in the comments of her blog anytime during April and she will try to link to and/or share some of them at The Poem Farm!


🌻 Carol Varsalona of Beyond Literacy Link loves April so much, she has several wonderful events planned:

  • Unveiling of my winter gallery, Winter Wanderings (hopefully on April 1st at Poetry Friday to kick off National Poetry Month)
  • Hosting a global conversation, “April is Poetrylicious” at 3NYEDChat (Twitter Educational Chat) on April 11, 2016 at 8 p.m. EST. I am inviting all my poet friends to be part of the moderating crew. I will host the event with Paul W. Hankins as co-moderator and any other poets, writers, bloggers who are willing to participate for one hour. Colleagues and connected educators should be there for a lively conversation.
  • Announcement of my new gallery of artistic expressions, Spring’s Seeds, that will start during National Poetry Month and run through the end of May.


🌹 Mary Ann Scheuer at Great Kid Books will be celebrating Poetry Month by featuring some of her favorite poetry books + resources to help parents, teachers, and librarians share poetry with children and inspire them. Check out her top five rules for sharing poetry here.


🌻 At Poetry for Children, Sylvia Vardell will be focusing on science poetry for April, featuring the work of her grad students who are matching poetry with science picture books/nonfiction.


🌺 Diane Mayr will be doing Ekphrastic Mondays at Random Noodling again this year. Each April Monday she’ll share a poem inspired by a work of art. This year she’s using art pieces by Childe Hassam.


🌻 Penny Parker Klostermann will be continuing her wonderful weekly series, A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, at her blog all during April. On the second Friday of the month Penny will feature a poem she’s written that’s illustrated by her great-nephew Landon. Guest poets and artists will be featured on the other Fridays. Those of you following Penny’s blog on Poetry Fridays know how delightful this series is with its awesome pairings. Click here to see the roster of previous Guest Episodes as well as Penny and Landon Episodes. 🙂


💐 Join author Rebecca Gomez at her blog for Poetry Week by Week:

“Beginning April 3, each week will be dedicated to celebrating a specific type of poetry. During each week, I will share favorite poems in each category, review at least one book, and invite guest poets to share their poems and/or inspiration with you.”

Here’s her schedule:

April 3 – 9: Concrete Poems

April 10 – 16: Animal Rhymes

April 17- 23: Free Verse

April 24 – 30: Haiku

Rebecca will be writing poems in these specific forms and sharing her favorites. She invites everyone to join her in this challenge by leaving their poems in the comments at the end of each week. Sounds like fun!


🌵 Over at her Hatbooks blog, author Holly Thompson will be featuring “Notice Poems,” verses related to her new middle grade verse novel Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth (Henry Holt, 2016), which launches April 19, 2016. Set in Kamakura, Japan, this story follows Jason–sixth grader, orange belt in aikido, and big brother–as he struggles to cope with escalating bullying at school and encounters other outsiders and outcasts in his Japanese seaside community. Look for a new Notice poem each day this month. Click here to read the first one. Holly’s also inviting others to write their own Notice poems and share them on Twitter: #NoticePoems.


🌺 At Reflections on the Teche, Margaret Simon will be writing daily poems inspired by images and tweeting to #imagepoems. She’s kicking things off with a poem about April Fools Day.


🍄🍄 Tammy and Clare at Teachers for Teachers will be blogging about poetry all month long. They’ll immerse themselves in poems, study the craft of some mentors, and even try writing some poems themselves. Their first post features a sample poem from J. Patrick Lewis’s National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry.


🌸 Linda Kulp Trout is doing her very first Poetry Month Project this year at Write Time. She will post five-minute daily reflections about her progress as she tries to shape the daily snippets she wrote for Renee LaTulippe’s February writing challenge into a collection of poems. Check in with her this month and cheer her on!


🌷 Doraine Bennett is doing a unique poem-a-day challenge at Dori Reads called “Feet in the Creek.”

“For each day I have chosen a favorite poem, a favorite poet, or a favorite friend. I will look at the work, decide what draws me to it, what makes it resonate for me, and then write my own poem about the creek [in my back yard] with those techniques in mind. These are first drafts, so nothing will be especially polished, but they will be starting points for revision after the month is done. Feel free to follow along or join in.”

Dori kicks things off with her poem “after,” inspired by and modeled after Ralph Fletcher’s poem “soon.”


🌷 Looking for a lovely way to celebrate International Haiku Poetry Day on April 17? Check out “Queens Writers Read in the Garden,” which features a Haiku Workshop (1-2 p.m.) and a Nature Poetry Reading (2-4 p.m.) at the Queen’s Botanical Garden in New York. Aspiring kidlit author Amy Losak, daughter of Sydell Rosenberg (charter member of the Haiku Society of America), will be sharing her mother’s haiku/senryu during the workshop and her mother’s other poetry during the nature reading, which features Queens Poet Laureate Maria Lisella. Both events are suitable for both adults and children and are free with admission to the gardens, but registration is required. Click here for more info.


🌺 Meanwhile, Donna Smith at Mainely Write is having a grand old time serving up “A – Z on a Plate” as part of the annual A-Z Blogging Challenge. She’s been photographing vanity license plates this year and will be writing poems inspired by them — a different letter of the alphabet every day except Sundays, when she will share poems left by commenters during the week. This is a fun and unique challenge and Donna invites everyone to join her in taking poetic license this month!


🌹 Kelly Ramsdell Fineman will be discussing short poetry forms this month at Writing and Ruminating. She’ll begin with haiku/senryu for the first full week of April, what they are supposed to contain/be, beyond 5-7-5.


🌺 If you fancy acrostics, do check in with Tanita S. Davis, who’s writing her own, sharing acrostics written by others, and generally having a good time exploring the form. And because this is Ms. Davis we’re talking about, expect some insightful, thought-provoking commentary served up on the side just to keep things interesting.


💐 As has been her practice for the last 8 years or so, Liz Garton Scanlon will be writing a haiku every day this month. This is a good opportunity to see how this gifted writer approaches haiku as a form of meditation.

“[Haiku] are about pausing purposefully, noticing mindfully, taking a full breath and being totally present to a moment. In that way, writing a haiku every day for a month becomes a truly meditative practice. There is so much more going on in each poem than 17 syllables.”


🌷 Are you up for a little April Poetry Madness? Katie at The Logonauts and her class are compiling lists of their favorite poetry books for children up to age 5, and will conduct bracket-style voting to determine winners in two categories — “classic” poetry books published before 2010, and newer poetry books (2010+). They would like input from any interested students, teachers, and poets. Submit the titles of your favorites by filling out the Google form at Katie’s blog. First round of voting begins April 13.



🌷 🌷 🌷 Here at Alphabet Soup, in addition to our usual Poetry Friday fare, our menu will include some uncommonly talented and good looking hotTEAs of Children’s Poetry. We can’t think of a better way to keep the fires of inspiration lit all month long. This special deliciousness will be served up twice a week, so be ready to raise your mugs in celebration. 🙂


Finally, don’t forget to check in with April’s Poetry Friday hosts to see what other bloggers are sharing in the kidlitosphere:

poetry friday








1 Amy at The Poem Farm
8 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
15 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
22 Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
29 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog


I’ll continue to update this Roundup throughout April, so do check back! For your convenience, a link to this Roundup can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

Wishing you a thoroughly nourishing, inspiring, productive, interesting, and enlightening Poetry Month!



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

sing a song of soup, or, may peace soup be with you

Mixed media soup collage by Melissa Sweet

Since January is National Soup Month, thought we’d celebrate with a bit of art, a heartening song and a bowl of homemade soup. 🙂

Pictured above is one of my prize possessions — an original Melissa Sweet watercolor I won in a Small Graces auction back in 2010. It all started in 2009 when Newbery Honor author/illustrator Grace Lin donated 11 original paintings to benefit the Foundation for Children’s Books (now Wondermore). In 2010, twelve different illustrators donated their work, and each month a new painting was auctioned off.

Guess what was featured in January? Melissa Sweet’s SOUP painting had my name written all over it and I was thrilled when I won. This piece continues to feed my soul every single day. 🙂

Continue reading

Poetry Friday Roundup is here!


Have I told you lately you’re as cute as a button? 🙂

Although National Button Day isn’t until November 16, Mr. Cornelius and the rest of us here decided we wanted to celebrate it a little early.

That’s because we love a particularly charming poem by Penny Parker Klostermann in the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015).

Most of you probably know that Penny just recently published her first picture book — There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (Random House, 2015), that showcased her enviable chops as a clever wordsmith and humorist — but did you know that “Buttons” was not only Penny’s first published poem, but her first published work for children?

We’re happy to celebrate this wonderful milestone with a batch of peanut butter button cookies and sugar button cupcakes. Please help yourself, enjoy Penny’s poem and backstory, then leave your PF links with Mr. Linky.


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Continue reading

2015 Poetry Friday Archive

1. “After the Holidays,” and “Dianthus” by Barbara Crooker

2. “Produce Aisle” by Rebecca McClanahan

3. “The Cookie Poem” by Jeff Gundy

4. “Paddington Bear — poem about myself as a child” by Tracey Cooper


6. A Little Downton Abbey Valentine

7. NEVER TAKE A PIG TO LUNCH by Nadine Bernard Westcott

8. SALSA: A COOKING POEM by Jorge Argueta and Duncan Tonatiuh

9. “Home Sweet Home” by Kate Bingham

10. COUNTING CROWS by Kathi Appelt and Rob Dunlavey

11. “Poem from a Colour Chart of Housepaints” by Wendy Cope

12. “Eating Poetry” by Mark Strand

13. “Remember” by Christina Rossetti

14. Three Poems from The Popcorn Astronauts by Deborah Ruddell

15. A POEM IN YOUR POCKET by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas

16. ENORMOUS SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess and Kris Di Giacomo

17. DEAR TOMATO: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems, edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte

18. 10 Food Poetry Anthologies for Hungry Readers

19. COOL MELONS – TURN TO FROGS! by Matthew Gollub and Kazuko G. Stone

20. Bob Dylan Birthday Celebration with Josh White’s “One Meat Ball”

21. “Ode to Tortillas” by Fernando Esteban Flores

22. “Brownies” by Judyth Hill

23. “Here There are Blueberries” by Mary Syzbist (+ Poetry Friday Roundup)

24. “The International Fruit of Welcome” by Kim Roberts, and “Great-Grandfather” by Charlotte Mandel

25. Interview at Rollins College with Billy Collins and Paul McCartney


27. FAB FOUR FRIENDS by Susanna Reich and Adam Gustavson

28. DOUBLE HAPPINESS by Nancy Tupper Ling and Alina Chau

29. “Marie Antoinette Opens a Pastry Shop in Paris” by Christie Grimes

30. JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Jane Manning

31. FLUTTER AND HUM by Julie Paschkis

32. SHARING THE BREAD by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jill McElmurry

33. FEEDING THE FLYING FANELLIS: And Other Poems from a Circus Chef by Kate Hosford and Cosei Kawa

34. “Buttons” by Penny Parker Klostermann (+ Poetry Friday Roundup)

35. “There’s a Fly in My Soup” by Elli Woollard

36. ALPHABET TRAINS by Samantha R. Vamos and Ryan O’Rourke

37. THE LITTLE KIDS’ TABLE by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles


39. “Rhyming Chopsticks” by David Booth and “Grandfather’s Chopsticks” by Janet Wong

40. “Amazing Peace” by Maya Angelou

41. “Making Strufoli” by Barbara Crooker

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*A permanent link to this archive can be found in the sidebar of this blog.