[guest post + recipe] Margo Sorenson on Calvin Gets the Last Word

 

Haven’t we all wanted to have the last word at one time or another? Of course, we have! 😊 But, if you’re like me, that golden last word—the game-changer, the elegant riposte, the witty put-down, the conversation-stopper—bursts into my brain about an hour after I could have used it. Naturally.

 

 

In my newest picture book, CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD (Tilbury House, October 2020), Calvin is constantly searching for the perfect word to describe his rascally, annoying brother. Yes, that’s the same brother who waits to tell a joke at the dinner table till Calvin has his mouth full of broccoli. You guessed it—Calvin sprays broccoli all over the table!

 

All illustrations © 2020 Mike Deas

 

Who wouldn’t want to find the right word for a bratty brother like that? When I first thought of writing this story, I was toying around with the idea of a kid who is enthralled by words and wants to use them perfectly in all kinds of situations. Naturally, as a lifelong reader, retired English teacher, and author, words have always been important for me. Well, *true confession, here*—when I was in junior high, however, I secretly wanted to be voted “Best Actress” of the ninth grade in the yearbook. Nope. I was voted “Walking Dictionary.” Sadly, there’s probably nothing more I need to explain to you. 😊

 

 

As I thought about Calvin, it came to me that if he was always looking for the right word, his dictionary would certainly become tattered and worn out. Then—it hit me. Calvin’s poor, beleaguered dictionary would be the narrator, and so that’s how he became to be exactly that. He helps Calvin out with all sorts of words, but it’s Calvin himself who discovers just the right word for his brother—and his dictionary is overjoyed. I hope young readers will be surprised and tickled, too.

 

 

Because we know kids are multi-dimensional, Calvin is not only a word nerd, but a kid who stands up to bullies, who passes notes in class, and who loves baseball. Being a huge baseball fan myself (go, Angels!), I was delighted to see how the talented illustrator Mike Deas wove the baseball thread throughout his whimsical illustrations, using a baseball, bat, and glove on Calvin’s bedroom floor from the beginning page all the way to the end of the book. I’m sure kids will have fun exploring all of Mike’s other humorous details in the pictures. Look for the baby’s and the cat’s and the ever-present dad’s expressions. My editors cooked up the clever idea for the end pages, which set the perfect tone for the book. It’s been a team effort. I hope you are always able to find just the right word whenever you need it!

 

 

In honor of the broccoli that hapless Calvin sprays on the dinner table, I thought it would be fun to share a recipe for a Broccoli-Cheese Casserole, so you can all make it for dinner.

Caveat: ask all your guests and family members promise NOT to tell a joke when anyone’s mouth is full. The clean-up won’t be fun!

 

photo via Cookies & Cups

Broccoli-Cheese Casserole

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1-1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 package Pepperidge Farm dressing crumbs
  • 2/3 stick butter

Directions

Drain cooked broccoli. Combine soup, eggs, mayonnaise, onion, salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Place in buttered 8″ x 8″ casserole. Leave at least 1 inch of room on top. Sprinkle 1 cup grated cheese on top. Melt butter and mix in dressing. Sprinkle on top. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.

~ from Margo Sorenson, author of Calvin Gets the Last Word (Tilbury House, 2020)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of thirty-one traditionally-published books for young readers, Margo Sorenson has won recognition and awards for her books, including ALA nominations and finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. To learn more about Margo’s kids’ books, visit Margo at www.margosorenson.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @ipapaverison, on Instagram: margosorensonwriter, or on Facebook: Italia Writes.

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CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD
written by Margo Sorenson
illustrated by Mike Deas
published by Tilbury House, October 6, 2020
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.

Flap copy: Calvin’s dictionary is proud to go wherever Calvin goes—the breakfast table, school, baseball practice, and home again—helping Calvin search for the perfect word to describe his super-annoying older brother. After looking all day, Calvin finally finds the word he’s looking for at bedtime. And when he does, the dictionary is as surprised and delighted as you will be.

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*Spreads from Calvin Gets the Last Word, text copyright © 2020 Margo Sorenson, illustrations © 2020 Mike Deas, published by Tilbury House. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2020 Margo Sorenson for Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

celebrating colin’s birthday with 2 treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook (+ a giveaway)

♥️ Special thanks to Marian from the Netherlands for inspiring me to write this post. 🙂

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of someone else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”  ~  Archibald Craven (Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden)

 

 

Guess who’s turning 60 on September 10?

Hint: he knows how to rock a waistcoat and cravat, is fluent in Italian, plays the guitar to relax, likes to tease fellow actor Gary Oldman about the size of his *ahem* manhood, almost voiced Paddington Bear in the movies, looks good WET (dry, and in-between), and even if you cook blue soup, he likes you just as you are.

Yes, it’s Colin, aka my secret husband (SO secret, even he doesn’t know about it). Fine specimen of a human being, don’t you think? Doesn’t look a day over 39. 🙂

 

Colin Firth as Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden (2020).

 

Unless you look at him playing Archibald Craven in the new Secret Garden movie. Have you seen it yet? They were all set for a big UK cinema premiere back in April, followed by the U.S. in August. But of course the pandemic changed everything, so instead, the movie went straight to video on demand beginning August 7, and will now open in UK cinemas October 23.

 

 

Colin, Colin, Colin, you’ve never looked so wretched, weary, or downtrodden. But Archibald is, of course, consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, making him inaccessible to his son and unable to properly care for his newly orphaned niece Mary Lennox, who comes to stay at Misselthwaite Manor.

 

Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), Colin Craven (Edan Hayhurst), Dickon (Amir Wilson) Archibald Craven (Colin Firth)

 

This new 2020 version (don’t worry, I promise not to be too spoilerish), is the fourth produced for the big screen, and Colin was attracted to the role because of the lavish garden scenes (which unlike previous films, were not confined to a single, walled-in area, but features an expansive, wide ranging terrain representing Mary’s unbounded imagination), as well as the “design concepts” of the castle, which really became a symbol for Archibald’s state of mind: dark, destructive, depressive. The creepiness of the house is highly atmospheric and underscores the tragic decline of what was once a joyful life.

Colin doesn’t get much screen time in the new movie; this makes sense since the story revolves primarily around the three young people: Mary, Colin Craven, and Dickon. The time period has been moved up to 1947, after WWII, instead of the early 1900’s as the book was originally set, and there is a new “character,” a stray dog named Jemima (later Hector, when his gender is confirmed), who helps lead Mary to the garden wall and gate key along with the robin.

 

Mary with Hector (this scraggly pup is a scene stealer!)

 

The spirit remains true to the original — the transformation of sickly, morose, isolated children into happy and healthier souls who blossom and thrive with newfound friendship, fresh air, good and nourishing food, and the magic of making things come alive.

Did you know this was the second time Colin appeared in a Secret Garden adaptation? Thirty-three years ago, when he was just 27, he played an adult Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie that’s told as a flashback from the POV of an adult Mary. Colin only appears at the very end, when he reunites with Mary after the war . . . and there’s romance!

 

Colin as Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie.

 

So it seems fated that Colin appear in these films, since there is a ‘Colin’ who has a major role in the novel, and he actually played this Colin years ago. Something else that’s cool about the 1987 version is that it was filmed at Highclere Castle. As a Downton Abbey fan, I enjoyed seeing familiar exteriors and interiors. 🙂

In addition to studio sets, the new 2020 movie was filmed at various gardens around England and North Wales, on location in Yorkshire, and at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. Knebworth is a cool place all its own, known for hosting awesome rock concerts (Stones, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton), and has been a choice setting for many other films, including “Nanny McPhee” and “The King’s Speech.” I imagine Colin feels quite at home there. 🙂

 

Poor Archibald. He needs some good food to restore his spirits!

 

The Secret Garden is one of my top three all-time favorite children’s novels, so it’s really icing on the cake to see Colin, however briefly, in two of the movies. Revisiting this classic, whether between the covers or up on a screen, tends to make me hungry because hearty farm-fresh Yorkshire fare helped restore Mary and Colin to optimum health. Okay, time to eat.

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[tasty review] United Tastes of America by Gabrielle Langholtz, Jenny Bowers, and DL Acken

 

Feeling a little peckish? What’s your pleasure?

If you’re craving something savory, perhaps we should zip on over to Illinois for some deep dish pizza and pierogies. Something a little more substantial? Well, we could feast on chicken fried steak in Oklahoma and bison burgers in Wyoming, before topping everything off with a platter of Norwegian meatballs in South Dakota.

What’s for dessert? May I tempt you with a slice of St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, Key Lime Pie from Florida, or some of South Carolina’s Buttermilk Pie? Oh, you want it all? Can’t say I’m surprised — I’d recognize your drool anywhere. 🙂

The good news is, we can sample all of these foods and lots more by simply digging into this new book, which takes us on a delicious culinary tour across the country — all 50 states + Washington, D.C. To sweeten the pot, we’re also invited to three U.S. territories: Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico!

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Savoring the “The Consolation of Apricots” by Diane Ackerman

 

Hello, Friends. I’m so glad you’re here today.

Hope you’re doing well despite these crazy, scary, unbelievably challenging times.

Please help yourself to a warm cuppa and a fresh-from-the-oven apricot scone while you savor Diane Ackerman’s sumptuous poem.

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“Apricot Still Life” by Julie L’Heureux

 

THE CONSOLATION OF APRICOTS
by Diane Ackerman

Especially in early
spring,
when the sun
offers a thin
treacle of warmth,
I love to sit
outdoors
and eat sense-
ravishing apricots.

Born on sun-
drenched trees in
Morocco,
the apricots have
flown the Atlantic
like small comets,
and I can taste
broiling North
Africa in their
flesh.

Somewhere
between a peach
and a prayer,
they taste of well
water
and butterscotch
and dried apples
and desert
simooms and lust.

Sweet with a
twang of spice,
a ripe apricot is
small enough to
devour
as two
hemispheres,
Ambiguity is its
hallmark.

How to eat an
apricot:
first warm its
continuous curve
in cupped hands,
holding it
as you might a
brandy snifter,

then caress the
velvety sheen
with one thumb,
and run your
fingertips
over its nap,
which is shorter
than peach fuzz,
closer to chamois.

Tawny gold with a
blush on its
cheeks,
an apricot is the
color of shame
and dawn.
One should not
expect to drink
wine
at mid-winter,
Boethius warned.

What could be
more thrilling
then ripe apricots
out of season,
a gush of taboo
sweetness
to offset the
savage wistfulness
of early spring?

Always eat
apricots at
twilight,
preferably while
sitting in a sunset
park,
with valley lights
starting to flicker
on
and the lake
spangled like a
shield.

Then, while a trail
of bright ink
tattoos the sky,
notice how the sun
washes the earth
like a woman
pouring her gaze
along her lover’s
naked body,

each cell receiving
the tattoo of her
glance.
Wait for that
moment
of arousal and
revelation,
then sink your
teeth into the flesh
of an apricot.

~ from I Praise My Destroyer (Random House, 1998)

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[guest post + recipes] What I Eat is How I Feel by Julia Wendell

We’re delighted to welcome back poet, author, and equestrian athlete Julia Wendell. She was last here discussing her poetry chapbook Take This Spoon (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2014), which explores the complicated relationship humans have with food. In her new memoir, Come to the X (Galileo Press, May 2020), food is again a central trope as it was in her previous book, Finding My Distance: A Year in the Life of a Three-Day Event Rider (Pathway Books, 2020). Both memoirs combine poetry and prose, showing how food reflects inner weather.

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WHAT I EAT IS HOW I FEEL

by Julia Wendell

In writing Come to the X (forthcoming, Galileo Press, 2020), I was struck by the way what I eat over the last decade has changed, and how my patterns of eating and relationship to food reflected the events in my life.

 

 

In Finding My Distance (Galileo Press, 2009), elaborate dinners and their preparation were like a reward. From lamb to shrimp, exotic pastas to salads, mountains of crabs and all the fixin’s — caesar potato salad and Asian cole slaw — to rich desserts like ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce, crisps and mousses and souffles. The long work days always ended with focus on cocktail hour and dinner, prepared and eaten with relish by this family of four, including two kids who were introduced as toddlers to an adult palate — whatever we ate got whizzed in a blender — a husband who is a stress eater, as well as myself, who has a history of anorexia. Whatever the complex motivations, and whatever stressful life events vying for our attention, sharing dinner and sitting down together as a family were key.

We head to Annapolis to meet my Aunt Kay for dinner at Cantler’s Riverside Inn, where we introduce her to a slice of Maryland she’s not partaken of before: platters of crabs brought steaming to our table. Barrett shows her how to crack open and hammer and peel, and before we know it, several mountains of spent legs and shells litter our brown-papered table, along with empty plastic containers of cole slaw and straggler fries and rings. Crab parts go flying, Aunt Kay busily wipes her white shirt, the clientele whoop it up at the tables and bar behind us, dusk starts to fall, and the Magothy River starts to sparkle behind us. We order another round of beers, another half-dozen crabs, and more slaw. After we’ve consumed our very last crab, we still have room for more and order key lime pies all around. Our server doesn’t even bother to clear away the mess before bringing out dessert, and now we’ve got a Vesuvius on our table.

“I’ve never seen you eat with such gusto, Julia,” Aunt Kay says.

“You’ve never seen me eat crabs before,” I reply. She’s amazed by the mess.

Finding My Distance, in contrast to Come to the X, is a book filled with hope and purpose; it is largely about my determination as a middle-aged equestrian athlete to climb the levels in three-day eventing. It is also about the challenges of being the mother of two young adults. Food, and specifically dinner preparation and its sharing with family, complement the inner weather of the book. After attending the Preakness Race:

My day ends well with Barrett’s shrimp pad thai and lots of Anapamu, and reruns of our eventing and racing videos. There goes Foolish Groom from the back of a twelve-horse pack, picking off his contenders in the last quarter mile, winning again by a good 10 lengths.

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