summer blog break


The sun is shining, a nice breeze is blowing, and Colin Firth summer fun is calling!

Going to take some time off from regular posting for a few weeks to pursue some new foodie adventures, tackle my just-for-fun TBR pile, and do a little blog housekeeping. I want to get all my letters in a row, since I always feel so much better when my kitchen is spit spot!

Meanwhile, I wish you many happy summer days, whether you’re on vacation or staycation. Ahhhhh — time for barbecue, fruit smoothies, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Enjoy these long, lazy days, have a spectacular Fourth of July weekend, and I’ll see you in August!

**Dorothy Whidden illustrations from The Alphabet That Was Good to Eat written by Louise Price Bell (Harter Publishing, 1932). (Crossett Library Bennington College flickr photostream.)

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

chatting with poetry man lee bennett hopkins


Roll out the purple carpet, pass the poetry and the pizza: the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins is here!

For years and years, I’d see the name "Lee Bennett Hopkins" on dozens and dozens of book covers as poet, author and anthologist, but never once imagined one day I’d have the pleasure of welcoming him to my blog. No one, in the history of children’s literature, has compiled more poetry anthologies than he has (100+ to date), and I’m certain most everyone — whether poet, author, educator, librarian, editor, publisher or reader — agrees that no one else has done as much to nurture, support and promote children’s poetry with such full-hearted enthusiasm and tenacity. 

He’s won numerous awards and honors as author and anthologist, such as the Christopher Award, Golden Kite Honor, and NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, and has established two awards: the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/IRA Promising Poet Award.


But apart from his long list of accomplishments and accolades, he’s also someone who likes the color purple and a good pizza, and who, in his heart of hearts, truly believes that poetry is absolutely essential for all children, both at home and in the classroom. Bring books and children together, and teach them to love reading. I’m so honored to have Lee visit alphabet soup to tell us a little about the art of compiling anthologies and to share a few tidbits about the three books he’s published so far this year:

I Am the Book (Holiday House, 2011), a collection of 13 exuberant poems celebrating the magic of reading with whimsical illustrations by Colombian artist Yayo,

Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems (HarperCollins, 2011), 19 humorous poems selected especially for the beginning reader with vibrant cartoony illustrations by Barry Gott, and

Hear My Prayer (Zonderkidz, 2011), a selection of 13 simple verses on a variety of universal themes with illustrations by Gigi Moore.

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six happy things on a monday

1. It’s always a good day when you have pancakes for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) ☺. My pancakes of choice remain Orangette’s Oatmeal Pancakes, a recipe she adapted from the pancakes served at the Inn at Fordhook Farm in Pennsylvania. Since I first mentioned Molly’s oatmeal pancakes here, we’ve made them at least six times, and it’s become our favorite breakfast to serve houseguests. We haven’t mashed in any blueberries yet; they’re delicious without them. And as Molly says, they are great the next day and the next . . . they freeze well, too.


2. Do you remember when Kevin Slattery declared May, Bob Dylan Month? And he ran his “Three for Free Giveaway” with copies of Ain’t Gonna Hang No Pixel (his first Picture Book for Big Kids) as the prize? Eeeeee! I was one of the winners!


This 16-page pop phenomenon parody, inspired by Dylan’s infamous decision to go electric in 1965, offers a tantalizing cross-section of Kevin’s unique digital art. Movers and shakers Billie Holiday, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul McCartney (*swoon*), Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kerouac, Emily Dickinson, Alfred Hitchcock, and of course, Dylan — are portrayed as never before. Kevin loves to mix things up and surprise you with unexpected juxtapositions: there’s a beautiful pink and yellow floral Billie as well as a funky cartoony Hitchcock making quite the television appearance (or should I say, “emergence”?). Wish you had your own copy? Click here for more details about this book as well as the second book in Kevin’s Picture Books for Big Kids series, Emily Comes to My House!

3. Big thanks to Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book for presenting alphabet soup with the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!

We truly appreciate this honor and are proud to be recognized along with these other blogs:

Kat Cooks the Books
Reading, Writing and Recipes
Storytelling, cooking and kids!
Children’s Books for Grown Ups – look out for Natasha’s Bookish Bites!
Maison Cupcake
The Tea Box

Check out Zoe’s list of books about sweets and baking that she especially enjoys. Don’t think I could narrow my list to just seven ☺.

4. A little Virginia pride here: just learned that Earl Hamner (the original John-Boy Walton) will receive the 2011 Literary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia! You probably know I’m a big fan of “The Waltons” and Mr. Hamner’s books. 


We extend our heartfelt congratulations to him on this well deserved honor. Read Mr. Hamner’s wonderful blog post about the award, which includes a little family and career history. BTW, in one of last night’s episodes, Olivia and Grandma made two applesauce cakes! Read my Waltons posts here.

5. Just wanted to mention how much I am loving Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac. Every one of her essays is beautifully crafted and includes interesting tidbits about the day’s significance as well as fascinating backstory about the featured book. It’s my daily dose of happy information which extends my appreciation for each and every title. Such richness!


6. Well, now, when Sweet Frog Premium Frozen Yogurt comes to town, it’s definitely worth celebrating. Newly opened not too far from home, this self-serve haven of the smooth and sweet is happy-making and then some. One of Len’s colleagues mentioned that ever since the place opened, his teen daughter has been going to Sweet Frog every. single. day. Of course I insisted we zip right on over and give it a try.

I had vanilla and coconut yogurt with fresh fruit and coconut sprinkles.

Cheery pink and green decor, and the place was packed! You pick your yogurt flavor(s), then select from oodles of toppings — fruity ones like mango, strawberry, banana, blueberry, raspberry, peach; and dry ones, like dark chocolate sprinkles, nuts, M&Ms, jelly bellies, mochi, graham cracker, Twix, gummi bears. If that’s not enough, dribble on some warm caramel, hot fudge and top with whipped cream. What I love most? Everybody in there was smiling.

So, it’s the last week of June and summer is in full swing.

Brownie oggles Marilyn in Kevin’s book.

Happy Monday and have a good week!

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

friday feast: vegetable love by barbara crooker

‘Tis the season for gorgeous summer produce and I’m envious of those of you with your own vegetable gardens. At our old house, where there were fewer trees to block the sunlight and no deer to nibble on devour everything, we had a nice little patch that yielded bell peppers, beefsteak, cherry and Early Girl tomatoes, cucumbers, and monster zucchini.

Tommy Williams/flickr

I love how each plant matured in its own time, extending our anticipation, and how it always seemed so miraculous that something delicious and satisfying could magically materialize from a tiny seed or starter plant.

Jean-François Chénier/flickr

No, there’s nothing like a freshly picked garden tomato at its peak of ripeness sliced just so, saying hello to three strips of bacon, a little butter lettuce and lightly toasted whole grain bread. And there’s no one who better celebrates the joy and wonder of the vegetable garden than Barbara Crooker. Her poetic garden flourishes with a variety of offerings, exquisite sensual details, and earthy enthusiasm. She always gets it just right.

by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth’s tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth’s voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

~ from Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Prize, Copyright © 2005 Barbara Crooker. All rights reserved.


♥ Today’s Roundup is at Carol’s Corner. Check out the full menu of tasty poems and have a good weekend!

♥ More Barbara Crooker poems at alphabet soup here.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

a platter of vegetable picture books

Put on your bibs and lick your chops — it’s fresh veggie time!

Serving up a little of summer’s bounty today in celebration of all that is green, purple, red, orange and yellow. Nothing better than the crunch of a carrot, the juicy ooze of a garden ripe tomato, the fresh snap of a sassy bean. A quick perusal of vegetable books at my library revealed a surprising number of varieties who took great pride in their ability to amaze and delight. Some call attention to themselves just by being BIG, while others excel at showmanship. Veggie vaudeville? Lima bean monsters? Whoever said vegetables were boring? 

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