soup of the day: spaghetti smiles by margo sorenson and david harrington (+ a pasta recipe)!

Ciao a tutti! Hello Everyone!

Today we’re happy to be celebrating the official release of Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson and David Harrington (Pelican Publishing Co., 2014).

This playful, lip-smacking story has been cooked up with just the right ingredients: a book lovin’ boy, a crazy-fun uncle, lots of savory, tomato-y, kiss-your-fingertips Italian food, the joys of reading with family, and the importance of a close-knit community.

But more about the book in a minute.

First, a few party accoutrements. :)

Please put on this spiffy pizza hat:

and these oven-warmed pizza socks:

Now, if you’re not into socks and like to walk on the wild side, slip your footsies into these spaghetti stilettos (bite me!):

Finally, to keep things neat, Mr. Cornelius would like you to wear this wee bib:

Please keep yourself thusly attired for the duration of this post. If you like, nosh on mini pizza while you’re reading. :)

via Favorite Recipes

Lookin’ good, bambini! Party on!

*   *   *

A Very Good Book

There’s nothing young Jake loves more than to pop over after school to his Uncle Rocco’s Italian Restaurant to read stories together, chow down on delicious food, and play crazy food games like spaghetti pick-up-sticks, bowling with mozzarella balls, and juggling ravioli.

But one day Uncle Rocco tells Jake they may not be able to read together anymore. The business next door has moved, and if a new tenant isn’t found soon, Rocco will have to close his restaurant.

Jake volunteers to help Uncle Rocco find a new neighbor for his “crazy, mixed-up restaurant.” He stops in at the bank, post office, and gas station, hoping one of the owners would be willing to relocate.

But though Ms. Cash, Mr. Stamply, and Mr. Pumper all love eating and playing at Rocco’s (“his spaghetti is still the greatest!”), they’re afraid the craziness might interfere with business as usual (“rows of pizzas baking in the bank vault,” “pepperoncini on envelopes instead of stamps,” “gas pumps would pump tomato sauce instead of gas”).

Jake thinks it’s hopeless until he spies a new bookstore. Can he convince fun-loving Mrs. Page to move her store to the middle of town, right next to Uncle Rocco’s?

Hungry readers will likely crave their favorite Italian dishes after seeing David Harrington’s bold and vivid illustrations of pizza faces, drippy tomato sauce, airborne ravioli and slurpy spaghetti. The cartoony caricatures of the townspeople with their flabbergasted expressions ramp up the humor and will elicit gastronomically induced giggles with every page turn (I wonder where Mrs. Page gets her hair done). :D

Kids will wish they had an uncle like Rocco, who loves food, playing and reading stories just as much as they do. And it would be fun to live in Jake’s neighborhood, where people are approachable and friendly, and whenever you like, you can bowl with mozzarella balls or anticipate piles of pasta on bookstore shelves. Don’t miss this tasty read. Fantastico!

*   *   *


Margo Sorensen especially enjoyed writing Spaghetti Smiles, not only because she’s a big fan of Italian food, but because she lived in Southern Italy between the ages of 3 and 7.

In addition to a favorite family recipe, she also sent along some interesting personal photos. I especially like the pic of Margo holding a book she received for her 6th birthday. Do you think she dreamed of becoming an award winning writer and educator back then? :)

Margo (age 5) driving a little car in the port of Bari

Schoolroom in Rome, Italy (2004)

Margo’s favorite plate from Positano

Margo’s cooktop with the Bialetti “Little Man” Moka Espresso

Margo (age 6 ) holding her birthday book

Margo’s favorite villa view in Tuscany (2004)

Italian Farmer’s Market in Alba


Cheese lovers, rejoice! Wouldn’t a plate of Margo’s pasta with Fontina, Asiago, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano taste good right about now? Buon Appetito!


(serves 3 or 4)

  • 3/4 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated plus more for adding at end
  • 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (or 1/2 cup Ricotta Salata, grated)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream plus more if needed for creamy consistency
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Pennette 8 ounces
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped

Pour heavy cream into a large pan over medium heat. Add butter. Add cheeses and simmer until they are melted, about five minutes. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Sprinkle some coarse salt when it boils and add pasta to boiling water. Cook for 10-12 minutes or till al dente. Drain the pasta and immediately add it to pan and mix well. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with parsley and black pepper. Sprinkle freshly-grated Parmigiano on top.

*   *   *

Now, please join me in congratulating Margo and David on their deliciously playful book. Feel free to slurp loudly in your best Italian accents, or if you like, dive directly into the bowl for a few backstrokes. Keep your bibs about you, but mind you don’t eat your spaghetti stilettos.

Today’s Special: Felice Pastina Alfabeto (liberally seasoned with love, joy and laughter)

Did you think I’d forget dessert? Spaghetti and Meatballs Cupcakes for everyone!

via Sweet Little Thang

After you’re thoroughly sugared up, sashay on down to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy of Spaghetti Smiles.

If you go to a bricks-and-mortar store, I think it best to wear something red, white and green, and if it’s warm where you live, a top with spaghetti straps would be totally de rigueur. Do I even have to tell you to wear a bushy mustache like Uncle Rocco’s?

Singing a few bars of “O Sole Mio” in the checkout line or talking the book up to other customers while wildly waving your hands is good too. If you’re hoping for a discount, mention the secret password “Ravishing Ravioli” to the cashier. :)


*   *   *

written by Margo Sorenson
illustrated by David Harrington
published by Pelican Publishing Company, 2014
Picture Book for ages 5-8, 32 pp.
Cool themes: cooking, food, restaurants, relatives, books and reading, learning, humor, town life.

*   *   *


Margo Sorenson’s Official Website

David Harrington’s Official Website

More Soup of the Day posts here.

*   *   *

CODA: Bowling with Cherry Tomatoes

Hmmmm, what to do with these?

Tomato bowling balls!

Okay, lined up the pins.

There she goes!

Strike! Another game for Jake and Uncle Rocco! :)

Ciao a tutti! Mille Grazie! :)


* From Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, text © 2014 Margo Sorenson, images © 2014 David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

**Giovanni Baby Bib “Mangia” via Italian Children’s Market

**Pizza Socks via Foot Traffic

**Pizza Hat via Costumes of Nashua

**Spaghetti Shoe Sculpture by Robert Tabor (Sole Sensations)


Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

if the shoe fits, eat it


Here’s the scoop:

Now you can have your cake and wear it too, thanks to the Shoe Bakery. :)

This Orlando-based company, founded by designer Chris Campbell, creates custom, handmade ice cream and cake shoe designs. None of them are edible, but apparently very wearable. I’ve seen shoe sculptures before which pretty much live in art galleries and are for ogling only. But these heels, flats, and wedges like to go out on the town and make unforgettable fashion statements at weddings and other special occasions. Fun!

Enjoy this little dessert tray to get your week off to a sweet start. :)



tealandpinktriplechocolatemintcrememintchocolateicecreamchocolatedollyblack_white lacegingerbreadicecreamflatsbrideaquacustomaquapurpleoreoheels

Prices range from about $70 – $350 for items featured at the Shoe Bakery website. They also take private orders, ship internationally, and will decorate a pair of shoes you already own.

Which is your favorite? I love these Chocolate Oreo pumps — lickalicious!


Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

friday feast: celebrating fall with yummy haiku + leetle baked pumpkins

It’s here, it’s here! My favorite season of the year!

Happy Autumn, Cutie Pies!

To celebrate, I’m sharing four haiku from that delectable harvest of foodie goodness, Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico!: Americas’ Sproutings by Pat Mora and Rafael López (Lee & Low, 2007).

This mouth-watering collection features fourteen familiar foods native to the Americas (corn, blueberries, chiles, tomatoes, pecans, pumpkins). With choice sensory details, touches of whimsy, and a generous sprinkling of joy, Ms. Mora captures their very essence, illuminating how these foods have enriched our lives for centuries (hello, chocolate!). :)

Each of the haiku is paired with a sidebar brimming with fascinating tidbits about the food’s origin, history, cultural significance and/or current uses.

Rafael López’s exuberant, color saturated acrylic on wood paintings leap off the page, incorporating wondrous narratives to feed the imagination via beautiful layers, textures, luscious details and a fetching cast of diverse characters.

What child would not love to reach for a piece of chocolate pie floating on a cloud, or ride atop a giant bird tossing blueberries? And wouldn’t it be fun to party with a giant peanut butter sandwich or dancing pineapple?

This scrumptious award winning feast of words and pictures is wholly satisfying — a fun and informative treat for all ages just perfect for perking up the Fall palate and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Mr. Cornelius and the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers picked these sample poems just for you. Enjoy. Qué Rico!

*   *   *


Chewing your perfume,
we taste your leafy jungle.
Yum! Juicy tropics.

*   *   *


We crack hard, brown shells,
family munching, story time,
crunchy taste of fall.

*   *   *


Under round luna,
scattered tumblings down the rows,
autumn’s orange face.

*   *   *


Round roly-poly
squirts seedy, juicy splatter.
Red bursts in your mouth.

*   *   *


After reading the Pumpkin haiku, the resident bears were curious about tasting fresh pumpkin. Mr. Jama procured some mini pumpkins, just the right size for hungry little bears.

Did you know they’re called Jack Be Little pumpkins? Adorable! We get some every year for decoration but never thought to actually eat them.

After washing our little Jacks, we simply cut the tops off,

removed the seeds and strings with an ice cream scoop,

filled the cavities with about a tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of brown sugar, and sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg,

replaced the lids, and then baked them at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Once they were done, it was fun to lift those little lids, scrape the pumpkin meat from the sides and mix it with the butter and brown sugar mixture. Yum! Growls of approval!

I’ve used mini pumpkins for table settings, but now that I know they’re actually edible (and tasty), I think they would make a cute first course for Thanksgiving.

You can eat them simply like we did here, or stuff them with pretty much anything — this Country Living recipe for Baked Stuffed Pumpkins calls for a mixture of Israeli couscous, apples, onions, cranberries and Italian sausage; and Whole Foods has a Wild Rice Stuffed Mini Pumpkin recipe with cranberries (sounds good).

These leetle pumpkin pots are a novel way to serve soup, puddings, chunky relishes, or a serving of your favorite veggies. They’re just too cute. Qué rico!   (Can you tell I like saying that?) :)

*   *   *

written by Pat Mora
illustrated by Rafael López
published by Lee & Low, 2007
Poetry Picture Book for ages 5+, 32 pp.
*Américas Book Award, ALA Notable Book
**Available in English and Spanish editions

Visit the publisher’s website for reviews, an interview with the author, and a Teacher’s Guide.

*   *   *

poetryfriday180The lovely and talented Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. I wonder which of today’s featured foods is her favorite? Do you think it’s pumpkin? :)


*Spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2007 Pat Mora, illustrations © 2007 Rafael López, published by Lee & Low Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

let’s have dinner with the highbrows (or not)

Ahem. It’s time to sit up straight, place our napkins in our laps, and make polite conversation at the table.

Or, we can fling meatballs at each other.

I leave it to you to decide which would be more fun and/or politically correct. :)

To help make up your mind, why not take a bite or two of Dinner with the Highbrows: A Story About Good (or Bad) Manners (Henry Holt, 2014) by Kimberly Willis Holt and Kyrsten Brooker?

Bernard could hardly wait until next Saturday. He was invited to eat dinner with Gilbert Highbrow’s family. Bernard had never eaten at a friend’s house.

Bernard’s mom is all a-fluster. The Highbrows live in “a fine house” and only the best manners will do for such posh people. She coaches Bernard all week on the essentials: compliment and thank the hosts, say a blessing, no elbows on the table, don’t talk with your mouth full, no singing!, help clear the dishes. Bernard practices and practices, hoping he’ll be able to remember all the rules.

Illustrations © 2014 Kyrsten Brooker

On Saturday, he’s excited but nervous. When he finally gets to the Highbrows’, he’s greeted by shouts and cheers and quickly whisked off with the family to Antonio’s restaurant in a white limousine.

But once there, the Highbrows do just the opposite of everything Bernard’s mom taught him. Napkins around necks! Talking with mouths full! Elbows and feet(!) on the table! Burping! Food fight! Teeth picking! Even singing! Bernard has never seen spaghetti and meatballs eaten with such gustatory gusto.

The Highbrows may be upper crust, but their manners are all a-crumble. Plus, they’ve got tomato sauce all over their faces.

Despite the noise and mealtime melee, Bernard maintains his cool, ever the model of good behavior. He remembers to bow his head for the blessing, carefully places his napkin in his lap, keeps his mouth closed while chewing, and politely thanks the Highbrows for a lovely meal. Naturally, they all think Bernard’s peculiar — especially when they see what he does right after dinner (too funny!).

Kids will lap up this lively, hilarious lesson in table etiquette. It will give them a chance to be vicariously naughty for a few delicious minutes. Learning by negative example is often more effective than straight-up preaching, and coming to this story with an attitude of “knowing better” is also empowering.

Readers will be hooked by the sheer anticipation of seeing what the Highbrows will do next. Who would believe anyone could be that loud, unruly and messy in a public restaurant — and get away with it? We all love to see people doing things we dare not do from a safe distance, and it’s definitely fun to see how Bernard reacts when faced with the unexpected.

(click to enlarge)

The fact that money cannot buy good manners, or that people are often not what they seem on the surface are good topics for parent-child or teacher-student discussions. Also interesting to consider is that no two families are alike. Though the Highbrows are sloppy eaters, they were welcoming and friendly towards Bernard. They might have thought he was strange, but they accepted it and never intentionally made him feel uncomfortable.

Kyrsten Brooker’s wonderful oil and cut paper illustrations are a study in exuberance, comical caricatures, retro threads, highly emotive facial expressions and cool mustaches. They ramp up the humor and effectively capture the chaos and cacophony of the rambunctious Highbrows, and by contrast, the earnest efforts of unsuspecting guest Bernard Worrywart. I love how collaged details (especially Mrs. Worrywart’s dresses/aprons and Mrs. Highbrow’s hat) create an old-fashioned feel for this timeless message: good manners never go out of style.

Munchkins will likely ask for second helpings of this rib-tickler, if only to pick up meatball flinging tips. Oops.

If there is a mischievous bear in your midst, mind he doesn’t lick the pages or steal all the meatballs in the book. Pass the sauce! :)

*   *   *

DINNER WITH THE HIGHBROWS: A Story About Good (or Bad) Manners
written by Kimberly Willis Holt
illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, 2014
Picture Book for ages 4-7, 36 pp.
*Love the adorable endpapers :)
**Will make you crave spaghetti and meatballs

*   *   *



Have you ever seen customers misbehave in a restaurant? Do tell. :)


Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

mr darcy picks a winner!

My Dear Friends,

Please allow me to thank you for ardently admiring and loving me. I trust your parents are in good health?

I’ve been summoned by a certain Monsieur Random Integer Generator to announce the winner of the Goodnight Mr. Darcy Giveaway.

Before I proceed, may I be so bold as to convey my deepest appreciation to Miss Coombs and Miss Arnold for their splendid portrayal of my hot hook-up fortuitous assignation with one Elizabeth Bennet?

I confess I would have addressed you sooner, but I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.

Can you blame me? She’s hot, right?

There was also the dilemma of selecting just one recipient amongst a bevy of bosom-heaving broads an impressive coterie, all in possession of sizable fortunes and enviable connections.

As an honorable man, I assure you I employed all means at my disposal to arrive at a fair and impartial decision.

I wrote to esteemed colleagues for advice.

I pondered long and laboriously.

I struck dignified poses.

Mounted my steed for a better perspective.

Got sloshed Sipped soothing spirits to clear my head.

Heck, I even took a bath.


Thus cleansed, a brilliant thought disrupted my reverie.


I retrieved the name I sought, yet in vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.

You must now allow me to tell you that the person receiving a copy of Goodnight Mr. Darcy and the Pride and Prejudice Keepsake Edition DVD set is:


Please send an electronic missive with your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so we can dispatch your prize at first light.

My deepest thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.

Rest assured, you have all bewitched me, body and soul.

I remain your servant and ardent admirer, 

Fitzwilliam Darcy

Miss Jama loves me in green.

P.S. Got any dry clothes?


Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

friday feast: the birthday bear (+lemon-glazed tea cookies)

Guess who had a birthday this week?

Yes, the 6″ tan teddy bear who frequents this blog turned 26 on Wednesday. Back in September 1988, he winked at me from a booth at the Fall Teddy Bear Show in Timonium, Maryland.

He promised to be good so I brought him home. Mr. Cornelius turned out to be an avid reader and a good baker but has quite the knack for mischief. You may have noticed that he loves to have his picture taken (he’s not happy unless he has at least one blog close-up every week). I must say he keeps me very busy answering all his fan mail. :)

Just for Poetry Friday, he selected three favorite poems from Bears∙Bears∙Bears: A Treasury of Stories, Songs and Poems About Bears compiled by Mary Pope Osborne (Parachute Press, 1990). He had fun finding just the right vintage photos to go with them.

And just to make sure you don’t go hungry, he’s whipped up a batch of Lemon-Glazed Tea Cookies from Winnie-the-Pooh’s Cookie Book. Wrap your lips around a few while you enjoy the poems. :)

*   *   *

by Marchette Chute

A teddy bear is a faithful friend.
You can pick him up at either end.
His fur is the color of breakfast toast,
And he’s always there when you need him most.

*   *   *

Photo by Sarolta Ban

by Ogden Nash

Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.

*   *   *

The real Christopher Robin and Pooh

by A. A. Milne

If I were a bear,

And a big bear too,

I shouldn’t much care

If it froze or snew;

I shouldn’t much mind

If it snowed or friz –

I’d be all fur-lined

With a coat like his!


For I’d have fur boots and a brown fur wrap,
and brown fur knickers and a big fur cap.
I’d have a fur muffle-ruff to cover my jaws,
And brown fur mittens on my big brown paws.
With a big brown furry-down up to my head,
I’d sleep all the winter in a big fur bed.

*   *   *


In case you haven’t seen this sweet little book, it contains almost 50 cookie recipes grouped into sections like “Anytime Cookies,” “Honey-Pot Cookies,” and “Holiday Cookies and Icings.”

Mr. Cornelius found Lemon-Glazed Tea Cookies under “Cookies for Company,” remarking that YOU are his favorite company. :)

He earnestly squeezed lemons, measured milk, beat butter and sugar, cracked an egg, even sifted flour, baking powder, and baking soda without making too much of a mess. His favorite part was applying the lemon juice/sugar glaze because he got to use a special brush.

If you like buttery cakey cookies with a fresh lemon flavor, these are for you. Mind you don’t eat too many or you’ll get stuck in the doorway when you visit Rabbit.



makes 3 dozen


  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Stir 2 teaspoons of milk into lemon juice. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg, lemon juice-milk mixture, and remaining milk, and mix well.

In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda together, and slowly add to butter mixture. Stir in lemon zest.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes. Edges should be lightly brown.

Mix lemon juice and sugar for glaze. Allow cookies to cool, then brush with lemon-sugar glaze mixture.

~ Adapted from Winnie-the-Pooh’s Cookie Book, inspired by A.A. Milne, with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard (Dutton, 1996).

*   *   *

poetryfriday180The lovely and talented Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the Roundup at The Poem Farm. Take her some tea and cookies and enjoy the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Do keep an eye out, in case a little bear winks at you. ;-)


“Now that I’m 26, I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”

“Better take some cookies for the road.”

*   *   *

wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts (recipes, book reviews, photos, musings, etc.). Bon Appetit!




Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.