friday feast: Adele Kenny’s “To Blueberries” (+ a recipe!)

While nibbling on some of the delectable poems featured in the recently published anthology Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), I was pleased and excited to come across Adele Kenny’s “To Blueberries.”

You may remember Adele as a 2012 Poetry Potluck guest, when she shared the poignant “Chosen Ghosts” and her grandmother’s recipe for Staffordshire Irish Stew. It’s nice now to read of her love for blueberries, a lyrical paean that interweaves art masterpieces, a popular song title, and a fond childhood memory with luscious sensory details.

Adele has graciously given me permission to share both her poem and the recipe for Bluemisu that’s included in the anthology, and she’s also provided a bit of interesting backstory. It’s always fascinating to learn a little more about how a poet’s mind works, and of course now we’ll all be craving blueberries for days and days — actually, a good thing. :)


“Polish Pottery and Blueberries” watercolor by Kara K. Bigda

by Adele Kenny

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!

– Robert Frost, from “Blueberries”

Imagine the “Mona Lisa” with blueberry eyes;
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Blueberry Night;” imagine
Vermeer’s “Girl with a Blueberry Earring” and
Gainsborough’s “Blueberry Boy.” Imagine
blueberries, one at a time, between stained fingers—
sugary, tart—large or small (not all created equal).
Full in the sun, even their shadows are warm:
silvery patina, bluer than blue sky, bluer than blue.
First the pop and then pulp between your teeth.
Listen to the birds (sparrows, chickadees)—blue
fruit sweet in their beaks. Oh, briarless bush! Bluest
fruit. No core, no seeds. Nothing ever to pit or peel.
Definitely not the forbidden fruit, no Eve down on
her knees—never the cost of paradise. Blueberry
muffins, pancakes, wine! Highbush and low—blue
on the crest of Blueberry Hill—and years ago, my
mother mixing the dough for blueberry pies, the
rolling pin round in her hands (our dog asleep
on the kitchen stair), my father at the table, and
me on his lap, close in the curve of his arm.

~ from Feast: Poetry & Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner, edited by Diane Goettel and Anneli Matheson (Black Lawrence Press, copyright © 2015), reprinted by permission of the author.

“Blueberry Field” oil painting by Joy Laking



Adele: The poem took form during an early morning Chelsea soccer match on TV. Chelsea is my favorite team, and blue is the Chelsea color. During halftime, I got up to make myself a bowl of oatmeal into which I sprinkled some blueberries. As I sat eating with my Yorkie (Chaucer, aka “Chaucey”) beside me, a commercial that included something about Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” interrupted the halftime commentary. It was at that point that I began to imagine the images in the first four lines of the poem. I jotted down the ideas, the match came back on, and I didn’t return to the poem until a week or two after.

The recipe evolved much later when I needed something sweet for a dinner party I was hosting. Because I love blueberries so much, there are usually some in the refrigerator, especially when I find them on sale. They must have been on sale that week because there were four pints just waiting to be included in dessert for the dinner party. Hence, bluemisu!




  • 3 pints fresh blueberries (in winter, frozen blueberries may be substituted for fresh)
  • 1/2 cup unrefined sugar
  • juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 12-15 ladyfingers
  • 1/2 cup of any Raspberry Liquor, Chambord, Crème de Cassis, or Crème de Framboise


Combine blueberries, unrefined sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and set aside to cool.

Dip each ladyfinger in whichever liquor you decide to use; be sure to soak both sides of each ladyfinger (about five seconds on each side). After dipping, place each ladyfinger on a board to rest while the liquor is infused.

While the ladyfingers rest, combine the heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and beat to a creamy consistency at a low speed for about two minutes. (If mascarpone cheese is unavailable, you can create a substitute by mixing 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons of sour cream.)

Using a large glass compote, make a ring of ladyfingers around the sides and across the bottom of the compote (trim ladyfingers if necessary). Then spoon a layer of mascarpone cream from step 3 onto the ladyfingers. Next add a layer of the blueberry mixture from step 1, and top that with a layer of ladyfingers. Repeat the layering until the compote is filled and your last layer is mascarpone cream. (Alternatively, you might use a rectangular glass baking dish, or individual dishes.) Chill for about 4 hours. (This dessert keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can prepare it in advance and let it chill overnight.)

Just before serving, garnish with fresh blueberries. Other berries can be added to the garnish if you wish (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries). For chocolate lovers, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate shavings on the top layer of mascarpone cream.

Serves 8-10



Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction). Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals here and abroad, as well as in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. Her poetry collection, What Matters (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2011), received the 2012 International Book Award for Poetry. A former creative writing professor in the College of New Rochelle’s Graduate School, Adele is founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and has been poetry editor of Tiferet since 2006. Adele is active in readings and conducts both agency-sponsored and private poetry workshops. Her most recent book is A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015). Visit her Official Website and The Music in It Poetry Blog, where she features guest bloggers or prompts every Saturday.

Enjoy a sample poem from A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:



Blueberry Dog Treats for Adele’s Yorkie Chaucey (click for recipe)


poetry fridayLovely Tricia Stohr-Hunt is hosting the Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Take her some blueberries and check out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Have a happy blueberryish weekend!


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

hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Will Hillenbrand

Will Hillenbrand is a celebrated author and illustrator whose published works include nearly sixty books for young readers. In addition to his own self-illustrated titles, he has illustrated the works of writers and retellers including Verna Aardema, Judy Sierra, Margery Cuyler, Judith St. George, Phyllis Root, Jane Yolen, Karma Wilson, Maureen Wright, Daniel Pinkwater and Jane Hillenbrand. Will has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park. (Pictured here taking his first pull of the day of strong black coffee.)


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: Coffee black, so strong it makes the day brighter. Like Dunkin’ Donuts coffee best!

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Bear and Bunny, written by Daniel Pinkwater (Candlewick Press, December 2015)All for a Dime: A Bear and Mole Story (Holiday House, July 2015). Forthcoming: Me and Annie McPhee, written by Olivier Dunrea (Philomel, June 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Please Say Please!: Penguin’s Guide to Manners, written by Margery Cuyler (Scholastic, 2004). 

☕ Visit Will Hillenbrand’s Official Website

☕☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Book Trailer for Bear and Bunny


☕☕☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Visit Will in his studio:



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

[sweet review] Timothy and Sarah: The Homemade Cake Contest by Midori Basho

Didn’t someone once say you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Well, anyone who reads Midori Basho’s Timothy and Sarah: The Homemade Cake Contest (Museyon, 2015) will certainly be able to do both. First published in Japan six years ago, The Homemade Cake Contest is the first title from Basho’s popular 13-book Timothy and Sarah series to be translated into English, and it’s quite scrumptious.

In this charming story, mouse twins Timothy and Sarah are excited about helping Miss Flora and their mother raise funds to restore an old house in the forest. It was once a wonderful café where guests could have tea and chat while their children played outside. If only they could repair the building and reopen the café! Then young and old alike could enjoy it together!

Adorable end papers!

Having a cake-baking contest seems like the perfect way to raise money for needed supplies and materials. After Mother and Miss Flora spread the word about the contest all over town, Timothy and Sarah get to work on their cakes. With a little batter-making help from Mother and Father, the twins happily add their personal touches: a walnut cake for Timothy (his favorite kind of nuts) and a strawberry cake for Sarah (what she most loves to eat). Mother whips up a chocolate cake with powdered sugar stenciled angels, while Father makes the contest medals.

Then it’s time to join the other townspeople at the park to see all the beautiful, fun, and amazing entries. Wow! Tables and tables of cakes in the big tent — “a rose cake, an acorn cake, a steam engine cake, and a little bird cake.” So many good ones! How will the judges pick just one? Just as they’re about to announce the winner, Rick rushes in with a last minute entry. His gorgeous candy house trumps all and takes the prize.

Now everyone buys pieces of the cakes they like, some eating them right there in the park, while others take theirs home. Luckily an elderly gentleman buys Rick’s candy house because it’s too difficult to cut into pieces. It’ll be a special gift for his sick wife because it looks just like the house they used to live in.

After selling the cakes’ recipes in addition to cookies and bread, they’re able to raise enough money, and everyone pitches in to repair the old house, which they decide to model after Rick’s candy house. With a little landscaping, the project is successfully completed and the town gathers for a big housewarming party.

(click to enlarge)

Aside from the adorable illustrations of many mice making and eating many cakes, this heartwarming story offers a wealth of teachable moments related to cooperation, good sportsmanship, healthy competition, mastering new skills, teamwork, and community service. Kids will love studying all the details in the pictures and will be anxious to try making and/or decorating their own cakes. This veritable banquet of creativity extols the rewards of pitching in for the good of the whole and valuing the unique contributions of the individual.

(click to enlarge)

Since this is a work in translation, I should mention that the text runs a little long and could have been streamlined in places. The fact that one person entered a pie in the contest and that Rick’s “cake” was made entirely of candy gave me pause. But the story has an appealing premise with a satisfying ending, and it would be a rare child who wouldn’t delight in and drool over all the elaborately decorated cakes. I also like the emphasis on restoring the café as a place especially for the elderly to gather with young children. The very old and the very young do have a special bond, as Joseph Campbell states in The Mask of God:

The old in many societies spend a considerable part of their time playing with and taking care of the youngsters, while the parents delve and spin: so that the old are returned to the sphere of eternal things not only within but without. And we may take it also, I should think, that the considerable mutual attraction of the very young and the very old may derive something from their common, secret knowledge that it is they, and not the busy generation between, who are concerned with a poetic play that is eternal and truly wise.”

From young to old, and old to young — a human being’s full circle journey. What seemed especially “Japanese” to me was this reverence and respect for the elderly, something that is inherent in Asian culture but is sometimes lacking in Western society, where old people become invisible and are often cast aside. In The Homemade Cake Contest, the elderly are a vital part of the community, and I think it’s important for children to see that. This sweet story with its old fashioned flavor is interesting on several levels. Enjoy it with a cup of warm tea. :)


written and illustrated by Midori Basho
translated by Mariko Shii Gharbi
published in the United States by Museyon, Inc., April 2015
Picture Book for ages 5-7, 32 pp.


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, copyright © 2010 Midori Basho, published by Museyon, Inc. All rights reserved.

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

friday feast: Too Many Tomatoes by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta (+ a recipe!)


Sing a song of plump, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes! Is there anything better than freshly picked homegrown beauties with their promise of mouthwatering soups, salads, sandwiches, salsa, and sauces? Or why not just eat them all by themselves? Hold the essence of summer in your hand, inhale the fragrance of lazy sunny days, then bite into that tempting globe of delight, letting the juice run down your chin. Mmmmmm!

Though it’s winter now in my part of the world, this brand new rhyming picture book by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta has me dreaming of dining al fresco with a cup of zesty gazpacho, a sassy tomato tart, bruschetta pomodoro, panzanella, caprese, veggie pizza and fresh pasta with arugula and parmesan. I could easily whip up all these dishes with the barrels and buckets and bushels of tomatoes described in Too Many Tomatoes (Kane Miller, 2016). :)

Art copyright © 2016 Kent Culotta (click to enlarge)

This joyous, rollicking paean to America’s favorite garden vegetable (and yes, botanically, it’s considered a fruit) is narrated by a spirited young boy who spends the day with his grandparents, helping them pick, crate, and transport the bounty of tomatoes from the garden to the local farmers market.

Grandfather’s garden
is popping with peas.
It’s buzzing with blossoms
and bumbly bees.

It’s bursting with berries
and beans and potatoes
and tall, twining vines of
too many tomatoes.

Ode’s pitch perfect toe-tapping rhymes and Culotta’s exuberant illustrations invite the reader to jump right in and join all the fun. The boy’s enthusiasm is positively contagious as he describes how Grandpa first planted the seeds and how excited they were when sprout after sprout came up.

The garden produced such an abundant yield that they had more than enough to share with friends and neighbors before loading up the rest on the truck to take to their stand at the market.

Down to the sidewalk,
and down to the street,
drippy and slippery,
juicy and sweet.

Red ones and yellow ones,
shiny and round,
jumbling, tumbling
over the ground.

I love how this story is infused with the warmth of family and community, how a seed of good intentions blossoms into gestures of outreach and interaction. All kinds of people were able to enjoy the tomatoes in their own distinctive ways.

One for the teacher,
and one for the tailor.
One for the scientist.
One for the sailor.

One for the painter,
and one for the plumber.
One for the dancer,
and one for the drummer.

(click to enlarge)

Later there’s even a big tomato parade downtown (love those bright red uniforms), followed by a delicious dinner featuring fresh tomato in a green salad, tomato pie, tomato kabobs, and of course pasta with tomato sauce. Truly a tomato lover’s dream come true!

Too Many Tomatoes is great fun to read aloud; the “too many tomatoes” variable refrain effectively amplifies the boy’s excitement and the celebratory mood of the entire story. Kids will also enjoy counting the tomatoes in each picture and seeing how the same vegetable figures in different scenarios (the scientist examines it under a microscope, the painter uses hers as a still life subject, the whistling sailor tosses his in the air as he saunters along).

And it’s nice to see an active, energetic pair of grandparents wholly engaged with their grandson. Grandpa with his fiddle, Grandma dancing, both of them running in the field and marching in the parade with joyous abandon — certainly not your stereotypical rocking chair doddling pair.

Together, Ode and Culotta have created a jubilant feel-good book that will elicit lots of smiles, requests for rereadings, and the inevitable cravings for tomato dishes. There’s no such thing as too many tomatoes when one can reap this much good will, and nothing tastes better than food that is shared.

So, did Eric and Kent like tomatoes when they were kids, and what’s their favorite way to eat them?

Kent: I’m an Italian boy, so my all time favorite go-to dish is pasta with tomato sauce. I’m afraid that I’m not much of a cook. I keep things pretty simple, so I don’t have any special recipes. I do wish that I had my Grandmother’s recipe for her tomato sauce, though. It was the best ever. I was a pretty finicky eater as a kid, but I do remember liking dishes with tomatoes in them. Another favorite was something my mom called “spanish rice” that had big chunks of tomato in it.

Eric: Yes, I think I’ve always liked tomatoes. And I love raising tomatoes. I love the smell of the vines when you’re harvesting. There’s nothing else that has that particular, wonderful smell. I’m always happy to eat tomatoes fresh. A good tomato in season, all on its own, is a real treat! But I’m also a fan of broiled tomatoes (halved, sprinkled with garlic salt, grated parmesan, basil, maybe a little butter), tomato salads (a variety of fresh tomatoes with cucumber, fresh basil, Kalamata olives, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and feta cheese), and any sandwich or pizza done in a margherita style. I’ll share an example as a recipe.

via Marzetti Kitchens

Grilled Open Face Mozzarella Sandwich

From bottom to top…
Slice of artisan bread, spread w/ a bit of olive oil on top side
Lightly dash with garlic salt
Layer of fresh mozzerella
Sliced fresh tomato
Fresh basil
Low broil until warm and absolutely delicious.


Mmmmmmmm! Time for lunch! Thanks for creating this delightfully delicious book, Eric and Kent!


written by Eric Ode
illustrated by Kent Culotta
published by Kane Miller, March 2016
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 40 pp.
Cool themes: nature, gardening, farmers markets, sustainability, family, sharing, multigenerational stories, rhymes
** Visit the Usborne Books and More website to order your copies (official pub date is March, but it’s available now)!

*** Click here for Too Many Tomatoes Lessons and Activities

*** Click here for the Official Book Trailer


Enjoy this video of Eric shining the spotlight on Too Many Tomatoes:


poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Do you think she knows how to juggle tomatoes? Skip on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on this week’s menu. Eat something tomato-y this weekend!


wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!


*Interior spreads from Too Many Tomatoes posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Eric Ode, illustrations © 2016 Kent Culotta, published by Kane Miller Books. All rights reserved.

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

hotTEAs of Children’s Literature: Dan Yaccarino

Dan Yaccarino is an internationally acclaimed artist, author, and producer who has created over 50 children’s books as well as his own animated television series. He has garnered many prestigious awards as well as an invitation to the White House to read his books.


☕ CUPPA OF CHOICE: I usually drink a cup of Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea. I quit coffee about 2 years ago. I promise not to prosthelytize about the evils of caffeine.

☕ HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Five Little Bunnies, written by Tish Rabe (HarperFestival, January 2016) Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2014); Doug Unplugged (Knopf, 2013).  Forthcoming: Class Pet Squad: Journey to the Center of Town (Feiwel & Friends, June 2016) three board books in the Happyland Series: Birthday Cake, Big Berry, Rainy Day (Workman, August 2016); I Am A Story (HarperCollins, October 2016).

☕ FAVE FOODIE CHILDREN’S BOOK: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1982). I always loved reading that book to my kids. I’m kind of a foodie, but not the fancy type. I travel a lot and wherever I go, I try to seek out the hole in the wall place that only the locals go to have that one particular item that is unique to that area.

☕ Visit Dan Yaccarino’s Official Website and YouTube Channel

☕ ☕ JUST ONE MORE SIP: Book trailers for Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom + Doug Unplugged



☕ ☕ ☕ CAN’T GET ENOUGH: More about Dan’s books!


☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ STILL THIRSTY!!: Check out Mr. Cornelius’s favorite episode from Dan’s Emmy-winning animated series, Willa’s Wild Life, “Unbearable Bear”!



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

Miyuki Sakai’s Incredible Sewing Illustrations


Somewhere in San Francisco, Osaka-born artist Miyuki Sakai is busy creating yet another gorgeous sewing illustration.

Using only a standard sewing machine, about 200 different thread colors, and a basic straight stitch, she fashions amazing pictures of everyday objects and scenes, from the dining room and kitchen, to the office, street, cafe, garden, and supermarket.


Miyuki grew up watching her mother make clothes and decided to adopt the sewing machine as her primary tool. After graduating from art college in Kyoto, she worked as a freelance illustrator in Tokyo before emigrating to the U.S.


Her unique style is characterized by lush colors, meticulous detail, and studied compositions. She works freehand, leaving uncut threads that give her illustrations a charming human touch.



Back in 2011, she earned a Bronze Medal in Editorial Design (NY ADC Awards) for her “Viva la Tarte!” stitched plates that showcased real food in Martha Stewart Living.




Her work has also been featured in various periodicals such as Country Home, Vogue, GQ, Seventeen, and The New York Times Magazine, and she’s done ads for SONY, Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Hitachi, among others.


At her site, she shares photos of her “darling sewing machine” and her “good friends” (BandAids). :) I’m totally in awe.



















See more of Miyuki’s work at her Official Website and the Tokyo Illustrator’s Society.


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