Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, March 30, 2015

Delectable Delight

We grow and shop for it.  We store, clean, freeze and cook it.  We arrange and decorate it.  We consume it.  By definition it is essential to sustaining life, supplying energy and supporting growth.

We have been known to play with it and fight with it.  Songs are sung about it.  Pictures are posted on social media about it.

We write about it and talk about it every single day.  And food, wonderful food, is playfully praised in this new title, The Popcorn Astronauts And Other Biteable Rhymes (Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 24, 2015) penned with poetic passion by Deborah Ruddell and illustrated with exquisite energy by Joan Rankin.  Grouped by the four seasons, beginning with spring, these twenty-one poems will have you thinking fresh reflections about food.

You might now look twice when you walk through the fruit section of the market, gazing to spot royalty. Gathered goodies in a basket can supply the classic ingredients for a memorable event.  A bird gives the word on the liquid concoction creation of his frog friend.  Do your furry companions give you a look of longing before you take a bite of your favorite dessert?  That's The Big Question.

Sometimes people will invite you to start eating by uttering the words "dive right in" but I don't think they mean it literally unless of course you are Welcome to Watermelon Lake!  A fussy ogre might remind you of another's eating habits.  I'll bet you've never heard this dried fruit referred to as an article of pirate clothing.  You'll sigh at the comparisons used by a poet ordering a frosty treat to beat the summer heat.

Spud lovers will be ready to travel in these tasty means of transportation but beware of the silverware.  I have to think the organizers of my city's fall festival will be eager to read a particular ode aloud.  What would be on your Menu for a Gray Day? (Think of a distinctive color.)  Despite his attempt to alter his familiar fare, the Count of vampire fame dines on his favorite for dessert.

Perennial comfort cuisine is celebrated in Stand and Cheer for MAC and CHEESE!  I wonder if Hansel and Gretel would have gotten in so much trouble if they had found this healthy house  Gliding and sliding across a pond in winter is ever so much better when sipping this hot blissful beverage.  Each year as candles are blown and wishes are made, how wonderful it would be if the cake described here appeared; to commemorate the passing days and this imaginative collection.

As each poem is read an appetite for the word gathering and blending of Deborah Ruddell grows.  Phrases combine to form a tempo as airy and sweet as meringue.  Line following line, every other line, or every third line rhymes are tantalizing feasts for our eyes and ears. The beat supplied by her structure of two words paired with three words all ending in "it" is an excellent example of her skills.  Here is a sample poem from her section on summer.

Speaking of Peaches...
There is so much to say about peaches,
but it's hard to know where to begin.
Do you start with the flowery fragrance,
or the summery sweetness within?

Or the juice, as it stickily trickles
from your lips to the tip of your chin?
Or the sunset of beautiful colors
on the flannelpajamaty skin?

Rendered in watercolor the artwork of Joan Rankin spreads in a whimsical array across the dust jacket and all the images within this title.  Using a full color palette her distinctive, quirky characters fashioned with intricate lines will leave you smiling page turn after page turn.  On the matching opening and closing endpapers those very beings populating the poems are traveling across a hilly landscape filled with a broccoli forest, a castle, a cottage, a single shade tree perfect for a picnic and a very, very large birthday cake.

Whether specifically mentioned in the poems or not, she tends to use animals to characterize the portrayed activities and actions.  Their expressions, as are those on the humans, convey a range of emotions.  There is a soft delicacy to each interpretive illustration. Most of the pictures are contained on a single page but there are five double-page spreads as well as a single element placed to tie two separate visuals together.  Careful eyes will see the love put inside featured balloons.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the poem, Gingerbread House Makeover.  Beautiful hues of green are found in the broccoli forest, the ground beneath the tree branches, along the pathway and on the structure of the home.  Her depiction of the radish roses, pea door knob, garlic clove chimney, and cauliflower stepping stones will have you racing to the vegetable bin.

Absolutely ideal for National Poetry Month but yummy any time of the year, The Popcorn Astronauts And Other Biteable Rhymes written by Deborah Ruddell with illustrations by Joan Rankin is a sensational celebration of food.   Fanciful and fun I highly recommend reading these aloud.  To add to the joy have some simple musical instruments handy.

To learn more about Deborah Ruddell please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Here is a post about Joan Rankin dated November 8, 2010 at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: South Africa-Gauteng. At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.


  1. Love love love this book! What a perfect blend of words and pictures. I think my favorite illustration is the Recipe for Raisins. :)

    1. I knew you would love this book. Every single time I see a food title, I think of you. Oh yes, Recipe for Raisins is a delightful picture too. Thanks for stopping and commenting Jama.

  2. Thank you so much, Xena's Mom, for this delicious review!

    1. You are very welcome, Deborah. Your book is going to be enjoyed by many. Thank you for writing it.