Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: TOFU TAKES TIME by Helen H. Wu

I love learning how different foods are made, so you can imagine how much I loved reading this new picture book by Helen H. Wu. TOFU TAKES TIME (Beaming Books) will make its appearance on April 19, and I can’t wait! Let’s get right to it and meet the author.

Welcome, Helen! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much Angie for having me! I am thrilled to share more about TOFU TAKES TIME and my publishing journey. I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator. I work as the associate publisher at Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publishing house which publishes picture books in Chinese and English.

I’m so excited about TOFU TAKES TIME! It makes me want to make tofu. Or at least eat some!

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for TOFU TAKES TIME?

The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my treasured grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat nearby and watched as she cooked—a process that sometimes involved tofu. She would wash vegetables, chop meat, stir porridge, and cook all the meals for our entire family. It was during these times that she would share stories that transported me to faraway places and other eras. After I moved to the US and had my own family, my kids would ask many questions about the process and tools we used to make tofu together: serving as a warm reminder of the sweet time I spent with my grandma in the small kitchen across the ocean. Hence, a story began to take shape.

I LOVE that this picture book is so closely tied to your family and wonderful memories. What a special treasure for your family!

What was your writing journey for this book?

A great book calls for multiple layers with varied messages readers can take away from the story. Though the idea behind the book was grounded in the tofu-making process, I knew the story must involve a bigger concept that is more relevant to kids. When I cooked with my own kids, I noted their preoccupation with imaginative play and occasional complaints about the time required to cook a proper meal: which inspired me to weave the topic of patience into the text. In examining the tofu-making process in a more imaginative way, I discovered an assortment of inherent elements that connect with nature and even the universe at large. I’m now so happy to have found a sweet spot that includes food, culture, patience, nature, and intergenerational love all tied into one story.

The way that TOFU TAKES TIME is told through the voice of a young child is pretty awesome! Learning patience is such a difficult thing for young people. I still struggle with being patient.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of TOFU TAKES TIME on April 19?

I have a book launch event planned on the book birthday, April 19th! I’m so excited to present the book launch event of TOFU TAKES TIME with Avid Bookshop, with talented illustrator and bookseller Julie Jarema! The reading and conversation will take place on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7pm – 8pm ET on Zoom. Preorders from Avid Bookshop will come with a special bonus: a 5”x7” print, bookmark, food stickers, and a bookplate signed by the author and illustrator created just for TOFU TAKES TIME. Don’t miss your chance. You can register here:

 https://www.avidbookshop.com/tofulaunch (Isn’t it a cute URL for the event?)

LOVE it! So much fun!

I love the heart in TOFU TAKES TIME, the relationship between grandmother and grandchild, and the connections between tofu and the ingredients/resources needed to make it. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

Thank you! Speaking of picture book writing, I didn’t have typical picture books when I was a kid growing up in China. We had black and white comic books and only in the last two decades, picture books were introduced into China. My writing career started from being part of picture book projects. Reading, especially reading all kinds of picture books, is one of the best ways for me to foster imagination, expand my knowledge, and be open to new ideas. Picture book is a magical format that I feel can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. And as an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of picture books.

I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, mainly Dick and Jane readers. I do remember jumping right into chapter books. Many of them are still favorites. I’m so glad that picture books are being published for much larger audiences. And the artwork of picture books is divine!

What are you working on now?

My next picture book, LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom, will be published by Yeehoo Press in February, 2023. Inspired by my experience as a minority immigrant student, this picture book follows a Chinese dragon who struggles to breathe fire in his new Western dragon school, only to discover he must carve his own path to finding a sense of belonging. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.

Oh, dragons! This sounds perfect!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Read as many books as you can in the genre you intend to write. Take picture book writing classes. Find a critique group and get feedback on your stories. Revise, revise, revise. Most importantly, keep writing and keep going.

Excellent tips. Writers, let’s get busy!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I started writing and illustrating in 2012 and since then I’ve self-published over 20 picture books. TOFU TAKES TIME is my first traditional published book, my debut book. Good things take time!

TOFU TAKES TIME is such a lovely, heart-warming story! I’m excited to see it out in the world. Thanks so much for stopping by, Helen! And CONGRATULATIONS!

About Helen

Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author, illustrator, translator and publisher. She is the author of TOFU TAKES TIME, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Currently, Helen lives in San Diego, California, with her family and two kids.

Learn more about Helen at:

HelenHWu.com

Twitter @HelenHWu

Instagram @HelenHWu


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Author Interview: The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup by Hunter Liguore (Plus #giveaway)

“A rumination on our interconnection with others” (Hunter Liguore)

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore

Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

Yeehoo Press, 2021

It’s World Read Aloud Day! Here’s one picture book that will make your read aloud time scrumptious.

We all know how a grandmother can make the world go round. I’m a Nana, and I join with Nan as she cares for her loved ones by feeding them. Not only is this a delicious story, but The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup is filled cover to cover with delectable illustrations and tasty tidbits of all of the work involved in providing the ingredients and growing the soup. Lovely! Thanks so much to Kathy Temean, Hunter Liguore, Vikki Zhang, and Yeehoo Press for introducing me to The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup.

I’m glad you stopped by. Keep reading to meet Hunter Liguore and learn about her picture book, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. See the directions at the bottom of this post to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy.

***Coming soon: Swing back by to meet meet illustrator Vikki Zhang!

Now, let’s get to our interview with Hunter!

Welcome, Hunter! Congratulations on your new book! Tell us a little about The Whole World in Nan’s Soup.

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a rumination on our ability to recognize our interconnectedness with ‘all’ people. It is wisdom passed down many generations through my own gran, who understood that in order to eat a single meal, it takes the whole world to make it.

Our dinner table doesn’t end at the four corners, but is reciprocal; it extends to all those faceless helpers involved with making sure we’re nourished—and that’s a very beautiful thing! When we take the time—through slow-cooking—to see and talk about ‘all’ people in a bowl of soup, then we can begin to notice it in other areas of our life with the same care and unity.

The more we see our oneness, the more each meal—each bowl of soup—becomes a celebration, and our struggle with each other falls away, and the harmony we experience within will be reflected back.

I love how the interconnectedness plays out in this picture book. I have so many fond memories of eating meals prepared by my grandmothers and mother. Living in an agricultural valley, I see how much work it takes to feed families.

What was your inspiration for The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup?

The inspiration for The Whole World in Nan’s Soup comes from a careful rumination on reciprocity, or the understanding that the food we eat each day is made possible through the dignity of gentle workers. Reciprocity is more than an intellectual understanding of treating others with the same respect we wish for ourselves. It goes deeper and implies, ‘Who I am on the inside is the same as what is on the inside of others,’—and if that’s true, we can experience and discover for ourselves the delicate thread that connects all people.

When we meet others, we can do so with an awareness that their suffering is our suffering, felt and experienced the same way, and through empathy—through not wanting suffering for ourselves—we will not want it for another; thus, we will seek harmony and peace in all our words, actions, and relationships.

This was the foundation of the story, which can be practiced while making soup! As our understanding of reciprocity grows, so does our empathy. The circle of life expands, as we recognize we’re not able to live without those beautiful helpers, which we can now honor with our thankfulness, our kindness, our understanding, our patience, and most of all, our self-responsibility that discerns: we are the root of others’ suffering when we set aside our interconnection. We can always take time to recognize our interconnection with others. Even in a bowl of soup!

Beautiful!

What was your journey for this book?

A very gentle one.

I love hearing that!

How did you celebrate the book birthday of THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP when it came out August 2021?

Making soup and sharing it with family and friends.

Perfect!

I love the heart in THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP. The family relationships and the connections between ingredients and their sources is fascinating. It takes making soup to a deeper level. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

For me, writing evolves from our wholeness with our self/others/world, a harmonized unity or intuition. It is a way of life, a practice that is occurring in each delicate moment, a sacred unfolding, one where I’m given an opportunity to bring gentle love, unity, cooperation, and perfection into my craft and art, creating for the sake of creating, while being in tune with the greater whole.

Creativity is such a gift.

What are you working on now?

A vision of our future that includes a human traffic free food chain through a farm-certification program similar to Fair Trade or organic.

That sounds fascinating!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

To all writers/creatives, trust yourself. Writing will only ever be about how much someone is willing to trust their vision. We are inventor of worlds, with words, it’s an art entrusted to the one who perseveres even in doubt, even when nothing makes sense, in order to realize the creative vision as a reality—and that takes trust! It takes belief that uncertainty isn’t difficulty, but an opportunity to shape the creative fire.

Thank you for the encouragement!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a celebration of our interconnection to our world, so I encourage readers to find ways to celebrate life, food, family/friends, our ancestors and relationships, our Earth and the wild ones dwelling in partnership with us; our meals, our dinner table, gentle cooking without harm; celebrate our farms and the food stores you patron, and the people you meet there, who are caring for you. Plant flowers and watch the cycle of this infinite celebration of love and life. Be attentive and you’ll see how connected we truly are. Even in difficulty, we can find small ways to celebrate and contribute to the joy in the world.

Thank you, Hunter, for sharing from your heart. Thank you for visiting today and for creating this beautiful picture book!

Ready to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup (US only)? A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Wednesday, February 9.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win. Example: bookwinner (at) yahoo (dot) com

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

Links:

To book on Yeehoo Press: https://www.yeehoopress.com/books/the-whole-world-inside-nans-soup/

Twitter: @skytale_writer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WarriorsWanted/

Website: www.hunterliguore.org

About me: Hunter Liguore is a gentle advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and with one another. An award-winning author, professor, and historian, her writing has appeared internationally in magazines like Spirituality & HealthIrish PagesOrion, and more. When not making soup, she is often roaming old ruins, hillsides, and cemeteries. To learn more, visit: hunterliguore.org or @skytale_writer.


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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you, family and friends. Sending extra special wishes and prayers for love, joy, and peace. And if you are missing a loved one and having a tough holiday season, may the comfort of the Lord surround you and your family.

Joy and peace.


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Sunday Inspiration

Photo by Angie Quantrell

Little Naches River area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, WA


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The Gingerbread Tradition

“Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

Or I could say, “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Nan (a)!” They try, but Nana captures them all for hugs.

This was the first year everyone tried icing bags. Some successes, lots of messes, plenty of fun.

It’s easier to eat icing straight from the bag.

The grands are growing up fast, and they tried to run, but Nana and plenty of sugar captured their taste buds and creative imaginations.

Welcome to our annual Gingerbread House decorating tradition. The designs are getting a little bit more sophisticated, but I noticed decorations disappear just as quickly as in previous years . . .

Mullet Man. Yep.

Nana is getting shorter . . .

Must remember to put toothbrushes and toothpaste in with Christmas gifts.

See? There are some decorations left!

Curly-locks twins!

Jamie claimed the extra house! Whew.

Getting shorter . . .

I’m still taller than a few of them!

Here’s to gingerbread, sugar, and sweet grands!


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Throwback Thursday: Can You Name the Year of the Carpet? #TBT

Can you name the year of this good old days photo?

At the bottom of the heap, we see Taylor (4), our oldest, who is happily ensconced on the shag carpet, ready to suck his thumb while perusing the pages of the ever-popular Sears Yard and Lawn catalog. We had a collection of Sears catalogs: lawn mowers, chain saws, yard equipment, vacuums, ceiling fans-actually any and all types of mechanized machines. Every trip to the mall required a stop at Sears so we could pick up the latest and greatest catalog.

On top, ready to torment her brother (nothing much has changed), Chelsie (2), our baby, gathers her energy for playing King of the Mountain. Or tickling her brother. Or just sitting on him because he was there. That’s what 2s do, right? There was no interest in the catalog, mowers, or engines of any sort. There was a brother on the floor, perfect for perching.

Taylor is not unhappy. In fact, he appears to be pleased with his piggy back sister. Chelsie looks gleeful and somewhat loving (I might point out that her arms are nearly around his neck, so this is debatable) while spending quality torment time with her big brother. You’ll notice the pile of ignored wooden blocks, a mainstay for any family with preschoolers. We still have the blocks, which have been loved and abused by many grands, nieces, nephews, preschool and kindergarten students, and a variety of Sunday school classes filled with sweeties.

Ahh. The good old days.

Did you figure out the year? I’ll give you credit for the correct decade. Go ahead, play along. Make a guess, then scroll down to the first comment to see the year this photo was taken.

(She laughs to herself. Ugh. The carpet . . . it’s embarrassing.)


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Book Review: Happy Birthday Winter by Justin Ogden and David Condry

Happy Birthday Winter

Words by Justin Ogden

Pictures by David Condry

Justin Ogden & David Condry, 2020

I was recently gifted a copy of Happy Birthday Winter from Sylvia Liu, Elaine Kiely Kearns, and KidLit411 at http://www.kidlit411.com/2020/12/the-weekly-411-121120.html. Thank you!

Have you ever imagined having a birthday party for Winter? This delightful picture book shares the story of a young girl and her father who celebrate a very special day with Winter-the very first snowfall of the year. This easy read is just what young children need as they prepare to enjoy winter snow.

Why I Liked This Book:

~ snow and winter!

~ simple text sharing the story of a special day between a daddy and daughter

~ beautiful, colorful illustrations that make me want to join the party!

~ winter activities are highlighted as the characters enjoy the birthday party

~ easy to hold size for young hands

~ fascinating “snowflake” backmatter

~ the evident love of nature and the outdoors seen in the book

Thank you, Justin and David!

Blurb from KidLit411:

About the Book:  Happy Birthday Winter aims to bring joy and curiosity to the changing of the seasons. As the world in which the characters live changes from Fall to Winter, the characters embark on a journey to continue a tradition of celebration to welcome the Winter Season. 

Read more about Happy Birthday Winter at https://happybdaywinter.wixsite.com/happybdaywinter


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Happy Thanksgiving!

May the Lord bless you and keep you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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Thank YOU, Veterans! We LOVE YOU!

Once our son enlisted in the Army and spent a tour overseas in Iraq, we realized the depth of thankfulness and pride we had for our son and his fellow servicemen and women.

Thank you. To each and every branch, to every single troop, to all locations of service, and to every type of work, again, I say, “Thank you!”

Thank you for your selfless service and sacrifice for our country. We appreciate you and what you have done.

Thank you for being willing to leave behind your own family – wives, husbands, parents, children, grandchildren, relatives, friends – and travel to far flung destinations. You missed much. Thank you for being willing to miss the day-to-day life events – for us.

Thank you for staring danger and discomfort straight in the face.

Thank you. From the bottom (and top and middle) of my heart, I say thank you.

And families of servicemen and women. Thank you for your sacrifice. The waiting and the missing is never easy.

For those who did not return the way we prayed, my heart is with you. For those who came home draped with a flag, my heart breaks for you and your family.

Thank you.

May we never forget.

Reposted from: http://angiequantrell.blogspot.com/2015/11/thank-you-veterans.html


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Book Review: Bess the Barn Stands Strong by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia

Bess the Barn Stands Strong

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia

Illustrated by Katie Hickey

Page Street Kids, 2020

Barns and me, we go way back. My family can probably still whip up perfect eye rolls if I mention a barn I saw or attempt I made to have the vehicle stop so I can take a few photos. Backseat eye rolls, accompanied by the driver eye roll, sideways glance, and scurry to find an appropriate place to pull over, filled many happy family road trips.

Barns are fabulous. Of course I was super interested in reading Bess the Barn Stands Strong. Fortunate for me, I received my own autographed copy from Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia via Vivian Kirkfield’s www.viviankirkfield.com site. WordPress has changed and I haven’t figured out how to add JUST the words I want in a link, but here is the specific link for Bess the Barn Stands Strong: https://viviankirkfield.com/2020/09/08/happy-book-birthday-bess-the-barn-stands-strong-plus-double-book-giveaway/#comment-202883

Thank you, Elizabeth and Vivan, for sharing this wonderful picture book!

Bess the Barn Stands Strong is a story about a barn. Bess is a sweet barn, strong, beautiful, and caring. As a main character, Bess is pretty awesome. But she ages, as we all do, and eventually becomes overlooked for the new fancy barn build just over the fields. And Bess is ignored. Until the storm.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you, because YOU need to read the story yourself and see what happens to Bess and all of her barnyard friends.

If you love farms and barns, you will enjoy Bess!

Why I LOVE This Book:

~ barns!

~ a barn as a main character – how often does that happen? This could be the first time ever. (Don’t quote me on that.)

~ great story with just the right amount of tension

~ reading that there is purpose to old things, and old things can still be useful (I’m working on the older part as my birthday comes this month)

~ barnyards and animals are very popular with young readers

~ old versus new; I’m definitely of the older is better school

~ beautiful illustrations enrich and fill out the story

~ barns!

Amazon Blurb:

A steadfast old barn shows she’s sturdy enough to save the day.

Beam by beam and board by board, Bess the barn is built by able hands to keep the farm’s animals safe and sound. Through many seasons and celebrations, that’s just what she does, until she starts to sag…and creak…and slump. Then new everything comes along: a new farmer and a shiny new barn. A mean storm arrives not far behind, putting both barns to a dangerous test―can old Bess weather this threat to the farm?

Bess opens her doors wide, welcoming all to celebrate the year-round ups and downs of farm life and admire the enduring strength and importance of something made to last.

“There’s a marvelous mix of peppy text and bone-deep comfort at work within the language of this story . . . [and] visual treasures abound in the corners of the art . . . Seasons come and seasons go, but cozy concepts like barns on farms will never die.” – Kirkus Reviews