Thanks for trudging in the cold and snow to drop by today!
The soup kettle’s on at this very moment, and the savory aroma of Mulligatawny has drifted upstairs to my office. Mmmmm, it’s a new recipe, and I can hardly wait to taste it.
While it’s simmering, thought I’d share a few more soup picture books. It’s the best way I know to properly celebrate National Soup Month. Combine these titles with my first thematic list from 2008 for a hearty, satisfying feast.
BEAN SOUP/SOPA DE FRIJOLES by Jorge Argueta, pictures by Rafael Yockteng (Groundwood Books, 2009). This bilingual free verse recipe poem shows us how to make black bean soup via charming, vivid imagery. After all, soup is more than just soup, especially if it’s prepared in “a pot round as the moon and as deep as a little lake.” A little boy (with his mother hovering in the background), measures out the ingredients, sorts the beans (which “clink a little song”), mixes everything together, and joyfully anticipates sharing the soup with his family. Love how Argueta captures the loving poetics of soup: garlic comes dressed in a little white dress, beans dance together, and the house “smells wonderful like the earth after the first winter rains.” So nourishing! Yockteng’s muted palette of browns, blues, and greens enrobes the story in warmth and comfort, and asterisks specify which prep steps require adult assistance.
STINK SOUP by Jill Esbaum, pictures by Roger Roth (FSG, 2004). So how do you feel about tomatoes? Annabelle hates them, but must help put up a mountain of them when she and her mischievous brother, Willie, spend the week at Granny’s. If only she hadn’t promised Mama to keep Willie out of trouble! His antics compound her tomato misery, as he torments the goat, lassoes the chickens, and climbs up the windmill. Somehow he’s got Granny believing all the mayhem is Annabelle’s fault, and even worse, they have to eat stewed tomatoes for supper! Poor Annabelle can’t bring herself to tell Granny how she really feels, but as luck would have it, Willie messes with a skunk and Granny must make “stink soup” to get rid of the smell. Annabelle’s thrilled, as she’d rather bathe in tomato juice than drink it — and Willie finally gets his comeuppance. Roth’s folksy, exuberant illos capture all the energy and wry humor of this lively fun-on-the-farm tale.
BONE SOUP by Cambria Evans (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). A perfect offering for the ghoulish gourmet, this Halloween friendly adaptation of Stone Soup serves up a cauldron full of deliciously disgusting ingredients: stewed eyeballs, bat wings, frog legs, dried mouse droppings, slime, sludge, even toenail clippings. Finnigin the Eater, a skin-and-bones traveler known far and wide for his ravenous appetite, displays his ghoulinary smarts as he cons the townspeople (witch, beast, zombies) into providing said ingredients for his soup. It would be a shame to eat bone soup only at Halloween; I recommend inviting Finnigin, with his eating stool, huge eating mouth and eating spoon, over to your house any time of the year. Evans’s pen, watercolor, and collage illos are creepy cool, and the creatures so oddly loveable that kids will probably rattle their bones for more.
CHICKEN SOUP by Jean Van Leeuwen, pictures by David Gavril (Abrams, 2009). This is my top pick for the winter doldrums! From the bright yellow endpapers, to the cheery pen, pencil and watercolor illos, to the cartoony speech balloons — it’s pretty near impossible to sip this particular bowl of soup and not feel better. It’s all about the panic that ensues when the chickens learn Mrs. Farmer has taken out her big pot to make chicken soup. “Run for your lives!”
This sets them all scurrying, but Little Chickie, who has a cold in her beak, keeps ACHOO-ing and giving away her hiding places. Lots of high energy suspense as Mr. Farmer CLOMP CLOMP CLOMPs ever closer, and a frantic Chickie tries her best to escape his clutches. The clean lines, large scale farm animals, spare text, and effective use of onomatopoeia and repetition will engage and delight little munchkins hungering for a satisfying story. Great surprise ending; this one begs to be read aloud. Check out this review at 7-Imp, which includes some great spreads from the book.
THE CAT WHO LIKED POTATO SOUP by Terry Farish, pictures by Barry Root (Candlewick, 2003). After all is said and done, after all the fun of dipping into soups poetic, stinky, suspenseful and macabre, nothing hits the spot like a touching story about friendship. An old man lives a simple existence out in the country with his uppity cat, a cat who’d rather eat homemade potato soup than catch blackbirds. They go fishing together at the lake, with the cat perched on the bow of the boat like a hood ornament. The cat never catches any fish, actually had never caught anything, not even a mouse. But the man loved her nevertheless, “but not so’s you’d notice.”
When the man goes fishing without the cat one day, it disappears for awhile, but returns with quite a surprise. Oh, the pathos of loneliness, misunderstanding, being taken for granted, the unique and unspoken bond between man and animal — so beautifully conveyed! Older picture book readers are more likely to appreciate the poignancy of this relationship. This potato soup, peppered with deep emotion, has real staying power.
BLUE MOON SOUP, recipes by Gary Goss, pictures by Jane Dyer (Little,Brown, 1999). Ages 12+ Not technically a fiction picture book, but I wanted to include it in this roundup anyway, because I’m a fool for Jane Dyer’s art, and her illos for this family cookbook are just too charming. A collection of 33 soup recipes, hot and cold, sweet and savory, are organized by season, with a bonus section of soup extras (muffins, banana bread, nachos, etc.). Goss formerly owned the Soup Kitchen Restaurant in Northampton, MA, and gave his conventional soups some quirky names: Squish-Squash Soup, Joie de Vichyssoise, Hot Diggity Dog Soup. Dyer’s full page spreads featuring kids and clothed animals, as well as her spot illos of dancing veggies and hot dogs, not to mention the polka dots and checks, are irresistible. For me, the illos alone are worth the price of owning the book, though with winter raging outside, I may easily be tempted to test out some of the recipes. Don’t they sound like fun?
Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.