winter balm: soup day by melissa iwai

Why, hello. You’re just in time. We saved a place for you at the table.

Here we are in the depths of winter, when snow, sleet, ice, and slush are the order of the day. As we try to brave the elements, stave off cabin fever, and satisfy our color-starved cravings for something to nourish our bodies and warm our hearts, we realize the immense power and magic of SOUP!

Yes, we love soup. We want soup. We need soup NOW!

Well then, put on your bibs.

In Melissa Iwai’s Soup Day (Henry Holt, 2010) — clearly a story with my name written all over it — a little girl describes step-by-step how she and her mother make a hearty batch of soup together.


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One snowy day, they set out for the Green Market, where they select the freshest vegetables with the brightest colors — celery, onions, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and parsley. At home, the girl helps to wash the veggies while her mom chops everything into different shapes — squares, circles, cubes, and confetti. Everything is sauteed in oil (sizzle!), and then stock is poured into the pot (sssssss!).


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While the soup simmers gently on the stove, the girl and her mother pass the time playing games and reading. “Before long, our home smells like yummy soup.” Mmmmmmmmm. The mother adds some spices, and then the little girl gets to select what kind of pasta to include (from 9 different varieties). Guess what she picks? Alphabets! (I love this girl!) Once her father gets home, they all sit down and enjoy every drop of their soup together.

I love the charming simplicity of this story, and the subtle way little teaching moments are incorporated into the narrative. Hungry munchkins will be eager to help with soup-making from start to finish. The grocery store affords untold opportunities for recognizing colors, counting items and ingredients, and learning to make wise choices. Watching an adult slice veggies into various shapes is fun, too, and if old enough, a child can try cutting soft veggies like zucchini and mushrooms with a plastic knife. Of course there’s also the fun of identifying the different types of pasta (fettuccine! farfalle! rotini!).


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The satisfaction and pride of eating something one has helped to prepare, as well as quality time spent together, are equally important seasonings for this nutritious, heartwarming soup. Iwai’s bright, cheerful acrylic and multi-textured collage illos clarify the process and capture all the warmth and coziness of this special soup day, where mother and daughter bond, new skills are learned, and good memories are forged.

This gentle story, perfect for preschoolers, is Melissa’s first self-illustrated title, and was inspired by her own experiences cooking with her son Jamie. It’s received glowing reviews, including a starred review from Kirkus, which praises Soup Day as “Ordinariness made extraordinary.” When the winter blues set in, or any time you need an extra dose of comfort and joy, reach for this uplifting, feel-good book. A recipe for Snowy Day Vegetable Soup (which I’m going to try very soon) is included. S – L – U – R – P ☺!

Here’s a video of Melissa making it.

SOUP DAY by Melissa Iwai
published by Henry Holt, September 2010
Fiction for ages 4-6, 32 pp.
Cool themes: Family, sharing, cooking, togetherness, mastering new skills, counting, colors, shapes, nutrition, vegetables.

♥ Be sure to visit Melissa’s official blog for more spreads and to learn about her other books. You’ll also find activity sheets, crafts, and more soup recipes! You can also learn about her process when illustrating a picture book.

♥ Don’t miss Melissa’s delicious blog, The Hungry Artist, where she shares easy, health-conscious recipes you can make with your children. Melissa is a self-taught chef, who won Cooking Light’s Ultimate Reader Recipe Grand Prize in 2010!

♥ Click here for Melissa’s guest post at Cynsations.

♥ A few blog reviews: Brimful Curiosities, Great Kid Books, Booking Mama.

♥ Quick! For a chance to win a copy of Soup Day, there’s still time to enter this contest at Val’s Kitchen (deadline: Sunday, February 6).

♥ More Comfort and Joy 2011 here.

*Spreads from Soup Day published by permission, copyright © 2010 Melissa Iwai, published by Henry Holt. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved. 

7 thoughts on “winter balm: soup day by melissa iwai

  1. There is a teacher at my school who does a class food unit sometimes & collects food books. She will love this, so I’ll pass it on. It looks like a wonderful book, choosing and so on. Thanks!

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    1. I’m going to make Melissa’s soup today! The review was actually posted last year and I quickly updated it so I could link to it in this week’s post. Thanks for reading and passing it on to your teacher friend — I love to hear about food units🙂.

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  2. I heard about this book when it first came out but never got it. I’ll have to pick it up now that it’s soup season. It sounds lovely, and I’ve been thinking I need to cook more with my kids. I also can’t wait to check out her website for more great recipes. Thanks for sharing!

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