I had my eye on it well before its official release date back in August, marveling like everyone else when it proceeded to rack up *starred review* after *starred review* (Booklist, PW, SLJ, Kirkus), my excitement steadily building until I finally held a copy in my hands and devoured every word. Oh my, oh yes! No wonder! Every accolade this book has received is so well deserved.
One bright fall day, Sophie chose a squash at the farmers’ market.
Her parents planned to serve it for supper, but Sophie had other ideas.
These ideas included naming her squash Bernice, holding her, bouncing her on her knee, tucking her into bed and taking her everywhere. Ever the steadfast friend, Sophie refuses her mother’s gentle prodding to cook Bernice and rejects her father’s attempts to pacify her with a new toy to take Bernice’s place.
But as time goes on, Bernice develops splotchy “freckles,” so Sophie decides to act on a farmer’s advice to keep Bernice healthy. She tucks her into “a bed of soft soil”, then waits out a wistful winter, hoping Bernice is okay. Come Spring, with all the snow melted, Bernice magically re-emerges, soon gifting Sophie with two wonderful surprises, as only the best of friends can do.
This endearing, enduring story of friendship is well on its way to becoming a perennial favorite. I can see it now — every Fall, children across the country will read Sophie’s Squash and adopt their own squashy friends, totally relating to the girl with springy pigtails and polka dot dress who played with, protected, defended, and loved her friend with that particular brand of pure, unadulterated affection and fierce attachment kids are famous for.
There is so much to love about this charming book: the pitch perfect narration with its spot-on childlike emotion, the cozy and emotive illustrations that amplify Sophie’s personality and the story’s humor in the best possible way, the nod to the power of imagination, and the timeless lessons about nature, nurturing, life cycles and regeneration.
Grown-ups, too, would do well to remember the truths spoken by this child: “Good friends are hard to find,” and “Bernice will last forever.” Quite so. When it comes to friendship, children don’t discriminate — even a quirky, atypical inanimate object has feelings and is worthy of love.
This is definitely a book you’ll want to hug, and when you do, it hugs you back.
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♥ A TALE OF BUTTERNUT BISQUE, OR, “DON’T LISTEN, BERNICE!” ♥
At Alphabet Soup, we are — *ahem* — not in the habit of eating characters from children’s stories (unless you count the gingerbread man), and, as we much as we love Sophie and Bernice, and do not wish to traumatize any wee munchkins present, the truth is we do love us a good butternut squash soup.
Who can resist capturing the all-too-fleeting golden days of Autumn in a bowl?
I have to credit Len for introducing me to butternut squash. Apparently, it was a must-have side dish on his family’s Thanksgiving table when he was little, and now we can’t have a turkey dinner without it.
Thank goodness he doesn’t mind peeling the dang thing! We like it baked, microwaved and mashed, and puréed for soup. Added bonus: no problem identifying butternuts (to date, there have been no “spaghetti squash/melon fiascos” to spoil the fun).
After locating the perfect squash (a handsome fellow who was more than willing to fulfill his destiny by sacrificing himself for our soup), I found the perfect dairy-free, low-cal recipe for Butternut Bisque via Susan Branch. Cream soups are divine, but because they’re quite rich you can only eat so much. Susan’s recipe uses potatoes to thicken the soup, so you feel a lot less guilty having that second bowl.
If you can get your resident leprechaun-sous chef to peel and cube the squash and potatoes, you’re practically home free. If you own an immersion blender, this is a great chance to play with what Emeril calls your ‘motorboat.’ You should have no problems making this easy recipe — unless, of course, someone in your family develops an unusual attachment to the squash beforehand.
Hold it, stroke it, talk to it, and coddle it, but don’t name it. You should be okay.
This soup really hits the spot on a crisp Autumn day with homemade cornbread or buttermilk biscuits. Perfectomundo!
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2 to 2-1/2 lb. Butternut Squash
2 tablespoons butter
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
5-6 cups chicken stock (canned is okay)
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
pinch of nutmeg, pinch of ginger
sour cream for garnish (optional)
1. Peel and seed squash. Cut into cubes and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large soup pot, add the carrots, onion and celery, and sauté a few minutes.
3. Stir the squash and potatoes into the vegetables. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes.
4. Add curry, nutmeg and ginger. Purée the soup in batches in a blender. Return to soup pot, add more stock if necessary to thin. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream if you like.
~ Adapted from Susan Branch’s illustrated recipe for Butternut Bisque.
* * *
written by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
published by Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013
Picture Book for ages 3-7, 40 pp.
Cool themes: friendship, gardening, families, seasons
* Spreads from Sophie’s Squash text copyright © 2013 Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrations © 2013 Anne Wilsdorf, published by Schwartz & Wade/Random House. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.