Ah, soup season!
You know, nothing hits the spot like a tasty bowl of Frog Soup. Made fresh. By a witch.
Welcome to the Bewitching Kitchen cooking show, where our pointy-hatted host will teach you how to make this easy and healthy dish at home.
We first learn that Frog Soup is the witch’s favorite treat. The model of sweetness and light, she joyfully takes us step by step through the recipe. After placing her cauldron on the fire, she adds salt, pepper, 22 (!) cloves of garlic, six potatoes and three carrots. Mustn’t forget a cup of fly extract.
Finally, the most important ingredient of all: a spoonful of frogs – to add “a kick of flavor and a pop of color.”
Well, easier said than done. She gently tries to “place the frogs on the spoon.” Seems they have other ideas – frogs, after all, like to leap, jump and hop. She tries to grab, get, find, scoop, chase, and trap them in a pot.
Nope, they elude her at every turn. Soon, instead of placing the frogs on the spoon, she tries to “put the spoon on the frogs.” Unwilling to accept defeat, she then tries to use two spoons to scoop them up.
Still no luck – those clever frogs – the model of innocence – then flee the TV studio with the witch in hot pursuit. She zooms past a pickle delivery truck on her way to the park, where the frogs have settled near a pond.
By now, she’s obsessed with capturing those frogs.
Leaping from stone to stone, she slips, then – SPLASH! Soaking wet, she emerges with a jar of . . . pickles. 😀
Back in the kitchen, she assures the audience that “Pickles are an acceptable substitute for frogs in this recipe.”
She adds a spoonful to her soup, stirs well, then lets it cook for an hour – after which time she enjoys a bowl with her (froggy) friends.
This ribbeting tale is just too much fun, and Vera Brosgol brilliantly brings Lyall’s sly, deadpan narrative to leaping life with her bold, emotive illustrations, which unfold like an animated film. Alternating between full bleed spreads and action-packed sequential panels, she exuberantly expands on each of Lyall’s carefully paced lines, showing the witch struggling to keep her cool as she jumps, thrusts, whacks, kneels, twists, and runs after the frogs to no avail.
Readers will giggle as the smiling cook show host slowly transforms into a frustrated, frazzled pursuer. The nonchalant tone of the text – most of which consists of repetitions and/or variations of the essential “place the frogs on the spoon” tagline — is comedic gold when juxtaposed alongside Brosgol’s depictions of the witch’s antics. And all the while, those frogs remain calm and non-plussed, gleefully triumphant as they perch atop the witch’s soup bowls at the end.
A Spoonful of Frogs is the perfect read aloud, as the hilarity and suspense ramp up with every page turn. Although the main character is a witch, this isn’t necessarily a Halloween story, and will appeal to cooking show fans and munchkins who love funny stories any time of year. What kid could resist watching a supposedly-in-charge adult try to hold it together when well laid plans go awry? Extra points for the witch’s laugh out loud facial expressions, which truly capture her desperation, shock, and bafflement (who can forget those huge, crazed eyes?).
A hoppin’ good primer if you ever find yourself in a pickle. What, no recipe? *ribbet*
A SPOONFUL OF FROGS
written by Casey Lyall
illustrated by Vera Brosgol
published by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, July 2022
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 40 pp.
**starred reviews** from Horn Book, Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
***Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Collection
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**Interior spreads text copyright © 2022 Casey Lyall, illustrations © 2022 Vera Brosgol, published by Greenwillow Books. All rights reserved.
***Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.