Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Soup's On: A Hearty Book Bundle

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday! We opened today for the first time since Saturday. We had quite a bit of activity this morning, but it's pretty quiet right now.

When it gets cold and wintery, there's nothing like a hearty cup of soup. Of course, soup is great in every month, as Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup With Rice illustrates ("all seasons/of the year/are nice/for eating/chicken soup/with rice!"). Our hero is obsessed with chicken soup with rice (mmmmm). He sips the soup in January "while slipping/on the sliding ice," celebrates his "snowman's anniversary/with cake for him/and soup for me!", and continues on to December, in which he decorates his Christmas tree with soup bowls. If you need a book about the months or the seasons, this would be a perfect choice.

Of course, before you can enjoy your soup of choice, you have to cook it. And before you cook it, someone has to plant and nurture the vegetables if you're making vegetable soup. That's just what a young child (you don't see faces and the child's gender is never mentioned) and a father do in Lois Ehlert's Growing Vegetable Soup. The text is very simple; about one line per page. We watch the father and child plant the seeds, water them, watch over them, pick, cut, and eventually cook into vegetable soup.

Are you familiar with Lois Ehlert? She illustrates her books with big and bright illustrations that are very attractive to children. Although the story is simple, there's ample room for observation and learning, as Ehlert labels the items in her illustrations (the tools, seeds,vegetables, parts of the plants). You can't go wrong with her books if you have a toddler. This would also be a good choice for a spring/garden/Earth Day storytime.

Another vegetable garden/vegetable soup book is Grace Lin's The Ugly Vegetables. This time, a mother and her daughter are the stars. It must be a requirement to have a green thumb in the neighborhood, because on this particular day, everyone is out preparing their spring garden. However, the little girl notices that they aren't exactly gardening like their neighbors. This is a Chinese-American family, and they are growing Chinese vegetables. As the gardens grow, she notices that their garden is not colorful and sweet like the neighborhood gardens. Her mother reassures her that their vegetables are better than flowers, but she is not convinced.

Finally, it is time to make vegetable soup. A "magical aroma" is smelled throughout the entire block. Just as the little girl enjoyed the sweet smell of her neighbors' garden, so are they enraptured by the inviting scent of the Chinese vegetable soup.

The multicultural and multigenerational neighbors traipse over, hoping for a taste of that wonderful soup (they bring gifts from their flower gardens). Everyone sits around the table and enjoys the soup, enjoying a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

This is a cute story about cultural pride that isn't didactic. Preschoolers and kindergartners would be the best audience. This would be a great Mother's Day storytime or a spring/garden storytime.

There are too many cooks in the kitchen in Dorothy Donohue's Veggie Soup. Miss Bun (a rabbit, of course) is making vegetable soup for all her friends. However, one by one, her friends drop by and insist that their special ingredient would be perfect for her soup. Miss Bun protests, but to no avail. Finally, everyone sits down for supper, and truth be told, everyone thinks it's a little gross. This is not a story extolling the virtues of creative cooking; everyone agrees that it would be best to follow Great Nana's recipe as it is written. And, as Miss Bun's friends exclaim, it is "soup-perb." If you're reading this aloud (this would be a fun read aloud), ham it up and use different voices for the animals. Don't be afraid to sing Miss Bun's little songs in the story. Great for a spring (rabbit!) storytime, winter storytime (hot soup), Thanksgiving storytime (getting together with loved ones), or a friendship storytime.

Including Betsy Everitt's Mean Soup in this Book Bundle may be a stretch, but I enjoy this book so much that I want to tell you about it. There are quite a few books on anger for children, but I've never really found one that I liked until I read Mean Soup. Horace has had a bad day. It's been one of those days where nothing, absolutely nothing, has gone right. Naturally, he's in a foul mood when he comes home to his mother after school. He hisses, growls, and falls limp on the floor while she's asking him about his crummy day.

Luckily, Horace's mom is pretty cool. Out of the blue, she suggests that she and Horace make soup. I don't know about you, but when I'm in a bad mood, making soup is not the thing that comes to mind. Horace feels the same way. But this isn't any ordinary vegetable or chicken soup. This is mean soup, and it requires very special ingredients (salt, screams, tongues sticking out, growling, banging with spoons...).

This is a great book about expressing and channeling emotions in a healthy and safe manner (as long as Horace doesn't make Mean Soup on his own). "Stirring away a bad day" seems like a neat solution to dealing with a yucky day. Children can easily identify with Horace's unhappy day and his feelings of rage. I'm looking forward to incorporating this into a storytime soon!

Others to consider:

Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan-a Hawaiian family makes dumpling soup for the new year

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper-a story about friendship, hurt feelings, and pumpkin soup. Lots of opportunities for fun voices and dramatization.

I agree with Monsieur Saguette. It is indeed a nuisance to be without bread when you have a lovely bowl of soup ready for you. M. Saguette's trials and tribulations in his quest to buy a baguette is the subject of the very funny Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette by Frank Asch

Mr Putter & Tabby Stir the Soup by Cynthia Rylant, and the others in the series, is a fantastic selection for beginning readers.

The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup by Terry Fazidh is a gentle, but not saccharine, story about a friendship between an old man and a cat who loves his potato soup

And to spice things up a bit, Armadilly Chili by Helen Ketteman is s spin on "The Little Red Hen," Texas style.

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