Freedom Soup by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (9780763689773)
Celebrate the New Year in Haitian style with this picture book. It shares the tradition of making New Year’s soup that honors freedom and the end of slavery in Haiti. The soup is made every year by Haitians around the world and this year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle to make it. They turn on Haitian kompa music that sets the beat for their cooking. Herbs are ground in a mortar and pestle with meat then added. A boiled pumpkin is skinned by Belle. More ingredients are added to the pot after being chopped up. Then Ti Gran shares the story of Freedom Soup with Belle and the story of Haitians fighting for their own freedom from slavery. Soon family members come to celebrate freedom and the new year together, feasting on the soup that celebrates their history and traditions.
Charles’ writing has so many wonderful moments inside it. From Ti Gran telling Belle that she has “a heart made for cooking” to her descriptions of Ti Gran’s “dark-sky eyes” and the “pumpkiny-garlic smell” of the soup cooking. She takes the rhythm of the music and reflects that in her words too, so that one can almost hear it playing. The warmth of the kitchen, the beauty of generations working together, and the spirit of freedom all play across these pages.
The illustrations pick up the rhythms of the text and the music with Belle’s braids flying to the beat and her feet moving across the floor. Her sharp edges next to the soft curves of her grandmother make a visual music of their own.
This is a delicious picture book worth celebrating. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Every Color Soup by Jorey Hurley (9781481469999)
Through simple and colorful images, this picture book celebrates the colors of foods around us. The book walks readers through the ingredients in a pot of “Every Color Soup” made of vegetables and lentils. Lentils provide the blue, eggplants the purple, tomatoes for red, and so on. The result is a concept book that is inviting and offers plenty of space for little listeners to talk about food, colors and cooking. Have a plate of rainbow veggies ready to share after reading this one! Appropropriate for ages 2-4.(Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.)
Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (9781481420495)
Two children prepare for the Holi, the Indian festival of colors. They gather specific flowers in the garden to make the powder for Holi. The book names the colors and flowers, creating a lovely quiet moment. The family then heads out together dressed all in white with their bowls and plates of colors. They are joined by friends and neighbors until suddenly, the colors burst and the powder poofs. Everyone shouts “Holi,hai” and then they head home. The final pages of the book tell of the meaning of the festival about fresh starts, friendship and forgiveness. The authors offer a final note about Holi at the end of the book as well. The illustrations are digital and have a cartoon smoothness about them that is modern. The colors are rich and vibrant, just right for this book about Holi and colors. There are few books about Holi in a picture book format, so get this one on your library shelves. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)
Holi Colors by Rina Singh (9781459818491)
This board book is illustrated with photographs awash in color. The images vibrantly show Holi both with close-ups of people’s faces covered in colors and in images where the air itself is filled with color. The text is gently rhyming and invites even the youngest readers into the joy of Holi and a delight in the saturated colors on the page. Joyous and bright, this board book is just right for every library. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas (InfoSoup)
Cow, Pig and Mouse are all making soup together. Mouse adds one onion, Cow adds two cabbages, but Pig tries to add three umbrellas! The other two ask Pig if that is wise. Then Mouse adds four tomatoes, Cow adds five potatoes, and Pig tries to add six galoshes. Is that wise? More ingredients go in and Pig even adds nine carrots! Then Pig reveals that she asked ten friends to join them, something that probably was not wise. Suddenly Pig’s galoshes and umbrellas make a lot of sense as the soup flies!
As always, Thomas completely understands the farcical humor that toddlers adore. Children will be so engaged in laughing at Pig’s ingredients that they won’t see the ending coming until the reveal. There is also a counting component to the book that is subtly done and the book feels much more like a story than one teaching numbers. Thomas’ illustrations will work well with a crowd, projecting easily even to those in the back thanks to their strong black lines and simple colors.
Expect lots of requests for seconds of this silly book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffery Ebbeler
When a boy is left in the care of his big sister, all he wants her to do is read his book to him. But she’s too busy reading her own book. He tries to read his book on his own, but it isn’t the same. She just keeps ignoring him until he asks for lunch. Then she heats up some soup and gives him a bowl. That’s when the action starts and a tiger comes out of the soup. The boy battles him, stabbing him with a spoon and chasing him around the kitchen. His sister continues to read, ignoring all of the ruckus. It isn’t until the tiger is chased back into the soup that she agrees to read the book to him. But wait, this book has a final toothy surprise.
Sheth has created a loving older sister who is just too caught up in her own book to have any time to spend with her younger brother. It makes me very happy to see two siblings arguing over which book to read right then. I also enjoyed the boy trying to read to himself, turning the book this way and that and even trying with his eyes closed. Throughout the book there is a wonderful sense of playfulness.
Ebbeler’s illustrations are just as playful. He plays with perspective especially in the outdoor scenes. Then when the tiger arrives, he is wonderfully real, his fur stands on end, his claws threaten and his teeth gleam. The action scenes are rivetingly fun, the escapades daring.
Jaunty and devoted to reading, this book is a compelling mix of stories and action. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.
Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
Today is soup day, so a little girl and her mother head to the store through the snowy streets. There they buy the ingredients for their soup, careful to choose the vegetables with the brightest colors. They pick out green celery, yellow onions, orange carrots, white mushrooms and more. Back at home, they wash the vegetables and cut them into little pieces. The little girl gets to help with a plastic knife and the softer veggies. After sautéing the vegetables, broth is added and the soup cooks. The mother and child play together as the smell of soup fills the house. Finally spices and pasta are added and then they sit down to dinner with Daddy.
Iwai has captured cooking from a child’s point of view. The selection of vegetables mentioning their colors is done with a gentle tone, and most children will not notice that colors are being reviewed in that part of the story. The focus on what the little girl is able to do is charming and affirming for children. Seeing her pride and involvement is a large part of the story.
Iwai’s illustrations are done with acrylics and collage and Photoshop. They mix the textures of textiles with the crispness of photos and the brushstrokes of painting. The result is a rich blend that makes for engaging illustrations. The book is printed on nice heavy pages, making it welcoming for toddler hands.
This book is as warm and welcoming as a big bowl of homemade soup. Add it to your recipe for a great story time or a unit on soup or food. It would be ideal paired with a version of Stone Soup. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Macmillan.