Souping Things Up

Pumpkin Soup  written and illustrated by Helen Cooper unfolds a reinterpretation of the classic “Stone Soup.”  This retelling features many delightful twists. As in Stone Soup, the characters work together to create a tasty concoction. A bagpiping cat, a banjo-strumming squirrel and a singing duck joyfully prepare marvelous pumpkin soup. “Everyone has his own job to do. Everyone is happy. Or so it seems…”

Then the story shifts to a new direction. No longer about collaboration and pooling of scarce resources, Pumpkin Soup now focuses on the tension among the former friends. Duck isn’t content with her assigned task. She insists on trying her hand at stirring the soup. But, Cat and Squirrel wish for things to stay the same. Duck insists on having her chance to stir. The friends quarrel. Angry and frustrated, Duck leaves the cabin.

The story continues to unfold as Squirrel and Cat come to wish they had given Duck a chance. They worry when Duck doesn’t return. “Not even for lunch.” Young readers will readily identify with this conflict-among-friends scenario because it happens so often in their own lives.

The book does a great job of capturing the character’s frustration, remorse and most importantly their commitment to their friendship as well as their willingness to repair the breach. Their solution provides an excellent template for readers to embrace.

Pumpkin Soup offers an important reminder to parents as well that we must allow kids to try things. Although it takes longer and often results in a mess or in parents having to be satisfied with a less-than-perfect performance. The reward is a child’s increased competency and a reinforcement of their willingness to persevere through multiple “imperfect” attempts to ultimate success.

Five stars starstarstarstarstar

 

magnifying lens AQ.2AQ Lens: Many adopted kids avoid trying new things because they feel that failure will result in loss of acceptance, approval and at their most anxious level of fear, a loss of their family.

As Cat and Squirrel worry about their missing friend, they wonder if Duck has found “better friends.” It would be an easy segue to talking about loyalty among friends and then on to discussions of family permanency.

 

The Wisdom of Two Father’s

Lost LakeTwo books that capture the special connection children share with their dads are Lost Lake written and illustrated by Allen Say and  Enemy Pie written by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King .

In Lost Lake, a boy visits his overly-busy non-custodial father and finds himself craving a more intimate experience, one that moves beyond merely sharing the same residence. Both father and son struggle to express their thoughts and feelings in words. When Luke cuts up his dad’s magazine and tapes them to the wall, it takes two days before father notices. When Dad finally does, the boy asks, “Are you angry with me, Dad?” The dad dismisses the damage as meaningless “I’m having the place painted anyway.”

Luke thinks to himself, “He thought I was talking about the marks on the wall.” This line implies so much poignant emotion. Whether in a divorced family or not, kids will readily identify with the feeling of invisibility and the yearning for focused one-on-one time with a parent.  In typical child-thinking, the boy assumes the blame for his dad’s aloof behavior  and is saddened that Dad apparently thinks the question refers to the wall. Believing his Dad missed the point, the boy still wonders why Dad doesn’t talk to him, wonders what he did to make his Dad angry and wonders how he can grab Dad’s attention.

As the story continues, we discover that Dad understood much more. They embark on a week-long journey to find Lost Lake. They discover so much more about themselves and their relationship. Persisting through set backs, pushing through the challenges, they trek on–together, in pursuit of a common goal. Their journey brings deeper understanding of themselves and a closer bond.

I liked this book because it depicted a non-custodial dad working to connect with his child but not in a common Disney Dad activity. Instead he chooses a less-chosen path and that makes all the difference. The exquisite water colors provide a lovely touch for the delicate tone of this book. I rate this five +++++.

Enemy PieEnemy Pie tackles a common experience for kids: a new child moves into the neighborhood and upsets the delicate balance of  friendships and comes between best friends.

Learning to cope with the quicksilver changes of childhood allegiances is something all children face. They feel the betrayal, the confusion and the anger. Kids will understand the boy’s desire to wreak revenge–in the form of a huge slice of Enemy Pie– on the intruder.

What the boy never sees coming, is the magic of Enemy Pie lies not in the ingredients, but in the journey leading up to its being served.

In the vein of the classic Stone SoupEnemy Pie delivers an unpredicted and satisfying conclusion to the boy’s dilemma. Dad creates a transforming experiencing without a single bit of preaching. Enemy Pie showcases Dad Wisdom at its best.

Both of these wonderful books reinforce the important role fathers play in their children’s lives. Buy or borrow a copy to share with your family today.