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Homeschooling Resources: It’s Soup Month!

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Homeschooling Resources: It’s Soup Month!


January is National Soup Month!

Check out this list for soup stories, soup poems, historical soup, scientific soup, artistic soup (well, artistic soup cans), and even soup on the silver screen.


National Soup Month

In Kate Banks’s Alphabet Soup (Dragonfly Books, 1994), a little boy doesn’t want to each his lunchtime bowl of alphabet soup. (“My, you’re grumpy as a bear,” says his mother.) The boy then scoops the letters B-E-A-R out of his soup – and a bear appears. Off the two go, armed with a large spoon, on a fantasy adventure, involving an ogre, a wizard, and a sailboat, all called into being by the letters in alphabet soup. There’s a cool spelling lesson here. With soup. For ages 4-8.

In Susan Meddaugh’s Martha Speaks (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1992), Martha, the family dog, eats a bowl of alphabet soup – and suddenly she can talk. The problem: sometimes Martha talks too untactfully and too much. Many funny sequels, for ages 4-8.

In Betsy Everitt’s Mean Soup (Sandpiper, 1995), Horace has had a horrible day. (Zelda sent him a love note. The show-and-tell cow stepped on his foot.) He arrives home in a mean mood, so his sympathetic mother suggests they collaborate on a cathartic pot of Mean Soup. After yelling at the soup, making faces at the soup, and even (well, yes, unsafely) banging on the soup pot, Horace’s mean mood has been safely stirred away. For ages 3-8.

In DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan’s Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen (HarperCollins, 1997), a young boy helps out at the soup kitchen where his Uncle Willie volunteers daily – because, Willie explains, sometimes “people need help.” A Reading Rainbow selection for ages 4-8.

Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

For information on the history of soup kitchens and guidelines for becoming a soup kitchen volunteer, see How to Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen from the How Stuff Works website.

In Helen Cooper’s Pumpkin Soup (Square Fish, 2005), buddies Cat, Duck, and Squirrel live happily in a cabin in the woods, where they collaborate on making music and cooking pumpkin soup. One day a squabble breaks out over who adds what to the soup, and angry Duck packs up his wheelbarrow and leaves in a huff. Soon Cat and Squirrel miss him – and when he finally returns, all have learned a lesson about the value of friendship (and the importance of taking turns). Included is a recipe for Pumpkin Soup. Further soup stories featuring Cat, Duck, and Squirrel are Delicious! (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) and A Pipkin of Pepper (2008). For ages 4-8.

In Jackie Urbanovic’s Duck Soup (HarperCollins, 2008), Maxwell Duck – a master chef of soups, creator of Red HOT Chili Soup, Cracker Barrel Cheese and Marshmallow Soup, and Way Way Too Many Beans Soup – has embarked on a soup masterpiece. Just as he goes to the garden for a missing herb, however, three friends stop by. Spotting a floating feather in the simmering soup, they fear the worst has happened to Max and embark on an hysterical search. For ages 4-8.

There are many versions of “Stone Soup,” the traditional folktale about hungry strangers persuading stingy townspeople to feed them by preparing to make what looks like a wholly inedible pot of soup.

Timeless Stone Soup

In Marcia Brown’s Caldecott-winning Stone Soup (Aladdin, 1997), originally published in 1947, three soldiers trudging home from the war come to a little French village, where the peasants rush to hide their food – until the clever soldiers begin to prepare a batch of Stone Soup. Soon everyone comes forward to offer ingredients, and in no time there’s a wonderful feast and a town party. For ages 4-8.

Ying Chang Compestine’s The Real Story of Stone Soup (Dutton Juvenile Books, 2007) claims that stone soup was invented in China. The story is told in the first person by a fisherman, who complains of his helpers – the lazy and stupid Chang boys – who, as it turns out, are anything but. In fact, the clever trio manages to trick their employer as – claiming it’s all from stones – they produce a yummy pot of fish soup. The humor lies in the disparity between the text, told from the point of view of the lounging fisherman, and the pictures of the smart and busy boys. Included is a recipe for Egg Drop Stone Soup. For ages 5-9.

Eric A. Kimmel’s Cactus Soup (Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2011) is a Mexican version of the Stone Soup tale. When hungry Zapatistas ride into the little town of San Miguel, the inhabitants hurry to hide their stores of food – but the undaunted Capitan offers to make soup from a single cactus spine. This would, of course, be far tastier with onions, chiles, beans, and chicken – and soon there’s a wonderful collaborative meal and a fiesta. For ages 5-9.

In Eric Madden’s Nail Soup (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009), a poor Traveller begs a bed for the night at a curmudgeonly woman’s cottage – where he convinces her to feed him supper by starting a pot of soup made from a single rusty nail. The illustrations, by Paul Hess, are terrific. For ages 5-9.

By Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Fairy Tale Feasts (Interlink Publishing Group, 2009) – a “literary cookbook” – is a collection of 20 familiar fairy tales, each paired with a recipe. Among these: a recipe for Stone Soup. For ages 5-11.

In Alastair Graham’s marvelously detailed wordless picture book Full Moon Soup (Boxer Books, 2009), there’s a full moon over the Hotel Splendide and chartreuse soup for supper. Then suddenly mayhem ensues: the soup-sipping chef becomes a werewolf; a bedspread attacks a maid; ghosts appear in the attic; space aliens, Vikings, and sheep attack. A mix of Where’s Waldo? and Monty Python for ages 5 and up.

In Norah Dooley’s Everybody Serves Soup (First Avenue Editions, 2004), Carrie travels around her multicultural neighborhood shoveling snow, in hopes of earning enough money to buy her mother a Christmas present. Each house is cooking a different kind of soup – Puerto Rican chuleton, Italian lentil soup, Southern corn chowder, Japanese miso shiru. All seven soup recipes are included in an appendix. In the same format, see Dooley’s Everybody Bakes Bread, Everybody Cooks Rice, and Everybody Brings Noodles. For ages 6-9.

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Katie Speck’s comical short chapter book Maybelle in the Soup (Henry Holt and Co., 2007) features Maybelle, a charming cockroach – she wears pearls and a pink bow – who lives, discretely, under the refrigerator in the home of Myrtle and Henry Peabody. Disaster strikes when the snooty Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass come to dinner – and Maybelle, who simply can’t resist a taste, falls into the turtle soup. Sequels are Maybelle Goes to Tea (2008) and Maybelle and the Haunted Cupcake (2012). For ages 6-10.

By Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread (Candlewick, 2006) features – along with the title character, a little mouse with too-big ears – the beautiful Princess Pea, whom Despereaux adores; Roscuro, a soup-loving rat, and Miggery Sow, a dimwitted orphan girl, who dreams of taking the place of the princess. Soup plays an essential part in the story, especially when Roscuro, dangling from the palace chandelier, falls into the queen’s bowl of soup, which causes the queen to die. A wonderful read for ages 7 and up.

In Sharon Creech’s Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (HarperCollins, 2005), twelve-year-old Rosie and her best friend, Bailey (“that Bailey boy”) – who is legally blind – have had a rift, and just because Rosie has learned to read Braille. Through cooking, stories, and good advice, Granny Torrelli teaches the two some lessons about lasting friendship. For ages 9-13.

Soup Recipes for New Cooks

Mollie Katzen’s charmingly illustrated Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes (Tricycle Press, 1994) is a delight for just-beginning cooks – safety tips, step-by-step illustrations, and, as promised, nineteen real recipes, among them Pretend Soup (a yummy mix of orange juice, yogurt, and fruit), Zucchini Moons, Green Spaghetti, Hide-and-Seek Muffins, and Bagel Faces. Sequels are Salad People and More Real Recipes (2005) and Honest Pretzels (2009). For ages 3-6 (plus adult).

The History Kitchen at What They Ate is a wonderful illustrated collection of recipes and background cooking histories. Visitors to the site learn, for example, how to make Charles Dickens’s Smoking Bishop (holiday punch), Abraham’s Lincoln’s Pumpkin Pudding, Civil War Beef Stew, the Salmon Mousseline served on the Titanic, Marilla’s Raspberry Cordial from Anne of Green Gables, and Thomas Jefferson’s White Bean Soup.

The most famous soup in science is certainly the soup of Primordial Soup Theory – the idea that life may have originated from a soupy mix of simple organic molecules in the early oceans. For a discussion of the theory and alternative suggestions about the origin of life, see LiveScience’s How Earth’s Primordial Soup Came to Life.

Learn the composition of blood with Plasma Soup. In this simple experiment, kids make candy soup to demonstrate the four major components of blood: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

From the Museum of Modern Art, Campbell’s Soup Cans has an image of Andy Warhol’s iconic soup can paintings with brief background information.

Mike Venezia’s Andy Warhol (Children’s Press, 1997) in the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists Series covers Warhol’s life and art and provides information on the Pop Art movement (and the soup cans). Illustrated with photos, color reproductions, and clever little cartoons. For ages 5-9.

Soup as Art

From Dick Blick, Souper Art is a “whimsical introduction to nutrition and graphic design” in which kids invent and design a label for an imaginary soup. The site has instructions and some great examples of student work. Adaptable for a wide range of ages.

Soupsong, a large and multifaceted website wholly devoted to soup, covers soup myths, folktales, and poems; soup history; soup in the news; soup etiquette; soup art; soup in the movies; and many international and historical recipes for soups. There’s even a list of Deathbed Soups, and – under Soup Songs – the complete lyrics to “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?”

For even more on soup – including snowman soup, dragon soup, cold-curing chicken soup, a garden in a soup can, and some soup-can physics – see BEAUTIFUL SOUP at

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