In Perfect Soup, written by Lisa Moser and illustrated by Ben Mantle, Murray the mouse decides to make "Perfect Soup" on a cold winter day. However, the recipe for Perfect Soup includes a carrot. And Murray, alas, doesn't have a carrot. His neighbor, Farmer, has a carrot, but wants some logs hauled in return. As a mouse, Murray isn't able to haul the logs himself, so this sets him off on a whole string of barters. Meanwhile, the snowman outside of Murray's house makes ever-more-overt attempts to be friends with Murray. But Murray doesn't have time, because he's so busy with his quest for that carrot. In the end, of course, the two storylines come together, and Murray learns what "perfect soup", and friendship, really mean.
Although there is a bit of a lesson learned at the end of this book, Perfect Soup doesn't feel didactic. Murray is just this busy little guy, doing his best to make things perfect. And Snowman remains outgoing and friendly, despite Murray's initial neglect. The other people in the book, they want to help (mostly), but you know, life is tough. They can't give away something for nothing. Perfect Soup is as much about working for what you want as it is about taking time for your friends.
Moser does a nice job using words that are descriptive, without being overly intimidating, making this a nice read-aloud for preschoolers. Like this:
"Murray plodded down the road.
Snowman called out, "Stay and play!"
Murray shook his head. He didn't have time to play. He needed things to be perfect. Murray was in a hurry."
Later on, Snowman "plopped the snow into Murray's lap", and Murray plops that snow right into some overly-hot cocoa. Plodded and plopped both strike me as excellent read-aloud words. The shopkeeper has "spectacles", instead of glasses.
Mantle's illustrations are perfect for this book, too. He uses warm, vivid colors wherever possible, a nice contrast with the white of the snow-covered landscape. Murray's kitchen is delightful, with a round window, a cookie jar, and cabinets full of bright vegetables. Murray himself is small and intrepid, in his green-striped hat and scarf, and big smile. Snowman has rosy cheeks, a top-hat, and a red scarf that stands out against the snow. Mrs. Wooley's house is shaped like a teapot with a hat over it. Every page has a friendly feel, even those pages in which Murray suffers a setback and almost gives up.
Perfect Soup is an excellent choice for a mid-winter read, full of snow, cocoa, jingle bells, firewood, and evergreen trees. And, of course, hot, delicious soup. It's a book that will leave readers with a warm glow. Recommended for preschoolers and up, for home use or library/classroom read-aloud.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: JoAnn Early Macken
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