When the boys were little, I learned that every summer, starting in mid June and running through the end of August, the public library has a reading contest for children. Children would get a special map or book log, depending on the theme, to note which books they had read. Each week they would get to move their name tag along in the “reading race.” There were great little incentive prizes each week. A free ice cream cone, free book marks, (my kids love book marks) a coupon for free french fries at McDonald’s…etc. To a stay-at-home Mom, free is the magic word.
At the end of the contest there were grand prizes awarded like a trip to the zoo, or an amusement park. That was fun, and my sons won a few, but nothing could compare to the wealth of memories that we had reading books together. Usually, we would leave the library and take our “new” books home. Each boy would have a bagful. I would make a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit. The boys would lay down beach towels, even Sam would help by meticulously arranging his favorite blanket just right. Then, we would have a picnic on the living room floor.
The library would usually have several read a-loud story times during the contest. Sometimes it was a contest to see if the boys could sit still that long. They always did well though. Sometimes the older librarian would comment on how well behaved they were. I would thank her, thinking silently to myself, “just be grateful that I keep Sam on my hip, lady!”
She was a cute little old lady, the picture of the typical librarian, simple proper dress, granny glasses and her stone gray hair piled on her head in a bun. The boys thought she was ancient. Come to find out that she had gone to the same elementary school that they did….whoa! Guess that’s why there’s a measure on the ballot to improve the elementary schools in our area….Are the schools that old?!
While the older boys had long since left the picture book section, Sam loved that area. When he was about 3 years old, he discovered “Mean Soup.” Whether it was the bright colors and graphics or the fact that he could nearly read it himself, he was hooked. We renewed it three times, the library’s limit. I special ordered it from Borders and sometimes we still read it just for fun.
Sam was very impressed that the book’s introduction lists three boys names…the same as his brothers. He somehow managed to get a marker and add his own name to the dedication page. It’s okay, it was our copy.
“Mean Soup” was written and illustrated by Betsy Everitt. It is a wonderful book. We give it two thumbs up! As I read through it again, I could almost hear Sam’s little voice reading it along with me. The hero of the story has had a very bad day. His mother knows just what to do, and they make Mean Soup together. It seems to me that the author must have had a little boy who frequently had bad days. I can relate to a woman like this, Sam often had VERY bad days, once school started.
I remember an afternoon after a day very much like Horace’s when I took out the huge spaghetti pot and filled it with water. It had been a bad day for Sam; it was going to take stirring the spaghetti water to the boiling point for him to ‘cool’ down. While he stirred and yelled into the pot, he was finally able to tell me about his bad day. (The child psychologists I talked to, never thought up anything this ingenious…thank you Betsy Everitt for your wisdom.)
I read a review of this book. It said the following: (Paraphrased) “In the last illustration, Horace and his mother “stir away the bad day'” while having their backs to the reader…too bad, it lessens the emotional impact.”
I don’t know about that; I can almost feel the warmth in the kitchen as the water boils, heating the room. I can sense the love the mother has for her child, as she stands close to him as he calms with each circle of the spoon. She exhales a deep breath, thankful, that while she knows that she can not make all the bad days go away, she has eased the upset of her young son on this day.