Thursday, May 15, 2008

Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One

Blume, Judy. 2007. Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One. Ill. by James Stevenson. New York: Delacorte Press.

Sometimes I like Judy Blume's books (Freckle Juice); sometimes I don't (Deenie). In this case, I'm ambivalent. Soupy Saturdays is a short (108 pages), illustrated chapter book. The Pain is 1st grader, Jacob Edward, Abigail's little brother. The Great One is, you guessed it, Abigail, Jake's 3rd grade sister.

After an initial introduction of the characters, the book settles in to seven short stories, told alternately by The Pain or The Great One. Obviously, each one presents their own viewpoint,

'..I say the Great One is lying!

That night I told her so. "Liar, liar, liar!" I sang while I jumped on her bed.

"Get off my bed, stick!" she yelled. "Get out of my room or you'll be very, very sorry!"

I could tell she meant it, so I took off.'


'"Then I heard the Pain call, "Who's that weirdo on wheels?" ... "My sister can't ride a bike," the Pain called.

I whizzed by the Pain, singing, "Oh yes, I can!"'

The cat, Fluzzy, writes the final chapter, offering commentary on the feuding siblings.

The simple gray scale, New Yorker-style drawings by James Stevenson, add interest and humor to the stories. (The cat is particularly cute, with a knowing look.)

Each story can stand alone, but they're meant to be read as a novel - a good choice for beginning chapter book readers. My favorite story is "Four: Party Girl." It is a variation on a story often played out in real life -

Abigail plans the perfect princess sleepover party. Jake is going to spend the night with Grandma; but instead, Jake gets sick. He can't go to Grandma's and only one of Abigail's friends is allowed to sleep over with a sick boy in the house. The friend becomes homesick, and by 9pm, the great princess sleepover is finished. This is the most touching of all the stories. The rest are mired in the unpleasantness between brother and sister, with little that passes for kindness. Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One may be a realistic portrayal of sibling rivalry, but I prefer mine tempered with compassion.

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