Community Soup Reviews

School Library JournalCommunitySoup_LR

“PreS-Gr 2–With echoes of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” this amusing tale set in a Kenyan school garden tells the story of students and their teachers making soup. A girl’s recalcitrant goats, however, do little to help with the process: “Kionhas i a herd of goats,/with hair of calico./And everywhere Kioni goes,/those goats are sure to…Oh, no!” Finally, one clever student realizes that the animals have just the right ingredient to add to the meal: their milk. This title will be a fun read-aloud, with lots of opportunities for listeners to predict the upcoming action. The full-color, mixed-media collages steal the show. The illustrations add texture and vibrancy to the tale and advance the plot on several wordless pages. The book ends with a recipe for pumpkin vegetable soup. A great choice for group sharing or for units on communities.”
—Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

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Kirkus Reviews

“Mary’s little lamb becomes a village child’s goats in this quirky, Kenya-set tale of making pumpkin vegetable soup.

The story opens with children picking vegetables from a community garden. “But where is Kioni?” Kioni is looking for her goats. Suddenly, the text turns into a familiar rhyme, adapted to reflect its setting in an unnamed Kenyan village. Kioni’s goats “with hair of calico” almost eat the vegetables, but they make a better contribution to the soup instead (never fear: It’s just their milk). Textured collage illustrations combining natural materials and painted images show the busy children, the corn, pumpkin, sweet potato and other vegetables that make up the soup, and Kioni’s calico-haired goats. The simple text is set on harvest-toned pages opposite full-bleed pictures. At one point, two consecutive images carry the action. Two double-page spreads emphasize highlights: goats in the garden (“GO!”) and, at the end, goats and children each eating their appropriate foods. The story concludes with a recipe. Fullerton, who introduced young readers to rural Uganda in A Good Trade (illustrated by Karen Patkau; 2013), provides a positive picture of community cooperation in another rural setting, identified as Kenya in the publisher’s cataloging.

For reading aloud or alone, a nourishing choice. (Picture book. 4-7)”

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Quill & Quire

“In this Stone Soup-flavoured story, a Kenyan school is busy with lunchtime preparations. While the teachers stir the broth, students pick vegetables from the community garden. Kioni is late—she’s looking for her goats, which have a habit of wandering away. Not only do the wayward animals break the “no goats at school” edict, they also wreak havoc in the garden. Frustrated by her uncooperative, stubborn charges, the young girl grumbles, “I’d like to put them in the soup.” A creative classmate sees a culinary opportunity and incorporates the goats’ milk as a special ingredient.

The book’s spare text warmly invites the reader into the daily life of the village. The simple sentences have a conversational tone and the superb pacing makes for a lively read aloud. Children will also enjoy the riff on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (“Kioni has a herd of goats, / with hair of calico”).

This is Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award winner Alma Fullerton’s first time as both author and illustrator, and her paper-sculpture illustrations are a visual feast. When Kioni realizes the mess her goats have caused, her “oh no” moment is captured up close, as she gazes directly at the reader, hands covering her mouth with surprise and chagrin. In the field, the children’s bright clothing stands out against the leafy green background. Textures seem tactile, from the rough, peeling bark on twigs to the softly curling tufts of the goats’ hair.

Community Soup offers a satisfying blend of cooperation, hard work, and play.”
—Linda Ludke, a librarian at London Public Library.

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Publishers Weekly

“The recipe for Fullerton’s second picture book, after A Good Trade, involves a bit of “Stone Soup,” a dash of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and a rural Kenyan setting. Outside a schoolhouse, children harvest vegetables for soup: “In the community garden, Jomo picks a pumpkin. Dalila plucks some beans. But where is Kioni?” Fullerton’s illustrations mix paper collage with mixed-media elements, and the next page shows a girl with big brown eyes and a yellow cloth dress carrying bundles of grass, finishing her chores. When Kioni finally arrives at school, her goats follow, wreaking minor havoc and letting Fullerton riff on a familiar nursery rhyme: “Kioni has a herd of goats,/ with hair of calico./ And everywhere Kioni goes,/ those goats are sure to—go!” The shift from prose to verse is awkward, and story ends abruptly, but there’s much to enjoy in Fullerton’s textured illustrations, from the goats’ wooly hides, to the dark green vegetation in the garden and thickly painted hills in the distance. A portion of sales benefits the Creation of Hope Project, which supports building community gardens in Kenya. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)”

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International Reading Association—Reading Today Online

“‘It’s soup day!’ The first line of this story draws readers into a day-in-the-life of Kenyan school community, which Fullerton depicts with mixed-media collage and paper-sculptures that lend a diorama-like depth to each scene. Readers who are familiar with tale of Stone Soup might see similarities in the way children Jomo, Dalila, Matu, and Amundi gather different vegetables from the community garden for the soup. Those familiar with the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb will delight in the way Kioni’s herd of goats follows Kioni to school, despite the ‘No Goat’ rule. In accessible prose, the two storylines merge for a happy ending. The final page of the book includes a recipe for vegetarian pumpkin vegetable soup with or without goat’s milk. A satisfying and worthy purchase, a portion of this book’s earnings goes to the Creation of Hope Project, which supports community gardens at Kenyan schools.”
—Denise Dávila, The University of Georgia

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New York Botanical Gardens“Children’s Books Explore the Power of Community”

Community Soup is a short fun tale that welcomes everyone, including goats to join in making the community soup! You too can join in by following the Pumpkin Soup Recipe at the very end of the book. Alma Fullerton uses bright colors and texture in excitingly visual collages throughout the book. Each page comes alive and pops right off the page! Community Soup is wonderful for young readers looking to explore their culinary side with a little help from Kioni and her friends!”

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CM Magazine

“Fullerton’s incredible 3D collage illustrations in mixed media fairly leap off the page and cleverly complement the text. Sticks, grass, ropes, material, and fur are all put to inventive use and enhance the marvelous paper artwork. Adding to the energetic feel of the art is the use of the bold colors and expressive faces.

The book is accompanied by a recipe for Pumpkin Vegetable Soup. The back flyleaf indicates that a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Community Soup will be donated to the ‘Creation of Hope Project’ in Kenya. A website offers more information.

Community gardening is at the heart of this delightful picture book, and one can sense the importance of this concept to the author. Fullerton’s dedication is worth noting.

For my mother and for Grandpa Talbot, who taught me that gardening can provide nourishment for both body and soul.

I would hope that teachers and adults reading to children would point out this special dedication to their readers. Highly Recommended.
—Reesa Cohen

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Resource Links

“This is a fun read that helps children understand the way of life of Kenyan school children and how different their life is from our own. It also describes the various vegetables and what goes into making soup and in the end even gives a recipe for making a pumpkin vegetable soup to make at home with an adult.

Curricular applications include learning about Kenya: discovering a world outside their own, how children work alongside parents and teachers and that children have chores to do before attending school, how community gardens work and how everyone gets to share in the work and in the cultivation, and how to make a communal soup and what goes in.”
—Carmen Poulin

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“It’s soup day at a Kenyan schoolhouse. While the teachers stir the broth, the children gather vegetables from the community garden. All except for one. Little Kioni is looking for her missing herd of goats, only to discover that they have followed her to school and are now wreaking havoc in the garden. A frustrated Kioni announces, ‘These pesky goats make me so mad…I’d like to put them in the soup.’ This statement turns out to be a ‘eureka’ moment in that the wayward goats do make a contribution to the soup…with their milk!

Alma Fullerton has incorporated the perfect ingredients to create an engaging and charming picture book. With its conversational tone, including a dash of questions and exclamations, Community Soup makes for an excellent read-aloud. One section is similar to ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ which adds to the fun: ‘Kioni has a herd of goats/with hair of calico./And everywhere Kioni goes,/those goats are sure to —/ GO!’

Fullerton’s colourful three-dimensional art, which integrates paper sculpture and mixed media collage, draws readers into that lovely far-away community garden where cooperation, sharing, and commitment are so very important. One can almost feel the textures emanate off the pages. And, as a bonus, a recipe for pumpkin vegetable soup is included.

A portion of this book’s proceeds will be donated to the Creation of Hope Project, which supports the building of community gardens in Kenyan schools. Thus, Community Soup offers great nourishment for the body as well as the soul.”
—Senta Ross

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Still putting her story into the joyous rhyme of a favourite nursery tale, Alma Fullerton enhances it with her three-dimensional artwork in mixed media with collages of paper cutouts creating a bounty of textures, teeming with the bold and evocative colours of a Kenyan community.  And the satisfaction of creating a dish cooperatively from the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour and successfully with solving the dilemma of the errant goats is all the greater, for the children and the readers…”
—Helen Kubiw

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Picture Book Palooza

Community Soup by Alma Fullerton is full of chunks of real stuff, and paint. It’s a story about making soup together, a little like Stone Soup, but the goats get in the garden, so there is a bit of a tie-in to a nursery rhyme, and a recipe at the end.

The mixed media collage is so fun to pour over. The story is fun and lively, but the art draws you in to look closer and see what may be – that leave, hmm, it looks like a silk leaf. The ground and dirt look like real ground or dirt, the trees look like they have been scratched in to plaster. The painted faces of children are precious. I’ll use this with Storytime preschoolers up to second or third grade. This book is part of the Creation of Hope project, find it’s blog here.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“‘In the garden,

Matu digs

sweet potatoes.

Amundi bundles

But where is Kioni?

She is looking

for her –’

Everyone is helping with preparing soup for lunch. Where is Kioni?

She’s late! Working together the children and teachers have managed to get all the ingredients in the soup pot. Why is Kioni late?

It doesn’t take long to discover the problem. Her chores at home have kept her busy, and now she is looking for her goats. Where can they be? As everyone else works, Kioni makes a disturbing discovery. Her goats have found their way into the vegetable garden where they are wreaking havoc.

The children laugh and play, and tease Kioni about the misbehaviour and remind her that school is a ‘no goat zone’. She is very embarrassed and angry with her charges, and fervently wishes that they might become a useful ingredient in today’s soup. Not wanting that to happen, one of the children suggests that they might add goat’s milk to the soup and heighten its flavor. What an idea!

It’s lovely for young readers to catch a glimpse of village life in Kenya. The sentences are short and tell their story with a lively pace. The textural cut paper and collage illustrations add a lovely touch, and will invite close attention to the happenings in the village as the communal soup is prepared. Bright backgrounds match the brilliance of the children’s attire and the soup recipe shared at the back had my mouth watering…it is that time of year for the comfort it brings.

-A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the Creation of Hope Project, supporting the development of community gardens at Kenyan schools. Well worth your support, with an engaging story to boot!”

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Agy Wilson

“Kioni has a herd of goats  that go EVERYWHERE, like Mary and her lamb and are quite mischievous! It certainly makes soup day, when everyone should be collecting vegetables more of a challenge. Fullerton illustrations colorful and very tactile. Very different and visually appealing with her mixture of painted and reference materials, cloth and cut outs, I really liked the feel of the illustrations. And a recipe (and yes, I will be trying it, and I’m very biased as I love recipes in children’s books)!”
—Agy Wilson, author/illustrator

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Kids Read the World

“Community Soup, by Alma Fullerton, is a fun take on the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” nursery rhyme, however this one involves a community garden, and some naughty goats. It is soup day, a day when the teachers and students come together in the community garden to harvest some of what they have grown and cook a delicious soup. One little girl, Kioni, however, is late because she is finishing her chores, which include feeding her goats. When she arrives at their pen, she cannot find them anywhere. Where do you think she finds them? With their help, the soup is perfect.

The three-dimensional, mixed media illustrations practically jump off the page, and had my girls trying to touch and feel them. After reading Community Soup, my daughters had fun making their own felt- vegetable soup combinations. There is a recipe in the back of the book soup that looks pretty yummy!”

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