“Famous Seaweed Soup”

“Famous Seaweed Soup”

By Antoinette Truglio Martin

Children’s Picture Book/ Ages 3-7

Illustrations by Penny Weber

Children’s/Purple Butterfly Press

Set on a beach instead of in a barnyard, “Famous Seaweed Soup” is a nifty change-up of the noted children’s tale “The Little Red Hen,” turning a family day at the shore into a soup tasting no one wants to taste.

Sara, our chubby-cheeked and curly-haired little chef, watches mom tend to baby Hallie, as dad lays out the blanket and screws the umbrella into the sand; everyday details young children are familiar with. But Sara has a project of her own: “It was time to make her Famous Seaweed Soup.”

Each time she asks her parents for help, they’re too busy. And each time, she says, “All right. I’ll do it myself. And she did.”

Sara scoops up bay water with her yellow pail, collects seaweed “brown, and crackly,” or “wet, green and slimy,” while mom chats with a friend and dad smiles at his phone “looking for a beachy playlist.” An illustration that struck me as so today: even surrounded by glorious nature, we grownups can’t take a break from our phones.

Not Sara, though. Thoroughly intent on her task, she finds some snails “sunning themselves … shy and small … slowly oozed their gooey bodies.” The author does a fine job using words that have a ring and rhythm to them –“stuffed, “plopped“ and “popped back in,” “seaweedy, snaily bay soup,” – making the narrative fun to read and listen to.

In her quest to find the perfect ingredients for her special soup, Sara spots a remnant of a horseshoe crab and shells “with a bit of dried clam left inside.” All the beach’s bounty go into her brew, which she stirs with a seagull feather she happens upon.

When at last the soup is done, she brings it to mom and dad. Unlike its forerunner, where the hen doesn’t share the bread she baked, Sara insists, “Cause no one helped me you will all have to eat my Famous Seaweed Soup!” And they do, play-tasting with gusto, everyone smiling, having a grand time at the beach. 

 Retired after 40 years as a speech therapist and special ed teacher, Truglio Martin says she gets her inspiration from “observing the magic of children at play.” Readers will encounter that magic as Sara delights in any and everything a day at the beach presents to a curious open-hearted child. 

Penny Weber’s bold digital drawings with hand-drawn touches are the perfect medium for the lively narrative. Page after page, in blues, pinks and yellows, Weber captures action and mood. There’s Sara skipping, arms high, kicking up golden grains of sand behind her. In another scene, arms crossed, a scowl upon her pretty face, she side-eyes her busy parents. 

I hope parents aren’t too busy to pick up a copy of “Famous Seaweed Soup.”  A lovely summer read for youngsters; I think they will famously enjoy.