Blue Moon Soup Illustrations ©1999, 2013 by Jane Dyer All Rights Reserved.

“Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook,” Recipes by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer; Sky Pony Press, $16.95, 72 pages, ages 6-10.

Cooking together is a wonderful way for parents to interact with youngsters, and Blue Moon Soup presents thirty delicious recipes, grouped by season, plus recipes for bread, salad and snacks for the whole family to enjoy.

The book is written to engage sous-chefs of all ages. Small children will happily collect the “Stuff” (ingredients) for each recipe, while older children can advance to tasks such as sorting, whisking and peeling. Everyone in the kitchen will relish the quirky and charming names of each dish: “Mary had a Little Lamb Stew,” “Sob Soup” (an onion-based preparation), there’s even “Bisque in the Sun.” 

Blue Moon Soup is more than just a cookbook; it’s a primer on proper cooking techniques. There’s a kitchen tools checklist, soup kitchen rules, even a diagram for properly setting the table. Before cooking anything, be sure to read aloud Lewis Carroll’s slurpy homage to potage “Turtle Soup” on the first page. 

Cooks can rest assured that these recipes have been thoroughly tested before publication: Chef Gary Goss is an expert soup maker.  In 1997 he founded the successful Soup Kitchen in Northampton, Massachusetts. The proof of his dedication is in the pudding: Since it’s original publication in 1999, Blue Moon Soup has won numerous accolades, including the Smithsonian Notable Books for Children Award, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, and Parents’ Choice Award.

Legendary children’s book illustrator (and fellow Northampton resident) Jane Dyer renders 14 full-page watercolor illustrations of sunbathing vegetables, dancing ducks and sobbing onions in her trademark whimsical style. Children will love pouring over the images of dancing utensils and piano-playing animals while indulging in a bowl of happiness that they helped make.  This book is a visual and gustatory delight to be enjoyed all year long.  

Wilde and Wonderful

“The Selfish Giant and Other Stories,” by Oscar Wilde; The Folio Society, $44.95, 192 pages, ages 13 and up.


THE SELFISH GIANT Copyright © 2013 by Grahame Baker-Smith. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, The Folio Society, London.   

Perhaps best known as a playwright and novelist, Oscar Wilde also wrote several fairy tales. The Folio Society has published a new edition that would make an excellent gift to fairy tale fans as well as to those who love a beautiful, well-crafted book.

As with everything published by the Folio Society, the production standards for The Selfish Giant are first-rate. A sturdy metallic silver box keeps everything safe, and beautiful end papers covered in snowflakes set a magical mood. The book is printed on Abbey Wove paper and is three-quarter bound in buckram. (Buckram is a 100% cotton cloth used to cover the boards of the book.) On the cover is an exquisite illustration of the title character looking over a little boy sitting in an ethereal white-blossomed tree.

Grahame Baker-Smith illustrated The Selfish Giant. (Smith was also recently commissioned to illustrate the Folio Society’s 2012 edition of Pinocchio.) During a conversation with the illustrator I asked if he incorporated Wilde’s likeness into any of the images. He did; try to find which one it is in the accompanying image post. The mixed-media illustrations capture Wilde’s wit, yet recall a certain melancholy, suggesting – rightly – that these stories are not for the faint of heart.

British fiction author Jeanette Winterson writes an engaging introduction, giving readers a quick primer on Wilde’s life while intertwining major life milestones with his work. She reminds us that these are not bedtime stories for babies; rather, Winterson declares that these tales ‘tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not’. As a result these stories deal with themes that young children may not understand.  Still, this is a glorious book, and as Wilde himself said, “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” 


The Selfish Giant Illustrations © 2001, 2013 by Bill Bell All Rights Reserved.

Sky Pony Press has also recently published a version of The Selfish Giant, retold by Mary Hollingsworth and illustrated by Bill Bell. At $14.95, this book is within the purchasing power of most consumers. The acrylic paintings are more whimsical than those in the Folio edition, and more appropriate for a younger audience. Hollingsworth has taken Wilde’s original text and modernized it somewhat, yet the story retains most of what exists in the original.

Here, young readers may better appreciate the story of an inconsiderate giant who chases children from his garden. To make sure the children stay out, the giant builds a wall. Not only are the children banished, so too are the seasons. The Giant is punished for his behavior until something unexpected happens, encouraging the ogre to change.

Unlike the Folio Society’s publication, Sky Pony has published just one fairy tale. It is short enough to be read in one sitting, but it does deal with themes of death as well as the Resurrection.  Avoid reading this story if your child has trouble conceptualizing death, unless this book is to be used as part of a larger conversation about mortality.