4 out of 4 stars
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Childhood sicknesses are common when growing up, but what about when the sickness is something outside of the norm? Meredith Villano tackles this subject in her short children's book, Warriors Eat Alphabet Soup. In this tale, Judy starts feeling ill, and not even her mother's special chicken soup can make her feel better, so she has a stay of several months in the hospital before returning home. During her stay in the hospital, she manages to keep a positive outlook and make some friends.
I thought this was a cute little book that definitely meets its goal of "promoting empathy, reducing fear of sickness, aiding parents during a difficult time, and celebrating the joy of spending time with family and friends". I especially liked that it was written in first person because any sick children reading with this will be able to relate better to Judy's own words. It's written just as a child would talk, though I'm not sure how many children between the ages of 4-8 (its recommended age levels) would use words like "spontaneous". The very young may also need to be told that "gelatin" is more commonly called "jello".
This tale was illustrated by Nataly Vits, and I thought the pictures were excellent. They were colorful, eye-catching, and the perfect complement to the text. The text itself was nothing special, but I would have preferred if it had been just a little bigger. I imagine that a child reading or looking at the print version would have to hold it close to their face to take it all in. I also thought it was cute that when Judy was talking about words she makes out of soup, the font used for those words changed to look like alphabet soup letters. My favorite pictures, however, were of Judy and her friends. Judy has a gap between her two front tooth, which I found endearing and a great departure from the perfect-looking children featured in many kids' books. I also liked the diversity shown in Judy's friends, Maya, Mark, and Hillary. Even though there's nothing said about the children's races, I'm sure that just seeing the mix will have a positive subliminal effect on young minds who read this book.
Sadly, I did have a couple of minor nitpicks while reading. First, it seemed like there may have been a few little gaps in the story. For instance, page 6 starts off reading, "That spring my Mom started making her own special chicken soup". I actually went back a page while my mind asked, 'WHAT spring?' As an adult who already knew what this book was about, I was able to fill in the blanks, but I think that a child shouldn't have to; the whole meaning would be clearer with the addition of the words "that I got sick" after "spring". Likewise, at the end of the book, Judy talks about going home without having said that she felt better and that the doctor said she can go. It just seemed to come out of nowhere. Be that as it may, it could be an opportunity for the parent of an older child to have the child imagine what took place during those gaps. Second, Judy's specific illness isn't mentioned, and though it didn't take away from the story, I did wonder what she suffered from. I imagine that any children reading or hearing this would also ask what she was sick from. I wondered how old Judy was as well, but again, it wasn't really necessary to know that for the story to flow well.
This book appears to be professionally edited, though I did note a couple of minor comma issues. Therefore, despite my little pet peeves, I'm happy to award Warriors Eat Alphabet Soup 4 out of 4 stars. I heartily recommend this tale for young children suffering through ailments (minor or major) and parents of sick children. Even friends of ill children may learn some lessons from reading this.
Warriors Eat Alphabet Soup
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