To tell you the truth, I had a little bit of a wild group at storytime today. One of the two new boys was the kind that my dear friend Jan would recognize. She always told the story about being a young children’s librarian doing a storyhour when a little boy went and sat under a table in the room and called to the other kids, “Hey you guys! Don’t listen to her! Come over here!” Today, I had one of those kids–the kind who walks into the room and wants to take control of the group immediately.
But here’s the cool thing. I had one of my all-time favorite storytime books all ready and waiting to go, so I just started reading. “KA-RUMBLE, KA-RUMBLE,” comes Giant Rumbleton over the hill. You can’t use a phrase like “KA-RUMBLE, KA-RUMBLE,” without getting a group’s attention, especially if you use the big, booming voice it demands. And off the story goes, as Giant Rumbleton, with his dim vision and his good nose sniffs out the vegetables in the wee, small woman’s beloved garden and starts pulling out her potatoes, parsnips, and rutabagas.
It’s the next part of the story that really slays the kids, though. “‘Give me back my vegetables!’ she shouted as loudly as she could. ‘Did I hear something?’ the giant wondered. ‘Give me back my vegetables–you potato nose!’ the wee small woman shrieked.”
The kids cannot believe their ears when you read that part. Up to that point, they’re feeling a little concerned that there’s this big giant walking around, but then she goes calling him a potato nose? The looks on their faces…too funny! They shift from slightly worried to the lips twitching just a little, because they THINK you just said “potato nose”. And then the giant yells back, “Potato nose! Who’s calling me a potato nose?” and from that second you have them where you want them–totally engaged, amazed, and delighted.
It’s a beautifully paced story, too, with a very touching ending, all brought to vivid life with Sue Truesdell’s watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations, with the hilariously outraged wee small woman (“Give me back my beets, you cauliflower head!”) and the benevolently clueless giant with his red hair and beard, who must lean close to even see the small woman.
Chances are, you don’t have this book in your library, because it came out in 1986 and has never been reprinted that I know of. I was on the Caldecott Committee that year and very fortunately have my own copy. But most kids are not going to be lucky enough to hear Phyllis Root’s story of the unlikely friendship between the wee small woman and Giant Rumbleton, unless HarperCollins reissues it. So c’mon, HarperCollins! Don’t be a bunch of carrot toes! Reissue Soup for Supper, so another generation can go home singing like my group did today, “Soup soup soup, a delicious pot of soup! Soup soup soup, I will eat it with a scoop. Soup for supper tonight!”