Review: Soupy Saturdays with Judy Blume

h1 November 13th, 2007 by jules

{Note: Please see the post below this one for today’s Robert’s Snow schedule, a gorgeous ’07 snowflake from set and costume designer, artist, and illustrator Vladimir Shpitalnik, and some clarification on Yuyi Morales’ beautiful ’07 snowflake of Little Night}

Boy howdy, did reading this one take me back to my childhood — not only the terribly frustrating (as well as the sometimes poignant) moments of having siblings, but also the Judy Blume books of my own childhood. Every bio you read of her will tell you that she’s a pioneer of books for children and young adults and that she possesses a spot-on ability to nail the embarrassments, tensions, worries, headaches, and even joys of growing up and, in particular, sibling relationships. And all those bios would be right — not to mention she completely delivers in those ways with this, her latest title: Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One (Delacorte Books for Young Readers; August 2007; advance reader’s copy), seven brand-spankin’-new stories about the brother-and-sister pair that appeared in her 1984 picture book, The Pain and the Great One. The latter included illustrations by Irene Trivas, but this new title includes illustrations from James Stevenson (“wispy” — The Publishers Weekly review calls his illustrations “wispy.” I love it, ’cause it’s oh-so true).

Before Blume gets to the seven entertaining stories (which altogether read like a chapter book), she opens the book with two very brief introductions — “Meet the Pain” (or first-grader Jacob) and “Meet the Great One” (or third-grader Abigail) — in which the two siblings immediately use their time in the spotlight to start moanin’ and groanin’ about each other. Really, we’re supposed to be meeting “The Pain,” and we instantly get “My sister’s name is Abigail. I call her the Great One because she thinks she’s so great.” Same for Abigail:

My brother’s name is Jacob but everone calls him Jake. Everyone but me. I call him the Pain because that’s what he is. He’s a first-grade pain. And he will always be a pain–even if he lives to be a hundred.

And, if you’re familiar with the mid-’80s picture book upon which this book of stories is based, you know that it’s all about how the siblings see each other as annoying troublemakers and the best-loved in the family. Blume brings it all full-circle here in the new title: Each of their brief introductions ends with exactly the same sentence — “I don’t get why Mom and Dad act like h/she’s so special. Sometimes I think they love her/him more than me.” And isn’t that just the way it goes with siblings, especially those so close in age? Blume still knows how to win her young readers over.

The seven stories are spot-on, too: They’re full of much humor, energy, wit, and lots of brotherly/sisterly tension, and Blume gives the Pain and the Great One herself honest, distinctive voices as they alternate the telling of tales, stories about the Saturdays of their contemporary suburban lives. There’s a lot of bickering, naturally (Jacob teases Abigail for being afraid to ride her bike, as she retorts with a hearty, sassy “Shut up, you little twig!”; Abigail terrifies Jacob after he’s bathed his aunt’s dog, while dog-sitting, with regular shampoo: “You better pray Olive doesn’t catch cold and die . . . How would you explain that to Aunt Diana?”). But where Blume really succeeds in connecting with child readers is showing us the tenderness in their relationship without being overbearing about it, such as the night when Abigail’s sleep-over party is ruined, due to her brother getting sick, and when Abigail makes a pair of cardboard ears for her brother, who is scared of the scissors when it comes time for a haircut from Mr. Soupy, the family’s barber:

“You are so weird,” I told him.

“I know,” he said. “That’s why you’re glad I’m your brother.”

“Who says I’m glad you’re my brother?” I asked. “Did I ever say I’m glad you’re my brother?”

“No, but you made me ears,” the Pain said.


“So you must like me.”

“Like you?” I said, as if that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard.

“If you didn’t like me, why would you help me?” he asked.

“Help you?” I said, as if that was the second-craziest thing I’d ever heard. “I wasn’t trying to help you! I was trying to help Mr. Soupy get the job done!”

As Publishers Weekly put it, there’s the requisite playful banter, but Blume also “slyly and satisfyingly reveal{s} their mutual affection.” Blume knows better than to leave that out, knowing that it’s not all claws when it comes to sibling relationships — mostly claws, but not all.

There is, after all, “the last word” from each child at the book’s close, Jacob’s being that he calls Abigail “spider poop soup! That’s what you are.”

Yeah, isn’t that just the way it goes?

* * * * * * *

Note: If you’re a Judy Blume fan, you don’t want to miss last week’s Winter Blog Blast Tour interview at not your mother’s bookclub. From that interview, I learned that there will be more of these books in a The Pain and the Great One series: “When I thought I had finished the book I realized that Fluzzy, the cat, needed to have his say, too. I liked writing from Fluzzy’s point of view. So now all four chapter books in this mini series will end with Fluzzy,” said Ms. Blume.

* * * * * * *

The copy I read was an advance reader’s copy. Quoted excerpts are subject to change.

2 comments to “Review: Soupy Saturdays with Judy Blume”

  1. That last extended quote reminds me of this conversation between J.Lo and Tip in The True Meaning of Smekday:

    J.Lo showed me his three-foot grin.

    “You said I was not mean and stupids.”

    “I know. Shut up.”

    “You like me.”

    “Shut up.”


    They develop a sibling sort of relationship in the end.

    I’ve been dying to read the new Blume, but I don’t want to grab one of our copies at the library until the fervor dies down. I love that a new book by Judy Blume still causes people to sit up and take notice.

  2. Adrienne, I really want to read that. I still haven’t. I can’t even believe myself that I haven’t read it yet. Love Adam Rex’s books, and I’m behind. When we covered it here at 7-Imp, Eisha was the one who reviewed it.

    I’ll have to hit the library and remedy this.

    Let me know what you think of the new Blume book. I’m glad to know there will be more.

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