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Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup

Children's Book Review and Discussion Guide

Book Name: Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup
Author: Pamela Mayer
Illustrator: Deborah Melmon
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Intended for Ages: 6-7 years
Jewish Customs: shalom bayit (peaceful families); hiddur p’nei zakein (honoring our elders)
Additional Topics Mentioned: Old family traditions can feel really important, and so can new traditions we invent together.
Synopsis: Sophie enjoys special time spent with each of her grandmothers, and eating their delicious chicken soup. Both her Jewish Bubbe and her Chinese Nai Nai have a special family recipe, and both compete for a special place in Sophie’s heart. With a little creativity, Sophie helps Bubbe and Nai Nai see that love is no competition, and they are a lot more alike than different. “A little Jewish, a little Chinese – a lot like me!”

Highlights:

  • This book features a family blending two cultures. Sophie Chang has a Chinese father and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother. Sophie’s grandmothers call her “a wonderful blend, the best of both.” In some ways, every family is a blended family, with each person bringing their own needs and unique way of doing things. What makes this family a wonderful blend is the ways in which they try to honor and respect each person and each culture individually, recognizing the work and creativity it takes to address hurt feelings.
  • This book reminds us that we are more alike than different. When the Chang family comes together for lunch and combine the two pots of soup into one, Bubbe reveals that her kreplach are made with wonton wrappers, and Nai Nai reveals that her soup is made with kosher chicken! With love in our hearts, we can learn to appreciate the little things that make us different against a backdrop of the many ways in which we are actually the same.

Jewish Topics for Family Discussion:

  • The mitzvah of shalom bayit: Both of Sophie’s grandmothers pour a lot of love into their chicken soup. Their feelings are a little hurt when Sophie mixes up kreplach and wonton. Sophie gets creative and looks for a way to repair the hurt. Babies and toddlers often do this instinctively – trying to make a loved one smile or bringing a favorite lovey, sippie, or ice pack to someone who is sad. When you hurt someone – even if it’s by accident – you can look for ways to repair the relationship.
  • Hiddur p’nei zakein: Both Jewish and Chinese cultures venerate the wisdom of elders. There are many different ways to show respect to older people, both those in our families and those in the world around us. We can find opportunities to ask older people in our lives to share recipes or share “life hacks.” Those of us who are able-bodied and who ride public transportation can stand up and offer our seat when someone elderly gets on board. We can make sure our children see us buying or mailing cards for older relatives and offer children the opportunity to make a card of their own, or even drop cards off at the local nursing home to brighten the day of a stranger. Your local community might have a daycare center housed under the same roof as a nursing home, enriching the lives of the elderly residents with the laughter and antics of children while giving the children many more hands and laps to help care for them.

Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup was mailed to 6- and 7-year-old children in October 2016 as part of their PJ Library® subscription. PJ Library provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. To subscribe a child to PJ Library, visit www.pjlibrary.org/reformjudaism.