Title: A Soup Opera
Author: Jim Gill
Illustrator: David Moose
Music composed by: Steve Rashid and Jim Gill
Orchestration and arrangements: James Falzone
ISBN: 9780981572109
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Jim Gill Inc., c2009.

“This is a drama about a man and a bowl of soup.
A drama that is set to music is an opera, so this is A Soup Opera
(Please sing this book with passion)”

Yes, that’s right, a SOUP opera. And with those words, the picture book opens along with the illustrated curtains. A man is “seated at the very best table” and orders a bowl of soup. Upon receiving it however, he tells the waiter he can’t eat it. The waiter gets the chef, who gets the policeman, who gets the mayor, who gets the president. The president is the only person who finally asks why the man can’t eat his soup. Kids will find the reason hilariously silly.

Jim Gill is VERY popular at my library. I use his multitude of songs during most of my story times. So parents and children might be excited to hear that he now has a book out. Another thing that the kids will also enjoy is singing along to the story, as resounding bass and soprano voices strongly sing out the repeating refrain.

“What seems to be the problem here?”
“I can’t eat the soup!”
“What did you say?”
“I can’t eat the soup!”

The illustrations are a little odd, with some of the round-faced, chubby-cheeked characters looking more like mannequins then people. It’s the details, like the president’s shoes or the soup man’s eyes on the last page, that make readers flip make and re-examine the drawings. The sparse setting and curtained paper edges emphasize the feel of a real opera unveiling. Music scores and italicized writing indicate what parts are sung, with the majority of the spoken text being narrated by Jim Gill himself.

The back cover illustrations indicate the cast of characters, but that doesn’t mean David Moose didn’t take some liberties. The people who try to appease the soup man carry extraordinarily large props. It’s a nice surprise when, upon turning the page, readers discover the president is a curly-haired woman dressed in a flowing gown donning a viking helmet with the US flag. The only objection is those pink pumps peaking out of the navy blue skirt… what self-respecting president would pair those two pieces together?

The accompanying CD includes three versions of the story. The first track is the entire story, with vocals and orchestra. The following tracks include two additional versions; one lip synch version with the orchestra and singers, and one sing-along version with just the orchestra. I can just imagine kids belting along, or librarians leading a community sing with this book.