About the Holiday
Winter weather is made for soup…or…is soup made for winter weather? Either way, soup offers the warm, comforting, stick-to-your ribs meal that just seems so right as the temperatures dip. Today, grab a can or cook up a batch of your favorite soup and add a hearty loaf of sourdough or artisanal bread and have a feast!
First Tomato: A Voyage to the Bunny Planet
By Rosemary Wells
The day is new—only 7:00 a.m. —and already Claire is having a tough time. At breakfast she “ate only three spoons of cornflakes” before the bowl was knocked to the floor. While walking to school, Claire’s feet were soaked by snow, and “by eleven in the morning, math had been going on for two hours.” The cafeteria was serving baloney sandwiches—blecchh!—and at recess “Claire was the only girl not able to do a cartwheel.” At the end of school, all Claire wanted to do was go home, but she was left waiting…and waiting…and waiting at the bus stop.
After all the slights and disappointments, “Claire needs a visit to the Bunny Planet.” She closes her eyes and floats away…. “Far beyond the moon and stars, / Twenty light-years south of Mars, / Spins the gentle Bunny Planet / And the Bunny Queen is Janet.”
Janet ushers Claire into “the day that should have been.” Wafting on the warm winds Claire hears her mother’s voice: “pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. / Find a ripe tomato and bring it to me, please.” So early in the season, Claire finds only one red, ripe tomato on the vine. It “smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun” that tempts her to taste it, but she puts in her basket and gives it to her mother.
As her mother cooks, Claire sits at the cozy kitchen table shelling the peas. Soon, Claire’s mother brings her a steamy bowl of soup, and as they gaze at each other in understanding, Clair hears her “mother calling when the summer winds blow, / ‘I’ve made you First Tomato soup because I love you so.’”
Finally the bus arrives to take Claire home. During the ride she spies the Bunny Planet “near the evening star” and realizes that it was there all the time.
Today I chose a favorite book from when my own kids were little. One of three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books, Rosemary Wells’ First Tomato never failed to bring a little lump to my throat as I read it to my son and daughter (and even reading it again for this review, I felt the same catch in my heart).
In the difficulties that Claire suffers during the school day, kids will recognize the predicaments they also experience, and as Claire visits the Bunny Planet they’ll understand that solace is always close by. Claire’s sweet face and vintage dress as well as the lush details of the settings make each square illustration a masterpiece of expression and emotion. Wells’ beautiful turns of phrase and lyrical lines soothe the disquiet of real life with the balm of a parent’s or caregiver’s love, making First Tomato a wonderful book to share again and again.
All three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books—including The Island Light and Moss Pillows, two more enchanting and touching quiet-time reads—are available in a single-volume gift edition.
Ages 3 – 7
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0670011032
To discover more about Rosemary Wells and her books, plus videos, games, coloring pages, information for parents and educators, and more, visit her website!
National Soup Month Activity
Picture Book Review