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Forgotten Faves of Middle Grade: #1 "Granny Torrelli Makes Soup" and A Great Read!
Granny Torrelli Makes Soup
As I read about Rosie and Granny Torrelli, I can smell the rich tomato sauce wafting through the air. Between the occasional Italian phrase and delicious descriptions of zuppa and cavatelli (soup & pasta), I find myself sitting across the table from them, waiting- no, hoping- for a morsel. The images are alluring and remind me of moments with my own family: making cut-out Christmas cookies and talking over dinner about school and boys and homework and life.
Middle Grade Fiction Titles
These are the precious, awkward, weary years where childhood is fled and adulthood leers around the corner like a stray tomcat spying a distracted mouse. Middle Grade books are the testimonies of this trying time, of this exhilarating chase. They are home to truths so innate to our psyche that every novel of this category resonates within our soul and cannot be stilled by time- time of setting, nor time of publishing. Books of this genre are devoured and discarded and replaced by the next tasty subject, the next big name author, feeding the voracious appetites of their readers. But they deserve a life rekindled with each new generation of tweens, those middle grade transients.
Are you a gateway to children’s literature? Are you a parent or teacher? A librarian or grandparent? Let’s remind ourselves of the Middle Grade treasures, whose covers have aged and whose pages have crumpled, that their tales are still relevant. Here is the debut of my Forgotten Faves of the Middle Grade book reviews: Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech, the first novel with which I hope to inspire you to remember and share with the teeny bopper readers in your world.
Which zuppa reminds you of your family and friends?
A Great Story
“Granny Torrelli Makes Soup” is a beautiful story. Sharon Creech is gifted at developing an image so cleverly that you can hear the tomato sauce bubbling on the stove and feel the dough of the little cavatelli between your thumb and forefinger. The inclusion of Italian vocabulary helps you to hear the accents of an animated language, wrapping you tighter in the soft arms of your Grandma and filling your belly with comfort food. All five senses are engaged in connecting you to Rosie’s world, connecting you to your own sweet memories of family, friends, and tween-age drama.
The relationships that Rosie has are explored through the consciousness of her inner monologue. Written in first person, her erratic and raw emotions pepper the page, allowing you to see what she sees, feel her frustration and fluttery heart. You want to meet her “buddy, her pal,” and when you do, you already like him as much as she does.
The Surprising Sophistication of White Space
Short bursts of emotional energy comprise each short chapter. Reluctant readers will appreciate thoughts that resemble ultra-savory moments rather than long, multi-course meals. And the white space? Glorious white space covers each page: wide margins, large spaces between truncated paragraphs that adhere to the traditional rule-of-three writing style intended for picture books and early readers.
Yet the book feels neither simple nor childish. Sophisticated ideas are presented in concentrated form: friendship, disabilities, first loves, pangs of jealousy. Often, Granny Torrelli will pause the action and allow the moment to simmer like pasta sauce. Rosie grapples with understanding her buddy Bailey’s blindness and fumbles with his feelings about it. Slowing her down with the process of pasta-making, Granny Torrelli gives Rosie the chance to realize the anger for Bailey is really the frustration with her own mistakes.
Funky Cover Art
The first thing I noticed on the hardcover book was the funky cover art; I am a visual person and am drawn to the muted primary color scheme accentuated by a very cool printing font and cubist-inspired caricatures. They remind me of Picasso’s “The Weeping Woman” where the faces are drawn with both frontal and side views and this “duality” captures the parallel between Rosie and Granny Torrelli- two women, two ages, two experiences, two first loves. Granny Torrelli knows this recipe well because she’s created one like it herself.
Tutto Va Bene
Reading "Granny Torrelli Makes Soup" by Sharon Creech is like coming home to a crock-pot-scented kitchen. The aromas are familiar and promising; the entrée is a beautiful story of family and friends. And yes, as Granny Torrelli surmises, all IS good- “Tutto va bene.”
The Next Adventure
"I hope you are inspired to share Granny Torelli Makes Soup" with your group of readers. It definitely has my approval as a GREAT READ!
Don’t miss my next review in the Forgotten Faves of the Middle Grade series:
What is a Forgotten Fave from your Middle Grade years?
I cannot wait to hear what you were reading as a Middle Grade transient...
Let me know in the comments below. :)
© 2016 Julie H