SOUL MOON SOUP by Lindsay Lee Johnson


Age Range: 10 - 14
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Phoebe Rose and her mother are homeless, abandoned by Daddy with no resources to support them, but shelters and a suitcase. In the bus depot restroom, Phoebe Rose loses even the suitcase, and Mama sends her home to Gram in the country. As Johnson (Hurricane Henrietta, 1998, etc.) portrays it in free verse, Phoebe Rose’s emotional maturity develops rapidly. Arriving at Gram’s where there are chickens laying eggs, immediate friendships on offer, and Full Moon Lake to enchant her, Phoebe Rose thinks she’s found heaven, only wishing for a sign out front to confirm it. Realistically, she fears losing this new comfort as well as wondering if Mama has abandoned her. Gram’s revelations about Mama’s past and the family quarrel that separates them help Phoebe to understand her mother in a new way. The verse has moments of insight: “Without that suitcase to hold me down / I can’t walk straight, think I might blow away / down the street / like a cartoon tumbleweed.” The blankness and anonymity of life in the city contrasts nicely with the energy and lush greenery of the country, but it all starts to fit together too neatly, too quickly. The arrival of her first period on her 12th birthday—instead of her expected mother—is an example of how symbols and events mesh in unlikely ways. Once one has accepted the condensing of these events and rapid maturity of the narrator, the effect is slightly less sentimental, but without a doubt Johnson is trying to tug at heartstrings. The use of free verse for novels has gained sudden popularity, but this particular effort could have used a slower pace, a separation between poems, and some grit. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2002
ISBN: 1-886910-87-1
Page count: 134pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2002


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