Chicken Soup with Rice (A Book of Months)

1962 | Written and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak | HarperCollins

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This book may not be as well-known as some of Sendak’s other books, but it was pretty popular when I was growing up in the 70’s. Popular enough that Carole King wrote a song with the exact lyrics of this book – a song that was written for the musical Really Rosie, based on several of Sendak’s books including Pierre, One Was Johnny, Alligators All Around, The Sign on Rosie’s Door and, of course, Chicken Soup with Rice. In 1975 there was even an animated TV special and in 1980 there was an Off-Broadway production of Really Rosie.

Regardless of the TV program and live musical, I was a big fan of the book as a kid, and –according to my mother– that’s putting it mildly. I asked her what my favourite books were when I was a kid; her response? “I only remember one book: Chicken Soup with Rice.” Apparently, she read it to my sister and me every day for a whole lot of days. She was all, “What book should we read today?” and we were all, “Chicken Soup with Rice, Chicken Soup with Rice, Chicken Soup with Rice!” I’m sure that wasn’t annoying at all.

And now that I’ve watched the video of the song and the book on Youtube, the song is on repeat in my head. (It really is very catchy!) It goes through every month of the year, suggestingt a good reason to eat chicken soup with rice for each. Reading it as an adult, I’m amazed at how lyrical and rhythmic the words are, and now that I’ve heard the song once more, I don’t think I would be able to read it without slipping into the song.

“In January it’s so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To sip hot chicken soup with rice
Sipping once, sipping twice
Sipping chicken soup with rice”

One of my favourite features is how the “chorus” is repetitive while still changing it to suit each month’s activity. June is another fun month, where the roses are drooping and the boy of the book peps them up with chicken soup.

“Sprinkle once, sprinkle twice
Sprinkle chicken soup with rice.”

I have to admit that, while this book was apparently one of my favourites, I don’t have particularly vivid memories of it. I don’t own it and haven’t read it to my children yet. After hearing that it was my favourite as a kid and “reading” it again on Youtube, I do plan on buying it and reading/singing it to my kids.

But, even though I don’t remember it well, I do wonder if it’s the reason why I have always loved chicken with rice.

Our contributor: Kim Abrahamse has been a writer and editor since 2000.  Currently she is working as a freelance writer, editor and web content producer, as well as an SEO consultant for small agencies, businesses and solopreneurs. Kim is a perpetual student – she is always taking a class of one kind or another and has taken many many writing classes ranging from technical writing to travel writing to copywriting to writing for children. She reads A LOT, has an embarrassing attachment to movie popcorn and has recently started writing children’s poetry. Her children (and other people’s children) provide endless material for poems – like when her daughter declared her purple chenille sweater her “ninja sweater” it inspired a poem or when her son’s classroom chick Lucky miraculously hatched, it inspired her poem “Plucky Lucky.”

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