Artwork © Helen Cooper
Pumpkin Soup Background Information
"That's mine!" squeaked the Squirrel.

"Stirring is my job. Give that back!

You're much too small.We'll cook the way we always have."

But the Duck held on tight until the Squirrel tugged with all his might...and WHOOPS! the spoon spun through the air, and bopped the Cat on the head.
This story is about sharing and squabbling and making up.

After all, as Cat and Squirrel begin to realise by the middle of the book, pesky Duck is terribly loveable, and he's only trying to help make soup...right? Squirrel came along first. Why? Because I like to draw squirrels, that's why. The other animals had to be of a similar size; a bug would have been too small to be pals with a squirrel. I chose a cat and a duck who worked well in a trio with the squirrel because they would be roughly the same size but very different colours. They're not the same species of animal but I somehow thought of them as brothers who grew up together, rather than just friends.

I wrote the first three pages of this story in just five minutes before I went to bed one night. I finished the rest the next morning. Writing a picture book text in a few hours might sound awfully fast, but this story had been growing in my head for a very long time.

I often collect things along the way that I might use in my books. Whenever I see something that catches my eye, I sketch or photograph it - or even buy it if it's not too expensive. I have Squirrel's spoon on my mantelpiece, and the cover lettering was inspired by the lettering on some 1950's tins which now live in our kitchen. Duck's Soup Kitchen is a homage to roadside Americana. What's that? Well it's all the sign posts and billboards that you might see on any road trip in the USA Some people think these are very ugly but a whole lot of other people think that they are incredibly beautiful.

On my first trip to the USA during the autumn of 1991, I was amazed and thrilled to find colossal piles of pumpkins on roadside stands everywhere in New England. Some of the piles were as big as a garage. I love round things and autumnal colours so I needed to draw and paint those pumpkins. I've been cooking up a story for them ever since and that's what became Pumpkin Soup

On that American trip, we went to visit one of Ted's pals who lived in a wooden house hidden in the Vermont forest. It was secret, it had a winding path, and it had a mail box just like the one in my book. I wanted to put Ted's friend's house in my book, but it was the wrong shape for my characters. I knew that Cat, Duck and Squirrel lived in a round house, so I made a roundy pumpkiny white cabin in the woods just for them.

You'll find round things all over the book: pots, the stove, stools, the salt pot, the banjo, the clock , and even the characters themselves. Look out for pumpkins in the bedhead, bedspread, and wash bowl.

Actually, this book helped me to understand something about myself and my own childhood. I am the oldest in my family and I always thought of little brothers and sisters as a nuisance--well they can be, can't they? It was only when I started drawing Duck--who is the baby in the animal family--that I started to see life, and the making of soup, from his point of view.

Look out for Pumpkin Soup's bugs. They spy on everyone.