Friday, March 19, 2021

A Recipe for Ocean Soup

 Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea 
by Meeg Pincus; illus. by Lucy Semple 
32 pages; ages 6-9
Sleeping Bear Press. 2021

theme: ocean, environment, STEM

 From afar the vast ocean appears pure and clean.

But when you look closely you notice bits of plastic. The ocean, it turns out, is a soup of big bits and some so tiny they’re like pieces of confetti or glitter. Meeg Pincus shows how all that plastic got into the ocean, how it gets integrated into the aquatic food chain, and where it ultimately ends up: on our own plate!

What I like about this book: I like the metaphor of a recipe. I love the language of soup: stewing, simmered by sun, congealed. And I like how Meeg shows that many chefs contributed to the current Ocean Soup. What I like best of all is that instead of a recipe for disaster, Meeg shows what kids (and hopefully the adults they live with) can do to help clean up the ocean. It starts with simple things anyone can do and ends with an invitation:

We will need many chefs top help clean up the sea – 
starting here in our kitchen with you, and with me.

Plus there is back matter! A description of the ingredients in Ocean Soup, from plastic bottles to fishing gear. There’s also a recipe for cleaner oceans. And there’s an author’s note in which Meeg writes about growing up near the beaches, but now finds that much of her beach walking time is spent picking up trash. She realized that she needed to change how she used plastic in her own life. So I had to ask her One Question.

Me: Can you share how you settled on the idea to write this book it as a "recipe" and one of the challenges you faced doing that?

: I'd been working on my own plastic use for over a decade when I wrote Ocean Soup and was at the point where I was consistently carrying my cloth bags, metal water bottle, bamboo silverware and paper straws. But I found myself still bringing in too much plastic from other sources and wanted to push myself to do better. I would seek out bulleted lists of "how to go zero waste" and other how-to articles to try to keep improving, and it led me to think about the idea of a "recipe." At first, I wrote the story as a second-person recipe, basically "how to make Ocean Soup," showing how our habits (personal and collective) create microplastic pollution in the oceans… After many months of playing with the manuscript, and putting it aside, I finally came to the recipe being how the grownups (and industries) created "Ocean Soup" and how kids today can step in as "new chefs" with a "new recipe" to help fix it.

Beyond the Books:

How much plastic does your family throw away (or put in the recycling bin) each week? Keep a list of how many plastic bottles, yogurt containers, candy bags and other kinds of plastic you use. How much does it weigh? If this is your normal plastic use, what would it add up to in a month, a year, a lifetime (you might need a calculator for this)?

What specific things can you do to reduce the amount of plastic you bring into your home? Try to come up with one, two, or three good actions you can do. For example: stop using plastic straws.

People love using balloons for parties and celebrations. Come up with some things you can do instead of using balloons.

Meeg is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her website,

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. I love to see the variety of books now available for kids about cleaning up the ocean and things they can do even at home! This book is especially appealing and I thank you for sharing! Beautiful illustrations!

  2. Brilliant way to give the story a twist and an ending where kids get to turn the tables on adults! The cover reminds me of Plastic, Ahoy! by Patricia Newman, a book that skews a little older than this one, I think.

  3. Great review Sue. I really like Meeg's book. And I like your ideas for ways to help.