48 pages 1 hour read

Sharon Creech

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2003

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup is a middle-grade novel published in 2003 and written by Sharon Creech. It is a short work of middle-grade fiction told from the first-person perspective of 12-year-old Rosie, who is struggling with the issues of forgiveness, friendship, and jealousy. Rosie’s Italian grandmother, Granny Torrelli, makes traditional family meals while passing along stories of her own childhood that help Rosie gain perspective. Granny Torrelli is a native Italian speaker who lived in Italy until she immigrated to the United States when she was 16 years old, so numerous Italian words and phrases are included. The novel is broken into two parts that each contain numerous short chapters. Otherwise, it has two unconventional structural elements. The first is that the dialogue appears in italics rather than in quotation marks. The second is that most of the chapters, as listed in the table of contents, end with an ellipsis.

The novel was named a Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association. Creech is the author of numerous books for both children and adults. She has won, among other awards, the John Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal for Writing.

The 2003 Kindle edition of the novel was used for writing this guide.

Plot Summary

Rosie is angry at her best friend, Bailey. She reflects on how they have been best friends since they were infants, like siblings who got to choose each other, yet Bailey just told Rosie to get over herself. Granny Torrelli, having sensed that something is wrong with Rosie, takes charge of Rosie for the evening, demands to know what’s wrong, and announces they’ll be making “zuppa,” which is the Italian word for soup. As they gather ingredients and begin, Granny Torrelli opens the conversation by starting to tell Rosie about her own childhood best friend, Pardo. As they work, then as they let the prepared food rest before they eat, Granny Torrelli’s stories about Pardo are punctuated by Rosie remembering moments from her past with Bailey.

Rosie recalls learning that Bailey “cannot see very well” and, soon after, being deeply upset when Bailey could not join her on the first day of school. She recalls trying to teach Bailey to read her way, by drawing large block letters, then feeling “left behind” as Bailey began to learn to read Braille—Rosie even ripped Bailey’s Braille book once, though she pretended it was an accident. Rosie thinks about how she and Bailey used to like inventing and performing their own “plays.” Through one play, she learned that Bailey’s father had left the family. Another play led to a fight when Rosie wanted to play a blind woman.

Granny Torrelli calls Rosie stubborn, just like her, and relates a time she was jealous of Pardo’s new dog, Nero, for stealing all of Pardo’s attention. Determined to win Nero‘s affection, Granny Torrelli took Nero for a walk, only to get dragged by the big dog before finally losing hold of the leash. After hours of searching, she returned to find Nero already back with Pardo. Infuriated and relieved, Granny Torrelli punched Pardo and called the dog “stupid.” In turn, Rosie remembers once hiding an apparently stray dog in her garage because she wanted Bailey to have a guide dog, even though Bailey had explained that people must be at least 16 years old and have training before getting one.

Rosie and Granny Torrelli begin to eat, and Granny Torrelli mentions all the family she left behind in Italy who have since passed away. Reflecting on all that Granny Torrelli has experienced, Rosie recalls the day Bailey “went for a walk,” panicking the entire neighborhood and his mother. Though Bailey punched Rosie when she insisted he had been lost, Rosie cried with relief that night that he was home safe.

Granny Torrelli calls for more soup, and as Rosie serves it, she further recalls how Bailey once saved her from bullies. As the girls attacked her, Rosie called for help, and Bailey—whose hearing is especially good—came to her rescue. Granny Torrelli tells Rosie that the last time she saw Pardo was when she left for the United States. They were both upset at the other, and neither of them wrote. One day, she got the news that Pardo had died tragically. After this revelation, Rosie finally reveals the nature of her fight with Bailey. Rosie spent a year painstakingly learning to read Braille; when she showed her new skill to Bailey, though, he was angry, not impressed. Granny Torrelli begins to cry, then reveals her deep regret about how things ended with Pardo. The two fought about her leaving for the United States, and they never reconciled, not even writing each other letters.

This final story helps Rosie realize that by learning Braille, she learned a skill that Bailey had felt was special to him. She decides to make amends with Bailey. She and Granny Torrelli bring soup to Bailey’s house, and both children readily apologize to the other.

On another day, Rosie, Bailey, and Granny Torrelli make homemade pasta. A new girl named Janine has moved into the neighborhood. She pushed to become Rosie’s best friend—since she thinks male best friends don’t count—right away, which Rosie did not like. Rosie is jealous of the relationship that Janine is forging with Bailey. Her jealousy is exacerbated by the fact that Bailey has promised to teach Janine how to read Braille.

Granny Torrelli tells the children about Violetta, a girl who started to come between herself and Pardo. Granny Torrelli was very jealous of Violette and went so far as to convince the girl to let her cut her hair—though that only made Violette look prettier. Through the stories, Bailey comes to understand that Rosie is jealous, but when she asks if he could like Janine more than he likes her, he does not answer very emphatically, leading her to be more upset.

Granny Torrelli continues the story of Pardo. When a new boy, Marco, came into their lives and was smitten with Granny Torrelli, Pardo became jealous. Suddenly, Rosie and Granny Torrelli see a moving van arrive across the street, and along with it comes a little girl and two boys around Rosie and Bailey’s age. Rosie explains the sight to Bailey, and to make him jealous, she notes that perhaps the boys could teach her to play basketball. Bailey comes to realize that the boys could come between him and Rosie.

Granny Torrelli tells the children that one day she helped to care for a sick baby, and the next day she falsely believed the baby had died. While Granny Torrelli experienced this with the baby, she did not think about her friendships or her love interests. It made her, and in turn makes Rosie and Bailey, realize that there are bigger problems in the world than just their own. Marco and Violetta eventually left the neighborhood, and Granny Torrelli and Pardo continued their friendship. Rosie and Bailey offer to invite the new neighbors and Janine to the pasta party they are having the next day. The friends and family gather together and have an Italian meal while Rosie is happy their home is not any bigger because she likes everyone to be close together.

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