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on August 16, 2001
I was happy to see that Ms. French now has a children's book available, and was curious to see what it was about. The book had a surreal "feel" to it. It was in no way offensive or horror based,yet not like Disney and Barney(maybe 5-9 years of age would enjoy it best). While "counting bunnies" with my kids....I found that there was MUCH more to be seen in each drawing, as SO typical of French's in depth drawings. From the sheep fireflies, to the "clean" footsteps it was a delight to look for all of the humor in each page. I especially liked the Lost and Found posters. The main character of the Soap lady was not scary to my kids after I explained the real phenomonon to them....and she had a very "motherly" disposition which made her very endearing. The book was complete with a moral lesson of befriending EVERYONE even if they are different, and was good CLEAN reading. As always, Ms. French's drawings were the basis of the story and well worth every penny, beautiful illustrations. Published by Top Shelf Productions Inc. it is one book that does NOT need to be on the top shelf. Leave it out. Let everyone enjoy this delightful picture book.
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on August 14, 2001
This book is a pleasant surprise. As the works collected in Marbles in My Underpants illustrate, Renee French is very capable of producing stories that wonderfully capture the surrealism of childhood. However, unlike Marbles, this book is far more innocent and avoids her usual themes of sex and death, and manages to be delightful instead of depressing. That is because in this case instead of writing about childhood for an adult audience she has created a book for children that can also be enjoyed by adults.
The Soap Lady is in the format of a hardcover children's book (large illustrations with minimal text) and contains some of her best artwork ever. The blue and white illustrations have a haziness and surrealistic atmosphere to them although they are in her usual cartoony style, but here the art's cuttiness does not have a disturbing undertone to it. The story itself is about a young boy who has the habit of getting himself muddy befriending a woman who is made entirely of soap. They have lots of fun playing together, creating artwork on trees, etc., until they are discovered by some nasty children who report their friendship to the adults (who of course don't want their kids playing with a freak). It has a bitter-sweet yet happy ending unlike most of French's works (which tend to be depressing). Overall, the book is a wonderful examination of friendship and tolerance, and the joys of imagination, not to mention cleanliness, and will have you longing for the days when you felt free to go outside and just roll in the grass.
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Renee French, The Soap Lady (Top Shelf, 2001)

Renee French creates small, unassuming, quietly devastating graphic novels that have gotten far less exposure than they deserve. The Soap Lady, a cautionary tale about the hazards of xenophobia, is no different. Drawing inspiration from an exhibit at the Mutter Museum, French tells the story of a lady made of soap (as you might be able to guess from the title) who emerges from the water and befriends a young boy. Unfortunately, the boy's fellow villagers are not as fond of the soap lady as he is, with the expected results, but French doesn't let the narrative drown in despair at any point.

Not that the narrative is the centerpiece of any Renee French release; her drawings command attention. It's possible to spend half an hour or more just staring at a French drawing, finding all the odd little details and appreciating the art for what it is. I am extremely fond of the work of Renee French, and The Soap Lady is just another example of why. ****
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on July 9, 2015
I love filling my daughters' book shelves with odd and unique stories. 'The Soap Lady' is most certainly odd and unique. As other reviewers have written, the illustrations in this book are gorgeous and complex. The Soap Lady is drawn in such a way that your first reaction is mild repulsion. Then, as the story progresses, we see a tender side to The Soap Lady and her kind actions overcome her unappealing appearance. This is the main theme of the story, villagers attacking someone because of how they look. There is a pivotal scene in the story that is heartbreaking. I read this aloud to my almost 6 year old daughter and she began crying. My almost 4 year old daughter loves this book as well. Truly a moving story.

Side note: this book is not for the squeamish Disney-loving kumbaya reader. The story and illustrations are thought provoking and may cause discomfort...truly great qualities for a book to have.
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on January 19, 2011
I couldn't believe it when my local comix shop offered me a children's book by Renee French. Her 'Grit Bath' comics made me squirm with delight and disgust but they were by no means children's fare. 'The Soap Lady' is an age-appropriate tale of the cruelty of people to those who are different. My three year old and my ten year old enjoyed it just as much as I did.
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on August 24, 2002
This is a very well-done, creative book that our granddaughter loved. Her second grade teacher read it to the class and they also enjoyed it. It's refreshing to see a nice new style without all the bright colors that are usually seen in children's books.
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on August 24, 2005
I am not against creepy literature for children. But I think if a book's creepy it almost has to be better written than regular children's literature. At a hundred and eleven pages, this is not a book I'd like to sit down and try to read to my neice or nephew over and over again. I could see it making an excellent episode on the sci fi channel, but it doesn't entirely work as a children's book. All of the characters (especially the wonderful animals) are detailed enough. The soap lady though, looks like a cross between a rough sketch of a classic alien from Area 51 and a skeleton. She does endearing things, but is still way too creepy. Part of it is that she has no mouth or eyes. The word choices in this book are complex at times, then switch back to being overly simple. The book feels like it can't decide whether it's a graphic novel or a children's book. Whether it's for adults or kids. So it falls somewhere in between and doesn't seem to work for either.
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on May 15, 2013
My favorite professor from my master's program (who also is a published children's author and has written college textbooks on children's lit) once mentioned during class that the book, "The Soap Lady" was the all-time worst children's book out there. I was so curious, I bought myself a copy (as no library would want to own it), and I couldn't agree with him more. The. Absolute. Worst. The up side, however, is that it is so amazingly awful that it provides howling entertainment when shared with friends or family. This works in a one-on-one type setting as well as large groups. No other book prompts as strong of a reaction as does this creepy, morbid, strange and oh-so-wrong tale.
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