Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, everyone brings what they have until together, they have made a feast fit for a king.
In this inspiring story about the strength people possess when they work together, Muth takes a simple, beloved tale and adds his own fresh twist.
Grade 1-3 Muth has taken this old tale and transplanted it from its traditional European setting to China. The tricksters are no longer hungry travelers or soldiers but Buddhist monks. Their goal in fooling the villagers is not to fill their own stomachs but rather to enlighten them about the happiness that comes from sharing. Muth's characteristic watercolor illustrations, with their striking use of misty hues contrasted with bright primaries, are expertly done and convey a distinct sense of place. In his author's note, the reteller details the elements of Chinese folklore that he incorporated into the story as well as the symbols from Eastern culture used in the artwork. However, Muth's decision to alter the motivation of the tricksters also depresses some of the humor in the story and gives it a moralistic tone. In addition, the likelihood that these initially suspicious and reclusive villagers would become truly happy people as a result of their own gullibility is slim. This is a beautifully executed book with a flawed story line.
Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJStone Soup, J Muth (Author), Jon J. Muth (Illustrator),Scholastic Press , Hardcover, 32 Pages, 9x10 inch, $19.99
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