Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review - Stone Soup

Stone Soup
by Heather Forest
illustrated by Susan Gaber
Date: 1998
Publisher: August House
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Two hungry travelers arrive at a village expecting to find a household that will share a bit of food, as has been the custom along their journey. To their surprise, villager after villager refuses to share, each one closing the door with a bang. As they sit to rest beside a well, one of the travelers observes that if the townspeople have no food to share, they must be in greater need than we are. Heather Forest shows that when each person makes a small contribution, “the collective impact can be huge.” Susan Gaber's acrylic paintings portray the optimism and timelessness of a story that celebrates teamwork and generosity. A recipe and activity section on making stone soup makes the book an especially useful classroom resource.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I remember reading or hearing this story when I was a little kid. I don't know which particular version I was exposed to, though it wouldn't have been this one (it's too recent). In any case, there are probably better versions of the story.

This one takes place in a diverse but weirdly intolerant village. There appear to be people of all ethnicities living together in harmony, but they all share one prejudice against the poor. When the travellers arrive in the village, nobody wants to help... although, maybe the villagers just didn't like the rather judgmental tone of these two guys who seemed to think they were entitled to food. They go around shouting, "Do you care? Will you share?" The response is, "I don't care. I won't share," which may have more to do with the perceived entitlement of the two travellers than any actual lack.

The illustrations are just okay for me. I don't know why the little black kid with his "chocolate brown" eyes is singled out for mention; aren't we supposed to avoid describing people of colour with food adjectives? The writing is a bit weak in places. I'm not a fan of the repetition, and I can't stand it when characters "pause" their speech. (Will authors please stop writing like this?! "Paused" is not a dialogue tag!)

I have a feeling there are better retellings of this story out there. This one just didn't do it for me.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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