Stone Soup by John Warren Stewig. Illustrated by Marco Tomes. Book Review

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Stone Soup retold by John Warren Stewig, illustrated by Marco Tomes is a version of the traditional story. In the more familiar edition of capstone Soup, two soldiers enter a village and dupe the locals into creating a feast by proposing to make soup from the stone.

I was delighted to find a version where, instead of two soldiers, a young girl named Grethel is the protagonist. Because she and her mother are no longer able to make a living from their farm, she has set out to find a way to help them in their misfortune.

Unfortunately, although we care for the characters is the premise was engaging, I don’t feel it holds together as well as the original version. The two soldiers are trying to make their way home and starving along the way. Only stop at the village and convince people to participate in the creation of stone soup, they are only attempting to survive by so that they may continue their journey. The reader does not feel badly for the villagers because they have more than they admit share. The soldiers, one assumes, have been risking their lives in defence of their country. The least they deserve is a single meal.

Grethel however, brings a stone home in order to use it as a solution to her mother’s difficulties. One wonders how many times she plans to dupe the people in nearby villages, how long it will take them to catch on, and what the repercussion of that will be. The reasons the villagers originally give for not being able to feed Grethel seem legitimate, selling extra food by winter close for the children, or helping a brother’s family that had fallen on hard times.

In the original version, the reader assumes that once the soldiers return home they will take up whatever trade they had before the war and be able to support their families. In this version, there is no real solution to Grethel and her mother’s poverty. It seems that her long-term plan is to trick others and feeding them. This ending is not nearly as satisfying as the original.

The illustrations are quite similar to other versions I’ve seen. The black ink outlines and softly coloured pictures don’t offer anything new, except for the fact that, for once, the heroine is plain and simple. I would recommend looking for a more traditional version of this great story, Stone Soup.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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