Marcia Brown’s version of Stone Soup is the one I grew up reading. Because Stone Soup is a folk tale, there are many versions in book form, but this 1947 Caldecott winner captures the feel of a European peasant folk tale. Maybe if Patricia Pollacco had illustrated a version of this story, I might have liked that one more, but, to me, this one is the best!
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Stone Soup is about 3 soldiers who are coming home from war. They are hungry and tired, but as they approach a small village, the villagers gather together and agree not to feed or house the soldiers. “Soldiers are always hunger. But we have little enough for ourselves.” They hide all the food and try to look hungry when the soldiers arrive.
Since the villagers are unwilling to give the soldiers any food or a place to stay, the soldiers play a trick on the villagers. Since the villagers apparently have no food, the soldiers will make soup from water and 3 stones. The villagers are curious, quickly bringing the largest pot they can find, buckets of water, and wood for a fire. As the soldiers begin to “cook” the stones, they make comments like, “Stones like this generally make good soup. But oh, if there were carrots, it would be much better.” A villager then says that maybe they could spare a carrot or two, coming back with a pile of carrots. Little by little, the soldiers trick the villagers into putting cabbages, potatoes, and beef into the stew.
Once the soup is ready, the villagers then think it would taste better with some bread, a roast, and cider. It turns into a feast in the village square, and they all eat and dance into the night. The villagers insist that the soldiers stay in the best beds in town after teaching them how to eat so well on 3 stones! The soldiers leave in the morning with well wishes while the villagers still don’t realize the lesson the soldiers actually taught them.
The illustrations are only in three colors, probably because of the era when it was published, but I think it also helps keep the focus on the story. When I checked this book out from the library this time to read it, we had just finished talking about hospitality in manners as a part of our Civics study. This story was a great tie-in, as we discussed how the villagers were not friendly or generous out of fear and greed. It’s also a great story to emphasize that sharing resources with others is a great way to make something better.
Although she did not first catch onto the trick the soldiers were playing on the villagers, Brontë really enjoyed this story. Here is what she had to say about Stone Soup:
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