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Stone Soup

Last updated Monday, October 21, 2013

Author: Jon J. Muth
Illustrator: Jon J. Muth
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 043933909X
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2010

Synopsis: 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, NJ

Note to readers:
•  read the author’s note at the end of the book ahead of time to learn more about “stone soup”. If time permits, read the author’s note after the story to the kids.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever heard of stone soup?
•  How do you make stone soup?
•  What do you think it would taste like? Do you think it would be yummy?
•  DURING: What are the people brining for the soup?
•  Are they brining as much as they said?
•  Which of the ingredients have you eaten?
•  Are there any ingredients you haven’t heard of & would like to try?
•  Do you know your neighbors? If so, do you ever make meals together?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Where is China? (use map in classroom to locate)
•  Why did all the villagers help contribute to the soup?
•  Would you like to make stone soup? If so, what ingredient would you like to contribute?
•  Discuss the village celebration & the shadow puppets.
•  VOCAB: bean curd - tofu

Craft ideas:
•  Have each child cut several shapes of veggies to contribute to a pot of “stone soup”.
•  Then each one can take a “serving” & glue the shapes onto their own bowl-shaped paper.
•  Discuss the importance of individual contributions to a community vs. how difficult it would be for every person to grow a wide variety of ingredients for a big meal.
•  Make puppets. Cut out shapes like a house, a tree, veggies, & tie string/yarn to the top. Cut out a cat or dog & use brads (if available) to attach cut-out arms & legs. Explain how to hold the puppets behind a shear cloth/light colored sheet in front of a bright light to make their own puppet show.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!