Stone Soup is a classic, old folk tale told and illustrated by Marcia Brown that demonstrates the importance of synergy and generosity for the benefit of the community. The book tells the story of three weary, traveling soldiers who go into a village hoping they would have some food to spare and a place to rest. Seeing the soldiers from a distance, the peasants hide their food and give excuses, saying that their harvest has been bad, they need to use the food and beds to care for their sick father, etc. Being clever soldiers, one of them spoke out and said that since nobody has food, they will make stone soup from three big, smooth stones and water in the middle of the square. They taste the soup and speculate that it would taste better with salt and pepper, and the curious peasants can’t help but run home to grab some salt and pepper. Again, they taste it and say it would that a good stone soup should have some carrots, cabbage, beef, potatoes, barley, and even milk, and each time the villagers run off to get their hidden foods. At last, the soup is ready and smells ever so delicious, and all the villagers including the soldiers celebrate with a soup feast and lots of dancing. Full to the brim, the soldiers are given the best beds to sleep in and leave the next day, leaving the gift of stone soup with the villagers.
This book won the Caldecott Honor, and it’s plain to see why. The illustrations, while simple with only back, white, and orange, give the people great emotion and evoke the same emotions of weariness, sadness, curiosity, excitement, and joy as the story progresses. The simplicity of the art brings out the character of the village and of the people inside and the appeal in the different patterns and textures of the bright orange. In conjunction with the plot, children are sure to enjoy the art and story.
As a child, I read this book, fell in love, and reread it over and over again because I was so amazed and caught up by the charm these three soldiers cast on the villagers. I knew that this was no magic–they made this soup merely from the ingredients they put into it–but it’s the magic of teamwork and generosity that made the soup taste so exquisitely delicious and their feast so delightful. When the soldiers leave the next morning, the villagers say, “Many thanks for what you have taught us… We shall never go hungry, now that we know how to make soup from stones.” Little did they know that they didn’t just learn how to make stone soup–they learned how to make wonderful soup together.