Stone Soup

stone soup coverAre you looking for a book to help teach your child about sharing and working together? Stone Soup by Heather Forest illustrated by Susan Gaber is a folktale about two travelers that are hungry and are seeking food in a local village. This European folktale has been told for centuries and teaches an importance lesson for both children and adults alike. There are various versions to this folktale but in all of the stories, the lesson is the same, “the plot ends with the optimistic realization that when each person makes a small contribution, the collective impact can be huge.”

In Stone Soup, the hungry travelers knock on each door in the village and say, “Please. We are hungry. Do you care? Will you share? Do you have any food?” Each person who answers the door, young and old say the same thing, “No!” The travelers are not only disappointed but surprised that no one in this village has any food to share with them. They say, “If there is really no food in this elegant little village, then the people who live here are in greater need than we are. We should make them our magical soup”. They decide to make their infamous Stone Soup but need help from the village. It starts with one person lending them a pot. Once they fill the pot and build a fire, the flames cause curious townspeople to gather around. “What is happening?” they ask. “We are making an unusual soup” the travelers reply. As more and more people gather, the townspeople each begin contributing one thing to the soup to make it more delicious and edible. It starts with one carrot offered by a child which leads to a variety of ingredients from other people. At the end of the story, all of the people have contributed one food to the soup which makes the most delicious soup the town has ever tasted. They gather around and celebrate the soup together with the magical ingredient, “sharing”.

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I loved this book because it teaches such an important lesson about working together as a community. Our community is not just our neighborhood but it’s our school, our workplace, our professional community. This book can be interpreted in many ways for children but the beauty of a lesson like this is that it can have different meanings for each individual. It’s a story not only about sharing but being generous and understanding that a small contribution can lead to a much bigger change that can benefit a entire group of people.

Language Tips: As you are reading the book, define unknown words to help clarify the story. Words on the first page such as “village”, “tattered”, “spare” can be unknown to a young reader. To learn more about teaching vocabulary during book reading time, click here. Target emotions such as asking your child, “How do the travelers feel when the villagers shut the door on them?”, “How do the villagers feel when they work together as a community?” Since this book is a folktale, it should be explained to a child that in real life, welcoming strangers into our house can be dangerous. However, what could we do to help these hungry travelers in real life? This can start a more complex discussion about helping others in need such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or donating food to an organization that helps people less fortunate and in need.

Are you a teacher? Check out this lesson plan by August House Publications  with carryover worksheets included: Stone Soup Lesson Plan-August House

Would you like to listen to this book told by the author? Check out this audio clip here. 

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