• Kim Bogren Owen

Soup's On! The Many Versions of Stone Soup.


"In November's gusty gale I will flop my flippy tail And spout hot soup I'll be a whale Spoutin' once, spoutin' twice Spoutin' chicken soup with rice"

Those lyrics from the iconic book about months and soup titled Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak and sang by Carole King is a memory from our childhoods (if you aren't familiar with it I highly recommend you check it out). Although we may not eat soup all year long like in the book, many of us do add it to our menus when autumn comes with its chilly, blustery weather.

Chicken soup with rice is a favorite food for children just as stone soup is a story many of us, also, heard at camp or had told to us by our families. The earliest known version is from Europe in the early 1700s, but it is likely there are other versions out there from other parts of the world that are just as old or older. The many versions of stone soup allow children to explore other ways of doing things, such as making soup. I am sharing 6 versions here, but there a few more out there I could not locate and read so you may be able to add more.

  • Stone Soup by Marcia Brown- This is the closest to the version that many of us heard as children. Three soldiers arrive at a village in France that doesn't have enough food to feed themselves, and as predicted the villagers hide all their food and tell the soldiers there is no food left in the village. Once the soldiers state that they can just make stone soup if only someone will lend them a pot, curiosity overcomes disturst and fear, and one by one the villagers contribute to the soup.

  • Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel- A version of the story set in San Miguel, Mexico. This time, the soup is made with a cactus thorn, and instead of a loaf of bread, tortillas and tamales are the sides. As a caveat, I found the images in this book to be caricatures of Latinos as happy-go-lucky and not very smart and as a result almost didn't use it, but otherwise it a good story and you can use such books as a teachable moment for your child. If you read this book, please, be sure to discuss with your child stereotypes of Latinos to help them recognize bias as they grow older. This is a good resource for addressing bias in literature: Teaching Young Children To Resist Bias: What Parents Can Do by Louise Derman-Sparks, María Gutiérrez, and Carol Brunson Phillips.

  • Bone Soup by Cambria Evans- In this story, Finnegan, the monster with an "eating stool, eating spoon, and eating month" and a reputation for a "ravenous appetite," arrives at a town of monsters. These monsters are well aware of Finnegan's reputation so they hide their food from him and try to send him away. Instead, he says he will make bone soup, and predictably all the other monsters contribute. A great story for making your own bone soup in the sandbox or mud!

  • Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth- A version with a Chinese twist to it.

  • Tumbleweed Soup by Susan Stevens Crummel- This version is set in Texas, and Jack Rabbit uses a tumbleweed to get the other animals to contribute.

  • Bone Button Borscht by Aubrey Davis- This version is set in Eastern Europe and a bone button is what is used to start the borscht.

In every version, an outsider earns the trust of the locals through the soup, and everyone contributes to the soup in their own way. Ask your child what they think is special about themselves, what they would put in a soup, and ways they already work with others. If they are older, leave it more open and ask what lessons the stories teach about cooperation. You can, also, ask questions such as: was it dishonest for the characters in each book to say they could make soup out of an object?

Other activities you can do after reading these books are:

  • In each version, an item that is readily available in the environment is used to make the soup. As you read, talk about what natural items are common in your area. Shell soup, anyone? Make up your own version based on that!

  • Make your own stone soup by washing a rock, and acting out each step of the story.

  • Talk about how the settings of each book are different and similar.

  • What is common to all the soups and what is unique?

  • Make the different types of soups portrayed in each book, such a tortilla soup, won-ton soup, and borscht.

Here are a few more soup related books I, also, recommend you explore:

  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert- Growing Vegetable Soup takes you on a step by step journey, from seed to harvest to pot, to make vegetable soup! This is a great book for talking about where our food comes from and the harvest.

  • Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt- A little boy comes home very angry after a bad day so his mother starts a pot of mean soup. Along with his mother, he screams into the pot, bangs on it, and stirs "away a bad day!" Read this one to start a conversation about appropriate ways to manage anger as well as what makes your child feel better after a bad day.

  • Everybody Serves Soup by Norah Dooley and Peter J. Thornton- As a girl earns money to buy her mother a present she notices that everyone in her neighborhood is making soup. She samples the different varieties based on the cook's ancestry and find them all delicious and warming. The book includes recipes at the end, and would be a wonderful addition to the different versions of stone soup.

  • Community Soup by Alma Fullerton- Kioni's goats follow her to school and get into the garden as the children are harvesting the vegetables to make soup. The children come up with a brilliant solution and make a delicious soup. This book, also, includes the recipe at the end. Another story highlighting the benefits of cooperation!

  • To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda- Going off of the old children's rhyme "To Market, To Market" a woman visits the grocery story to get items she needs, but as she brings home each animal they escape and create chaos in her house. In the end, she makes vegetable soup for them to share. The illustrations of this book are a mixture of photographs and drawings which add to the feeling of things getting out of control but ultimately resolved. I have to admit this one is very close to my heart as it shows the grocery store we often shopped at when we lived in Boulder, CO!

Hope you enjoy reading and exploring these books with your little ones! As always, feel free to share (please credit Words Reflected and Kim Bogren Owen) on Facebook, your website, or in your newsletter. Add your own soup related book recommendations in the comments since we can never have too many books!

(This blog uses the Amazon affiliate program so when you click on the title and purchase through Amazon, you are supporting us! If you don't purchase through these links, please, be sure to support your local, independent bookstore or find them at your library!)

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