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STONE SOUP by Jon J Muth


adapted by Jon J Muth & illustrated by Jon J Muth

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-439-33909-X
Publisher: Scholastic

Muth transports a classic European trickster tale to China and turns it into an explicit, formalized philosophical lesson. To answer the question, “What makes one happy?” three wandering monks, Hok, Lok, and Siew, tease hostile residents of a town into providing both pot and ingredients for a savory soup, then sitting down to a communal feast. The next day, the villagers gratefully bid the monks goodbye: “With the gifts you have given we will always have plenty. You have shown us that sharing makes us all richer.” In contrast to the stiffly wooden text, the art poses graceful, traditionally dressed figures with expressive, delicately drawn faces against flowing backgrounds of mountain mists and cool colors. In a long afterword, Muth discusses the tale’s meaning and antecedents, as well as Zen and the Chinese symbols and motifs he has incorporated into it. Despite atmospheric art and touches of gentle humor, this follow-up to his recent retelling of Tolstoy’s Three Questions (2002) comes off as somewhat portentous and overwritten. (Picture book/folktale. 7-10)