A recent post courtesy of the Freer and Sackler Galleries alerts us to a lovely gem—the blog, Porcelains and Peacocks. A freezing wind sweeps the branches outside, the sun barely melting the remaining gray-tinged heaps of snow left from the last snowstorm. The latest entry from Kendra Boutell warms and inspires. She presents a stunning portrait by Francisco de Zurbarán of St. Isabel of Portugal and shares the oft-told tale of Stone Soup enriching it through historical context and connecting it to art. The two words together, stone and soup, instantly resonates as a signal to pull together for the common good. The magazine, Stone Soup, called the New Yorker of the 8 to 13-year old set by Ms. Magazine, puts this concept to work as it publishes stories and illustrations by and for young children. Reading the publication’s Mailbox letters in which young children compliment their peers, reminisce about books from their distant "youth", shows that children have a great capacity for understanding concepts about true sharing, working together, and the need to reach out to each other for the good of all.
The stone soup story is a wonderful way to introduce the concept of a caring community to very young children as well. There are so many picture books on the subject that an entire layered unit of study unfolds, dramatic play, art study, history, and the key ingredient -- working together for the common good. It also gives us the chance to work together and enjoy the cure-all for cold winds—soup.
The Jon Muth version of the stone soup tale is my favorite. It is beautifully illustrated, as are all his books, and it has also always brought out the best discussion points after reading it. I usually introduce it and then revisit it as we work our way through the other books. The “kid favorite” vote usually goes to Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel. We simply have to read Marcia Brown’s version as well.
In regards to soup, lovely soup, we turn to kid-friendly cookbooks. I offer two here… Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers by Mollie Katzen and Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer. Both of these books have been used thoroughly by my own children. The recipe pages for smoothies and matzo ball soup are dog-eared and stained from repeated use. I highly recommend both for generous use any place young children gather.
In the tale of St. Isabel of Portugal, the bread she had hidden in her skirts to share with the poor turned to roses. Something equal to this flourish happens whenever a soup’s ingredients are gathered in then stirred by small hands and served to the class.
p.s. also a great read—Porcelain and Peacock’s Black and Gold: The Art of Pyrotechnics. Ring in the New Year with heaping splashes of gold on blue-black tempera! Fireworks without the noise. Big news in the preschool set!
Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Phil Huling
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Stone Soup retold by Heather Forest, illustrated by Susan Gaber
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
Stone Soup (Flip-up Fairy Tales) by Jess Stockham
Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers by Mollie Katzen
Blue Moon Soup: A Family Cookbook by Gary Goss, illustrated by Jane Dyer