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Stone Soup

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First published in 1947, this classic picture book has remained one of Marcia Brown's most popular and enduring books. The story, about three hungry soldiers who outwit the greedy inhabitants of a village into providing them with a feast, is based on an old French tale.

48 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1947

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About the author

Marcia Brown

49 books49 followers
An American children's book author and illustrator, and a high school teacher, Marcia Brown was born in Rochester, New York in 1918, and was educated at The New York State College for Teachers (now University at Albany). She taught at Cornwall High School in New York City, and published her first book, The Little Carousel, in 1946. She wrote and illustrated more than thirty books for children over the course of her career, winning three Caldecott Medals and six Caldecott Honors, as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal and the Regina Medal. She died in 2015.

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5 stars
22,309 (49%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 828 reviews
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,008 reviews104 followers
June 8, 2022
As someone who generally likes and actually much prefers lushly coloured and hued illustrations, I was not expecting to enjoy Marcia Brown's version of the European folktale of Stone Soup as much as I have. And those illustrations really are wonderful (attention to detail, captured movement, realistic facial expressions), and the simple combination of white, black, grey and orange shades works surprisingly well. A more than succesful marriage of text and image and if an author's note had been included, my now four star rating would most definitely have been moved to five stars (the mere fact that Marcia Brown's Stone Soup, that this 1948 Caldecott Honour book is still in current print, that alone already speaks volumes). The illustrations notwithstanding, I am also pleasantly surprised by the story itself. The author's (Marcia Brown's) version of the the Stone Soup thematics clearly demonstrate that the peasants (the villagers) do not simply fear strangers in general, they specifically fear strangers who are soldiers. When one realises that historically, soldiers not only had the reputation of demanding and taking any type of provision they might need/want without generally much thought of the needs and requirements of civilians, but that soldiers also often had specific official written guarantees permitting them to take any available and desired provisions from the villages through which they were passing, it is somewhat understandable that the villagers are at first rather suspicious of the soldiers and keep their provisions hidden. They might not want to share, and might even be a bit xenophobic, but first and foremost, the villagers are afraid of losing most, if not all of their stored foodstuff to the soldiers (and they could obviously not know in advance that the soldiers are, in fact, friendly).

In the end, the three soldiers manage to get the food they require neither by resorting to violence and threats nor do they simply search for the hidden provisions and take what they want, but rather by being able to entice the village to share what they have. The communal feast of stone soup not only celebrates sharing, it also celebrates community, friendship and the fact that one can achieve more by using one's wits. And above all, the soldiers are not only able to stay their hunger, the village is left with a much more positive impression regarding not only strangers, but soldiers in particular. I especially enjoyed the unhurried pace of Stone Soup (almost like watching a pot of soup or stew cook, no pun intended, well, perhaps slightly) and the fact that the villagers all have names, that they are not simply anonymous individuals; this personalises the narrative and allows for exposition and speculation. For example, if I were reading this story aloud to a child (or a group of children), I might engage the audience by asking who of the villagers thinks that their grain needed to be hidden (Vincent and Marie), and why they might have thought this. And while I would have also preferred (and still prefer) the three soldiers not to have been anonymous, this in no way lessened (or lessens) my enjoyment of the tale, or rather, of the Stone Soup adaptation. All in all, a much engaging (at times thought-provoking) picture book offering and vert highly recommended both for children and adults!
Profile Image for Matt.
3,616 reviews12.8k followers
November 20, 2017
Three soldiers are returning from war, hungry and very tired. They see a small village in the distance and seek to approach its inhabitants for some food and lodging. The villagers learn of this ahead of time and stow away anything that might be useful for the soldiers. Upon arriving in town, the soldiers discover that none of the households is hospitable and there is nothing to share. The soldiers concoct a plan to have a fire built and a large soup pot placed at the town square. There, they begin the preparations for stone soup, the last effort to fill their bellies. Working on the egos of the villagers, the soldiers are able to fill the soup with more than just stones, until a veritable feast is presented. Interesting tactics as Neo was left to wonder who was fooled in the end. He enjoyed the story and asked many questions about stone soup and how you’d eat such a meal. I think I will remember to read this story in a year or two and see if he picks up on some of the nuances.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,154 reviews393 followers
July 6, 2020
I really enjoyed this retelling of the Stone Soup folk tale. I enjoyed the text and the illustrations. I do like this style of illustration that uses black and white and another colour, in this case red. I enjoyed the detail of rural France, the costume, houses and musical instruments.

If you enjoyed the story of the Stone Soup I would highly recommend watching Jim Henderson's, The Story Teller version of this.

Read on open library.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
April 6, 2018
The classic 1947 version I read and loved with my family in the fifties (!), re-released in 2005, beautiful illustrated in a classic style, with subtlety. Based on a French tale. I just saw Calista's review and pulled this off my shelf. Goodreads reviewer Manybooks reminds me that an interesting aspect of the classic tale is that soldiers typically could take whatever they wanted as they walked into a town, so of course villagers would have a reason to hoard their food, especially in a time of war.

The ruse of the three soldiers to make "stone soup" as a way of urging each villager to bring in some food for the communal soup makes the relationship between the villagers and soldiers sweet. There's some real magic, as Calista points out, as potentially tense and isolating relations turn into a celebration. Some versions have the villagers as dim-witted country bumpkins, outsmarted by the smarter, more sophisticated big-city soldiers, but that's not how this version feels to me. You can't read it without smiling. An endorsement of community and a welcoming of strangers.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,792 reviews31.2k followers
April 14, 2018
To me, this is a story about perspective. The villagers didn't want to feel like they were feeding more hungry soldiers and getting nothing. They hide away their food. So the soldiers change the perspective and say they will feed the village. It is silly to think the stones will feed people, but they create a feast for everyone to join in with. Everyone came together and ate together, danced together. The soldiers did give the village some = a festival.

I loved this story as a child and to me it seems to have a bit of magic in it now. It's the ability to let people see a situation in a new way so everyone benefits.

Great story. The illustrations are nothing to be excited about. It is very simple and not really much style in my opinion.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,750 reviews636 followers
October 12, 2016
Another book I can remember reading when I was very young. A classic that teaches that greed can sometimes leave you with nothing, if you will not share - should this be yet another book on the 'to read' list for politicians?
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
3,940 reviews2,167 followers
January 28, 2021
This is the kind of classic storybooks that I want to have at every corner of my house.

This is classic!

The concept, the illustrations, the colours and the writing. Everything is so beautiful and lively.


Without a doubt, one of my favourite storybook ever!
Profile Image for Rachel.
150 reviews
March 17, 2010
Ha ha! This seemed like a political fable to me! It was a town full of selfish capitalists. When three hungry soldiers go passing through, these wonderful townspeople hide ALL OF THEIR FOOD and refuse to share one single morsel! I mean, come on, how much can 3 soldiers eat? The soldiers "trick" the townspeople into adding a "little bit of this" and "a little bit of that" into the stone soup such that the people eventually come out with tons of food, including a glorious pot roast. The townspeople dance and drink and have a fabulous time, SHARING THEIR FOOD TOGETHER. They find that when they pool their resources together, there is more than enough for everyone. F'ING SOCIALISTS!!!!!!!!!!!! If Marcia Brown is still alive on earth when the Rapture comes, she will surely be punished for writing a story that teaches children the joy of sharing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,140 reviews
June 29, 2010
Marcia Brown version features three hungry soldiers returning from war as the "stone soup makers" and the villagers are at first afraid that the soldiers will take all their food so they hide it. The soldiers instead use a "magic" stone to start the soup and show the townspeople that there is enough food to go around.
I wasn't especially drawn to the words in Brown's tale, but the illustrations certainly are captivating and lend such sense of atmosphere and charm to the tale.
Profile Image for Ronyell.
956 reviews319 followers
May 18, 2010
“Stone Soup” is a Caldecott Honor Book by Marcia Brown and it is about how three soldiers help a French village know the true meaning of giving when they tell them about the mysterious stone soup. “Stone Soup” is a cute story about the importance of being generous towards others, but some children might not like the slow pace of the story.

Marcia Brown has done a great job at illustrating this book as the images are mainly displayed in red, grey, white and black colors as most of her books have mainly three or four colors for the images. Marcia Brown makes the characters look realistic as they have real human expressions and body structures and the highlighted images in this book are of the three soldiers as they wear red and black French army suits from the 1600s and they always looked calm and gentle in each image. Marcia Brown’s story is cute as the soldiers show the villagers how to be more generous towards others by convincing them to help them make the stone soup, which gives off the perfect message for children on how to learn to share with others.

Some children might not enjoy this story due the fact that the story is a bit too slow paced. Even though the story is not violent or scary, the pace of this story is a bit too slow as the story seems to solely concentrate on the soldiers’ attempts to have something to eat and have a place to sleep in and that might bored children who want action in a story.

“Stone Soup” is a cute book about learning how to share with others, but for children who want action in a story; this book might not suit them well. For books that have action and are by Marcia Brown, I would recommend “Once a Mouse” or “Dick Whittington and his Cat” instead. I would recommend this book to children ages five or up since the pace of this book might bore smaller children.
Profile Image for CLM.
2,630 reviews178 followers
November 19, 2008
This is the edition I grew up with, and I enjoyed buying and sharing it with my older nephews.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,796 reviews35 followers
January 5, 2014
Don't let the lack of full-color illustrations fool you! I can't wait to share this version with the kindergarteners, it's well told and I enjoyed the long ago in France setting.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,083 reviews173 followers
May 10, 2019
Although there seem to be any number of picture-books involving soup made with stones - Jon J. Muth's recent Stone Soup , for instance - this retelling of the traditional French variant of the tale is the one I grew up with, and it holds a special place in my heart! The story of three hungry soldiers, who, returning home from "the wars," find themselves in a village determined not to feed them, it is part trickster tale, part fable. Young readers will enjoy following the soldiers' ingenious method of procuring dinner, while also learning that resources go further, and produce a deeper sense of enjoyment, when they are shared.

Originally published in 1947, Stone Soup was was chosen as a Caldecott Honor Book, and it's not difficult to see why! Bold illustrations, colored in black and orange, perfectly capture the droll humor of the story. These soldiers know what they're about, and - looking at Marcia Brown's artwork - so does the reader. Highly recommended, to young folklore lovers, and to those who appreciate a somewhat vintage illustration style!
Profile Image for Lana Hoffman.
39 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2008
Three soldiers use their wits to feed their hungry stomachs.

This book is very clever. The illustrations are made up of only black, white, and red. They appear to be popping off the pages. There are some important lessons taught in this book. Children learn that being clever and using your brain to solve a problem is greatly rewarded. The value of sharing and giving to others in need are also expressed in this story. Overall, children will learn that when they give to others and share, like the towns people did in Stone Soup, something truley special can be created.
As a teacher, I would have my younger students, grades k-3 create their own "Stone Soup". Everyone would contribute something special to the soup and as a class we would enjoy it together.
Profile Image for Crystal Marcos.
Author 4 books890 followers
July 3, 2010
I am tickled by the fact that one story could be told in so many variations and all of them stand apart to be their own charming tale. The illustrations displayed the mood of the scenes very well. The townspeople had reason to fear the soldiers. The soldiers had to come up with a clever way to convince the people they weren't there to harm them. This book has a great lesson on sharing and how much more wonderful something could be by doing so. Everyone coming together to add what little they had to make a feast fit for a king.
Profile Image for Katt Hansen.
3,306 reviews94 followers
July 16, 2015
I remember reading this book when I was very young and thinking how clever the soldiers were, and how utterly idiotic the villagers were to not realize they were being tricked. This story is still fun to read as an adult, and I enjoyed the pictures with new appreciation that gives hints to place and time that I hadn't realized before. Maybe there's a history lesson in here too? Either way, there's a lot more here than meets the eye - the distrust the villagers have for the soldiers for example. Definitely was worth another look.
Profile Image for Hlee Moua.
38 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2013
I thought this book was great, however the illustration was quite dull to me, but to say this book was published in 1947. Reasons why I enjoyed this book was because the moral of the story. At first the villagers didn't want to share their foods or a place for the 3 soldiers to sleep but once the solders tricks them about stone soup, they all came together and help one another and share their food.
Profile Image for Colleen.
258 reviews3 followers
February 5, 2015
Another favorite from childhood, Another recent Christmas gift. Great old tale that demonstrates how when we all give a little, we all get a lot.
17 reviews
March 18, 2017
Summary: Three hungry soldiers on their way home from the war are hungry and tired. They stop in a town asking if anyone can provide food and a bed to sleep in, while they all answer no. Desperate, both tired and hungry they outwit the townspeople and find a way to get food and a bed for the night.

Theme: The main theme in this picture is the importance of sharing and being generous with others. We see this in the beginning when the townspeople were not willing to share with the soldiers and hid their food, but once they shared, it created a special connection between them. For example, after the town feasted on food, drinks and danced for the night, each solder got the best beds in the village to sleep in because the townspeople saw how generous and wise they were. This shows children that good things can come to those who share and are generous to others. The author did a great job combining the lesson in with the overall story.

Plot: The plot is told in a chronological way because everything happens in the order that it would happen in real life. The soldiers arrive to the town, eat dinner, have some fun and go to bed. Although they encounter a person to person conflict in the way that the townspeople were unwilling to give them food and shelter, this is quickly resolved by reverse psychology. The plot is important because without it we wouldn’t be able to see how the choices that were made by the soldiers and townspeople to share their food contributes to the overall lesson of being kind, generous and sharing with others.

Color: There are only 4 colors used throughout the illustrations: white, black, grey and orange. Depending upon the placement of the colors on specific pages dictates the overall mood and shifts the focus to certain characters. This also engages the reader in what is occurring in the story. For example, in one scene we see a woman hiding cabbage and potatoes under a bed with her children standing behind her. There are different parts of illustrations that are orange, for example, various parts of the bed, the woman’s dress, her daughters dress and the sac that her son is holding. By the author highlighting these areas, it allows the reader to focus on these objects and read into the story a little. For example, the bed plays an important role because later we see this same character go back and get the cabbage that she hid. We can also see the orange on the sac her son is holding is filled with potatoes and he is waiting to hand them to his mother. We also see the orange on her daughter’s dress as she is holding a bucket filled with potatoes too. This allows us to see that they have more than enough food and just how greedy they are being. Also, the amount of black and white used in the images gives the reader a sense of the setting and the time period. I immediately connected the black and white with black and white televisions which hints that this story is not set in modern times.

Line: The lines in this book provide texture to what appears to be straw in their homes, emotions to the characters faces, and brings the soldiers hair to life. For example, the curved lines on the roofs of the homes create the warm atmosphere and ‘homey feeling’ and gives the reader a cozy feeling. These same curved lines can be connected to the ones we see inside the home when they are hiding their food. I think the author did this on purpose to suggest that the townspeople are not all the bad that they seem to be when we are introduced to the beginning.

Explanation of Traditional Tale: Traditional tales are ones that are passed down orally a part of a tradition or a culture. A folktale is included in a traditional tale since it is heard by the teller and retold in their own words. They include stories about peoples’ lives as they struggled with their fears about the world around them. Most people in those times were probably afraid of what soldiers were going to be like coming back from war. This folktale is a good representation that not everyone changes and that they are still kind and generous toward other people. The characters are flat and do not change in the story. The townspeople are flat characters who only change their mindset throughout the course of the story as they give the soldiers food for the stone soup. The sort of ‘heroes’ are the three soldiers, who are kind, and unselfish making enough food for the entire town and sharing. The plot of folktales is usually resolved with acts of human kindness as we see from the festive night that the soldiers create and sharing of their food.

Opinion: My first impression of this book was that I was very curious about the use of colors and why the author / illustrator chose to use these colors in the way she did. For example, the cover of the book shows a soldier and a man and women around the pot of stone soup with smiles on their faces looking like they are enjoying their evening. There are bouts of orange in different parts of their clothing and in the soup which intrigued me. Overall, I really liked this book I liked the main message and the portrayal of the townspeople turned from greedy to giving. I also liked the medium that the author chose, I think the pencil sketching combined with orange watercolor brings the characters to life.










Profile Image for Nicole.
330 reviews
April 3, 2018
I revisited this classic tale upon finding it while cleaning out my office space. As an elementary school counselor, it worked perfectly for my first grade group around friendship/social skills. It sends an explicit message of the power of teamwork and working together, and the effects of greed.
12 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2014
This is the retelling of a traditional French tale in which 3 soldiers who are very hungry come across a village of peasants looking for food and shelter. The villagers are very reluctant to help these strangers and decide to hide all their food and explain that there are no beds available. However the soldiers use their knowledge and whit and manage to trick the unwelcoming peasants into providing a feast through preparing their ‘magical’ stone soup.
The illustrations are quite unusual for typical children’s picture books. Firstly the colour are limited to white, grey, black and red which draws your eye towards the action in the picture. The red colour is very interesting as it hold political undertones relating to the soldiers whilst it also connoted anger and danger which is a theme also expressed through the characters’ behaviour. The dull colours in contrast emphasise the povety of the land and the mindset of the villagers which begins as being very fixed. As the story develops so does the mindset of the peasants which is represented though the increase of red which becomes more vivid by the end.
The villagers reluctance to accept the soldiers represents the theme of xenophobia within a community. The peasants fear the outsider, having preconceived ideas about them. This is a bridge we are still trying to gap in present day London. In the story the villagers fear the unknown believing that the soldier will steal their food and could potentially resort to violence. However their curiosity takes hold when the soldiers reveal their intentions to feed the village. It is then the theme of curiosity which takes precedence drawing the whole community together in an attempt to make something out of nothing. This in turn leads to the union-ship of the village and the cooperation of all involved.
The story is set during the French revolution but having being written in 1947, it is very apparent that the story mirrors the social impacts of 1947 France. With the aftermath of WW2, food rations and the fear of unknown soldiers, social feeling was at an all time low. These are very much themes that are apparent in life today, over 60 years after the story was first published, which shows that the themes in this story are timeless.
This picture book could be used throughout KS1 and KS2 during story time and as a cross curricular text. I feel that not only could it be used in English and guided reading lessons, it could also be used in history linking to the aftermath of WW2, geography with regards to the comparison of rural and urban lifestyle and also during PSHE as a stimulus for xenophobia and how we should treat other people.
12 reviews
March 28, 2016
Stone Soup tells the story of three monks, Hok, Lok and Siew who stumble upon a village during their travels. They realize the village has become very secluded after suffering from famine and floods, causing them to be wary of strangers. The monks enter the the village only to be turned down and denied any type of welcoming gesture house after house. The monks eventually gather in the center of the village and start making stone soup with the help of a little girl. One by one, more people come over to see what is going on, abandoning their hiding places in their houses. They each end up contributing something to the soup like vegetables and spices. Before long, with the many humble contributions from the villagers, a delicious stone soup is made and eventually shared amongst the villagers and monks.

Before the monks reach the village, the youngest monk asks the wisest monk what it is that makes people happy. This is the central theme of the story, to show that coming together as a community or family is what makes people truly happy. The plot is the monks gradually allowing the villagers to open up and accept the strangers and before they know it, they are all together and working towards the common goal of making a delicious stone soup. The setting is of course the village for the main part of the story and it is depicted beautifully by the illustrations. The illustrations also depict the different members of the village like a carpenter and a doctor to show children that the village is made up of normal, everyday people. The mood of the story is friendly and positive and it causes the reader to want the characters (the monks) to go and discover the village and its people. The underlying theme as mentioned earlier is that the feeling of human togetherness, whether in a family or a community, is what truly makes people happy. However, another important theme taken away from Stone Soup is to be open and accepting of different cultures. The big transformation that the characters go through in the story is done by the villagers. They start off being very suspicious and uninviting to the monks but eventually open up and celebrate with them, thanking them for showing them that feeling of togetherness.
30 reviews
November 18, 2015
Summary: This story is a classic folktale of three soldiers that come into a village hungry and tired. The villagers hide their food and do not offer any help. The soldiers cleverly decide to make stone soup. They persuade the villagers to add ingredients to the soup to make is a grand soup. At the conclusion, the whole villages celebrates in a feast sharing soup and other food.

Characteristics to support this genre: This story can be told over and over again with a message of kindness and comparison. Many generations have heard the story of the cleverness of the soldiers and how everyone ended up sharing.

Mentor writing traits:
Ideas-The message of cleverness, kindness, compassion, and sharing are portrayed by the actions of the soldiers and the village people. The details of the events take an interesting perspective in how they all share with one another.
Organization-The story starts with the soldiers hungry and tired. Throughout the story, a sequence of events happen to convince all the villagers to help. The conclusion is that everyone celebrates in a grand style and all get along.
Voice-The soldiers in the story persuade the villagers to put ingredients into their stone soup.
Presentation-The illustrations are simple in red, black, and white which emphasizes what the characters are doing. Added dialog in the story makes it more interesting along with the narration.

Integration in the classroom: Great lesson to teach character traits focusing on being caring, kindness, and sharing. With this, you could talk about the characters traits and how they changed through the story.

Other suggestions: The grade level indicated are from K-3. However, great lesson for older kids to hear too. You could also do a lesson on what happens in the beginning, middle, and end.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 828 reviews

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