cover image Stone Soup

Stone Soup

John Warren Stewig. Holiday House, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0863-4

This homely version of the classic tale is imbued with a cheery rusticity, thanks in no small measure to Tomes's appealingly dour peasant folk. ``No one loved Grethel more than her mother,'' begins the narrative, as Stewig sets the caring, direct tone that he maintains perfectly through to the final sentence. Times are lean on the farm, and Grethel decides to ``set off down the road. Perhaps, being clever, she could discover a way to make life easier for her mother and herself.'' When the hungry girl seeks food along the way, she is given only excuses from the niggardly villagers, who stash their provisions and plead hardships of their own. Plotting her next move, Grethel spies a stone at her feet, and the rest is storybook history. These townsfolk may be stingy, but they're easily duped: before long, all are feasting on ``a nobleman's soup--and all from a magic stone.'' The story and art mesh splendidly; the hearty, earth-toned illustrations possess an appropriate middle-European feel that breathes new life into this old favorite. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)