"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Real Story of Stone Soup by Ying Chang Compestine

The Real Story of Stone Soup by Ying Chang Compestine, Illus. by Stephane Jorisch, 2007.

You've probably heard the story of Stone Soup, but this is an amusingly different version of the tale. The unreliable narrator, a somewhat self important and lazy fisherman, hires the three Chang brothers to help him with his boat. At lunchtime, he realizes they have nothing to cook in, but the boys manage without a cooking pot. They have some fun with him as they secretly introduce fish, vegetables and eggs into the soup, but tell him the ingredients come from whispering to special stones. The fisherman takes the credit for inventing stone soup, and everyone has a swell lunch. The soup recipe follows the story.

Jorisch's comical watercolor illustrations add to the book's fun. The narrator tells us one thing, but we readers see another. The fisherman claims he's doing the "hardest job" while lying back with his hat over his face, as the "lazy and...somewhat stupid" boys struggle to heave the fish-filled net into the boat. While cooking the soup, the brothers rush the gullible man off to find some salt or sesame oil, while they slyly add fish or eggs, then show him how to  listen and speak to the stones.

Apparently, stone soup really is a traditional dish in southeast China in a region called Xi Shang Ban Na. The legend is that fishermen created the recipe, which is cooked in a hole in the ground lined with banana leaves and brought to a boil by dropping in hot river rocks.These rocks bring out a unique smell and taste. Compestine visited and found that her favorite of the various soups was Egg Drop Stone Soup!

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