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Posted February 3, 2007
Stone Soup. By Jon J. Muth, New York: Scholastic Press, 2003. U.S$16.95/Can$24.99. Refined jacket. Hardcover. ISBN 0-439-33909-X. pp30. Illustrated. The Stone Soup is a Chinese Folklore in which three Buddhist monks- Hok, Lok and Siew, tried to convince the villagers how better it is to be friendly and open to each other using a metaphoric cooperative picnic. The story starts with the ubiquitous Asian religions theme-search for the happiness. So, the youngest monk- Hok, asks to the oldest and wisest monk, ¿What makes one happy, Siew?¿ The wisest monk- Siew, replies, ¿Let¿s find out¿. Thus the story runs. The three monks went to the village below the mountain where they were wondered and found that the villagers were unfriendly, unwelcoming to these monks. The villagers work hard but somewhat individualistic know only themselves, no one else. In the village, there live farmers, a tea merchant, a Confucius scholar, a baker, a carpenter, a village doctor and so on. When these monks went to the village, they knocked each householder¿s door, but nobody cared to open. The monks decided to prepare Stone Soup for themselves, as suggested by the eldest one. They collected a small Tin pot, a few little twigs and three smooth stones. A little girl peeped through her door and saw these monks and came to the monks and wanted to know what they were doing. ¿We are making Stone Soup,¿ said one monk. ¿The pot is too small,¿ said the little girl, ¿my mom has a bigger one, let me bring it¿. She brought it. A household came to see what was going on there and saw the soup pot and said ¿a little onion would go better with this soup¿ and went home to bring little onion. Later another villager came followed by another, more came later each suggested some ingredient and each brought something to add. Finally, when the stone soup was cooked, they eat soup together and at the end they sang, danced and found the happiness of coming together (which practice still continues in Asia). After the festival, the villagers invited the monks in their home and gave them a place to sleep comfortably. However, after a peaceful rest, the monks left the village and thanked the villagers for their hospitality. Even though there was an end of the story, the moral remained forever. The entire book does not contain much word as much as I use here to give my version of the full story, but the pictures in every page speak. Each picture-done in watercolor and brush, is lively (though silent), yet, speaks a lot. The word set in each page, the words match with,- e.g., a carpenter-the picture with his products, a tea-merchant- with his utensils, a village doctor-with his medicine box, a scholar-with his Confucius attire, etc., all these attributes with color, make the words and pictures a perfect combination. The socio-cultural elements are present in every page of this book- peoples¿ dress, demeanor toward each other, bodily gesture, all are clearly depicted in the watercolor brush drawings. Furthermore, the theme of the story is prevalent most part of Asia and the story itself bears the testimony. Parents ¿despite the cultural differences, who want to give moral education to their children, will like this folklore which teaches that if we live together sharing each other resources will live happily. However, in accordance with the author, this story has its root in European folklore and there are many versions in different countries, and the current author used the Buddhist tradition of China, reflecting the cultural background. (Source: Author¿s Note, no page#).
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Posted October 30, 2011
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