A southwestern version of "Stone Soup". Ages 4-8
Publishers WeeklyKimmel (The Runaway Tortilla) sets his version of "Stone Soup" during the Mexican Revolution, inspiring some marvelously atmospheric watercolors by Huling (Puss in Cowboy Boots). Hungry soldiers encounter the poverty-feigning townsfolk of San Miguel and announce that they will make enough cactus soup for the troops and the village. And they make it from an unlikely ingredient-a single cactus thorn. By story's end, the soldiers' leader has used reverse psychology to coax genuinely tasty foodstuffs out of the villagers ("Too bad you don't have onions. Cactus soup always tastes better with onions. But why ask for what you don't have?"), and teaches everyone a delicious and festive lesson about sharing and community. Kimmel, ever the master storyteller, incorporates especially vivid cadences in the words of the wily, world-weary captain; but it's Huling who makes the story sing. His comically exaggerated characters garner laughs without shedding their humanity, while his swooping, elongated lines and radiant colors recall the sun-drenched earthiness and high spirits of early 20th-century Mexican art. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's LiteratureAs a Mexican variation on the old "stone soup' motif, this one works on two levels. Kimmel's smooth retelling incorporates Spanish words and names of foods without getting in the way of the story or grafting on extraneous matter, as did Jon J. Muth's recent retelling (2003). Secondly, Huling's stylish paint and ink illustrations depict the populace with pleasing angularity and elongation, the mayor and clergy as richly plump, and the roving bandeleros and their horses as lean dandies. As the sated soldiers ride away after the fiesta, the townspeople of San Miguel gather in farewell, hoping for the next huge feast when they can again make such wonderful soup from, think of it, a cactus thorn! Add this to the shelf of such well-executed southwestern versions of folktales, as Kimmel's The Runaway Tortilla, Susan Lowell's The Three Javelinas, and Tony Johnston's New Mexican version of "Baba Yaga," Alice Nizzy-Nazzy. 2004, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 5 to 9.
Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library JournalGr 1-4-This Mexican variant of "Stone Soup" calls for a single cactus thorn as its base. The army captain repeatedly teases the poor people of San Miguel with the lament, "Why ask for something you don't have?," seducing the curious folk into adding still more ingredients like chiles, vegetables, and meat to his magical concoction, a yummy comestible that inevitably leads to a fiesta. Huling's elongated watercolor cartoons provide just the right playful, brown-hued visual temperament for the all-round festive deception. The glossary is welcome but, oddly, lacks a pronunciation guide. Even stranger, though, is the postscripted author's note, bizarrely politicizing an otherwise clever cultural retelling (although it gives the artist an opportunity to tack on interesting portraits of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata). Teachers can follow up with Marcia Brown's Stone Soup (Atheneum, 1947), a wonderful example of the international appeal-and ready adaptation-of timeless tales of human nature.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsKimmel serves up the familiar Stone Soup story with a Mexican flavor in this retelling set in northern Mexico during the time of the Mexican Revolution. When the townspeople pretend to be poor, and hide their beans, corn, chilies, tortillas, and tamales from the soldiers, the Capitan offers to make soup for everyone from a cactus thorn. Huling's illustrations, a bit off-putting because of the extreme caricatures of the oversized sombreros are, however, well-suited to the exaggeration of the smoothly told tale. An author's note explains the political and historical background, and a glossary provides English equivalents of the sparely used Spanish terms. A good choice for those seeking variants of Stone Soup, or books with Mexican themes. (Picture book. 5-8)
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