Summer Reading List: Marcia Brown

I love classic children’s book as much for their illustrations as their stories. This is mainly because I believe illustrations to be capable of telling a story just as clearly as the words on the page. And for authors who are also the artist for their books, there is an added invitation to challenge and inspire.

Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup is no exception. First published in 1947, Ms. Brown weaves the old French tale of three hungry soldiers who outwit an entire village of stingy peasants who are unwilling to share food or bed with the weary travelers.

The hand-drawn illustrations bring to life simple customs (with only three colors!) But they also provide a vivid portrait of the brokenness of human nature, particularly the folly of putting ‘self’ first. And as the case with any book of significance, Ms. Brown opens the door for children to consider big concepts like hospitality, pride, compassion, and guile through the artistry of a simple story.

So much so that Ms. Brown inspired my two little soldiers to make their own stone soup.

After we read the book together, I watched them mentally tick off each ingredient in the story.

Smooth stones. Check. Check. Check.

Cabbage (I mean, leaves). Check.

A few carrots (or sticks). Check. And Check.

One side of beef. (That one was a puzzler. They threw in some tree bark for good measure).

Much like the eager peasants in the story, the twins were particularly keen on sprinkling some extra salt and pepper in their soup de jour.  (Hmmm. Marcia Brown aside, I can’t help but wonder if that’s a commentary on my own cooking.)

But come to think of it, that stone soup suspiciously resembled the salad I served with dinner last night. Could that be a subtle suggestion that mom should rethink her menu the next time guests appear on the doorstep? Either that or the twins are more sophisticated illustrators than I realized.

It certainly is a coincidence that I’ve already planned soup and salad for tonight.

Check out our other summer reading recommendations: Virginia Lee Burton and Arnold Lobel.

 “Many thanks for what you have taught us,” the peasants said to the soldiers. 

“We shall never go hungry, now that we know how to make soup from stones.”

“Oh, it’s all in knowing how,” said the soldiers…

Marcia Brown, Stone Soup

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About melissa deming

Melissa Deming is a freelance writer transplanted from Texas to Pennsylvania with her husband of ten years, Jonathan, and two-year-old identical twins, Zacharias and Jonah. The family serves at a Southern Baptist church plant in Pittsburgh - Living Faith Community Church. Melissa is a regular correspondent for The Southern Baptist TEXAN newspaper and Crossroads magazine of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. She is also the creator and author of HiveResources.com - a site designed to sweeten a woman's walk with Christ through devotional articles, book reviews, and giveaways. Melissa holds a Masters of Divinity in Women’s Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, and a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M University.