Stone Soup

by Jon J Muth, Illustrated By Jon J Muth

Scholastic Press
March 2003

Ages 6 – 9 . Grades 1 – 4

Library of Congress: 2002003776

Lexile measure: 560L

DRA: 24

Guided Reading: M



Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, everyone brings what they have until-- together, they have made a feast fit for a king!
In this inspiring story about the strength people possess when they work together, Muth takes a simple, beloved tale and adds his own fresh twist.
Jon J Muth

Jon J Muth, renowned in the world of graphic novels, won an Eisner Award for his paintings in the graphic novel, The Mystery Play by Grant Morrison. He’s partnered with Neil Gaiman on The Sandman: The Wake, Walter and Louise Simonson on Havoc & Wolverine: Meltdown, and J. M. DeMatteis on Moonshadow and Silver Surfer. His enchanting picture books include his Caldecott Honor Book Zen Shorts and four companion books featuring Stillwater the Panda. His book The Three Questions, based on a short story by Tolstoy, was called "quietly life-changing" by the New York Times Book Review. And the Horn Book called Jon's Stone Soup "delicious and satisfying." His exquisitely beautiful books have been translated into more than 15 languages and are cherished by readers of all ages. Jon lives in New York State with his wife and their four children.


  • Three wandering Buddhist monks investigate the nature of happiness by feeding the wary, selfish inhabitants of a Northern Chinese village soup made from three stones. Sound vaguely familiar? Muth sets his version of the well-known European folktale in the early years of Qing Dynasty China. Wars and famines have made the villagers justifiably reluctant to welcome strangers, even monks, and so suspicious they hoard food from one another. Muth's muted blue-and-gray watercolors are ideally suited to portraying the inhospitable village, swathed in mountain mists, as well as the appealing girl in her bright yellow jacket who breaks the ice and draws the other villagers from behind their locked doors to contribute ingredients to the soup. Carrots and onions are followed by cabbages, pea pods, noodles, mushrooms, dumplings, bean curd, cloud ear and mung beans, winter melon, taro root, ginger, soy sauce and lily buds--a mouthwatering celebration of Chinese cooking. The monks' effort at community development triumphs as the villagers happily feast together at one very long table, then watch a shadow puppet play accompanied by music played on traditional Chinese instruments. In a detailed author's note, Muth explains how he meshed "the Buddha story tradition, where tricksters spread enlightenment rather than seeking gain for themselves" with a story rooted in European folklore. His respect for Chinese people and their culture makes this serving of fusion cuisine delicious and satisfying.--Horn Book, March 2003

    Muth has taken this old tale and transplanted it from its traditional European setting to China. The tricksters are no longer hungry travelers or soldiers but Buddhist monks. Their goal in fooling the villagers is not to fill their own stomachs but rather to enlighten them about the happiness that comes from sharing. Muth's characteristic watercolor illustrations, with their striking use of misty hues contrasted with bright primaries, are expertly done and convey a distinct sense of place. In his author's note, the reteller details the elements of Chinese folklore that he incorporated into the story as well as the symbols from Eastern culture used in the artwork. However, Muth's decision to alter the motivation of the tricksters also depresses some of the humor in the story and gives it a moralistic tone. In addition, the likelihood that these initially suspicious and reclusive villagers would become truly happy people as a result of their own gullibility is slim. This is a beautifully executed book with a flawed story line.--School Library Journal, March 2003

    Muth freshens a familiar folktale with a change of setting. Three Zen monks arrive in a Chinese mountain village where hard times have made villagers distrustful of strangers and selfish toward one another. Undeterred by a lack of welcome, the monks set about preparing dinner soup, which, as the story traditionally goes, draws the villagers from their sheltered homes with ingredients to enrich the pot, thereby reinvigorating the community. The muted, unexceptional telling is less successful than the expressive pictures, which bloom in color as the soup thickens; the misty grays and blues of the mountains and empty village square gradually become vibrant, climaxing in a spread of villagers eating at a crowded, seemingly endless table, enjoying food and one another's company beneath the glow of red lanterns. A note at the back explains Muth's change of venue. An unusual version that kids will want to compare to other adaptations of the story. --Booklist, January 15, 2003

    With the same aesthetic grace he displayed with Tolstoy's The Three Questions, Muth here transports a classic tale to rural China. The setting not only allows his evocative, impressionistic watercolors to play over mist and mountains but also affords an opportunity for Buddhist underpinnings. Three monks of varying ages stop at a village whe



Jacketed Hardcover / Smyth

ISBN: 9780439339094

32pp. | 10 x 9