Review of Quill Soup: A Stone Soup Story

Quill Soup: A Stone Soup Story
by Alan Durant; illus. by Dale Blankenaar
Primary    Charlesbridge    40 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-62354-147-7    $16.99

This retelling of the traditional “Stone Soup” tale stars a porcupine named Noko, hungry, tired, and seeking hospitality in a small village; and features animals of South Africa — monkeys, meerkats, aardvarks, and warthogs, who refuse to share their obvious plenty. Noko plucks three of his quills and sets about making soup, “just how His Majesty likes it.” The text is engaging and readable (“his brain was as sharp as the quills on his back”), albeit with few of the structural hallmarks of an oral tale (and no source note). It is South African artist Blankenaar’s imagery that pulls readers into the story. Stylized shapes in strong colors spill off every page. The illustrations, with the texture of block prints, are bold and flat. The animal homes, seen in a cutaway side view, are an intriguing jumble of natural and human-made elements (for instance, rabbits live underground in warrens but use electric light fixtures and ladders). Opening endpapers, in black, white, and shades of gray, set the stage for Noko’s hunger and isolation. The book closes with colorful endpapers when “with a full tummy and a happy heart, Noko the traveler went to sleep at last.” Birds, snakes, tree branches, and animals’ tails twine together, creating an interconnected world in which animals will eventually — even if they have to be tricked — accept a needy stranger into their community.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Maeve Visser Knoth

Maeve Visser Knoth is a librarian at Phillips Brooks School, Menlo Park, ­California. She has chaired the Notable Children’s Books Committee and taught at Notre Dame de Namur University and Lesley University.

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Alan Durant

Hi! Thanks so much for this review. It means a lot to me and I'm sure it does to Dale also. I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. One is the issue of oral storytelling. This book came out of a storytelling project that I ran in South Africa. One of the interesting things that came out of that was that oral storytelling is freer and less "disciplined" than written storytelling - as a picture book writer I have certain constrictions (the number of words it is possible to fit on a page with pictures being one). I love Stone Soup (I didn't quite understand the reference to lack of source note - surely that's in the subtitle?) but I felt it was too much of a trickster tale - the goal in the original was more to lay bare and ridicule the prejudice of the villagers than to show how they change. It's a story with such a relevant message for our times - and Dale is a wonderful illustrator.

Posted : Nov 26, 2020 06:09


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