Saturday Newsletter: April 7, 2018

Newsletter  /   /  By Jane Levi
Stone Soup Magazine
September 2018

on the bridge of dawn sunrise beyond the trees

It must be very early, the light is just creeping sleepily up from behind the trees and rooftops

Illustrator Rosemary Engelfried, 13 for On the Bridge of Dawn by Megan M. Gannett, 13
Published May/June 2004

A note from William Rubel

At last, thanks to Emma and Sarah, the long-promised Book Reviews section of our website is here! What you’ll see on the page today is a small beginning to something we want to see grow. We’ve got lots more reviews to add, and we’ll be putting them up every day this week and into the future, so you will see something new popping up on a regular basis from now on. We want our Book Reviews section to develop into a lively place for Stone Soup readers to drop by and discuss the books they love (and even those they don’t!). If you love books and want to get some ideas of new ones to read, or hear what others thought of some you have already read, take a look, read the reviews, and leave your comments. Do you agree or disagree with the reviewer’s thoughts? Do you have something to add? Let us and the reviewers know what you think!

And of course, do please keep on submitting your book reviews to us.

Relating to others—thoughts from great novels and our bloggers

For those of you who are following the news at all, or have talked with your parents about the many huge changes in the politics of the world taking place right now, I think you will probably have talked about how polarized politics has gotten in the United States and in many other countries around the world. We are tending only to talk to people who think the way we do, with less reaching out to people with whom we disagree in order to find common ground.

I want talk talk today about Sarah Cymrot’s review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, posted on our blog a few weeks ago. Like many of you, Sarah is in middle school. She is experiencing changes in the way kids (people) relate to each other compared with elementary school. What adult reading this Newsletter does not also remember those cliquish years? Which group were (are) you in, which group weren’t (aren’t) you in, how could (can) you make new friends?

The Scarlet Letter is one of the major American novels of the nineteenth century. It is regularly taught in high school. I think it is fantastic that Sarah has taken this book on and has found that it offers some insights into middle school life.

At the end of her post Sarah asks a question and invites readers to answer in a comment. I have left a comment, and now I am hoping that this weekend you will read the review—alone or with your parents or another adult—and will answer her questions too. Adults: the comments sections are open to adult readers, as well, and in this case I think the question is challenging enough to force all of us to think and to then struggle to find the words to answer.

Sarah asks us to think carefully about how we relate to others: “Are there ways that you are judged by your peers? Are there ways you convince yourself to accept others in the face of feeling judgmental? Are there times you have reached across perceived differences and have connected with someone you didn’t expect to? I’d love to hear from you…”

Go to her post, read her review, and then please continue the discussion by leaving a comment.

It’s National Poetry Month!

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month in the United States and Canada, and that in springtime in particular poetry is celebrated all over the world?

Coming back from Taiwan last week my colleague Jane read a feature about poetry in the inflight magazine, written in celebration of national poetry month. I’d like to leave you with a few words from the article that express some of the ways we think about poetry here at Stone Soup, to inspire you both this weekend and for the rest of the month.
“Love, warmth, and hope are all part of the April rhapsody. April is a never-ending love song. Come along with us as we experience the poetic side of April. In this warm spring month, take the opportunity to write poetry, recite poetry, sing poetry, discuss poetry and experience a poetic life.” (Dynasty, Inflight Magazine of China Airlines, April 2018, p. 22)

We will share with you some of the work being done by our friends at the Academy of American Poets during National Poetry Month next week, and meanwhile, as ever, look forward to receiving your expressions of your poetic lives, whether they are written, painted, sung or recited!Until next week

William

From Stone Soup
July/August 2015

The Five-Dollar Bill

Written by Katherine Tung, 11
Illustrated by Aris Demopoulos, 12

“Stop Tiger from chasing Fluffy!” Mike Brady yelled as he charged headlong at his sons’ dog at his wedding reception. Tiger dashed under the wedding cake table and tipped it. The three-tiered cake slid along the table and into Mike’s arms. When Carol Brady hugged him for saving the cake, it toppled onto Mike’s face.

This scene on TV sent my brother and me rolling on the carpet in fits of laughter. Ben and I relied on The Brady Bunch reruns to release frustration. We watched them every afternoon, since we spent our taxing schooldays proving to the mostly  white student body that we were not mentally retarded, we just couldn’t speak English. After all, we came to the U.S. three months ago, knowing only how to say “hi.” I wanted to return to Taiwan, where I lived a Brady-Bunch life—wholesome and carefree, where each day ended with everyone happy.

Mom yelled from the kitchen, “哥哥, 去市場 買一袋紅蘿蔔. 現 在就去!”1. She ordered Ben to buy a bag of carrots from the market, this instant.

“我不要! 叫妹妹去,”2. Ben shouted back, refusing to budge and offering me a chance to go.

Mom marched into the family room and stood in front of the TV screen, hands on hips, and commanded, “現在就去,”3 repeating her order.

Ben rolled onto his stomach, crossed his arms overhead, plopped his forehead onto his forearms, and groaned. She turned around and switched off the TV. Mom was always pressed for time.

She no longer had help from her family and friends to make dinner and run errands. I wanted to help her, so I volunteered.

She hesitated. She had always relied on Ben to run errands. Would she trust me to go alone for the first time? Like Cindy Brady begging to have her way, I clasped my hands, looked earnestly into Mom’s eyes, and in my sweet seven-year-old voice, pleaded with her to let me go. “媽 媽, 讓我去. 就在街頭.”4

Mom glanced at the wall clock, which read five o’clock. “Go quickly. I need it to finish the dish before Dad comes home.”

She folded a five-dollar bill widthwise twice and handed it to me as I left the house. I clutched the bill in my right hand and skipped, half running, down to the store, humming the opening tune of The Brady Bunch.

When I reached the market, my pace slowed. A brilliant sunset was in clear view from the near-vacant parking lot. It looked as if someone had spread rainbow sherbet across the sky with white cotton candy as clouds. I thought of the countless sunsets I had savored with my grandma from the balcony of our house. I reached over to hold her hand, but she wasn’t there. Where was she? Where were my friends, and my extended family?

A kind voice jarred me from my thoughts. “Hi.” It came from a slim, tall, athletic boy in tennis shoes and blue jeans, about Ben’s age. I had never seen him before, but that was true of most Americans I had met. We exchanged warm, friendly smiles.

The boy enunciated each word slowly, asking, “You go to Condit Elementary? You know, Condit Elementary School.”

I stared in astonishment. Yes, yes, that was where I went to school! My mind raced with excitement at the prospect of making a friend. I thought hard, trying to express myself in proper English. “I go schoo Condid.”

The boy stifled a giggle. My ears burned, my toes curled, and my fists tightened. My palms began sweating, and the five-dollar bill felt like a damp paper towel. I switched the bill to my left hand, letting the breeze cool my right one. I expected him to leave, since I couldn’t carry on a conversation with him. He stayed.

Again, slowly and patiently, he said, “I’ve seen you at school.”

He has seen me at school? Maybe he has seen me with Ben. “You know my broder, Be-en? He in fif grade.”

His eyes lit up and he grinned like a Cheshire cat. “Yeah, yeah, we’re in the same class. I know him real good. We’re like this.” He raised his right hand, pressing together his index and middle fingers. “You’re his little sister.”

I was comforted in knowing he was my brother’s friend. My ears stopped burning, my toes straightened, and my fists relaxed. My left hand loosely held the five-dollar bill. I couldn’t wait to tell Ben about this. Maybe we could invite the boy over to our house. Maybe we’d bike around the neighborhood or watch TV or play in the backyard or do anything he wants to. Should I ask now?

Before I could decide, the boy lunged at me, snatched the bill, and sprang into flight. …/more

About the Author

Jane has been working with Stone Soup since 2016 on variety of different things--including running the Stone Soup Test Kitchen! She is a writer, researcher and consultant.

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