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Artwork in watercolor of a tree with books and children

“Tree Library,” watercolor by Li Lingfei, 10 (Shanghai, China). The cover of our July/August 2019 issue.

A note from William

Have you read our summer book review issue? Please subscribe. We offer print-and-digital combinations or digital only. Stone Soup is published monthly between September and June with a combined July/August issue, making 11 issues per year.

This week’s newsletter illustration is also the lovely cover illustration for the combined summer 2019 special book review issue, “Tree Library.” The illustration is by Li Lingfei. Stone Soup fans will have noticed a few of her works appearing over the past couple of years. Editor Emma Wood has saved this one for a while—after all, what better cover could we have for an issue filled with reviews by our young writers?

I had planned on writing about the age-old link between reading and writing and between being a writer and also a critical reader, but Emma beat me to it. Also a first in this summer 2019 issue, Emma has written a powerful essay about critical reading. I include here the opening of that essay. To read the full work, please follow the link to the current issue posted to our Stone Soup website. Emma writes:

“In addition to being editor of Stone Soup, I am also a university instructor. When I teach creative writing, I like to tell my students that the most important part of the class is not writing but reading because reading will you teach you how to be a writer.“As you sit there, eagerly turning the page to find out what will happen next, you are also taking in sentence structures, vocabulary, pacing, and the many other features that make up a poem, a story, or a book. On top of this, you are learning about what kinds of books have already been written. If you want to be a writer, it is crucial to learn about the history of the genre in which you want to write. All writers build on the work of other writers . . .” Read the rest of the essay here.

Many of you, like my own daughter, are beginning to move beyond books written for kids and young adults. I am so excited and pleased that Emma selected a review of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for this issue. As many of you will know, Frankenstein is a morality tale about science and technology getting out of hand—about the unexpected consequences of revolutionary breakthroughs.

The whole mess the world is in with Facebook, YouTube, the Internet in general, and “fake news” can be described as “a Frankenstein’s monster.” Something technological and scientific got out of hand, as with the storyline of Frankenstein, which Valentine Wulf reviews: the creator, Victor, runs away from what he has created, which makes everything so much worse. In many ways, the many creators of the Internet and the social networks that have become such a destabilizing force globally, like Victor, ran away from their creation, letting a monster develop from what had been good.

Frankenstein was published 201 years ago! Like all great literature, it is great because it has something to say to every generation. This profoundly wise book, one of the most famous books of all time, was written by a young woman. Mary Shelley was 19 when she wrote this book and 20 when it was published. We have many Stone Soup writers who are exceedingly proficient at age 12 and 13.

Read Valentine's review, and read the book. If Frankenstein isn’t right for you this year, then check in with it next year. It was written by a teenager. If you ever run into anyone who tells you you need to be older to be a serious writer, just remember Mary Shelley and what she accomplished with her teenage imagination.

William’s Weekend Project

The project for today is simple. Go to the current issue. You can read four free articles in a month, or you can subscribe. So, please read Emma’s essay on critical reading and then at least three of the book reviews (or two book reviews and the one movie review or a poetry review–you get the idea, read three!). If you are a subscriber, then read the entire issue if you haven’t already. Then, predictably, I’d like you to write a review of your current favorite book or movie or poem. We normally publish reviews as part of the Stone Soupblogs. We are happy for one-off reviews and even happier when one of you commits to being a regular reviewer. Start with this one review—you will have good models to inspire you—and when it’s done, send it Stone Soup.

Until next week,

Contest and partnership news

We’re in the final weeks for our current contest: finish writing that book!
Keep working on your entries for our summer contest: book-length writing in all forms and genres by kids aged 14 and under. The extended deadline for entries is Aug. 21, so you have more than two weeks left to work on perfecting your book, whether it is a novel, a collection of poetry or short stories, a memoir, or other prose. There will be three placed winners, and we will publish all three winning books in various forms. Visit our contest page and Submittable entry page for full details.

Highlights from the past week online

Don’t miss the latest content from our Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com.

Do you read for that transported sensation, where it seems you are in the book? Twelve-year-old Nina Vigil’s book review suggests that Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, evokes this type of feeling. Told from different perspectives and grappling with a (sadly) relatable problem, Dry gets heartily praised by Nina. Read her review here.

From Stone Soup
July/August 2019

by Mary Shelley

Reviewed by Valentine Wulf, 13 (Seattle, WA)

Before I begin this review, I want you to think of everything you think you know about Frankenstein. What comes to mind even when I think of Frankenstein is the classic depiction from the old horror movies. The insane doctor with a German accent screaming, “It’s alive!” as lightning lights up the sky and magically brings his new friend to life. A hideous monster who speaks in broken English. In the book, none of that happened. The lightning thing never happened; Victor never said, “It’s alive!”; and the monster was, according to Victor, quite attractive (with the exception of his somewhat unsettling eyes, but I’ll get to that later). Rather than the science fiction horror story of the silver screen, the original book was actually a profound and grim commentary on the dangers of unethical science.

The novel, written by Mary Shelley in 1818, opens with Captain Robert Walton aboard a ship drifting through the North Pole. He spots none other than Victor Frankenstein, stranded on the ice and looking very displeased indeed. He takes Victor on board and, naturally, wants some context as to why this scientist is stranded in the middle of the North Pole. Victor launches into an exhaustive life story told in excruciating detail from the very beginning.

Victor, born in Italy to a German family and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, is a brilliant scientist who grew up reading the works of outdated alchemists and scientists. This motivates him to get a real education and pursue science as a career. This whole bit bored me to tears, and I’m sure it will do the same for you, so I’m going to skip on to the juicy part: Fast forward to years later. Victor has dropped out of college (no, he was not a doctor, not even close) and decided that he’s going to go dig up some graves, stitch some body parts together, and bring his new creation to life. Grave robbing and playing god. Classic midlife crisis. . . . /more

Stone Soup’s advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.

Have you heard about our ongoing fundraiser?

When you purchase one of the last remaining copies of our archival “Special Navajo Issue” from March/April 1989, all proceeds will be put toward helping Stone Soup reach marginalized communities. With this money, we can work on more projects like our ongoing Refugee Project. The 1989 special issue was comprised solely of short stories, poetry, and artwork by children living on Navajo reservations. Help us to support more projects like this for today and the future.

Visit our store to purchase a copy and to learn more.

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