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Words reading a book

“Lilly knew it promised to be an amazing read.” Illustrator Tina Splann, 11 (Providence Village, TX) for “Words,” by Elia Smith, 10 (Santa Monica, CA). Published September/October 2014.


A note from Jane Levi

We know that our Stone Soup readers and authors are kids who love words! Every kind of word lover is represented in the world of Stone Soup: engaged readers, thoughtful reviewers, poets and storytellers, topical writers, and entertaining speakers and dramatists. This week’s writing selections from the current issue and the archive are focused on the power of words, in all their forms.

From the July/August issue we are highlighting this week a review of The Book Thief, contributed to by Ananda Bhaduri (see below). Besides giving us an excellent example of a book review that makes you want to read the book for yourself, Ananda also got me thinking about the power of words. They can be used to manipulate and persuade as well as transmit information and develop learning. I’m sure you can think of examples in your own lives when particular words have had an impact larger than themselves. This book is a great reminder that the more we know about words (and the more words we know!), the better we can understand the truth of what others might be saying to us.

In Elia Smith’s story “Words,” from the Stone Soup archives, a girl’s love of words helps her to engage with and enjoy a nursing home volunteering project. But words don’t just help to move the action forward. They provide the expression of the characters’ personalities, and they skillfully move us through the arc of the story. The hero, Lilly, is a girl of whom one might say, “She’s swallowed a dictionary,” which means that the story is richly peppered with splendiferous words. But one of my favorite things about the story is the way that in the end (and in contrast to the rest of the story) Lilly’s real feelings are best expressed in just a few, very simple words. It’s a lovely piece of writing that skillfully highlights the importance to writers of choosing just the right words to express emotion as well as meaning, and how to place them for maximum effect.

There are so many ways to express a love of words, and the power of words, and so many ways to use those words to express ourselves and to enrich our experience of the world. When you have something you are proud of—a poem, a play, a story, a reading, a blog post idea—share it with us. We always want to know how you are playing with words.

Until next time,


Contest, partnership & project news

We’re in the final days of 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 still have a few days 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 Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!

Do you know about light pollution? This week on the blog Thee Sim Ling, 12, gives us an overview of the phenomenon and what you can do about it.

Continuing our interviews with former contributors, this week we talked with Grace McNamee, whose story “Pennsylvania” was originally published in Stone Soup in summer 2007 and was the featured story in our July 13 Newsletter. Grace now works as an assistant editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Check out her answers here.

Looking forward to next week on the blog
We promised to publish the commended and winning stories in our recent Podcast contest on the website, and we’re excited to say that they will start appearing on the Blog next week. Check in through the week using this link to read all five brand-new stories on the theme of climate change.


Book cover of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

From Stone Soup
July/August 2019

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

Reviewed by Ananda Bhaduri, 13 (Guwahati, India)

A snow-clad cemetery in Germany a few months before World War II. A girl cannot believe her brother has just died, as she and her mother witness the burial. A black book drops to the snow without the owner’s knowledge. The girl picks it up and clings to it. Her debut in the career of book thievery. Some hours later, the girl and her mother go their separate ways. The girl goes to her new parents. She does not know where her mother is going.

Liesel Meminger (the aforementioned girl) is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann of 33 Himmel Street. The Hubermanns are not rich. They decide to raise Liesel because they are getting an allowance for it. Despite this, Liesel could not have a better father than Hans Hubermann. Hans comes to Liesel’s room after her frequent nightmares and comforts her, or sometimes plays the accordion for her. The same cannot be said of Rosa. Though she loves Liesel, she is constantly addressing her as “pig,” often accompanied by a beating. Liesel soon adapts to life in Himmel Street, befriending Rudy Steiner, one of her neighbors. Liesel and Rudy play football with the other kids, go to school together, and also go on thieving adventures. (Their loot mostly consists of food and an occasional book.)

It is Hans who discovers Liesel’s first stolen book. (She was lucky it wasn’t Rosa!) Liesel never learned how to read, and Hans has little education. Yet, they manage to finish the book, with Liesel learning how to read in the process. Perhaps these reading sessions develop a love for reading in Liesel. And perhaps this is the reason Liesel feels a compulsion to steal books.

The narrator of The Book Thief is Death. What does Death have to do with a girl stealing books, you say? But the book is not just about that . . . /more


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.

Stone Soup is published by Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup Inc., a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit organization registered in the United States of America, EIN: 23-7317498.

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

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