A note from Jane
It’s always a good week when a new issue of Stone Soup comes out, and there is so much great work in the December issue—all 48 pages of it!
One of the things I love about the story we are featuring from the December issue this week is its title, “The Serenity of the Simple Inquiry.” It perfectly describes the perspective of the questioner, Miss Lavender. But for the main character, the whole experience is the opposite. The inquiry is far from simple, and she does not feel serene. It is an unanswerable question that makes her feel annoyed and unsettled every time she thinks about it. She doesn’t want to think about it. She even avoids the teacher who asked it. But she can’t help wondering about it.
I remember lots of times in my life when I didn’t know—or didn’t want to say—the answer to a question like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some of us, or at certain times, those kinds of simple-on-the-surface but deeply penetrating questions can be really hard to deal with, while the person asking the question doesn’t realize or doesn’t understand why it is so hard for us to answer. Ella’s character says, as she struggles again to find an answer, “I felt like a vacuum cleaner had just sucked up my long-lost teddy bear or something. I was devastated.” That’s a great line, and it makes me laugh, but it also takes me straight to that truly awful feeling of being put on the spot and not knowing what on earth to say. It’s a sign of great writing if you can generate two such conflicting emotions at the same time.
Sage Millen’s beautiful photograph makes a lovely partner for this story. The colors and the scene are serene but evoke those same opposing moods. It’s beautiful, and we can see clearly what it is: a landscape from the air. But the more deeply we delve into the image, the more complex it becomes. What are those fields, those straight lines? Are those rivers or dry canyons, and do they link with one another? Is the light and color from sunlight with clouds throwing shadows on the ground, or is night falling? Is it warm or cold?
For this weekend’s activity, think about some of the “simple” but difficult questions you have been asked in your life. Have you ever been stuck for an answer, or felt worried that you couldn’t answer? Perhaps you have given one answer and later on changed your mind. Try using that experience as inspiration for a story, or write a personal narrative about it. And as always, send us any writing you are pleased with. We always love to read what you write.
Join us on Zoom for the Writing Workshop end-of-year reading!
Saturday, December 19, at 9 a.m. PST
For our last session of the year, the Stone Soup Writing Workshop is holding a public reading via Zoom. Members of the workshop will be reading some of their favorite writing from the workshops, live. Friends, family members, teachers, and Stone Soup fans are welcome. You shouldn’t miss this event if you can make it—come and hear the amazing work these young authors have been doing in 2020, in their own voices! Book in via Eventbrite to get all the details. It’s free, though donations are always welcome.
Highlights from the past week online
Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
Fatehbir, 9, wrote a quiet but powerful poem called “I Express Myself.” How do you express yourself?
We published a tutorial from Florence on “How to Draw Anime Art.”
Nora, 12, reviewed The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, considered by many to be a classic. Find out why she thinks it’s a book for all ages.
“Talk” by Dylan, 5, is a poem that conveys so many different emotions in its few lines.
“Although I can’t put out a forest fire, or completely get rid of pollution, or stop ice caps from melting, I can do little things with lots of love," Elise writes in her story “Pecky’s Bravery Saves the Forest.”
Akhil, 11, was pleasantly surprised by Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel Roller Girl. Read why Akhil enjoyed it in his review.
News from the Stone Soup Open House and Annual Drive
On Giving Tuesday, December 1, we held our first-ever Stone Soup Open House via Zoom. What a great event and a wonderful group of people! We were joined by Stone Soup authors and artists, their parents, some former contributors, members of our board, and Editor Emerita Gerry Mandel. The Stone Soup team gave updates on all the projects and community building we have been doing this year, and we heard from students and adults about their experiences through the year and their feelings about Stone Soup. It was a warm, friendly, and for us quite overwhelming experience. Thank you so much to everyone who came and made it such a special evening. We will definitely do it again, and look forward to welcoming even more of you next time.
One of the purposes of Tuesday’s event was fundraising. We have already received many incredibly generous donations, and one parent has offered a $10,000 50% match. We are heading toward that target: we have received nearly $10,000 so far, which wins us $5,000 of that match. Every single dollar makes a difference to us, and no amount is too small. Just click the “Become a Stone Soup Patron” button below or the “Donate” button at Stonesoup.com.
From Stone Soup
By Ella Yamamura, 11 (Cary, NC)
Illustrated by Sage Millen, 12 (Vancouver, Canada)
We sat in a circle, everybody facing my second-grade teacher, Ms. Lavender. She handed everyone a slip of paper.
“Now everybody,” Ms. Lavender began, “I would like for you to answer the questions that I’ll ask you—you may say them aloud if you wish, but you don’t have to. Remember to write them down.”
I took a slip of lined paper from Ms. Lavender’s hand and selected a pencil before sitting back down.
Everyone else did the same. Ms. Lavender cleared her throat. “The first question is: what is your dream?” I pondered for a moment; nothing in particular came to my head. I bit my lip as my classmates shouted out answers:
Ms. Lavender clapped her hands. “Wonderful, wonderful! Fabulous!”
I snorted and swatted the boy who had said that. “You’re already one, goose-head.”
“Now, now,” Ms. Lavender cooed to me. “Joseph can be what he wants when he grows up.”
I reluctantly bobbed my head up and down in a nod before sitting back down.
My teacher asked me again what I wanted to be when I grew up, her voice clearly laced with impatience. I tapped my pencil against my thigh. Why was she so insistent? Weren’t we a little too young to be thinking about that?
I pondered, and thought, and wondered, and questioned myself in various ways.
“So,” Ms. Lavender asked, “have you thought of what you want to be when you grow up?”
I shook my head and promptly answered no.
Ms. Lavender gave up. . . . / 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.