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Stone Soup Annual 2018: Detail from “My Chinese Dream” by Li Lingfei, Shanghai, China (published in Stone Soup, March 2018), and "Preface" by Emma Wood.

A note from William Rubel

The Stone Soup Annual 2018 is 411 pages and weighs 1.75 pounds! It’s in full color and includes every piece of writing, every illustration, from all 11 issues published this year, plus an issue’s worth of the best blog material and book reviews published online in 2018. The story that we have posted in this newsletter today, “Zachary, Sophie,” was first published in the March issue. When you purchase the Annual,you will get this story and hundreds of pages more of fantastic, evocative literature, all by kids. A basic review of the story? Beyond brilliant. But rather than my providing a summary and my own analysis, please read the story below.

If you like it, if you also think it’s brilliant, then please order the Annual for Christmas. We still have copies in stock.

I’d like to once again talk about recent Stone Soup blog posts. That is because we at Stone Soup are so happy with what is being written. We want you all to read the fabulous writing we are publishing in the blog genre, and we want you to write blogs for us too. The blogs are open to both Stone Soup-aged writers and to adults. So far, more kids have answered our blogging call than grown-ups. So, if you are a teacher, homeschooler, or just someone who has something to say that would be appropriate for Stone Soup readers, please send us a sample post. Go to the submit page and scroll down to the blog category to upload your sample.

Forts of Play,” by Keshav Ravi, takes me right back to my childhood. Like him, I was also a fort child. Sheets, blankets, furniture, and clothespins were the tools of my fort-building trade. Keshav takes me right back (almost 60 years) to my childhood house in Washington, DC. I can see those forts and remember crawling around on the floor in my buildings. Keshav’s blog post is a jewel. It is beautifully written and elegantly conveys the hours of pleasure his forts afford him. My personal thanks to Keshav for reminding me of my childhood. This is Stone Soup at its best: powerful writing by kids.

For a simple project today, whether you are a child or adult reader of this newsletter, sit down and write a few paragraphs about something in your childhood, the one you’re experiencing now if you’re child, or the one you recollect if you are not. Write about something that resonates with you in the way that Keshav’s fort resonates with him.

Another blog post from the last couple of weeks that also speaks to my own life is the post, “Sad Books,” by Maya V. I am also someone who finds it difficult—even impossible—to read books that are overwhelmingly sad. In Maya’s words:

“But, when the main character is continuously morose, the book keeps referring to whatever tragic thing has happened, and the book only talks about this dismal thing, after giving it many chances, I decide it’s not worth it to anguish myself over a book.”

Wow! This is exactly how I feel! This is the first time I have seen this feeling expressed in writing, and I have never met anyone who is as disturbed by sad books as I am. There are absolutely books that I cannot read. There are movies I cannot see. There are plays, like Shakespeare’s Othello, that leave me utterly destroyed at the end. Thank you, Maya, for expressing your thoughts about sad books so clearly and articulately. Your words speak directly to at least this reader’s experience with emotionally distressing literature.

All of you! Please read our blogs—and leave comments—and become a blogger. The genre is flexible. You can write what you like.

Until next week,

More winners in our 45th birthday promotion: every 45th subscriber gets a refund!

Stone Soup was 45 years old this year. We are celebrating that birthday and celebrating being back in print with an offer to our loyal readers. Can you help us meet our target of 1,000 new print subscribers by the end of the year? We are offering free subscriptions and extra prizes at various points along the way, all tied into our age.

  • Every 45th subscriber will receive a free subscription (1 announced last week, and 3 more this week!)
  • The 450th and 900th subscribers will receive a free subscription, plus copies of all ten of the Stone Soup books in our collection (8 anthologies and 2 Annuals).
  • And, the 1,000th will receive all of that, plus a free site license for the institution (school or public library) of their choice.

It's easy to subscribe: visit this page. This particular promotion will continue until we meet our target or get to the end of the year, whichever comes first. Please share this with everyone you think would benefit from joining the readership of Stone Soup.

And don’t forget, you can get a 10 percent discount on your annual subscription using the code CHEER2018 on our subscription form.

This week on the blog

This week, we have a new book review by Faith, of Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Let us know in the comments whether you read this book too, and how you felt about it.

Shipping News!

For holiday gifts: all print subscriptions and other book and product orders ship within two days of being received. From today, we are no longer shipping US orders using media mail: all orders received for the remainder of the year will be sent by Priority Mail. To be sure of delivery in time for Christmas, please order by December 17, or select one of the FedEx delivery options.

Published in Stone Soup,
March 2018

Zachary, Sophie

By Kate Choi, 11
Illustrated with 'The Gift of Music' by Delaney Slote, 10

The first day of seventh grade our teacher, Mrs. Mahoney, took attendance. Each name was called and answered. None of them were new. We had all known each other since at least fourth grade. My name, always the last to be called, finally came.

“Whitby, Sam.”

I responded, “Here!”

But unusually, she didn’t stop there. One more name was called. “Zachary, Sophie.”

There was silence, punctuated only by the occasional whisper or giggle. Mrs. Mahoney called, a faint frown creasing her forehead: “Sophie? Are you here?”

Still there was no response. Now we were all paying attention, and we all saw the empty desk at the very back of the room. The shadowed chair sat vacantly under our stares.

Just then there was a ding! from the front of the room, and everyone whirled back around to look at Mrs. Mahoney’s computer on her desk. Our teacher read her message quickly, and her frown deepened.
“It seems that Sophie will not be joining us today,” she told us finally. “She has… other matters to attend to. However, she wishes you all a wonderful day at school.” Mrs. Mahoney made a mark on her clipboard, and then smiled around at us. “First on the schedule is math. Pencils out, please.”

*          *          *

During recess we all gathered by the wall of the school to discuss the mysterious “Zachary, Sophie.” John, one of my friends, spoke the loudest.

“She’s new,” he announced. “Did you hear her? She wishes us a ‘wonderful day at school.’”

“She’s taunting us, this hoity-toity Sophie,” scowled Winnie Adams. “Acting all high and mighty. Being snobbish.”

“And what other matters do you think she has to attend to?” John added. “Sleeping in?”

This idea was instantly seized upon by the rest of us.

“Watching television!”

“Going shopping!”

“Playing computer games!”

We hated “Zachary, Sophie” for not coming to school. We hated her for being new. We hated her for having other matters to attend to. In other words, we hated her for no reason at all.

*          *          *

For the next six days, “Zachary, Sophie” had no response at attendance. Every day, just after roll call, there would be another ding! She had other matters to attend to, she told us, and she would be unable to come to school. However, she wished us, her “fellow classmates, a wonderful day at school.” Every day we hated her more; we would gather in the courtyard at recess and sneer at “Zachary, Sophie” and her “other matters.” I was among them, but John was the unofficial leader of our group.

“Fellow classmates! As if she has the right to say that at all,” he said one day. We all agreed.

“She hasn’t even talked to us! Or seen us, or known us at all,” I added.

“She hasn’t even learned anything with us! She’s not a fellow anything,” John said indignantly, and off we were again.

“I hope she never comes to this school,” Winnie said darkly. But on the seventh day, “Zachary, Sophie” showed up in the front row—in a manner of speaking. . . .  /more

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