A note from Emma
This is the last newsletter I’m going to write for a few months—soon I’ll be on maternity leave with our second child, a boy! Since first becoming a mother not-quite two years ago, I have found myself especially attuned to the way parents, and particularly mothers, are portrayed in the writing I read for Stone Soup. So I was naturally intrigued by the very complex character of “Ma” in Fiona Clare Altschuler’s short story, “A Time to Run.”
“A Time to Run” reads like a fairytale: it takes place in some alternate world, one where magic exists and there’s a city called “Izak,” but, unlike in sci-fi or fantasy–which work hard to “build” worlds–the world is not the focus of this story–it is simply matter of factly presented. As it would be in a fairytale.
Hans loves his Ma, but he becomes aware of a darkness in her–she is angry at her brother, and vindictive, and though he loves her, he fears what she will do to his uncle. So, he helps his uncle run away, running away from his own mother to do so. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I love that this story avoids falling into the black-and-white morality we often see in fairy tales: this character, this character is bad. Instead, each character, Ma included, is allowed to feel full, complicated, conflicted.
Following Fiona’s lead, try to write your own fairy tale this weekend or this month, but with real, complex, human characters.
Lastly, before I sign off, I want to also share that we have been feverishly preparing for a big relaunch and marketing push to schools: the way we can make Stone Soup sustainable again is by getting back in the schools, as schools never “age” out of us. If you are a parent of a middle schooler, or a middle school teacher yourself, please consider discussing a Stone Soup subscription with your school.
Until later this year –
From Stone Soup
By Fiona Clare Altschuler, 11 (Parkton, MD)
I was five years old when it happened, but I remember it well. I wish I could forget it, but that is not to be. The story begins before I was born, when my ma was a girl. My ma had a brother, Ferdinand, who one day disappeared. Then my ma’s parents died and my ma married my da and had me, Hans. I was like any boy, except that I had magic.
One day when I was playing, a clear image of a man flashed through my head, hovered a moment, and flew away, leaving me wobbly and light-headed. I ran inside the cottage, calling.
My ma looked up from her knitting. Her dark eyes softened.
“My uncle’s at the gate. He’s wondering if his sister Thea is alive!” As always with the magic, the words tumbled out without me knowing what they meant.
My ma blanched. “Find your uncle, and bring him here.”
“Yes, Ma,” I said, turning, and dashed to the gate where our land ended, my sandals sinking into the sand, my tunic swishing around my legs. There I saw a man, cheeks hollow. I trotted up and said, “You’re Uncle Ferdinand—Ma’s brother?”
He reeled back. “You are Thea’s son?” he whispered.
“Yes.” I said. “I’m Hans.”
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.