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Catalina, My Friend hands holding a bird
I screamed and bit frantically, but I couldn't escape

Illustrator Max Strebel, 10 for Catalina, My Friend by Francisca Thomas, 13
Published January/February 2001.

Notes from Jane Levi and Emma Wood

This week’s artwork (and the story it illustrates) expresses some of what we at Stone Soup have been feeling in recent weeks as we read and watched the news about infants and children being separated from their families at America’s borders. Our archives contain many works by young refugees and immigrants who have seen and experienced war, flight from home, and other trials, and have been able to tell their stories in the pages of Stone Soup.

This week's story from the archives, Catalina, My Friend, touches on these topics in an unexpected way: the story is told entirely from the perspective of a bird, the scarlet macaw powerfully depicted above. The bird cannot speak for itself (just as a very small child is unable to talk), but this young writer was able to enter the imaginative space of—and give a voice to—another being, able to experience fear, sorrow, pain and love, even if they can’t articulate those feelings in language.

The young artist who made the image also speaks to the fear and horror experienced by those being caged, manhandled, and torn away from the safety of what they know and love. The wooden box in the foreground, the bars of the cage behind, the uniform-colored clothes and the hairy arms of the gloved man grasping the macaw provide a stark contrast with its scarlet beauty. The perspective emphasizes the small size and fragility of the bird, and its helplessness against this faceless adult cruelty.

The Children's Art Foundation, the trust that publishes Stone Soup, believes passionately in creativity as a means of expression. We know that art is a communication tool that can help to build real understanding and compassion between people. We urge all of you trying to make sense of current events to use the search window always at the top right of the website to find stories and art we have published by children over the last four-and-a-half decades that speak to these themes.

This week, we have supported the Publishers Weekly Kid Lit campaign, Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages. Any funds donated to their campaign will be shared with a number of organisations supporting immigrant and refugee children, women and families, and we are sharing the link to their donation page so that any of our readers who wish to can show their support. We also renew the call that our founder, William Rubel, made some months ago for anyone who would like to work with us to bring creative support to children in these situations to get in touch by replying to this newsletter.

Some exciting attention for our young bloggers

We were more than thrilled this week when none other than Rick Riordan retweeted a link to a book review by one of our Stone Soup book reviewers! Yes, the actual Rick Riordan, @camphalfblood, is reading our reviews and recommending that other people read them too (as well as the books, of course)! Congratulations to Nina Vigil, the 11-year-old writer and reader whose review of Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi was picked up by one of our favourite authors. We hope it encourages the rest of you to keep on writing and reviewing. You never know who's reading!

Until next time

A Call for Science Writing and a Peek into the Stone Soup Archives

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by Pompeii, the ancient Roman City that was preserved under layers of volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted. More recently, when I moved to California, I became fascinated with the history of the local landscape and with the new weather patterns. What in the natural world fascinates you? We are still soliciting nonfiction science writing for our September issue and would love to read about your fascinations. Take this as a challenge to learn more about something on your own and write about it in a brief essay. The deadline is July 1.

In other news, we have scanned the entire back catalog of Stone Soup magazine, and have just made available archival sets of the very earliest issues of Stone Soup. PDF versions of the magazine from our first decade—1973 to 1984—are for sale now in two sets of 25-28 issues each. We are working on making our entire archive available, in sets of PDFs as well as in individual PDFs (and other digital formats), in the coming months.

Until next week

Read the latest updates on our blog

Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at stonesoup.com!

Get creative with clay: A Summer Guide to Polymer Clay Fun! by Nushu Shri

Read the latest book review (and catch up on your reading over the summer): J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone reviewed by Abhi Sukhdial

Catalina, My Friend girl holding a bird
I suppose for a human she was a little girl, but to me she was gigantic

From Stone Soup
January/February 2001

Catalina, My Friend

By Francisca Thomas, 13
Illustrated by Max Strebel, 10


My earliest memory is of being trapped in a box.

It was a large cardboard shoebox with a few holes punched into the side for air. Light glowed through the holes, but I couldn’t see through them; I could only feel myself sliding from side to side as the box was tossed around. I didn’t understand what was going on, and I was terrified.

Then, I remember, the movement suddenly stopped. The lid of the box was lifted and I was bathed in blinding light. I blinked. I fluttered my almost featherless little wings. I squeaked pitifully.

Then I saw her. I suppose for a human she was a little girl, but to me she was gigantic. Still, I wasn’t afraid. She looked so gentle. I stared into her deep brown eyes and squeaked again.

Her face, a dark tan color, broke into a delighted smile. “A bird?” she said. “For me?”

“Happy seventh birthday, Catalina,” said one of the huge people surrounding me. “This loro, this parrot, marks the one year we have been living in America.”

“Como se llama?” the girl asked. “What is his name?”

“We thought you could be naming it yourself. Is your bird,” said someone. “Mr. Allen, nice man next door, he gives him to you for free, because his big parrots is having too many little parrots. He says this is boy bird.”

“Let’s put him in his cage,” said someone else. “He still is baby, Catalina, so you need to be feeding him special food with a spoon.”

Suddenly I felt myself being lifted out of the box. I felt warm hands cupped around me. At first I struggled, but Catalina’s hands were so gentle I soon nestled against them.

“I will call him Paco,” she said.

“Why Paco?” asked one of the others. Catalina shrugged. “I like the name Paco. Is good name for loro.”

Another person, a large man, beamed at Catalina. “Now let us celebrate! Today is Catalina’s birthday, and one year since we have come here from Cuba!”
Everybody cheered. Catalina stroked my head, and I knew I was safe with her.

*          *          *

Months passed. Soon I was an almost fully grown scarlet macaw, with glossy, bright red feathers; red, yellow, and blue wings that were strong for flying; an enormous sharp beak for cracking nuts and chewing wood; and a long tail of pointed red feathers. I would fly free around the house, singing along with the radio, inspecting the food in the kitchen, and chewing everything I could get my beak on.  .../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.

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