A note from William Rubel
Firstly, before getting into today’s feature story and art, I’d like to thank everyone who responded so quickly to our Refugee Project appeal. You almost completely met our $5,000 goal in less than a week! Wow! Thank you all! There are several exciting things happening with the project that just came up this week, but I will wait to report on them until details are more fleshed out.
I was 20 years old in 1972 when I thought of the idea of publishing a magazine of writing and art by children. The first issue of Stone Soup was published the following year. I am now older than most of the parents of Stone Soup writers and artists. And yet, despite the huge amount of creative work I have seen by young people, I continue to be amazed by the artistic power of the works that many of you in primary and middle school produce.
In the October issue, Editor Emma Wood paired the drawing Magic Flowers by Analise Braddock with the short story “The Jar” by Hudson Benites. Both are powerful works of imagination, and they share a theme: the passage of time. Hudson’s story of climate change and magic is well paired with Analise’s Magic Flowers. I haven’t written at length about a drawing for a while, so that is why I am going to focus on that today. Emma chose these two works to go together, so please look at the art and read the story. You will think about the world differently.
Magic Flowers is an extraordinary work of art. It speaks to me. I could look at this drawing every day and not get tired of it. When my colleague Jane Levi selected this image for today’s newsletter, she told me, “It reminds me of your work.” Indeed, if you knew my work, you would see there is something Williamesque about it—but Analise’s drawing is more well-observed, more delicate, and has a greater dynamic range than my work.
There is so much that could be said about this drawing. It obviously falls within the great tradition of the still life in Western art. If you know your flowers, you can identify each of them in the drawing: poppy-seed pods, bachelor’s buttons, peonies, and more. This work is not just a still life, not just a drawing of a vase of flowers. Emma selected it to illustrate Hudson’s story because it falls within another tradition of Western art: the memento mori. In the context of Hudson’s story, she could not have made a better selection.
Memento mori is Latin. It means, “Remember you must die.” For hundreds of years, European artists made paintings and drawings that were intended to help the viewer think about the passage of time. We all get very caught up in the day-to-day. Analise’s still life, with its actively dropping leaves and poppy-seed casings, reminds us that life is dynamic. Even the beautiful flower dies. Life is about catching the moment, but you cannot hold on.
Analise is the master of pencil. I want you to pay attention to the dynamic range she brings to the work. Wispy grey lines and heavy black ones. There are multiple layers of images to catch the eye. If you focus on line—the stems—then there is a dynamic crossing and recrossing of stem and leaves that almost makes the work vibrate with motion. If you look down at the two knobs on the table, then let your eye flow up to the first peonies, you find there are many directions to go. Analise forces us to follow shapes up and to the left, but it is easy to break away and move around the image, as one could a real vase of flowers.
That this is a drawing about ideas—about the passage of time—is made clear by the actively falling leaves and the poppy-seed pod. The poppy petals are long gone. The seed pod will dry out, and the seeds will then be fertile. If spread onto soil, they will make new life. So there is something here that speaks to birth, death, and regeneration, which is also a theme in Hudson’s story.
For this week’s project—and I am intending this for all of you newsletter readers, regardless of age—I want you to either write about this drawing or to make a still life of your own. If you write about the drawing, use it as a starting point for your thoughts. You may go in the direction that I have—into thinking about how life changes, shifts, goes through stages, and comes to and end that may actually suggest a new beginning. But this is me talking. What are your thoughts? If you decide to make a still life of your own, then pick yourself a flower arrangement and depict it in whatever media you like, including photography.
As always, if you are age 13 or under, send your finished work to Stone Soup for Emma to review it for publication. I think in this case we’d be on the lookout for web-publication material.
Until next week,
Our Fall Fundraiser, 2019: The Refugee Project
We are raising funds to support the production and publication of creative work by children in refugee camps around the world. We have almost reached our preliminary target of $5,000 to support a special issue of Stone Soup and associated projects—and we want to keep going! You have already helped us fund workshops in the Za’atari camp, Lebanon, and put us in touch with other organizations we can work with to expand our efforts.
Please help us raise the money to continue this work. You can read more about this initiative at our website and help us by sharing the link with others. Thank you.
Highlights from the past week online
Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
We’ll be publishing a series of essays by Marco Lu, 13, on our blog on the subject of science fiction. Wednesday, we published Marco’s first post, which includes a short introduction and a discussion of the cyberpunk genre. Check it out to learn more about the genre Marco describes as “easy to get into for newcomers and rich with character and world,” plus some recommendations.
From Stone Soup, October 2019
By Hudson Benites, 11 (Excelsior, MN)
Illustrated by Analise Braddock, 8 (Katonah, NY)
I live in a tiny town. It’s not on any map you’ll ever see—except these days a map won’t help you. Everything looks the same. There are no landmarks. Things are being destroyed as fast as they are being built. The world is barren.
I’m so old I’m the only one left who remembers why it happened. It happened because of us. The wildfires, the hurricanes, occurring one after the other, the heat wave that began when I was 12 and never stopped.
I knew something like this might happen. I was very curious in my day. ‘Pensive” might have been a better word. You might say I was a scientist, or I would have been one if my parents had been able to send me to college. I studied weather patterns and read books on every topic you could imagine. In autumn, I watched the apples fall from the trees. In spring, I watched the children jump in mud puddles. In summer, I saw the rabbits frolicking in the dancing grass. And in winter, I saw the seasons die. The seasons were transient but transcendent.
Then things began to change..../MORE
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