Introduction to this Stone Soup Writing Activity

This excellent story gets to the heart of why lying is wrong. Lying destroys trust between people. And when people don’t trust each other, they can never be really close—not even if they are family members.

When we read (or hear) a little lecture on the evils of lying (or the evils of almost anything), we have a tendency to “tune out” the information. That is why, since the first stories were told, storytellers have been inventing characters and plots and scenery and dialogues to help those of us who are perhaps not as imaginative as other people to understand the many ways that breaking a moral code can cause harm.

Unfortunately, many moral tales are boring. And this is all the more reason to recognize how very successful Meredith’s story is. She doesn’t preach and lecture. Instead, she tells us a story—a believable story with believable characters who talk and act realistically. No part of her story seems forced or fake. And that is how she makes us understand how even a relatively small lie is a big thing, and a bad thing.

Project: Writing a Good Moral Tale

Discuss with your teacher or parents or friends various moral rules—like it is wrong to lie, steal, cheat, or to maliciously tease someone. Now, using your imagination, invent a character or characters with unique personalities. Use these characters to create a story, like Meredith did, that will make people understand what wrong was done, why it was wrong, what impact the wrong thing had.

Try to think of as many angles to the problem you choose to write about as possible. For instance, we say it is bad to maliciously tease someone. You will find it fairly easy to create a story that shows how teasing can hurt the person who is teased. You can also use your story to tackle more difficult problems—like creating a story that also shows how teasing hurts the person who does the teasing. Think of as many ways as you can to show us the effects of your chosen problem.


Little Lies

By Meredith Proost, 12, Aloha, Oregon
Illustrated by Lucy Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Portland, Oregon
Reprinted with permission from Treasures, © 1985
From the September/October 1985 issue of Stone Soup


It all began one Tuesday when Melinda and I lost all track of time and found we couldn’t possibly finish our practicing before our mom came home from grocery shopping. Before she left, we had agreed to do all our chores and practice piano.

Little Lies at the door“Yes,” we said together when Mom asked if we had finished our practicing. But when she walked into the living room, there was the piano music, stacked just as she had stacked it that morning. And the lesson book was on the table where we had left it after our piano lesson the day before.

Mom knew we were lying. She had a sad look on her face. Before Melinda or I could make up an excuse, Mom told us that she was going to tell us a lie some time during the next few days. We wouldn’t know when she was lying, and the lie would be something very important to both of us.

That night Mom told us that the next morning when we woke up, breakfast would be waiting: hot cereal with lots of cream and even more brown sugar, just the way we like it. Melinda and I looked at each other knowingly. That must be the lie.

But the next morning when we woke up, in the kitchen we found our bowls of hot cereal with lots of cream and even more brown sugar, just the way we like it.

Little Lies at schoolOn Wednesday, Mom told us that she would pick us up right after school so that we could go shopping for spring clothes. Melinda and I looked at each other knowingly and said to ourselves that had to be the lie. We decided we would be going home on the bus as usual.

But after school, there sat Mom in the parking lot ready to take us shopping.

The following day our dad was on a business trip. Mom told us to pick a restaurant, Italian or Chinese, and the three of us would go out for dinner that night. Melinda and I looked at each other knowingly. That must be the lie. If we said Chinese, Mom would take us out for pizza. If we said Italian, we knew we’d be having chow mein for dinner.

We said, “Chinese,” and that night we had won ton soup, chow mein, fortune cookies and tea.

When we arrived home from school Friday, Mom greeted us with, “Guess what! I just reserved two airplane tickets. You two get to fly—all by yourselves—to visit your grandma over spring vacation.” Now that is something we had always wanted to do. We had dreamed about traveling alone and talked about it for years. Ordinarily we would have run to our rooms to start packing, even though spring vacation was three weeks away. But we looked at each other knowingly. That had to be the lie.

Little Lies in the kitchenMom may have been surprised at our lack of excitement, but she didn’t say a word. She waited until the following day to ask us if we had discovered her lie.

Melinda said, “Yes, we know. We won’t be flying to Grandma’s for spring vacation. Everything else you have said has been true, so the airplane trip must be the lie.”

“I’m glad it’s finally over,” I said.

Melinda said, “Yes. It has been awful for days thinking we couldn’t trust you. I guess we deserved that little lie about flying to Grandma’s.”

Mom smiled. “The lie was that I would tell you a lie,” she said softly. “I haven’t told you any lies. The tickets to Grandma’s are under your pillow. Sweet dreams.”

Happy ending.

About the Author

In 1973, I was twenty years old, teaching children's art classes at my college, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and came up with the idea that the best way to encourage children to write was to introduce them to the best writing by their peers. Stone Soup grew out of that idea, and I have continued to publish Stone Soup for all these years.
I am also a culinary historian. I write about traditional foodways. My book, "The Magic of Fire," is about hearth cooking. My book, "Bread, a global history," speaks for itself. I am currently writing a bread history for a University Press. I publish articles on gardening and traditional foodways at Mother Earth News. I also publish on wild mushrooms and other food-related subjects.

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