Illustrator Christian Miguel, 12, for ‘If Only’ by David Vapnek, 12
Published September/October 2014.
A note from William Rubel
I’d like to start out today with some business news.
Firstly, some great news! Stories from Stone Soup are included in some of those assessment tests that so many of us adults recall with dread and that so many of you Stone Soup readers are about to sit for as the school year winds down. In the last year, Stone Soup stories have been read in reading assessment tests one million times! That is right: ONE MILLION pages. Wow! Congratulations to our Stone Soup writers. You writing is so good it joins the work of adults in those daunting assessment tests!
Also business related. I spent two days last week in Philadelphia to work with the programmers and the account representative for ICN, the fulfillment house that handles Stone Soup orders. Finally, huge progress was made simplifying the login procedures. No more need to enter your name. No more passwords. All you need to sign in is the email address that we were given when your subscription was set up. We’ll be sending out a letter next week reminding you what that address is in case you don’t remember.
My colleague, Jane Levi, selects the art and the story from the archives for this Newsletter every week, and it is always a nice surprise for me to see what she has found when I come to write my part. She selected this striking and colourful portrait of a football player for this week.
There are many things that I like about Christian Miguel’s painting, especially the well-observed attention to detail. The detail I want to call your attention to is the boy’s face and, in particular, his eyes. He is looking down, which reinforces the sense of the boy sitting in repose. His thoughts are inward. Yet, at the same time, we can still see his eyes, which communicates to us even more clearly that there might be something going on beyond a mere glance at the helmet in his hands.
All of us, and by ‘us’ I mean both our Stone Soup-age readers and adult Newsletter readers, are handy with a camera. There is a custom that when we take a photographic portrait that the person we are photographing looks straight into the camera lens—like looking into our eyes. What I’d like you to do is take a portrait in which the person you photograph is not looking at the camera. Note how the downturned eyes, spread legs and forearms resting on his thighs all work together to communicate this moment of introspection.
When working with photography it is reasonably easy to also work with lighting and the setting for your portrait. I am thinking here of a fairly formal portrait—not a photograph you take while someone is unawares. You and your subject are partners in this project. Your goal is to capture your subject’s inner self.
Kids, parents, grandparents, friends, you may want to make this a shared artistic project in which you take portraits of each other. The only technical advice I’d like to give is to turn off the camera’s shutter sound. When you take your pictures the camera should be silent. That puts your subject at ease. Also, it is often effective when taking portraits to take several in a row. If you are age thirteen and younger then send Emma, the Stone SoupEditor, up to three of the images you like the best, and give them a title that tells us what the moment was about, beyond capturing the person’s likeness.
Catch the latest on our Blog!
Lastly, don’t forget to keep looking at our blog, where there is always something new. This link will take you to the latest blog posts, where we have several new book reviews (including, at last, the reviews of the books we received from publishers last November), plus a review of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and another graphic story with the latest in the adventures of Luxi and Miola from Hana Greenberg.
Until Next Week
From Stone Soup
By Abby K. Svetlik, 12
Illustrated by Audrey Zhang, 12
I jolt awake when I hear the stewardess’s too perky voice come over the plane’s intercom system. “We will be landing in New York in just about fifteen minutes. I hope you all have enjoyed your flight thus far…”
I zone out when she starts to ramble on about the weather conditions and time in New York. My dad realizes I’m awake and turns to me.
“Welcome home,” he says. I give him a lame smile in return and hope he accounts its lack of cheeriness for sleepiness.
But on the inside, all of me is frowning. New York is not my home. It never really was and it never will be.
Colorado is home. Colorado was where I could lie on the roof in a sleeping bag and stare at the stars for hours. Colorado was where I kept a collection of newspaper articles and random doodles in a loose floorboard in my room. Colorado was where I grew up, despite the fact that I was born here, and where anything that ever mattered happened to me.
* * *
The airport we touch down in is like any other. Filled with people, smelling like dry bagels and tasteless coffee, and crowded with suitcases rolling along always clean hallways. As we make our way through the airport, Dad proceeds to tell me of his childhood here, the things he did, and the neighborhood he grew up in.
I keep a few steps ahead of him so that he can’t see the grimace that contorts my face. Dad is just beginning a speech that I’m sure will go on for at least ten more minutes about where we’re moving in, and I can’t stand it anymore.
“Stop,” I say sternly, and it’s obvious my dad is taken aback by my tone. “I’m sorry…” I say, trying to soften my voice, “I’m just… tired.”
He nods and stops talking, but I’m sure he’s continuing the conversation in his head. For the past six months, since the unimaginable happened, he’s taken to filling up empty space with words; endless chatter and meaningless conversation. I think it’s his attempt to keep his thoughts away from what happened, but there’s no way he’s not thinking about it.
The sudden death of your wife—and the mother of yours truly—is hard to ignore. …/more
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