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Girls outside one of the classrooms at Remot School, Westgate, Samburu District, Kenya, April 2019.

A note from William Rubel

Summer birthdays . . .

Getting older is a very strange process. My daughter, Stella, is turning 13 in a few weeks. I will be turning 67 a few days later. In many ways we are both experiencing changes in our bodies and in the way we think that are noticeably profound. For myself, I have known for years and years that I am the person who always does at least one thing too many. Whatever the situation, I always go beyond the obvious place to stop. In terms of what I can manage, I have certainly reached my limit! I won’t list all the projects that I am in the midst of! But I am for the first time becoming comfortable with this trait.

Partnership with a Kenyan school

As regular newsletter readers know, I have been doing research into the foods, customs, and lives of the Kenyan Samburu tribe. I have been doing this for the last 25 years. Along with my Kenyan friend, Haile Selassie Lesetho, and my partner, who you also know through Stone Soup, we have created the Samburu Lowlands Research Station, a place that people can visit to study the effects that climate change and globalization are having on the culture of the Samburu. Traditionally pastoralists—in Biblical terms the children of Abel—the modern world is closing in on the Samburu and their culture is rapidly changing. There is a need to carefully document what remains so we can remember how they lived before they become just like us, people who live in permanent houses with Wi-Fi, credit cards, and jobs in offices rather than people who live entirely off of their cows, goats, camels, and sheep.

Our research station is developing a relationship with a local school—Remot Primary School—which serves pupils of elementary, middle, and high school age. The school’s headmaster, our friend Boniface Nakori, has asked whether we can get science books for his school. Jane and I have both visited his school and told you about our attendance at the opening of a new classroom earlier this year. It is in a beautiful place located near Lengusaka, but it lacks so many things we take granted in our schools—like, there are very few books! Books are used and used and used until they fall apart. Books are so scarce and valuable that they are locked up in a trunk!

Boniface has asked me to ask you to please donate books about science for his students. What he needs is anything. Honestly. From Little Golden Books to the lovely DK series on science subjects, and everything in between. Books about insects, snakes, trees, the human body, the stars, dinosaurs—anything at any grade level and in any condition will be used and read over and over and over again by teachers and students who want to learn.

Primary education is mandatory, and most (but not all) children get at least some schooling. But their life is hard, and it is not uncommon to have a child who is 14 in fourth grade. The land is dying, and the children are not going to be able to live as their parents have. The difference between living a life of urban poverty or joining the fast-growing Kenyan middle class depends on getting educated. I can tell you that these are motivated, smart, excited students, but without books it is very very hard to make it all the way to a university.

The boy whose picture I am sharing with you here is holding a container for milk. His house is in the background. This student is typical of the students at the school I am asking you to help with books. Not a single student in the school lives in a house like we do. They live in small circular huts made out of sticks that are not tall enough for an adult to stand up in. There is no electricity, so there is no light at night, as this school serves families who don’t have enough money for a solar light. On behalf of this boy and his friends, Boniface the headmaster, and all of us at the Samburu Lowlands Research Station, we thank you for whatever books you can send. If you don’t have books to send but would like us to buy books on your behalf, then please click on the Stone Soup website’s Donate button, note that your donation is for Samburu Books, and we will will purchase appropriate books for the school. (We will let you know which books and when they are delivered.) We are hoping, over time, that the Remot students will start writing a science blog for Stone Soup.

We have our first university group arriving at the research station in early July, so Jane and I will be flying to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to meet them on July 4. We will take with us any books that you can send our way before July 2. Please write to Jane to confirm the address they should be sent to. Thank you.

William’s Weekend Project

Which brings me (finally!) to today’s project: science and art. We have talked about science fiction in previous newsletters. I’d like to talk of other ways you might incorporate science into something you write or draw this weekend. To save your email inboxes after this long message, I’ve posted the activity idea to our website here. Do take a look, and if you are ever stuck for something to do this summer, check out our activities pages for some more creative ideas!

As always, send what you come up with from this activity or any other projects to our editor, Emma Wood, via our Submit button, so she can consider it for Stone Soup.

Until next time,

Highlights from the past week online

Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com.

This week on the blog, four-year-old Prisha Gandhi records a cheerful song she wrote on a rainy day. Listen here.

Any musicians out there want to try out Justin Park’s composition titled “Riviera”? He drew his inspiration from the constant movement of a river and performed it on the piano for the New England Conservatory of Music at the Contemporary Music Festival. Find the full score and video of his performance here. If you make a recording you like of yourself playing it, send it to us using the 'Music' category in Submittable

Abigail Herrington, 13, is on a roll—she delivered the third in her series of seasonal cultural studies. This time we learn about “Irish Traditions for Summer.” Did you know that there’s a three-day summer festival in the town of Killorglin all to celebrate one legendary goat? Abigail explains why.

And Ava B tells us that "There’s nothing more American than using your right to peacefully assemble." Why not read her thoughtful piece, "Rising Rallies," and leave a comment telling us what you think about this topic?

Contest reminder: write a book!

Summer is prime time to work on your entry for our summer contest: book-length writing in all forms and genres by kids aged 14 and under. (We have extended our usual age limit for this contest.) The deadline for entries is August 15, so keep working on perfecting your book, whether it is a novel, a collection of poetry or short stories, a memoir, or other prose. There will be three placed winners, and we will publish all three winning books in various forms. Visit our contest page and Submittable entry page for full details.

25% discount on Stone Soup books through the end of June

Summer vacation is a great time for reading, and our series of themed anthologies (the Stone Soup Books of...) are a great place to start. Don’t just take our word for it: we’ve been getting some great reviews at Good ReadsLibraryThing and Amazon!

We’re offering a discount code for all of the Stone Soup Books of... that is valid through June 30 in our online store. Enter the code READSUMMER19 for 25% off your purchases.

From Stone Soup
March/April 2013

Gold and Silver Stars

By Alice Ford, 9
Illustrated by Tina Splann, 9

“So I’m doing my science project on contraptions or robots,” Jess said smoothly. She was talking to Bailey, who was on the other end of the phone.

“Yeah. Can I do it with you?”

Jess stopped. Uh-oh, she thought, better tell her now.

“Bailey, I’m really sorry, but . . . I totally forgot to ask you, and I’ve already chosen my teammates, Cassidy and Stewart. Can I make it up to you? Like having you over for dinner?”

There was a pause on the other end.

“No,” she said flatly, “just leave me alone. What was I thinking? Having a friend who lives with her grandma and on a farm? No way. Oh. And by the way, that was totally rude!” And Bailey hung up.

Jess’s feelings were hurt as she walked into the kitchen.

“Friends, isn’t it?” her grandmother asked, seeing her unhappy face as she chopped some onions. “Ah, yes. I remember when I was friends with Nora.”


“Yes, my friend back in high school. If you want them back, you’ll either let them wait it out or apologize after a week or so and make it up with a present or something. You’re perfect—I bet you’ll fix things up.”

“How? How am I perfect?”

“Oh, let’s see—you’re wonderful in a gazillion ways, Jess. You’ve got the prettiest silky-black hair and creamy skin with dazzling blue eyes, the most splendid abilities at music, art, and cooking—sweetie, I can’t name them all!”

“Was my mother like that?” Jess asked quietly after a few seconds.

Her grandmother paused as she was pressing the dough of the wonton strips together and hugged Jess close to her.

“Yes. Come with me.”

They walked up the rickety old stairs and into the attic. There were dusty old trunks, some a rustic tan, some with gold bolting, and some only half-closed, like the eye of a person trying to get more sleep.

“How come you never told me about this place, Grandma Fiona?”

“I wanted to wait until the time was right,” she replied, bending over a dusty brown trunk with cobwebs creeping all over it. It creaked and groaned resentfully as she opened it, and to Jess’s surprise it was filled with notebooks.

“Whose are these?” Jess asked, picking up a navy-blue one with a crimson bookmark. . . ./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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