Monday, 20 January 2020

Quill Soup, written by Alan Durant, and illustrated by Dale Blankenaar

This is a richly handsome hardback book that retells the traditional story that many of us know as ‘Stone Soup’. But this time the story is in its African form. It’s an ancient story, but apt for our present time, and for our children. Should we share? With strangers?

Just look at the glorious endpaper that meets you when you open the cover.  

Here we have a cast of pangolins, monkeys, warthogs, aardvarks, meercats, pelicans and more, all being mean to the stranger they spot coming their way. They hide. And when porcupine traveller Noko knocks on their doors asking for food they all pretend not to have any. Alan Durant’s text quite rightly doesn’t point out what we can observe in the pictures. Actually they all have plenty to spare. 

Here is Rabbit claiming that she has no carrots left –

The resident animals have all lied, so isn’t fair enough that Noko then does some lying of his own? As the text says, Noko’s ‘brains are as sharp as the quills on his back.’ He begins making quill soup, just as the king likes it, his story drawing the animals near. But it appears that the soup could be made even better if it had a few carrots in it. Oh, Rabbit does have some carrots to spare after all! What about mealies, and worms, and beans and peas and potatoes and spinach … producing a wonderful cauldron of soup that Noko then shares with them all, along with some shared songs. So he’s kind as well as clever. And the animals, no longer feeling mean now that they’ve come to know Noko, and impressed by his acquaintance with the king, offer him the best bed for the night. 

A wonderful story, wonderfully told, and illustrated in vivid prime colours and dramatic black to give busy pictures full of extra interest and humour. 

With so much to notice, and so many points to talk about, this book would make a perfect present to an individual child or to a school.

Published by Tiny Owl in their One Story Many Voices series



Penny Dolan said...

Thanks you, Pippa Goodhart, for this review. A very interesting version of "Stone Soup" indeed.

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