Saturday, March 5, 2011

What if a Stone Could Change the World?

Stone Soup

Retold and illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Age Range: 4 to 8
Scholastic, Inc. 2003 (32 pp, $17.99, hardcover)

Rating 5/5

image from
Generosity is powerful.

Three monks wonder along hazy mountains of China.  “What makes one happy?” each of them wonder.  On their journey to discover the answer to the question, Hok, Lok, and Siew encounter anxious villagers.  The villagers have been through troubled times and are wary when it comes to strangers.  The three monks cleverly allure them to make soup from stones.  But, will the villagers find happiness through stones and a brave, curious, little girl? 

Stone Soup is another classic in my eyes.   Stone Soup is listed for children ages 4 to 8.  Again, I do not believe it is necessary to put an age limit to beautiful books with deeper meanings.  Muth takes his own view on the original Stone Soup and creates a beautifully written and illustrated rendition through his love of Zen Buddhism and Eastern culture.  The deeper meaning, being that generosity makes people rich, is reflected throughout the entire story through dialogue and illustrations.  The part I like most about this book is that one little girl starts the giving and makes a difference.  Through the actions of one little girl, the villagers then see how giving can create a feeling of happiness and love for the whole village.

I recommend this book to teachers and parents who want to teach their students or children how generosity can make a difference.  Anyone can make a difference, start with this book!

  1.   In a classroom, teachers can create a classroom jar.  In this jar, student’s can place something important about themselves.  This then, can project a class as a whole.  
  2.  In a classroom, teachers can create a classroom jar.  In this jar, students create a word or phrase that reflects the classroom environment they would want.  Questions:  Do you want respect from other classmates?  Should you feel safe in our classroom?  How should we act in a classroom? 
  3.  In a classroom, teachers can create a classroom jar.  In this jar, students put a word or phrase that describes them.

* These ideas would help create a better classroom environment.  When students create something, like their own expectations, they feel more obligated to follow rules and expectations.

1.       At home, families can create a jar with different goals of that month.  Each family member can create a goal a month that will help their family.  Examples:  Talk out problems instead of arguing, play nice with my brother or sister, complete all chores, make bed, clean dishes, dust, finish homework before watching TV, etc…

* I realize these ideas stray from the original meaning of the book.  However, they all reflect a group of people coming together making a better place and environment to live in.*

Monday, February 21, 2011

From a Child's Heart to a Mother's Soul

The Kissing Hand
By Audrey Penn
Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
Age Range: 4 to 8
Tanglewood Press IN, 2006 (32 pp, $12.95, paperback)

Rating 5/5

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Audrey Penn’s simple, but powerful text would touch anyone’s heart.  A young raccoon, who is having doubts about the first day of school, decides he would much rather stay home with his mother.  Unfortunately, staying home is usually not an option and Mrs. Raccoon shares a “wonderful secret” to help him feel safe while at school.  A simple kiss on a hand and a touch on a cheek is all that takes for this young Raccoon, Chester, to take a leap into his first journey alone.

Although this book is listed for children ages 4 to 8, I believe any person who has a child within themselves would appreciate the warm feeling you get after reading The Kissing Hand.  The illustrations are simple.  To some, that might affect how a child reacts to a book however, the purpose of the book and the illustrations match flawlessly.  The simplest action, like kissing a hand, can have the everlasting feeling of comfort and love.  Through this secret and heartwarming reassurance, Penn captures the doubt in a child’s mind and the heartache of mothers letting go for the first time.

I highly recommend this book to parents who want to reassure their children, and even themselves, the love that will always be with them even away from home.  The Kissing Hand would be an excellent classic to add to a library in any home or classroom.

Reviewed by Breanna Constable

Some activities, for primary grades, would be to:
1.  Read the book.
2.  Have each child trace their hand, and color (or paint) their hand according to their personality.
3.  Have each child cut out a heart and paste it in the middle.
4.  On the back of their drawn, colored, cut out hand, have each child write what the hand means to them and why they are giving the hand to that specific loved one.  I suggest giving the option of making 1 or 2.

*I believe, through this activity, you learn a lot about the kids and even their families.  Who are they making their card for?  What colors are they using?  Are they drawing pictures?  What does this hand mean to them?* If anyone has any other ideas, I would love to learn from you.