The Soup Bone

Book: The Soup Bone
Author: Tony Johnston
Illustrator: Margot Tomes
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, republished in 1992
ISBN-13: 978-0152772550 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0152772553 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0152772567 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0152772561 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 – 8
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Johnston, Tony. The Soup Bone (published in 1990 by Harcourt). One lonely Halloween night a little old lady who lives on top of a hill decides to cook herself some soup but doesn’t have a soup bone. Digging in the garden to search for one, she makes the acquaintance of a lively, hungry skeleton. After chasing the woman up a tree, the skeleton goes into the house and discovers the soup. In turn, it is frightened and is chased by a dog, and finally hides under the bed. After cornering the skeleton, the dog is revealed to be none other than the little old lady herself, dressed in her Halloween costume. After the two spend a riotous evening playing tricks together and sharing the soup in each other’s company, they finally agree to be friends and venture out together to “scare somebody,” since it is, after all, Halloween night.

Author Tony Johnston’s text has the feel of a folktale. Illustrator Margot Tomes’s typically rustic palette produces gouache paintings which reinforce the humorous quality of the story with soft muddy browns and grays, and accents of orange, red, and green, creating the ambience of a late October evening. This droll tale starring an old lady who makes several bones about her Halloween search for the perfect ingredient is a good choice for Halloween story hours. From a positive standpoint, it is refreshing to see an older woman portrayed as brave, clever, and spunky. Also there is some depth as the woman decides that when she finds a potential friend, regardless of their striking dissimilarities she should take advantage of that friendship’s benefits. On a negative note, some small or sensitive children might find it a little scary. However, most readers, young and old, will feel that it is a really cute and fun story.

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