Hammer Soup by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert

Hammer Soup is a picture book which is a variation on the classic folk tale, stone soup.

The story tells about Kate, who is tidy and neat and always busy around her house.  It describes what happens when Bruce, a new neighbour moves in.  Bruce is the opposite of Kate.  His house is unsound, he spends his days enjoying life and making the most of the sunshine. He does very little work and, plays while Kate works.

This is all very well until the winter arrives and Bruce is cold and miserable in his house with nothing to eat.  One day Bruce’s house is blown away in a gale and Kate takes pity on him, inviting him to take shelter in her house.  She isn’t prepared to feed him until he suggests making hammer soup.

Intrigued, she watches as he places a hammer in a pan of boiling water. As they taste it he declares it bland, and Kate gradually adds ingredients until it becomes a proper, hearty soup.  They eat everything but the hammer, and their friendship is cemented.

The fact that Kate and Bruce become friends, and that Kate is aware of the joke that Bruce is playing on her is a nicer ending to the more traditional one of the stupid house holder being tricked into handing over soup to a feckless chancer.

The illustrations are sweet, and the story nicely and traditionally told.  It would make an excellent addition to any project on folk tales and their variations, and a good way into talking about stories which trick or deceive characters.

It would be nice to compare it to other, more traditional tales.

The story would be good for a confident reader to read alone.  It would be good to read aloud to a class, although the detail in some of the illustrations might be lost to a bigger audience.  I recommend it to 4 to 8 year olds, both boys and girls.