Alan Durant, Quill Soup, illustrated by Dale Blankenaar

Tiny Owl, 2019, ISBN 978-1-910328-40-8

Quill Soup, the third in Tiny Owl's One Story, Many Voices series, is an African version of Stone Soup. Noko the porcupine has been travelling for a long time and is tired and hungry. He comes to a village, and his spirits lift at the thought of food and shelter. Warned by Meerkat of his arrival, the animals all disappear into their homes. Noko knocks at each door. One after another, Warthog, Rabbit, Monkey and all the other villagers assure him that they have no food to spare. But they acquiesce to his request for water and fire. Noko makes a soup from three of his quills. 'Mmmm, tasty,' he says. 'Just how his majesty likes it.' The villagers are so impressed by his acquaintance with the king, that when he mentions that the soup would be even better with carrots, and then that the king likes mealies in his soup, suddenly these and lots of other ingredients are available. Finally the soup is ready, and there's enough for everyone. At the end of the feast, Noko casually asks if anyone has a hole in which he could sleep. 'A hole!' cries Monkey. 'For our friend who has cooked delicious quill soup for the king?' Noko must have the best bed in his house, he insists. Before the animals retire for the night, they sing, tell stories and dance in the moonlight. Noko goes to sleep with a full tummy and a happy heart.

Alan Durant's retelling of this traditional tale is entertaining and humorous. Important messages about kindness, sharing and friendship come out loud and strong, while never being laboured. The illustrations by South African Dale Blankenaar are very striking and full of intriguing details that children will pore over. The Tiny Owl website has accompanying activities that teachers, parents and carers might like to use with children.