THE SECRET OF THE STONES bookcover.  Click on image to go to CURRENT BOOKLIST.

THE SECRET OF THE STONES: An African American Folktale
by Robert D. San Souci
Illustrated by James Ransome
Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2000
[AGES 4-8] hardcover
$16.99 ($25.99 CAN)
EAN: 9 780803 716407
Full-color illustrations
40 pages
9 x 11
Ages 4-8 PreS-Grade3
Rights: W
Agent (text) Barbara Kouts
Agent (art) Sheldon Fogelman, Esq.
Phyllis Fogelman Books
An imprint of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers

A dramatic and touching African-American tale from an award-winning team.

When John and Clara return to their cabin from working in the fields one evening, they are startled to discover that all of their household chores have been done. The mysterious, magical Aunt Easter tells the couple the identity of these unknown benefactors and their connection to the two white stones that Clara keeps in the house. Armed solely with Aunt Easter's advice and their own affectionate, courageous hearts, John and Clara must confront the evil conjure man. Only then will they solve the secret of the stones and fill the void in their childless home.

Robert D. San Souci has drawn again from the rich legacy of African-American folklore, as he did in his acclaimed THE HIRED HAND and THE TALKING EGGS. And the deep, jewellike colors of James Ransome's paintings carry the reader into the majestic Ozark mountains and inside this marvelously dramatic and touching story of love and courage.

A Selection of the California Readers
2005 California Collections (Elementary and Middle School)

"San Souci's retelling of a story from both African and African-American traditions has verve and style...Ransome's oil-on-paper illustrations are big, bold, and arresting." -- School Library Journal

"San Souci elaborates on a tale with roots in folklore from both Arkansas and Zaire, involving a childless couple, an evil conjure-man, and two orphans who have been turned into pebbles. After bringing home two white stones they found on their way home from the fields, John and Clara return each day from work to find their house cleaned and a meal ready. A wise woman explains: the stones are children, who can only be freed by milk, eggs, and corn taken from the conjure-man who bewitched them. Ransome depicts his serious-looking (American) characters and their verdant rural setting with dignified, richly colored, uncluttered realism. Although San Souci's characters speak in dialect ("`Tell us how to fine dat conjure-man.'"), his language and pacing combine for a strong, direct telling that stands up to the stately illustrations. Children will be riveted and delighted by the tale's suspense, its see-saw climax, and the scary conjure-man's squishy demise. Source notes are appended." -- Booklist

"From San Souci, an artful blend of magic and courage in a cheering tale that is stunningly depicted in Ransome's resplendent artwork. Clara and John, two African-Americans from ``back in the olden times,'' are husband and wife, and toilers in the fields. Returning home one day, Clara picks up two little white stones. Shortly thereafter, when they return home after a day of work, they find the house neat, dinner made, and a fire blazing on the hearth. A neighbor, Aunt Easter, ``who could see `hants' and knew healing secrets and could work charms and sometimes had `prophesyin' dreams,'' tells them the stones are orphans. John and Clara learn that they can see the children, but only by hiding; as soon as the children see them they return to stone. Aunt Easter tells John and Clara that they will have to thwart the conjurer who put the spell on the children if they are to gain the children's freedom. This they do, in a bit of cleverness that takes a few unexpected and gratifying turns, and they end up with two fine young children to raise. San Souci's note places the story's origins in Bantu folktales that made it all the way into Arkansas folklore virtually unscathed. That's almost as much of a miracle as the story itself." -- Kirkus Reviews (pointer review)

"Based on a tale found in both the Bantu and African-American cultures, the heartwarming story concerns a childless couple who must break an enchantment and release two orphaned children who have been transformed into stones. Set in "the olden times" of nineteenth-century rural America, the clearly told tale (which includes dialect in the dialogue) is accompanied by expressive, deep-toned illustrations." -- The Horn Book

"S.S." graphic rule image.