Alan Durant and Dale Blankenaar
This droll tale, the third in Tiny owl’s ‘One Story, Many Voices’ enterprise is a wonderful retelling of an African variant of folk tale classic Stone Soup.
Here the protagonist, Noko is a tired, very hungry porcupine that dupes a whole village of selfish, well-sated animals into contributing to a wonderful meal even though they’ve asserted one by one that they have absolutely nothing to spare for the stranger.
Noko’s initial request in the seemingly empty village he arrives at is to the resident of the first house. But his “Do you have anything I can eat?” request is met with Warthog’s response, “I’m sorry, I ate a big lunch and all my food is gone.” Really?
Further excuses come from Rabbit, Monkey, Aardvark,
Meerkat and Pangolin, and all the while Noko is convinced the animals are lying.
Though his body may be tired, the porcupine’s brain most certainly isn’t – it’s as sharp as his own quills and he comes up with a plan to get some of that food stashed away in the villagers’ homes.
The animals feel obliged to his requested large pot of water and some fire, and learn that the visitor is to make his own quill soup using three quills from his own back – a flavourful soup fit for a king.
Mightily impressed that Noko has met the king, one by one the villagers provide the ingredients he mentions as he samples the contents of the pot until eventually the porcupine declares the soup “Perfect’ and then it’s time for a shared feast under the stars.
And by the time Noko requests a hole to bed down in, the other animals have realised that he deserves a much comfier place than that to sleep – after the communal singing, dancing and storytelling, that is.
Dale Blankenaar’s kaleidoscopic illustrations have a zestiness about them that is just right for Alan Durant’s version of the story. Their combination serves up the full-flavoured message that we should all offer a welcome to strangers in need, sharing our resources to help them, wherever, whenever we can.