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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble ()

Caldecott Award Winners (1970)

Sylvester is a donkey with the odd hobby, for a donkey anyway, of "collecting pebbles of unusual shape and color."  This pastime gets him in trouble one day when he finds a magic red pebble that grants wishes :

    'What a lucky day this is!' thought Sylvester. Ý'From now on I can have anything I want.'

Sadly, a lion comes along and Sylvester unthinkingly says : "I wish I were a rock."

His wish is granted, but he is no longer able to grasp the pebble and so can not wish himself back to donkeyhood.  His parents search desperately for him, until one day they actually picnic upon the boulder he has become.  Happily, they pick up the pebble and order is restored.  And, despite the awesome power of the pebble they lock it away in a safe :

    Some day they might want to use it, but really, for now, what more could they wish for? ÝThey had all that they wanted.

The story is that simple and the drawings too are pretty basic, though charming.  The real beauty of the tale lies in the timeless message that it is not "things" that will make us happy, but the comforts of family and home.

In his Caldecott Award acceptance speech, William Steig revealed his debt to an earlier classic :

    It is very likely that Sylvester became a rock and then again a live donkey because I had once been so deeply impressed with Pinocchio's
    longing to have his spirit encased in flesh instead of in wood.

It is altogether fitting that Steig's story has become a classic in its own right.


Grade: (A)


William Steig Links:
-ESSAY: What My Husband Saw (JEANNE STEIG, October 11, 2003, NY Times)

Book-related and General Links:
    -AUTHOR SITE : William Steig, Children's Book author
    -William Steig - HarperChildrens
    -Author William Steig ( - William Steig
    -INTERVIEW : The Children's Canon : Kids' book authors pick their all-time favorites Ý: William Steig (Salon, 12/16/95)
    -LETTER : Letter from William Steig to Paul Heins (Hornbook Virtual History Exhibit)
    -STEIG, WILLIAM November 14, 1907- , Author and Illustrator (Educational Paperback Association)
    -William Steig (Mei-Yu Lu, Reference Specialist, ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication )
    -INTERVIEW : William Steig : One of the most prolific New Yorker cover illustrators and cartoonists for more than 65 years, William
Steig has also created some 30 children's books. He is 89 and lives in Back Bay. (John Koch, 6/22/97, Boston Globe Magazine)
    -ESSAY : Let 'er Play : Classic and iconoclastic books shake up the alphabet and take kids on a trip through the Dictionopolis of the
written word. (POLLY SHULMAN, Salon)
    -LESSON PLAN : Teacher CyberGuide :Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (CyberGuide by Carol Burr, Valerie McAnally, Shannon Taylor, San Diego County Office of Education)
    -LESSON PLAN : Sylvester and the Magic Pebble Written and illustrated by William Steig
    -Yahoo! Directory : Home > Arts > Humanities > Literature > Authors > Children's > Steig, William (1907- )
    -REVIEW : of A GIFT FROM ZEUS : Sixteen Favorite Myths. By Jeanne Steig. Illustrated by William Steig (Wendy Doniger, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of PETE'S A PIZZA Written and illustrated by William Steig (Signe Wilkinson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : THE TOY BROTHER Written and illustrated by William Steig  (Ellen Handler Spitz , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Abel's Island by William Steig (Lela Olszewski, SF Site)
    -BOOK LIST : 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know : SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE by William Steig (NY Public
    -AWARDS : Caldecott 1970 : Steig, William. ÝSylvester and the Magic Pebble

    -FILMOGRAPHY : William Steig (
    -BUY IT : Shrek (2001) DVD (
    -INFO : Shrek (2001) (
    -ESSAY : 'Shrek!' author exclaims his approval of film (Claudia Puig, 06/20/2001 , USA TODAY)
    -ESSAY : "Shrek" is not Shrek! : William Steig's subversive misanthropy is jettisoned for winking innuendo in the movie version of his children's book. (Margot Mifflin, May 24, 2001, Salon)
    -ESSAY : "Shrek" : Computer animation is a technological miracle. So why does it leave us cold? (Stephanie Zacharek, May 18, 2001, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (James Berardinelli Reel Views)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (ELVIS MITCHELL, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Paul Malcolm, LA Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (KENNETH TURAN, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (BRUCE KIRKLAND, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Sabadino Parker, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Bob Aulert, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Sean Weitner, Flak)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Hollywood Jesus Visual Reviews)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)