While I love reading almost anything with my girls, I get especially excited when they love some of my own favorite books from childhood. Books that I have such fond memories of reading and rereading and sharing with my parents and grandparents. Books that my parents saved for me, so now our own copies are tattered and falling apart and still just as loved. Books that at first glance may seem outdated, but have timeless storylines or messages. I’m guessing many of you share those same feelings about these beloved childhood stories! Today, I’m sharing one of these favorite stories: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, written and illustrated by William Steig.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is an endearing story of learning (the very hard way, I might add) that you’ve already got everything you might want or need. First published in 1969, Steig (you may recognize his name from some of his other works, such as Amos and Boris, Doctor De Soto, Brave Irene, and even Shrek!), introduces us to Sylvester, a happy donkey who lives with his mother and father and loves to collect rocks (that’s my almost-four-year-old’s rock collection surrounding my childhood copy of this)… That is, until one fateful date when he finds a magic pebble and has a close encounter with a lion, all in the same day! I won’t give the whole story away, but you’ll encounter laughter, tears, changing seasons, and alfalfa sandwiches on the way to the resolution. Steig leaves his readers with a very direct and sincere message about realizing that maybe all you really need is what you already have.
And, if you look closely at the very tattered cover of my book (can you tell how long this has been around, and how loved it’s been?), you’ll see a Caldecott Medal! That means that not only is this story terrific, but when it was published, people recognized Steig’s artwork as the best artwork in children’s literature that year. His pen-and-ink illustrations match the humor, tenderness, and intricate details of his words, resulting in a story that is not only entertaining and educational to hear, but also wonderful to look at.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble may initially enchant your children because, obviously, it’s got an element of magic. It’ll draw them in because there’s suspense. Sylvester is sure to make them giggle (my girls get a kick out of the imagery of a rock trying to pick up another rock!) and may even make them tear up just a bit. And it’ll keep them coming back time and time again because of the love, happiness, and pure contentment that Steig somehow seems to personalize for each one of his readers.
What children’s books to your kids enjoy reading or listening to that tug at your own childhood heartstrings?