on May 19, 2004
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a meaningful story about a donkey named Sylvester Duncan. On a mysterious day, Sylvester found a magic pebble and realized that the special pebble would grant him any wish. Suddenly he sees a lion, and in a panick, out of all the things he could have wished for, he wished to turn into a rock. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Duncan were frantically worried, as Sylvester had not returned home. I enjoyed this story, as it makes the reader aware of the love and joy families should share, and to always be careful for what you wish for.
on April 10, 2004
A worrisome tale wrought with sorrow and, ultimately, joy. But, just the same, a worrisome tale. In this classic Steig work, a young donkey comes across a magic pebble. The pebble is round and smooth and a brilliant red. Entranced by it, Sylvester finds that he can wish for whatsoever he chooses and instantly receive it. Overjoyed he turns for home, but finds himself confronting a hungry lion. In his haste and fear, Sylvester accidentally wishes he were a rock. Unfortunately, this wish works but leaves Sylvester trapped in his new rocky form. And when his parents look for him high and low and cannot find him, Sylvester is believed to be forever lost. But as I said, all turns out well in the end.
This story is somewhat heart-wrenching to parents. Certainly the kids that read it will understand how sad Sylvester would be to potentially never return home again. And parents reading this will be overwhelmed with the emotions involved with the loss of a child. Perhaps this story won the 1970 Caldecott medal because it does go so far as to directly touch on this most sensitive of topics. At the same time, this may be a kids book but it's too much for me. Silly, isn't it? I can zip through William Styron's "Sophie's Choice" and have a grand old time, but "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" reduces me to a pile of wobbling jello. Enjoy with caveats galore.
on November 5, 2003
Sylvester and The Magic Pebble, William Steig, Aladdin Library
This is a great, fictional, picture book. Sylvester the donkey has always loved collecting pebbles. One time he found a pebble that could grant wishes. On a rainy day when he was on his way home he saw a lion. He made a rational wish to be a rock. The thing is, once he was a rock he couldn't move to reach the pebble and wish himself back to normal. Read about Sylvester's life as a rock and what happens on the day his parents decide to go for a picnic.
The main character, in this book is Sylvester. He is a young, brown donkey, with pointy ears and a wart on his left forelock, (until he wished it away). He is an only child and is friends with all the colts and kittens, and other young animals. Sylvester seems so like a human that in some parts of the book you forget he is a donkey. The other two important characters are Mrs. and Mr. Duncan. They are like normal people. The father reads the newspaper and the mother knits while Sylvester looks at his pebble collection. They were heartbroken when Sylvester didn't come home from playing outside. Just like regular parents when they lose their child.
This is a great book and children and adults of all ages will enjoy it. The pictures are wonderful and help to explain the story to younger children. If you are looking for a good, funny, family picture book this is a great one. I loved this book because it was about something most people would never think of writing about. It's funny and almost sad in some places. I encourage everyone to read this book once, if not more.
on March 29, 2003
"Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" is a charming children's story about a donkey family, the Duncans, and their son Sylvester who has an insatiable urge to collect pebbles of unusual shape and color. Life is just fine for the Duncans until Sylvester finds a magic pebble that grants wishes. Sylvester gets very excited after finding out by trial and error in a very childlike way that his latest pebble grants wishes. He rushes home to tell his parents and bumps into a lion on the way home. Being a young donkey, he has no idea how to wish himself out of danger with the lion so he wishes to...
One of the story's biggest surprises is that Sylvester's big wish to save himself from the lion is very to predict. I certainly, as an adult, would never have guessed what Sylvester wished for to save himself from the lion.
I picked up a very inexpensive soft cover edition of this book as a gift for the little boy I home-school. He has severe seizures that doctors haven't figured out how to control yet with medication. As a result he can't attend school and must be home-schooled until they find medications that can control his seizures. In addition, he is a Ukrainian immigrant who has been here less than a year so he is an LEP (Limited English Proficiency) student. I relate this information because it does relate to my book review since he was the child I purchased the book.
Being that my student relies upon me, his home-school teacher, for his entire link to schooling, education, and English training, I needed a book that:
1. Was well illustrated to keep a child's interest who didn't understand many of the words.
2. Had a touching story that made both of us thoughtful (and could cheer him up as well).
3. Had appropriate language for a child still in the developing stages of learning English.
4. Could somehow be relevant to the life of a child stuck at home with illness.
"Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" was everything I asked for. The Duncans are a loving donkey family in the story and their love for another comes through in both the writing and illustrations. Both my student and I enjoyed the story and we're still reading it until my student will be able to read it on his own (He's getting closer too!).
I don't want to give away the story, but Sylvester wishes himself into a rock to escape the lion. Unfortunately as a rock, Sylvester couldn't make more wishes with the rock to return to being a donkey boy. The rest of the story relates how Sylvester felt as a rock, how his parents missed him and searched for him, and how Sylvester eventually returns to being a donkey boy again. My student related Sylvester being a rock to being stuck at home with seizures. The language, while at an intermediate to advanced level of English fluency, was appropriate with a little scaffolding (a fancy education term that means preparing the student with vocabulary and new concepts). Both my student and I loved "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble."
I highly recommend "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" to parents and children. It's a charming story that's innovative and distinctive from others.
Review by: Maximillian Ben Hanan
on May 20, 2002
This is a touching story of parents and child with some magic thrown in. A boy donkey is out collecting pebbles when he finds a particularly special one that also has the power to grand wishes. When he runs into a lion, he accidentally wishes himself into a rock. He can't change himself back because he can't speak or hold the pebble in his hand. His parents get the whole town to look for their son, but of course, nobody can find him. One day, his parents take a picnic to cheer up and use their son as a table. The father picks up the pebble, places it on the rock and now Sylvester wishes himself back. The illustrations complement the story well without being too busy. The animals take on human characteristics very well.
Why 3 stars?:
This book simply failed to capture my attention or that of any of the children ranging in age from 4 to 9 that I have tested it with. The illustrations have an opaque quality to them, but many things are outlined in black giving the book a cartoonish quality. Many people seem to view it as a classic, but I feel it should be re-evaluated and put aside for much more appealing books.
on January 12, 2002
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. '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? They 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 simple 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
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble won the Caldecott Medal as the best illustrated children's story of 1970. The images stand out for their tender renditions of emotion in the faces and bodies of the animals in the illustrations. Nature is rendered in just as malleable a way to emphasize the changes going on in the story.
The story itself is a variation of the familiar theme of the grass being greener on the other side. In typical fashion, that fable theme is carried out here through many trials and tribulations that will help your child appreciate the joys of what otherwise would be consider humdrum. The strength of the story is the way the moral is made more explicit than in most other versions of this theme.
This book will never be forgotten by any child who reads it, and should be enjoyed by most children beginning around age 3. Fascination will tend to dull after age 6.
Sylvester Duncan (a donkey) lived with his parents. His favorite activity was to collect pebbles of unusual shapes and colors. One rainy Saturday during vacation, he was alone when he found a quite extraordinary one. It was "flaming red, shiny, and perfectly round, like a marble." Shivering in the rain, he wished that the sun would come out . . . and it did. The rain stopped so fast, "It CEASED." "It struck him that magic must be at work . . . ." He "guessed that the magic must be in the . . . pebble."
He then ran three tests. He started the rain, stopped it again, and got rid of a wart on his left hind fetlock.
Excited, he headed back home.
He ran into a lion. Startled, he made a wish without thinking. "I wish I were a rock." Well, he succeeded. The lion left.
The only trouble was, the pebble fell away from Sylvester. He could no longer hold it to make more wishes come true. He wished away, but still stayed a rock. It was a very dull occupation.
His parents were frantic, and started a massive search. Even the dogs could do no good because Sylvester smelled like a rock rather than himself. A year passed slowly.
Then through happenstance, the pebble touches Sylvester again. When he wished to be Sylvester again, he changed back in a twinkling!
The Duncan family was delighted to be reunited.
"Mr. Duncan put the magic pebble in an iron safe." "Some day they might want to use it, but really, for now, what more could they wish for?"
"They had all they wanted."
As you can see, this story is good for dealing with issues like your child's concerns about losing her or his parents, separation anxiety, the dangers of leaving home, and "magic" based fears. You can provide lots of encouraging reassurance as you read the story, explaining how your child's situation is much different from Sylvester's.
The illustrations pick up on the language in the story, so this book will be one of the easier books for you child to learn to read when he or she is around 5 or 6.
After you finish the story, I suggest that you ask your child what she or he would wish for if a magic pebble came along. Then talk about how one might obtain something just as good or better through your family's own efforts . . . without the benefit of magic. This can help your child appreciate the magic of mind and spirit within each of us to turn worthwhile wishes into reality. You can point out that this method has an advantage. It never turned anyone into a rock by accident!
Touch the magical imagination of your child to create a world of real potential for both of you!
on February 28, 2001
Sylvester Duncan, a nice little donkey who lives with his mother and father collects pebbles of interesting shapes and colors. One rainy day, he finds a most remarkable bright red, shiny, round pebble on Strawberry Hill and as he examines it, feeling the cold rain on his back, he wishes it would stop raining. And it does. In the blink of an eye, the rain is gone and the sun is shining. Sylvester realizes that he has found a magic pebble, one that grants wishes and he begins to think of all the wonderful things he and his family and friends can wish for to make their lives happier. But at that moment, he looks up and sees a hungry lion looking at him and panics. Instead of wishing that the lion would disappear, he wishes he were a rock. And he becomes a rock. Unfortunately, the magic pebble is lying on the ground next to him, not on him and so even though he wishes and wishes that he were back to his old self again, nothing happens. As summer turns to fall, fall turns to winter and winter to spring, poor Sylvester, the rock, is stuck up on Strawberry Hill, missing his parents and trying to find a way back to his old self..... Award winning author and illustrator, William Steig, has written a charming and tender story about the meaning of true happiness, that's perfect for youngsters 4-8. In his very gentle way, he lets children discover that it's not always what you want that will make you happy, but what you already have. This simple, magical text, coupled with his wonderfully expressive cartoon-like artwork will capture children's imaginations as they wait to see if Sylvester will ever find a way to make his most important wish come true, to turn back into his old donkey self and be with his family. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is sure to become a classic and is a story your kids will want to read again and again.
on November 12, 1997
My granddaughters, now ages 7 and 9, have adored this book for 3 or 4 years. Something some of you may not remember or know: when it was first published, there was some controversy about the illustrations. Why? Well, all the characters in the story are animals, and the police were portrayed as PIGS. (Those of you who remember the 60s-70s may remember this less-than-affectionate term for our police officers.) I remember this well because I was a children's librarian at the time. OF COURSE I read the book to the kids! And they loved it! I'm sure Mr. Steig had no intention of making a disparaging political statement! The story is thrilling for little ones - they worry how on earth Sylvester will get that pebble back and be reunited with his parents. It's a very reassuring, affirmative statement about the love of family (and being careful what you wish for).
on July 13, 1999
Wouldn't it be great to find a magic pebble that would make all your wishes come true? Well for Sylvester the donkey, it would be great to find such a pebble. Sylvester found an extraordinary, red, shiny marble and he made a wish with it. The wish came true so he made another wish and that, too, came true. When Sylvester runs into a mean lion, he makes a wish that will change his life. Now how is Sylvester going to get his life back to normal and be reunited with his parents? This story is great for children. It can be used to discuss the importance of being happy with what we are given in our lives and the importance of a loving family. The story reveals that we do not need a magic pebble to have a happy and fulfilling life. This is a very powerful message that all children should be taught.