Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1970

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

William Steig, author and illustrator

New York: Windmill Books/Simon and Schuster, 1969

30 pp.

ages 3+

Interests: magic, animal stories


A young donkey finds a magic pebble that grants wishes. Unfortunately however, when a dangerous lion appears he impulsively wishes he were a rock. He evades the lion, but is trapped in his new form. His parents search frantically and a sad, lonely winter passes for them all. In the spring his parents happen to picnic right on top of the rock that is Sylvester. To his great fortune they find the magic pebble and Sylvester is turned back to his true shape. The pebble is put away for safe keeping, but Sylvester and his parents are so happy to be back together they don’t need to wish for anything else at all.

A cautionary tale about powerful magic used without careful thought. Also a story of parental love and the joy of a reunited family. I particularly liked the fact that in the end they didn’t need to use the magic pebble at all – they were perfectly happy with each other.

William Steig’s illustrations give a dignity to his characters… the father donkey in his blue suit, with pipe and newspaper in an easy chair, his tail draped casually over one armrest… the lonely wolf howling in the deep of winter… the worried lady pig neighbour as Sylvester’s mother tells her about her missing son. The animals all display gravitas and show great range in emotion. The most affecting are the pictures of Sylvester’s father and mother grieving over their lost boy. They go on their picnic so drooping with sadness you truly feel for them, and the joy at Sylvester’s reappearance is exhilarating. The sad parts may be trying for the very young, if they are sensitive to such things, but the ending is glorious. Sure to leave a big smile on everyone’s face.

(This title at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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