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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble Hardcover – April 1, 1988

4.7 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Imagine all the happiness and wealth you could achieve if you found a magic pebble that granted your every wish! Sylvester Duncan, an unassuming donkey who collects pebbles "of unusual shape and color," experiences just such a lucky find. But before he can make all his wishes come true, the young donkey unexpectedly encounters a mean-looking lion. Startled, Sylvester wishes he were a rock, but in mineral form he can no longer hold the pebble, and thus cannot wish himself back to his equine trappings. His parents, thinking he has disappeared, are at first frantic, then miserable, and then plunge into donkey ennui. Meanwhile, Sylvester is gravely depressed, but tries to get used to being a rock.

In 1970, William Steig won the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble--the first of his many Newbery and Caldecott honors. In this donkey's tale, Steig imbues his characteristically simple illustrations of animals sporting human garb with evocative, irresistible, and heartbreakingly vivid emotions. The text is straightforward and the dialogue remarkably touching. Children will feel deeply for Sylvester and his parents, all wishing for the impossible--that the family will one day be reunited. Sylvester's sweet story is one that endures, reminding us all that sometimes what we have is all we really need. (Ages 4 to 8)

From the Publisher

On a rainy day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble that can make wishes come true. But when a lion frightens him on his way home, Sylvester makes a wish that brings unexpected results. How Sylvester is eventually reunited with his loving family and restored to his true self makes a story that is beautifully tender and filled with true magic. Illustrated with William Steig's glowing pictures, this is a modern classic beloved by children everywhere. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a winner of the Caldecott Medal.END
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; Later Printing. edition (April 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067166154X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671661540
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.3 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,431,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Steig (1907-2003) published his first children's book, Roland the Minstrel Pig, in 1968, and received the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (978-1416902065) in 1970. His works also include The Amazing Bone, a Caldecott Honor Book, and Abel's Island and Doctor De Soto, both Newbery Honor Books. His most recent books published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux are Shrek! (released by DreamWorks as a major motion picture) and Wizzil, illustrated by Quentin Blake. School Library Journal named Shrek! a Best Book of 1990 and said of it, "Steig's inimitable wit and artistic dash have never been sharper or more expertly blended."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Someone wrote that this book is too depressing. I beg to differ.

I'm not a professional child psychologist, but looking back on my own experience, and how much I loved this book as a child, I think children have very powerful feelings all the time, including longing and sadness. It's comforting to see those feelings described and reflected outside yourself. If adults act like the whole world is happy-happy all the time, it can feel very lonely and isolating when you have other feelings. I would venture to guess that empathizing with characters in stories helps children develop a sense of connection between their own feelings and other people's feelings. This connection makes us feel less lonely and also allows us to be genuinely caring toward others.

I can still see, in my mind's eye, the picture of Sylvester the Rock under a blanket of snow, and feel the almost unbearable empathy that I felt for him when I read this book as a child. But it was a good feeling to feel such profound emotions. It was not unpleasant--it was very real, alive, and human--it made me feel connected with the world. And it was a safe place to feel these emotions, because I knew how the story ended, I knew everything would be okay.

I loved this book very much. I wonder if I still have it...
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Format: Paperback
One day, Sylvester Duncan, an endearing young burro whose hobby is collecting unusual pebbles, happens upon a truly extraordinary one. Not only is it particularly beautiful, but as Sylvester is soon to discover, it possesses powerful magical properties.

Sylvester's intentions are good and he plans to make use of the power of the pebble to help others. Nevertheless, the use of magic quickly becomes tragic, and Sylvester finds himself in a desperate situation from which escape seems all but impossible.

Reading this book to my daughters, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster ride, as the little donkey is extricated from his plight just as all hope is lost.

This is an excellent book, beautifully illustrated, and clearly deserving of the Caldecott Medal which it won in 1970.
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Format: Hardcover
Our children, ages 2 and 5, have been obsessed with this book. We have enjoyed it thoroughly, too. Mr. Steig's writing captures the internal experiences and emotions of the characters in a way that few books for children do. The writing encourages children to consider what it would be like to be trapped, lost, or separated from their parents, and the joy of reunion.
It also has some of the greatest lines in literature: "The warmth of his own mother sitting on him woke Sylvester up from his deep winter sleep." How can you beat that?
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Format: Hardcover
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.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
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
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