Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2004
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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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2005
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 1999
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2006
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble was a really good book. Sylvester, a donkey, found a magic pebble but used it the wrong way. Everyone searched for him because he was missing. I would recommend this book to people who wonder things a lot and people who like magic.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Sylvester the donkey collects rocks, and when he finds a special one, he adds it to his collection. While holding it , he wishes for the rain to stop, and it does. Finding that the pebble is magic, Sylvester hurries on his way to tell his parents. However, on the way home, he is confronted by a lion hungry for donkey for lunch. Remembering the magic pebble, Sylvester wishes to be a rock. Bad decision! With no way of holding the rock, Sylvester cannot change himself back to a donkey after the threat is gone. Will he be a rock forever?
Great story, Caldecott medal winner. Subtly teaches your kids that "things" aren't the important things in life, your family is. Short and enjoyable, this is one your kids won't ever want to part with and will pass on to their children.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2009
Sylvester is a sweet little donkey who discovers a magical wish-granting pebble. He has a terrible accident, and in the end, a happy reunion.

I think the magic of this book comes from the way the parents are described. Their unchanging love for their child, their obvious grief, their search for their adorable son... everything about them boosts the knowledge in YOUR child of how much he or she is treasured. When Sylvester and his parents finally are reuinted at the end of the book, we all feel it -- what do we need magic wishes for, when we have everything we could want right here in our family? Who could wish for anything else?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
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