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Abel's Island (Newbery Award & Honor Books (Paperback)) Paperback – October 2, 2007
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“There was no trouble in locating the best book of the year, William Steig's Abel's Island . . . Abelard is, one hopes, all of us-proud, resourceful, despairing, persevering and, eventually, triumphant. And so is Mr. Steig triumphant in the quality of his prose-nor has he stinted on the quality and quantity of his illustrations.” ―George A. Woods, The New York Times
“Abel's adventures are presented with Steig's usual grace, warmth, and insight, and the delights of the text are further enhanced by his drawings. On all counts, it's a winner.” ―School Library Journal, Starred Review
“With inimitable style, Steig tells the story of a mouse, Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint, who gets swept away in a driving rainstorm while rescuing his wife's scarf and winds up stranded on a river island for a year. Abel isn't just a mouse. He's a fastidious Edwardian dandy whose inherited wealth ensures the leisurely comforts he takes such pleasure in. But Abel's high-toned life of leisure conceals a soul full of true grit: once faced with the necessity of surviving. Abel rises to the challenge.” ―Booklist, Starred Review
“Abel is a classic Steig hero: amiable, dignified, polite and given to moments of brave self-understanding that cause him to rise to desperate challenges. Steig's lively use of metaphor makes his books a joy to read aloud.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“It's not only for kids that Steig's work offers revelations. He's one of those writers whose observations one can contemplate at different ages with different insights. In Abel's Island, Abel, a mouse accustomed to a life of luxury, is wrenched from his beloved wife by a violent storm and spends a year as a castaway, sustained only by his desire to return to her. . . . It's a deep meditation on time and endurance.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Whatever child likes The Bat-Poet or Charlotte's Web will love the way Steig uses our language and will want to relive Abel's odyssey on many a rainy Sunday afternoon.” ―Rosemary Wells, The Washington Post Book World
About the Author
William Steig (1907-2003) was a cartoonist, illustrator and author of award-winning books for children, including Shrek!, on which the DreamWorks movies are based. Steig was born in New York City. Every member of his family was involved in the arts, and so it was no surprise when he decided to become an artist. He attended City College and the National Academy of Design. In 1930, Steig's work began appearing in The New Yorker, where his drawings have been a popular fixture ever since. He published his first children's book, Roland the Minstrel Pig, in 1968.
In 1970, Steig received the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. His books for children also include Dominic; The Real Thief; The Amazing Bone, a Caldecott Honor Book; Amos & Boris, a National Book Award finalist; and Abel's Island and Doctor De Soto, both Newbery Honor Books. Steig's books have also received the Christopher Award, the Irma Simonton Black Award, the William Allen White Children's Book Award, and the American Book Award. His European awards include the Premio di Letteratura per l'infanzia (Italy), the Silver Pencil Award (the Netherlands), and the Prix de la Fondation de France. On the basis of his entire body of work, Steig was selected as the 1982 U.S. candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Illustration and subsequently as the 1988 U.S. candidate for Writing.
Stieg also published thirteen collections of drawings for adults, beginning with About People in 1939, and including The Lonely Ones, Male/Female, The Agony in the Kindergarten, and Our Miserable Life.
He died in Boston at the age of 95.
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A lovely picnic turns wet and stormy, and a loving husband, who happens to be mouse, is separated from his beloved because he chases her scarf, blown off by the raging wind. It is unclear if his scarf retrieval is an act of chivalry, or obsessive possessiveness. Possibly both. This one grand gesture winds up marooning this husband for a year, on an island, as he longs to make his way back to his wife mouse.
A re-telling of the Odyssey, it works with charm and none of the literary hang-ups of writers who worry about too much tell (it's mostly that) or lowering the vocabulary to kid-friendly words. The result is a small masterpiece.
It is perhaps even more beautiful than "Dominic" was. Good enough to make this reader cry a bit (in joy) at the end. The story is about Abel, a distinguished mouse, who gets swept away in a flood and marooned on an island while trying to fetch a scarf that flew off his beloved wife's neck. After a few failed attempts to escape the island, Abel is forced to rely on himself to survive until he can figure out how to get back to his family. He keeps his wife's scarf around his neck to give him strength.
This is a story that will be equally enjoyed by a young child and the parent reading it to him or her; and the themes of love, beauty and strength of character are lessons that can be appreciated by someone of any age.
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As an adult I had a most difficult time getting through it
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