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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble Hardcover – April 1, 1988
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Audio CD, Unabridged
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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
Top customer reviews
Sylvester is a donkey who collects pebbles as a hobby, and the shiny red pebble he finds - when he's touching it - makes his wishes come true. But that old "be careful what you wish for" saying comes to bear when a hungry lion eyes him, and Sylvester wishes himself to become a large rock... he avoids becoming the lion's next meal, but - as a rock - he can now no longer move or speak, and the pebble lies just beyond him - he realizes that the only way he will be transformed back into a donkey would be for someone to pick up the pebble and wish for a rock to become a donkey; his recognition of the astronomically slim chance of that happening sends him into a deep depression. As time passes, his distraught parents are beside themselves with fear and sadness; many months later, resigned now to the thought that they will never see their son again, they attempt to lift their spirits by going on a picnic, Mrs. Duncan decides a large rock (Sylvester) is a good place to lay out the spread, while Mr. Duncan discovers the red pebble lying next to it, declares how much Sylvester would have enjoyed having it as part of his collection, and lays it atop the rock. Eventually Mrs. Duncan wishes aloud that Sylvester was there with him, and Sylvester - with the pebble now touching him - wishes he was himself again and... voila! He returns to his donkey form, tears, embraces, kisses, questions, answers, loving looks and fond exclamations follow. When they return home, the pebble is locked away in an iron safe because - just in being back together - "They all had all that they wanted."
This is a powerful, tender story... pretty dark, but with a beautiful light at the end! Apparently the author/illustrator was deeply inspired by the story of Pinocchio during his youth, and the longing of Pinocchio to become a "real boy". Though this Sylvester story does share a darkness that I'd felt reading Pinocchio and seeing the movie as a child, it also shares the overwhelming relief and joy when parent and "child" are reunited. This particular copy of the book is a "restored deluxe edition", reissued after the discovery of the original artwork, with the colors being as the author/illustrator had originally intended. It also includes a copy of his Caldecott Medal acceptance speech.
Both in its writing and illustrations, the book beautifully depicts the tenderness between parent/child, the deep seated fears we have as both a child (of being abandoned) and a parent (losing a child) - it's a very powerful and moving story that ends happily, and with the recognition that often what we want most in life - when we look to the core of what brings us happiness - we already possess! Every once in a while, it's nice to be reminded of that.
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?