Sylvester and the Magic Pebble Review
Written by: William Steig
Illustrated by: William Steig
Age Range: 3 and up
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
Awards: Caldecott Medal, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
"Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" is about a young donkey who lives with his mother and father on Acorn Road in Oatsdale. One of his hobbies is collecting pebbles.
One day on Strawberry Hill, he finds a magic pebble that grants him any wish he desires as long as he’s holding it. On his way home, a hungry lion spots Sylvester. Scared and panicked, Sylvester wishes to be a rock to hide form the lion.
No longer able to hold the pebble, Sylvester is stuck as a rock. His parents are terrified something happened to him. Eventually, his parents had to accept the fact that their son was gone.
The seasons of fall and winter passed, with Sylvester’s parents continuing to mourn the loss of their son. In May, they decide to take a picnic lunch to Strawberry Hill to attempt some sense of normalcy and healing.
They set up a picnic on a rock, who is really Sylvester, and find the magic pebble. “What a fantastic pebble!” Sylvester’s father said. They set the pebble on the rock and Sylvester is able to wish to be himself again.
The book ends with a family overjoyed to be together again.
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What Worked For Me
I was impressed at how the book addressed the very difficult situation of losing a child. It shows kids just how loved and valued they are by their own parents. For parents, it outlines one of our greatest fears. For me, this makes the ending of the book more impactful.
The story adds educational moments without beating you over the head with them. I really enjoyed how the different seasons were represented.
The ending of the book is incredible. It clearly shows that a caring embrace from someone you love is more magical and meaningful than anything else one could wish for. The people we love are home. They’re what matter the most in the end.
What Didn't Work For Me
There were some inconsistencies in the book. Some animals wore clothes and others did not. Why? It wasn’t really addressed and was a bit bewildering.
The only police officers in the book were pigs. The animals could have been diversified a little bit more. Not a dealbreaker for this book by any means, but it was something I noticed that could have been different.
Here’s the metric: As a parent, when your child asks you to read this book 3 or more nights in a row before bed, how likely are you to want to jump head first through a wall?
This book is a relatively quick read and holds a lot of value. I don’t mind reading it over and over because it hits home on many levels and helps me remember to always be grateful for this time with my kids.
This is an absolutely wonderful story. I really like the message that family is more important than “stuff.” The book doesn’t position Sylvester as the center of the universe, but rather a child longing to be with his family again.
The book does a great job of demonstrating how we easy it is to take family for granted. As Andy Bernard from The Office says: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
It’s a really great book. Read it to your kids and explain the more mature concepts such as sadness and loss if they ask. Give it a read and let me know what your kids think of it!
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