Publication Date: 1969
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is perfect in it’s literature, illustrations and messages. It is obvious why this delightful picture book won the Caldecott medal in 1970.
Sylvester Duncan, pebble collector, finds one which allows all his wishes to come true! Ironically the ony wish he truly desires, seems impossible.
Upon a frightful meeting with a lion, Sylvester wishes himself into a rock and thus, the magic pebble is left outside himself. How will he ever be his donkey self again, and reunite with his family?
The remainder of the story is the aftermath of this encounter. As Sylvester’s fate unravels, we witness the misfortunes of fortune….and vice versa. The reader experiences sadness at his parents loss, and poor Sylvester’s internal roller coaster of fear, frustration, grief and loneliness. The pertinence of his being inside a rock captures this intensity, highlighting his feelings of being helpless, unheard and alone. Similarly, this may touch the young reader who may be accustomed to such feelings when communication and language are misunderstood.
Steig has not only captured a depth of emotion with this tender story, but also a colourful wit with his characters and illustrations (despite its controversy and ban for the anthropomorphic pigs dressed in police attire).
A wise message for any age reader: appreciate everything that you have, and be careful what you wish for.
“…but really, for now what more could they wish for? They all had all that they wanted”.