Sylvester Duncan is a happy young donkey whose hobby is collecting pebbles. One day he picks up a strange red pebble and discovers that it grants wishes. He's on his way home to show his mother and father when he's frightened by a lion and makes a very foolish wish. Now he's stuck without any way to get home or contact his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Duncan are sick with worry. How will Sylvester ever tell them what happened?
This hilarious, clever short story by William Stieg won the 1970 Caldecott medal, but not without a little controversy. It was actually banned in Illinois and experienced complaints for Steig's portrayal of the police as actual pigs. Granted, this is in a story where everyone is an animal, and the pig policeman are portrayed as helpful and sympathetic.
Steig's humorous, rollicking style moves this funnily tragic story along, and the cartoony illustrations perfectly complement the storytelling. Though lighthearted, this story does have some truly sad parts with Sylvester's parents looking desperately for their son. Be aware of this if you have a very sensitive child, but also know that the ending is happy and made all that much better by the sadness of this excellent picture book.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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