Sylvester the donkey collects pebbles of all shapes and sizes. One day he finds a magic pebble that grants wishes, and Sylvester learns through a series of mishaps that sometimes wishes can be dangerous. When he accidentally wishes himself to turn into a rock to escape a lion, he is stuck. Thankfully the pebble is sitting on him when his family happens to find the rock so Sylvester can wish himself back to them. They have been separated for a long time, and are overjoyed to be reuinited. Steig’s illustrations perfectl portray the errant donkey and his adventures. This book is a wonderful story about the importance of family and of being happy with who you are. On a special note, when I picked up this book and opened it I was touched to see that the book had been donated in memory of midshipman Matthew W. Freeman, a young man I once knew and the beloved grandson of a couple from my church. We all watched Matthew grow up as he visited his grandparents over the years, and we all mourned the loss of this cherished young man. This book makes a beautiful tribute to him.
“Droll and whimsical, poignant and silly, Steig made quite a splash when this touching story of a donkey, whose wish seems to doom him to be a rock forever, won a Caldecott Medal. Steig, who is clearly a winner with both children and adults, has gone on to write and illustrate a Caldecott Honor book, as well as two Newbery Honor books.”
Staff. (2000, January 1). One Hundred Books That Shaped the Century. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrary journal.com
Wishes can be dangerous things! A fun activity with this book would be to pass around a “magic pebble” after reading the book and have each child make a wish. Ask them why they want that wish, and can they think of any problems that might happen if they get their wish. Play a game with the children and the pebble – a child wishes to be a bird and fly to another child; that child wishes to be a nest, etc. and have the children think their ways out of their wishes.
Winner of the Caldecott Medal, 1970.