Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
We checked out this book on cd at our library recently, and having never read it before (maybe as a child, but I had certainly never read it to my kids), fell totally and completely in love! We popped the cd into our car cd player while driving around the city running errands, and were greeted by the lovely deep voice of James Earl Jones, who narrates the book. He is the perfect narrator for this story! Instantly, all three of my boys were captivated and had his full attention.
The story is about Sylvester, a donkey who happens upon a magic pebble and accidentally turns himself into a rock. He is missing for months, as he cannot wish himself back into a donkey unless he is touching the magic pebble, which sits next to him just out of reach. The book itself covers so many strong feelings, which Emil in particular is feeling at the tender age of three. The grief Sylvester’s parents feel as they miss their son and wonder what has become of them particularly touched Emil, who began to talk about how sad we would be if he turned into a stone. The empathy he felt was so deep and true! The story goes through other emotions, such as joy, loss, regret, sadness, love, and elation, all of which are clearly expressed in the faces of the illustrated animals. Magic is just the icing on the cake. Steig captures a wide range of powerful human emotions in this one touching story, and manages to crawl inside the magical mind of a child. And it’s an old classic — in 1970, it won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, which it clearly deserves. Relevant at any time, I highly recommend this one!