Burn, “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”, Burn

The Illinois Police Association, along with 11 other states, tried to get libraries to remove this book in 1977 because it portrays policemen as pigs.
Imagine all the happiness and wealth you could achieve if you found a magic pebble that granted your every wish! Sylvester Duncan, an unassuming donkey who collects pebbles “of unusual shape and color,” experiences just such a lucky find. But before he can make all his wishes come true, the young donkey unexpectedly encounters a mean-looking lion. Startled, Sylvester wishes he were a rock, but in mineral form he can no longer hold the pebble, and thus cannot wish himself back to his equine trappings. His parents, thinking he has disappeared, are at first frantic, then miserable, and then plunge into donkey ennui. Meanwhile, Sylvester is gravely depressed, but tries to get used to being a rock.
 The GOOD:
timeless,January 12, 2002

Sylvester is a donkey with the odd hobby, for a donkey anyway, of “collecting pebbles of unusual shape and color.” This pastime gets him in
trouble one day when he finds a magic red pebble that grants wishes :’What a lucky day this is!’ thought Sylvester.  ‘From now on I can have anything I want.’

Sadly, a lion comes along and Sylvester unthinkingly says : “I wish I were a rock.”

His wish is granted, but he is no longer able to grasp the pebble and so can not wish himself back to donkeyhood. His parents search
desperately for him, until one day they actually picnic upon the boulder he has become. Happily, they pick up the pebble and order is
restored. And, despite the awesome power of the pebble they lock it away in a safe :

Some day they might want to use it, but really, for now, what more could they wish for?  They had all that they wanted.

The story is that simple and the drawings too are pretty basic, though charming. The real beauty of the tale lies in the simple message that it
is not “things” that will make us happy, but the comforts of family and home.

In his Caldecott Award acceptance speech, William Steig revealed his debt to an earlier classic :

It is very likely that Sylvester became a rock and then again a live donkey because I had once been so deeply impressed with Pinocchio‘s
longing to have his spirit encased in flesh instead of in wood.

It is altogether fitting that Steig’s story has become a classic in its own right.


The BAD:

 A donkey with depression…not my cup of tea.,October 23, 2001

While I usually love whimsical, fantastic, and even some scary children’s tales, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble sends out a message that is far too hopeless for my taste.

After Sylvester turns himself into a rock, accidentally throwing away his magic three wishes and dooming his future, he futilly attempts to change himself back or at least get the attention of someone to let them know what has happened. Instead, he witnesses his frantic and then, grieving parents, as well as the ever-changing seasons, and he learns he is totally helpless to change his destiny. He sinks deeper and deeper into depression, sleeping longer and longer each day until he hardly is awake at all.

When his parents finally free him and they are cheerfully reunited, the reader is reminded how little control Sylvester ever has over his life. In the meantime, they are also forced to watch him face gradual loss of hope, increased periods of sleeping, and finally, unmistakable depression. Sylvester’s redemption comes only by chance, and it is this point that children I have read this with most often respond to.

This is a depressing book with a subject matter way too hopeless for children.

And The UGLY:

 depressing book,December 17, 2009

This review is from: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Caldecott Medal) (Hardcover)

I love all the caldecott medal books that I bought for my son but this one was so-so. It was sort of depressing for a children’s book. Kids will have enough sadness to experience in life so I don’t feel my child needs to learn about depression and hopelessness just yet. I think the story mentions the word hopelessness several times in this book- something very odd for a child’s book. I am not downplaying depression & emotions but for a child’s book, this is just too depressing of a read. When Sylvester turns into a rock, he becomes hopeless & keeps sleeping more & more & his parents cry & try to forget about him since he is gone (dead). I was getting all down reading this book. My son kept throwing the book on the floor when I’d try to read it to him– something he never does w/ other books. I guess he doens’t like it either. Maybe he’s too young- 4 yr. old?


~ by MorbidbookS, Extreme Fiction Publisher. on April 28, 2011.

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