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The Toy Brother

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  193 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Yorick Bede has always considered his younger brother Charles a first-rate pain in the pants, and Charles thinks the same of Yorick. One day Yorick plays with his alchemist father's potions, and he accidentally shrinks himself to the size of a cockroach. Now suddenly Charles is the big brother. Though it's tempting to leave Yorick as a shrunken version of himself to teach ...more
Paperback, 32 pages
Published January 7th 1998 by HarperCollins (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  193 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: William Stieg fans
This story is set in the time of the Alchemist and looks vaguely medieval Europe. A mom and pop leave to go to a wedding leaving their 2 sons behind and a stern warning to stay out of his laboratory. Yorick wants to prove how good he is at alchemy and the first thing he does is go in and make a potion. Charles finds his older brother about the size of a roach. He loves this and he makes him a house and he enjoys having a toy brother. The father, finally figures out how to undo the potion at the ...more
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
"I'll take care of you as long as I live. Even after I get married, whether my wife likes it or not.... So don't worry your little noggin."

"There the truly wise alchemist took his original formula for restoring his son's stature and added pot cheese to counteract the ginger."

Steig does not underestimate children. He delights in turns of phrase, dramatic themes, and juicy vocabulary words. I adored the few of his books that I had access to when I was a child. He should definitely be remembered fo
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I have yet to read a William Steig book I didn't love! He's a master story-teller.
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great story, great illustration. So cute.
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
This is a perceptive story about the nuances of a relationship between two brothers, and the complications that arise when the natural order of seniority is superseded by an abnormal occurrence.

Yorick, the older brother, is interested in following in his father's footsteps as an alchemist. His brother Charles has different goals in mind for himself, and though he wishes that he had a closer relationship with Yorick, their personal dissimilarities tend to separate the two.

When their parents le
Brothers Yorick and Charles Bede have never really gotten along, and Yorick typically avoids his younger brother. But while their parents are away, the two boys learn to appreciate each other more after Yorick makes a mistake in their father's lab and shrinks himself. Suddenly, Charles has the upper hand, and Yorick must depend on him. Charles realizes that Yorick's diminutive size leaves him at risk for all sorts of dangers. The two try to find an antidote, but are unsuccessful. Although their ...more
This fun picture book tells the story of an experiment gone wrong and of a brother who promises to protect his older sibling forever. Yorick is the older son of a medieval alchemist and considers his younger brother, Charles, to be quite annoying. When Yorick sneaks into his father's lab and accidently shrinks himself to the size of a small toy, at first Charles is excited to be able to play with his "little" older brother. But when efforts to bring Yorick back to his original size fail, the who ...more
Tyler Jones
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
Young Yorrick is apprenticing at his father's elbow, learning to become an alchemist just like pops. No, even better - for Yorrick has big dreams of one day turning donkey dung into gold! But alas, poor Yorrick gets in over his head, bites off more than he can chew, tries to tango before he can cha-cha, puts his foot in the pudding and, well, shrinks himself down to action-figure proportions. Will his younger brother help him out or just use him as a toy? And what will his mom and dad say? Medie ...more
Cheriee Weichel
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I needed a picture book to teach the basics of a book report. (The classroom teacher had left one of those paper cubes to fill out.) The gender norms are a bit dated, but it’s still a classic full of all kinds of weirdness and humour. It fit my needs perfectly. Magnus Bede is an apothecary. When he and his wife, Eutilda, are away, his older son, Yorick, ends up disobeying him and while experimenting in the lab, shrinks himself. The younger son, Charles, finally has Yorick’s undivided attention, ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Cana (5) says: I wish Finny (3) was tiny. He could live in his dollhouse. It's nice.

Mommy says: Hmm, this book intended to dissolve some of the sibling rivalry in which my two engage, seems to have just given them new ideas to torture each other with. Cute tale about a curious, misbehaving big brother who accidentally shrinks himself, and the little brother who tries to help and takes care of him.
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This story is a little long for the pre-school story time crowd but I couldn't resist including it in our "Sibling-itis" theme program. To my surprise, the children all paid very close attention to this tale of big-bully-brother Yorick, an aspiring alchemist child prodigy, who shrinks himself to the size of Thumbelina. Doting little brother Charles is delighted, of course, but concedes that the risk of accident outweighs the fun of being in charge.
Kate Foran
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
What I love about William Steig is the fun he has with words--and that he does it in a way that is accessible to children and so enjoyable to read aloud.

This book is silly and sweet and so weird--and my kid (5 yo) loved it. She stuck with all the twisty turns of phrase and plot and had lots of ideas about how to deal with the toy brother problem.

It's not a top 5 Steig book, but it's a great one.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nkyclear
This paperback reprint includes the original text and illustrations. Steig’s storytelling skills carried throughout his career to his final works, as he creates memorable characters and uses humor to tell an entertaining tale. The full-color illustrations feature expressive characters that enhance the text. A nice biography of the author is included. Children ages 4-8 will appreciate the sibling dynamics and entertainment factor incorporated into this story.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
Another quirky gem from Steig. This one's sillier than some of his others, but even at his silliest, he's dropping in literary allusions (like the names Bede and Yorick) and using fun language like "palsy-walsy" and saying the family "raced around like maniacs."

Not many children's stories that center on alchemy, either. Gotta love this guy.
Mar 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: families with brothers who don't quite see eye to eye
Shelves: children-s-books
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
" was all just as real as peas and beans." genius.
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: families, middle-ages
Quite comical--fun addition to unit on Middle Ages. Love William Steig's unique stories.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
I do enjoy a book without a moral.
Gillian Brownlee
A bit tough for my sister, but I had fun.
Catherine Martin27
One of the funniest, wittiest books about siblings ever written/drawn. The Bedes, medieval alchemist Magnus and his wife Eutilda, go off on a journey leaving their two sons alone with the firm warning: don't mess around in the lab. Of course the older brother can't resist, and soon has accidentally been "transmogrified" into a tiny version of his former self. Delight gleams in the younger brother's eyes as he takes his time coping with this turn of events. After a week the parents return and vie ...more
Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it
I really like William Steig so I was excited to pick this book up at our local library. I liked the book but wasn't as thrilled with it as I would have liked. It is certainly an accurate exploration of sibling relationships, but it just wasn't what I was hoping nor expecting.
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-the-kiddos
Yet another great one by William Steig. We learned that out of the many books he has written, he only wrote five in which the characters are human. I don't think humans are his strong suit, but we still enjoyed this at my house. Charles' love for his big brother breaks my heart just a little.
Karin Adams
A good story with fun illustrations. This is one of those stories that uses some words or phrases that children might not understand, but they'll still understand the story.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, children-s
Lovely little book, I like Steig's sense of humor.

Looking forward to reading some more picture books.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-alouds
Our history curriculum recommended this book as a read aloud to accompany our readings about the Middle Ages. What a weird story.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: jp-reads, read-to-jp
A little awkward as a read-aloud, but a funny story.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've loved William Steig's stories and fantastic illustrations since I stumbled on his Abel's Island in the 1990's.

Yet another winner !
Miss Sarah
Two brothers are left alone for the weekend and one of them accidently shrinks himself. can they get him back to normal size. One on one for length. older audiences.
Feb 03, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a perfectly competent story about what happens when one brother shrinks himself when their parents are away. Wacky Hijinks Ensue!

Except I didn't find it very interesting myself. The storyline is fairly realistic (well, once you get over the magic), but it just didn't draw me in. And so it goes, we can't all be fans of every book.
Feb 27, 2009 rated it liked it
I've never been disappointed by a Willia Steig book.
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William Steig was born in New York City in 1907. In a family where every member was involved in the arts, it was not surprising that Steig became an artist.

He published his first children's book, Roland the Minstrel Pig, in 1968, embarking on a new and very different career.

Steig's books reflect his conviction that children want the security of a devoted family and friends. When Sylvester, Farmer

News & Interviews

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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