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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  44,579 ratings  ·  1,629 reviews
One rainy day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble that can make wishes come true. But when a lion frightens him on his way home, Sylvester makes a wish that brings unexpected results.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1st 1988 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (first published January 1st 1969)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  44,579 ratings  ·  1,629 reviews

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I remember reading this as a kid as I was reading this to my niece and nephew. I didn’t remember reading it by title alone, but when the donkey was turned into a stone, I remember that feeling of helplessness I felt and that this story would be terrible. I didn’t think there was a way out. I remember those old feelings the story made me feel. I think this was read to me. I love it when that happens. I hope it happens more and more as I get into the newer books or books of the 70s and 80s that wo ...more
Marc Macaspac
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
When I was five years old in 1974, I read a childrens book review and noticed a nice review for this book. I also liked the fact that there was a gold medallion on the top right corner, which signified that it was the Caldecott award winner for 1970. I didn't know exactly what that meant at the time, but I did know at that age that if you were awarded something gold that it meant it was really good.
I asked my parents if I could order it through my kindergarten class book club, but they declined
Oct 28, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is a picture book classic that stands the test of time. Why? Because parents and children know how rare and precious the bond is between them. This book takes us all from incredulous joy to depths of despair and back again. Sylvester has big plans for this magic pebble he has found. Then the unthinkable happens and he is trapped as a rock. Will he ever be reunited with his dear parents again?
Love the ending and reminder that Sylvester is their most valued treasure.
Susan Budd
My first taste of existential angst did not occur during the tumultuous years of my adolescence. The horrifying awareness of being alone in a vast and indifferent universe, that nihilistic nightmare which descends upon one like a dark bird of prey, did not catch me by surprise during my college years. It should have, but it didn’t.

It should have occurred after reading Sartre and Camus, when I was old enough to drink café au lait and smoke long cigarettes and don a black beret. It should have wa

“Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” is one of William Steig’s earlier books and has proven to be the most emotional and heartwarming of all of his books. Also, this was William Steig’s first controversial book due to the image of the police being portrayed as pigs, even though I do not think that it is an issue because all the characters are animals, but it depends on how you view this issue. Anyway, William Steig’s dramatic storyline and illustrations has won this book a Caldecott Book Award and w
Although I appreciate William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and find the accompanying illustrations (for which Steig more than deservedly won the Caldecott Medal) evocatively sweet and expressive, both complimenting and actually also often even rather expanding on the narrative (the printed words), I also cannot say that Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a story I could on a personal and also on an emotional level ever truly love. I have never been all that much into anthropomorphic an ...more
Lisa Vegan
I read a Simon & Schuster hardcover edition with this cover and ISBNs, but it looks as though the publication date is 1997 and it’s the restored deluxe edition with color corrections made from the watercolor originals, the illustrations looking just as Steig intended them to appear, and it also contains the text of the author/illustrator’s Caldecott Award acceptance speech, and I really enjoyed reading that speech.

I love the watercolor drawings. They’re really beautiful and expressive.

Well, I g
Ivonne Rovira
Young donkey Sylvester Duncan discovers a polished, red pebble that grants wishes, and he believes that the magic pebble will solve everything. Adults know the fallacy of that, but kids will really enjoy learning the limits of magic and learning about what’s really important. Beautiful illustrations by William Steig accompany Steig’s wonderful story; no wonder this picture book won the Caldecott Medal!
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture
This was great, although I was a little disturbed as a child by how long poor Sylvester is stuck as a rock, and how beyond help he is. But all's well that ends well!

I still prefer The Amazing Bone, though.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My eight-year-old granddaughter read this to me this weekend. It's one of her favorites from my collection of our children's books. I don't remember reading it as a child, but we have the 1969 paperback version, so it may have been one of my brothers' or sisters' favorites. It's a good story about appreciating family with a bit of magic.

I've lost count how many times we've read this one so it's definitely a keeper if she chooses to read it on her own.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it

I didn't remember much about this story, though the illustrations are familiar. I was surprised how sad and aching the story is, on the whole; perhaps it's just that I'm reading it now as a parent and it's so very chilling to think of what Sylvester's parents are going through. (And poor Sylvester as a rock that whole time! It's probably equally chilling to read it as a child--the thought of being separated from your parents all that time!) The ending is so heartwarming and I love the message, t
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
This was my favorite read of the day by far. Something I picked up because it's a Caldecott award winner. Although the pictures were cute, I didn't necessarily think that they should have been awarded the Caldecott. But the story more than made up for it. Perhaps, growing up with Richard Scary books read to me, I'm spoiled when it comes to animals dressed up as people telling stories. In any case, still a wonderful read. Not something I'd recommend for preschoolers, as my 2 yr old twins, almost ...more
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. William Steig is an oddball writer in the best sense of the term, like a quirky grandfather dialing into kid-wavelength as only a few genius story-tellers can do. His vocabulary is as demanding as the themes he evokes.

I read this with my 5-year-old grandson yesterday — 3 times. On the first pass we simply absorbed the story. Both of us were worried and sad during the extended middle section of the story, then gratified by the happy outcome at the end. On the second pass my grand
Ben Loory
Mar 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
this book is probably the single largest influence on my own writing.

strange, but true.

never far from my mind.
It is Banned Books Week, and I am reading Challenged/Banned books. This is the seventh book for this week.

This book was banned because it portrayed the police as pigs.

Sylvester loves collecting pebbles, especially pretty ones. And then one day he finds a magical one, one that grants wishes! What will Sylvester do now?

Of course he is going to try it out, to see if it is really the pebble, or something else. He quickly finds out that the pebble is truly magical. The first thing he encounters whi
When Sylvester finds a beautiful red pebble one day, the rock-collecting donkey is delighted. When that pebble turns out to be a magical stone that grants wishes, he is even more overjoyed, and rushes home to share the largess with his loving parents. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with a lion on his way, and a hastily made wish, see him transformed into an inanimate stone, with little prospect of ever being released from his self-inflicted enchantment. As Sylvester's parents begin their long ...more
Rod Brown
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Banned Book Week 2017. This year I'm reading a few picture books that have been challenged for their content, this one apparently because the police are portrayed as pigs. That seems pretty innocuous or at best a gentle, lazy jab in a gentle, lazy story.

I'm torn in deciding if this story is a simple variation on The Monkey's Paw, a fable about the grief of parents' who have lost a child and hope to one day be reunited in the afterlife, or a Christian allegory with miracles, Roman lions, and a sp
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The first time I ever read this book, almost 40 years ago now, I had no idea that the copy I read was missing the very last page. So, for the longest time I thought the book ended when Sylvester turned back into a donkey. For years, I thought that the book had the oddest abrupt ending. Then, one day, I was perusing a new copy of the book that had been ordered, and lo and behold, there were two more pages to the story! I was glad that there was a bit more denouement to the story than I had realiz ...more
Randie D. Camp, M.S.
My son earns pebbles for making good choices and we display his earned good choice pebbles in a pretty glass bowl in the kitchen for everyone to see...so, a book about a magic pebble was fun for him because he had a personal connection :).

Beautiful watercolor illustrations. Meaningful story about what matters most in life, family. A must read for all!
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I wonder what age child Steig was targeting? I've only read this with kids over age 9. This is a clever way to emphasize that sometimes you don't really want what you wish for. ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book terrifying as a child. It is still pretty darn creepy.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sylvester finds a beautiful red pebble, and he soon learns that the pebble will grant wishes. Suddenly Sylvester is confronted with a lion. Sylvester is so frightened that he wishes he were a rock, and he is. The lion, bewildered, walks away, but Sylvester is unable to change himself back into his true form, a donkey, as he is not touching the magical pebble. He is gone for a long time until one day his parents go for a picnic and his mother sits upon his rock self and wishes Sylvester were with ...more
Katie Fitzgerald
From childhood, I have been troubled whenever I know something as a reader (or viewer) that characters in a book (or show) have yet to discover. It makes me so anxious that I either want to stop reading, or skip quickly ahead to the (hopefully) happy ending. This is probably why I have never liked Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. There’s nothing wrong with the story - it’s well-told, well-illustrated, and has an important moral. The animals are depicted with very human characteristics and clothin ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
This story opens with Sylvester sitting at a table looking over his beloved pebble collection. One day Sylvester stumbles upon a magic pebble that makes wishes come true. Excited to share it with his family, Sylvester hurries home to show his mother and father. On the way he runs into a scary lion and makes a wish he will soon regret.

This personified animal fantasy includes main characters which are talking donkeys and other supporting animal characters. The magical powers come from the pebble
David Goetz
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
William Steig was a good painter and, in my judgment, a better writer. I don't love this particular book like I love Steig's Amos and Boris, but it's still quite good. The author evokes the hopelessness of Sylvester's situation--"stone-dumb"--and by extending it a little longer than you'd expect on first reading he heightens the drama and therefore the satisfaction at Sylvester's second and better metamorphosis. My favorite aspects of Steig's writing are his love of the long sentence, his often ...more
Mary Lou Carolan
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
How does an innocent animal story of a donkey who finds a magic pebble that grants his wishes, end up on a challenged book list? When it is written in the late 1960's and pictures pigs in cop uniforms. Interestingly enough, the next door neighbor pig, dressed in pajamas, who helps to look for Sylvester is never mentioned in the challenge. Ultimately, this is a gentle story of a donkey who mistakenly makes a wish that turns him into a rock and how his loving and distraught parents, manage to brea ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
A classic story for children. Be careful what you wish for! I've read this one over and over to our children and we really like this tale. The illustrations are nicely detailed and the story is entertaining in a cautionary way.

This book was selected as one of the books for the July 2015 - Quarterly Caldecott discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads.
Robyn Simmons
Sylvester the donkey spends his time finding pebbles. One day he finds a magic pebble that grants all of his wishes. The pebble even saves him from being eaten by a lion! Sylvester decided to turn himself into a rock in efforts to camouflage himself. Once he truns himslef into a rock, he can not transform himself back into a horse. He disappears for seasons. One spring day, his parents find him and help him to transform back into a donkey. This is a cute story for primary grades. It is entertain ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Art, including juvenile literature, has the power to make any spot on earth the living center of the universe; and unlike science, which often gives us the illusion of understanding things we really do not understand, it helps us to know life in a way that still keeps before us the mystery of things. It enhances the sense of wonder. And wonder is respect for life. Art also stimulates the adventurousness and the playfulness that keep us moving in a lively way and that leads to useful discovery." ...more
Julie G
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This story is about a young donkey who, due to some "fantastical" interference, is separated for a long time from his parents. It does, ultimately, have a happy ending, but it's still too sad for me. However, children perceive things differently, and my 4-year-old loves this magical tale. Every time we get to a certain page she says, "this is where Mommy always cries." ...more
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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

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“I wish I were a rock,' he said, and he became a rock.” 5 likes
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