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The Real Thief

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  460 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Gawain the goose is really devoted to King Basil the bear and so he takes his job as Chief Guard of the Royal Treasury seriously. When rubies, then gold ducats, and finally the world-famous Kalikak diamond vanish from the treasure house, there is no way to account for the disappearances. Only Gawain and the King have keys!
Woe and misery must be borne--by Gawain, by King
Paperback, 58 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Crossposted at The Fish Place.

This is a story about Gawain the goose who is accused of stealing from the kingdom’s treasury. You would think the bear king would eat him as punishment, but he doesn’t. It is a rather simple tale, but truly charming. Lovely illustrations, and I like the decorating.
Aug 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's a kids book with cute animal characters, and yet, the story is genuinely wrenching. It's amazing how simply and subtly Steig gets across things like pride, guilt, resentment, loneliness. Of course it was funny too. Even learned a few words. Recommended for anyone.
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 7up
"One by one, Gawain's friends took him aside to ask his forgiveness, and he freely forgave them. He was able to love them again, but he loved them now in a wiser way, knowing their weakness." pg 57
Anna Mussmann
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Steig’s illustrations of Gawain, a noble-hearted and upright duck who guards the king’s treasury until the dreadful day when he is falsely accused of theft, are so much fun. So is the character.

My take on Steig’s books is that they are a little uneven--some, like Dr. DeSoto are fantastic, but others are weaker. This one is pretty good. It’s a short novel and probably most likely to be handed to late elementary-age readers, but the vocab and humor age-up well.

The first section is the most
Nevada Libert
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book has lots of honesty in it, i love how the thief was sorry for what he had done, and how sorry he was when sarrow was brought to there city to there city.
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
This was more of a book I liked rather than a book I loved. Gawain the goose is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and the first part of the book is from his point of view. After he is found guilty and escapes, the book continues from the perspective of Derek the rat. Derek is the real thief and didn't believe that Gawain would be convicted because of his good reputation. When it happens anyways, Derek is left feeling very guilty that Gawain is convicted of a crime that Derek ...more
A kids book that doesn’t shy away from the heartache of betrayal, shame at one’s bad choices, and having to come to grips with the pain that those bad choices can cause oneself and others. It then wraps up beautifully with reconciliation, compassion for the weaknesses of others, and forgiveness when the truth (mostly) comes out.

The concept is one that even small children can learn from, and older ones can discuss the details of, and it comes with the added bonus of exposure to Steig’s amazing
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed coming across and reading this unfamiliar, short chapter book by one of my favorite authors. Very Steig - he always pleases. DRA 50, by appropriate for a much younger audience.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read aloud Max and Henry. Wonderful words.
David Haggett
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended also for the illustration by Steig
Kest Schwartzman
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Daaaaaang. That was... surprisingly intense. I'm not sure I'd hand it to a kid, honestly, but it's strong as a parable for adults.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, childrens
I'm curious at all of the reviews saying this is a good morality tale. Can it be a morality tale if nobody learns from their mistakes and everyone ends the book practically right where they started?

Gawain avoided being wrongfully punished by escaping. Derek avoided being punished by putting back all of the things he took. Everyone magically forgot about the crime just because the things were returned. Gawain was never actually proven innocent, but people forgave him anyway and he got his job
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: age-9-12
The rich vocabulary makes this a great read-aloud for a 9-12 year-old class. Though it looks like a book for younger children (being short and having a personified goose on the cover), The Real Thief raises thought-provoking questions that can spark deep discussions. In general, the 6th graders found more to disagree with than the 4th or 5th, primarily the author's idea of friendship--that true friends would not doubt one's innocence when charged with a crime. The 6th graders could see that it ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gawain the guard is a admired by many people in the kingdom. Especially the king. The king loves Gawain. Everyone looks up to him. Gawain is proud that he is chief of the guards. But 1 day the king's the treasure(some of it) is stolen. Since Gawain is the only one besides the king who has the key to the treasure is accused. No one understands why he would do this. He escapes from the courtroom and flies away in despair encountering many problems along his way. The real thief Derek. He is a mouse ...more
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy children's tales with a message
Shelves: kids
This is a very well-told morality tale. I read it over a few nights to my kids, and they appreciated the story--even the courtroom justice section--they knew all the characters well, and were glad to hear it each night. I was wondering if they got the lessons that the story conveyed, so the day after we finished it I asked them all sorts of questions: what did we learn from this story? who was right? who was wrong? what could this character have done differently? and so on. Lo and behold, they ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's no surprise that the illustrations in this book by William Steig, a cartoonist for the New Yorker, are just perfect. However, the text is also pretty darned good, and the interplay between the two is wonderful. I appreciate that in this children's book, Steig uses complex words, like "perjury" and "haphazard" and "plectrum." There is also a lot of subtle, wry humor here. A great tale.
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another intriguing story line from William Steig which gave us a great discussion time together one afternoon. It made for a great plot to ask "should questions" from since the plot involves something being stolen, someone being accused, and someone hiding the truth. It always amazes me how much we get out of a story when we start to think about the story in this way. These chapter books by Steig are short, illustrated and easy to read, yet the story is rich with ideas.
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a teacher of elementary students, this may have been my favorite book for literature study. Rich with language, symbolism, themes and characterization, there is a lot to talk about with kids. As always, Steig captures the drama and challenge of real situations in ways accessible for kids without writing down to them. His use of language is always something easily noticed for young readers and creates a perfect opportunity to help students value the word choice skills of wonderful authors.
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best children's books I have read in years. If you want your kids to be inspired to be good, toss out your Bible and slip them this gem. This book really demonstrates what it is to be good and how that it is not something you will always be praised for and sometimes you may find people falsely accusing you of being bad, but in the end you will (hopefully) prevail.
Marissa Morrison
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A goose gets blamed for a crime he didn't commit, and he holds a grudge against his accusers because they were supposed to know him better. This plot seems to fit the mentality of a seven-year-old (i.e. the intended reader of this children's novella), but it's deep enough to make an adult cogitate about justice, mistakes, and character.
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children
If you steal stuff, and keep quiet while someone else is accused, it's okay because the accused ran off.
If you return the stuff and confess to the accused when you find him, it's okay if you don't tell the people in charge, because the stuff has been returned.
As long as everyone forgives everyone everything is okay.

Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not in the same category as either Abel's Island or Dominic but still quite a fine tale indeed as loyal goose Gawain is wrongly accused of pilfering the King's treasure, is wrongfully convicted and forced into exile while the real thief gets away scot-free or does he?
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant discussion starter with your kids. 8 and over. Right wrong innocence guilt trust friendship. You'll find the questions keep coming for a while after reading it together because the thoughts will take a little time to gel.
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
William Steig's The Real Thief is about a mystery, as although the characters are all animals, the human themes are plenty visible. The short tale was amusing and yet it really showed the power of redemption and guilt. The plot and the characters were solid and represented values in our society.
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing

The Lemming Condition by Alan Arkin

You can read this book to a 5 year old or 15 year old and it will hook. What is character?
One of my all time favorites.
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, juvenile, j-fiction
fable / moral story about stealing/greed/guilt/honesty/retribution

I love William Steig.

Good book to read aloud to discuss honesty, stealing, property, etc. Good for dealing with those topics and opening up a discussion.

Poor little Gawain!
michael CLC
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
it was a good book with a little bit of comedy and action, its about a goose who got framed for something that someone else did. The king thought he stole something that he really didn't steal, he ended up going to jail. But in the end he got out of jail, and everything was ok.
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another brilliant Steig fantasy of just the right length to put a cranky adult mind to peace. Excellent characters, delicate pace and an eye for visual detail that hammers home just how much of a unique art form the YA short novel can be.
Jul 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Wonderful theme, but there's really very little development here. A lot of repetition and retracing of the same ideas. Still... great message.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful treasure. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this out loud:)
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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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“He was able to love them again, but he loved them now in a wiser way, knowing their weakness.” 10 likes
“Why did the world go on being so beautiful in spite of the ugliness he had experienced? The lake was beautiful, serenely beautiful. The forest was beautiful, greenly beautiful. Lake and forest, the whole shimmering world was painfully beautiful. He loved this world, but he was too hurt to enjoy it.” 5 likes
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