The Amazing Bone

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The Amazing Bone

William Steig
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1976

From the dust jacket, “It’s a bright and beautiful spring day, and Pearl, a pig, is dawdling on her way home from school. Most unexpectedly, she strikes up an acquaintance with a small bone. “You talk?” says Pearl. “In any language,” says the bone. “And I can imitate any sound there is.” (Its former owner was a witch.) Pearl and the bone immediately take a liking to each other, and before you know it she is on her way home with the bone in her purse, left open so they can continue their conversation. Won’t her parents be surprised when she introduces her talking bone!

“But before the happy moment comes, the resourceful bone must deal with a band of highway robbers in Halloween masks and, worse, a fox who decides that Pearl will be his main course at dinner that night. And deal it does, with gambits droll and thrilling.”

The publisher’s blurb tells the reader everything she needs to know about this cute story book. I’m calling it a story book because there are lots and lots of words, printed rather small. The watercolor illustrations are cute – with notable exceptions being the robbery scenes and the scenes of the fox forcing Pearl home with him. Those scenes might be scary for the more sensitive kitten in your family; however, if your kits play video games then masked robbers brandishing knives and guns at Pearl’s head might not bother them. The part that bothered me the most was the fox forcing the girl-pig home with him. It wasn’t scary – just creepy. Also, tobacco use is depicted in the book in two places.

Rating 2 out of 5 paws because while Pearl is a very cute piglet, the robbers with their weapons and the fox with his dastardly plans rubbed me the wrong way. Remember, just because the Library doesn’t like every book we read (like this one) we are OPPOSED to book banning and/or censorship of any kind.

Challenged Book:

  • In 2008, a parent at an elementary school in Lehigh Acres, Florida, challenged this book due to violence in a robbery scene. A parent objected to a scene in the book in which robbers try to steal from the main character (a pig) and brandish pistols and a dagger. The parent wanted the book removed from the library. NCAC* and ABFFE** worked with the school principal and provided informational resources on the First Amendment in schools to the school’s book review committee. In an interview with a local TV station, we emphasized the importance of protecting all parents’ First Amendment rights to decide what their children may read. The review committee voted on February 8, 2008 to keep The Amazing Bone in the school, and school officials worked with the parent to accommodate the family individually.

Tampa, FL

from The Kids’ Right to Read Project

  • Challenged at the Discovery Elementary School library in Issaquah, Wash. (1993) because of the graphic and detailed violence.
  • 1986: A parent in Lambertville, New Jersey, objected to William Steig’s The Amazing Bone on the basis that one of the animal characters uses tobacco.

Reviewer: loc jackJack, Banned Books Librarian

*National Coalition Against Censorship (ncac.org); **American Bookseller’s Foundation for Free Expression

 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

William Steig
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1969

From the dust jacket, “On a 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.

“How Sylvester is eventually reunited with his loving family and restored to his true self makes a story that is beautifully tender and filled with true magic. Illustrated with William Steig’s glowing pictures, this is a modern classic beloved by children everywhere.”

This book is very sweet and tender. It’s easy to fall in love with Sylvester, an innocent young donkey who accidentally wishes himself away from his home and family for a whole year. What agony the parents went through when he went missing and couldn’t be found! And what a sweet reunion the family had when Sylvester came back to them.

A lovely story to be read to younger kittens – the font is small which would make it difficult for early readers. But the illustrations are pretty and are easy to follow along while listening to the story. It’s hard to believe such a charming story would create controversy, but it did.

Back in what my aunt calls the ‘hippie’ days, that is the late 60’s, police were given the derogatory name of “pigs.” If you’ll notice in the illustrations I’ve included, when Sylvester’s parents go to the police department for help finding their boy, the police are actual pigs.

From Wikipedia, “In 1977, the Illinois Police Association urged librarians to remove the book, which portrays its characters as animals, and presents the police as pigs. The American Library Association reported similar complaints in 11 other states.”

I was unable to find any more instances where the book was challenged, but one never knows, after all the pebble was “magic” and there are a lot of readers who are offended by the use of magic in any book. I did run across a blogger’s comment that said the book was depressing, despite the happy ending. Oh, and, Papa Donkey smokes a pipe for those anti-tobacconists out there!

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws for sweet illustrations and story. We enjoyed this book!

Reviewer: loc jackJack, Banned Books Librarian