William Steig, an award-winning author and illustrator, was born on this date in 1907 in Brooklyn, NY. He died in Boston on October 3, 2003.
To many including this librarian, Steig is best known for his many children’s books. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, won the Caldecott Medal in 1970. Abel’s Island and Dr. De Soto were both Newbery Honor books, in 1977 and 1983, respectively. An interesting pop-culture factoid is that the Shrek series of movies were inspired by Steig’s book Shrek!
Steig’s career in children’s books did not begin until later in his life, at sixty-one. Beginning in 1930, Steig drew illustrations for The New Yorker and ultimately published over 1,600 drawings and 117 covers. Newsweek magazine once called him the “King of Cartoons.”
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is one of my all-time favorites from any author or genre. I will never forget sitting on the floor of the children’s room, reading for the first time about the charming donkey who learned the lesson “be careful what you wish for” the hard way. Steig’s drawings, though seemingly simple, capture magnificently the sorrow and joy of Sylvester’s parents as they lose and find their beloved son. And oh, the brilliant color of that shiny red pebble!
Happy 100th, Mr. Steig, and thanks for the memories.