I cannot read this book

One of my favorite children’s authors is William Steig. Zeke Pippin is flat out funny. Dr. DeSoto and Dr. DeSoto Goes To Africa should be required reading in every dentist’s office in the country. Unfortunately I cannot speak favorably of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

I bought Sylvester and the Magic Pebble as a Christmas present for my daughters. I had never read it. Later I learned it was voted one of the top 100 books of the century. I must be the last person on the planet that hasn’t heard of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Last night before bed we read it. I almost couldn’t finish.

You see the book is about this family of donkeys, and one day the donkey “child” doesn’t come home. (I know it sounds silly, but stay with me) So the mother and father donkey search everywhere, but they can’t find their baby. They ask friends, but no one’s seen their donkey. After a year, they give up. Heartbroken, they stop searching for their lost donkey.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a wonderful book. I can’t read it. It’s too close to home. At the end of that first day when the sun goes down and their baby donkey is still missing, I almost started to cry thinking about that poor mother and father grieving for their little one – Embarrassing, I’m welling-up over a cartoon donkey.

I really think someone should have warned me. “Hey, John, that book with the donkey and the pebble? Not for you. Read something else.” And I wonder what

is so upsetting. Losing my sister? The thought of losing my children? Surely we all share these fears. I’m not the only guy who’s shed a tear for Sylvester.

I should say that the story works out in the end. The donkeys are reunited and everybody winds up safe inside their home (that’s where the magic pebble comes in). Still, I’m really flummoxed. How could the evening go sour by something so simple as ready a bedtime story?


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