Monday, March 6, 2017

Spotlight on author and illustrator William Steig...

Our family was introduced to author and illustrator William Steig through his children's books, namely Amos and Boris, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and The Amazing Bone. These are delightful children's stories that are not just for children. The author's illustrations add greatly to the tender charm of these stories. Friendship and family are themes which are celebrated in the books.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Steig, was born in 1907 into an immigrant family in New York City. His parents encouraged their children to become familiar with art and music. His father worked as a house painter and his mother worked as a seamstress. Even as a child William enjoyed creating art and reading, which assisted him in becoming a success as an author and illustrator. The great depression was hard on his family and he contributed to their support, at that time, by selling his cartoons and pictures around the city. He became an illustrator and eventually produced 2000 cartoons and over 100 magazine covers for The New Yorker. 
 

He became an author, at age 61, in a round about way, after a fellow worker at the magazine asked him to write a children's book. He wrote a children's puzzle book and then, the story of Roland the Minstrel Pig, and eventually, all the other titles. He received awards for his art and his books and died of natural causes at the age of 95. Most recently he is known as the creator of Shrek



Some of my favorites by William Steig:

Amos and Boris- Amos the mouse and Boris the whale: a devoted pair of friends with nothing at all
in common, except good hearts and a willingness to help their fellow mammal.
Amos sets out to sea in his homemade boat, the Rodent, and soon finds himself in
extreme need of rescue.

Dominic- It's time for a change, so Dominic packs his collection of hats and his piccolo and heads
out, letting the world take him where it may.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble- Sylvester can’t believe his luck when he finds a magic pebble that
can make wishes come true. But when a lion jumps out at him on
his way home, Sylvester is shocked into making a wish that has
unexpected consequences.

Abel's Island- Abel's place in his familiar, mouse world has always been secure; he had an
allowance from his mother, a comfortable home, and a lovely wife, Amanda. But one
stormy August day, furious flood waters carry him off and dump him on an
uninhabited island.

The Amazing Bone- 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. 


Also by Steig:

Doctor De Soto- Doctor De Soto, the dentist, did very good work. With the aid of his able
assistant, Mrs. De Soto, he copes with the toothaches of animals large and small.
Brave Irene- Irene's mother is a dressmaker, she made a beautiful gown that needs to be delivered to
the palace. Irene volunteers to deliver the dress in spite of a raging snow storm.

Roland the Minstrel Pig- Roland the pig plays the lute and sings so sweetly that his friends never
have enough of listening to him. He has bigger dreams, though, so he
decides to take his show on the road and share his music with the world.

Shrek- A book about an ordinary ogre who leaves his swampy childhood home to go out and
see the world.
                                     (Most book descriptions from the Amazon web site.)

New Yorker Magazine cover.

Some Quotes from William Steig's books:

Later she sat on the ground in the forest between school and home, and spring was so bright and beautiful, the warm air touched her so tenderly, she could almost feel herself changing into a flower. Her light dress felt like petals.

"I love everything," she heard herself say.
"So do I," a voice answered.

Pearl straightened up and looked around. No one was there.”
(William Steig- The Amazing Bone)



New Yorker magazine cover.


Her image was in his mind, as clear as life sometimes, and he smiled with wistful tenderness, remembering her ways. Amanda was dreamy. It often seemed she was dreaming the real world around her, the things that were actually happening. She could dream Abel when he was right there by her side. Abel loved this dreaminess in her. He loved her dreamy eyes.

Wherever he went about the island, he wore Amanda's scarf around his neck, the ends tied in a knot. He would not leave it in the log.” (William Steig- Abel's Island p. 43)


One thing I love about his writing is that it is so descriptive. Here is a passage from Amos and Boris:

One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all.”

Your eyes and ears are in for a treat reading the stories of William Steig with your family. 


New Yorker magazine cover.

Another plus...he's a lefty, just like me!