The Amazing Bone
William Steig ~ Farrar Straus Giroux, 1976
As you know, we've been jamming to William Steig on audio book, and really, the more I see and hear and read, the more I love this man's edgy humor. My son (almost four now) really digs that all his stories have some level of peril. I can almost see the hair beginning to rise on the back of his neck as each story gets deeper and more involved. On the audio book, the lovely Meryl Streep reads this story, and as the CD is on constant rotation in the car, I can recite it in its entirety, complete with her specific inflections. (Don't tell the audio book makers this, but I rent audio books from the library and burn them on my Macbook, so we can listen to them again and again and ~sigh~ again.) Though I do have Shrek to thank for introducing the endearing phrases "jabbering jackass" and "I smite your stupid scabby head" into my son's vocal lexicon, but hey.
So yea, um, there's this pig named Pearl, see, and she goes for a walk in the woods one day and stumbles across a bone that can talk and sing and imitate sounds. Though this meeting might seem fortuitous when the bone helps the girl escape a gang of evil dudes, it soon turns bad when a sly fox discovers the bone and decides to take it home and cook the pig for dinner while he's at it...
"You must let this beautiful young creature go on living," the bone yelled. "Have you no shame, sir!" The fox laughed. "Why should I be ashamed? I can't help being the way I am. I didn't make the world." The bone commenced to revile the fox. "You coward!" it sneered. "You worm, you odoriferous wretch!" These expletives were annoying. "Shut up, or I'll eat you," the fox snarled. "It would be amusing to gnaw on a bone that talks... and screams with pain." The bone kept quite the rest of the way, and so did Pearl.
Steig is a wonder with words, and The Amazing Bone contains stunning language like...
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 dress felt light as petals. "I love everything," she heard herself say.
Even though the peril is there, Steig is a sucker for the happy ending, and all his stories are rife with awe and wonder. I find his drawings to be artfully crude, yet thoroughly delightful... but it is the language that brings me back. He writes assuming that children have a high level of intelligence for understanding the world, which, of course they do. Then again, he might just be trying to scare the crap out of kids, and I guess that's OK too.
Amos & Boris
Yellow & Pink
The Zabajaba Jungle
Father Palmer's Wagon Ride
Solomon the Rusty Nail
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