SteigFEST 13: Doctor De Soto


DDScoverPublisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1982
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: mice, fox, dentists
Opening: Doctor De Soto, the dentist, did very good work, so he had no end of patients. Those close to his own size – moles, chipmunks, et cetera – sat in the regular dentist’s chair.
Summary: (from my library catalog) Dr. De Soto, a mouse dentist, copes with the toothaches of various animals except those with a taste for mice, until the day a fox comes to him in great pain.


I like this book because: though I love so many of Steig’s stories, this is my absolute favorite. Not because I have particularly fond memories of the dentist (even though I wrote a little ditty about our family dentist growing up, Dr. B.B. Levine), but because Doctor De Soto  is dedicated, just as his father was, and manages to keep his cool and have (some) compassion even in a life threatening situation and in the end outwits the fox – a “wicked, wicked creature(s)”. How could I not become Dr.De Soto’s biggest fan?


Resources/activities: this is a great story to read and begin a discussion about trust, judgement and compassion with students – or for a lesson on dental health; for a science lesson, make ‘elephant toothpaste’ click HERE; or to make real natural toothpaste kids will like, click HERE


Today’s tidbits: I found a dentist in Louisiana that was practicing before the book was published – would love to ask him what work has been like after the book!  And Doctor De Soto in acronym is DDS, which means Doctor of Dental Surgery. I found an Australian band called, Doctor De Soto (video below)


SteigFEST 8: CDC?


Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984
Ages: 6 and up
Themes: humorous books, word puzzles
Opening: C U N  10-S-E. (answer: See you in Tennessee)
Summary: (from my library catalog) Letters, numbers, and symbols are used to create the sounds of words and simple sentences which U R expected to figure out with the aid of illustrations.

I like this book because: I LOVE PUZZLES. Doesn’t everyone? The intended age level was 6-9, but that’s preposterous! I bet my gray-haired uncle would have enjoyed this too (okay, he went gray at 21, but I didn’t know him then). According to a contribution to THE ART OF WILLIAM STEIG by his daughter Maggie, Steig played a drawing game called ‘Five Lines’*, in which one person draws five random lines on paper and another adds to them, creating a face. Try it!


Resources/activities: read together with Steig’s first picture book from 1968: CDB!; have each student come up with one image and word puzzle, or let them work in teams. Play Five Lines*, mentioned above.

Today’s tidbit: From “Steig passed his father’s ideas about art and work on to his own children by encouraging them never to take nine-to-five jobs: his son Jeremy is a jazz flautist, daughter Lucy a painter, and Maggie an actress.”


SteigFEST 7: Caleb & Kate


Author/Illustrator: William Steig
Publisher: David R. Godine; 1st edition 1984
Ages: 4 and up
Themes: humorous books, monsters, fantasy
Opening: Caleb the carpenter and Kate the weaver loved each other, but not every single minute. Once in a while they’d differ about this or that and wind up in such a fierce quarrel you’d never believe they were husband and wife.


I like this book because: it’s as much a book for kids, with just enough magic – and a dog! – as for adults. And it’s a great way to begin a dialogue with kids about parents sometimes arguing though they still love each other.


Resources/activities: ask what animal would students like to be transformed into for fun; discuss with students what they might do if they found a stray dog; have someone from your community’s animal rescue department come to talk about correct behavior handling a stray animal.

P1160069Two tidbits today: Want to own a print? Check out the NewYorker prints, like the one below, available at Condé Nast – HERE; I just found it kinda funny that someone chose the same main character names for a romance novel.

Since it’s Friday – this post ‘counts’ for PPBF! For more Perfect Picture Book selections, go to Susanna Hill’s blog  HERE


SteigFEST 5: Spinky Sulks


Publisher: Farra, Straus and Giroux, 1988, 1st ed.
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: humorous stories, family life, anger
Opening: Spinky came charging out of the house and flung himself on the grass.
Summary: Spinky is convinced that his family hates him and goes off to sulk in his hammock. His brother and sister try to make amends. His mom even brings him a beautiful tray of food. But nothing can get Spinky to stop sulking—not even a circus passing by on his street! Will Spinky ever cheer up? Spinky Sulks is another delightful tale from the incomparable William Steig that will leave readers of all ages smiling.


I like this book because: I have vivid memories of feeling that same kind of all-the-world-against-me anger, of hiding, as per usual, under the middle pine tree for as long as need be. As a parent I can laugh at the familiar attempts made and lengths taken, over-stretched, to console the poor child. There were times we were not even allowed to look at my oldest at the breakfast table – but we can all laugh now!


Resources/activities: great discussion starter on feelings, anger, moodiness, cheering up a friend or letting them have their space, and how we might help ourselves when a bad mood is coming on. For adults, writers especially: read this post on Neruda and his childhood realization about our ‘longing for mutuality that impels us to make art’, at Brain Pickings –HERE

SpinkySulksToday’s tidbit: Letters of Note post on Steig’s Caldecott acceptance speech and glossophobia- HERE


SteigFEST 4: Gorky Rises


Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984, 1st ed.
Ages: 5 and up
Themes: humorous stories, magic, frogs
Opening: As soon as his parents kissed him goodbye and left, Gorky set up his laboratory by the kitchen sink and got to work.
Summary: (from my library catalog) Clutching the bottle of magic potion he has made, a young frog falls asleep and wakes to find himself floating in the sky.

I like this book because: of the buoyancy of the text – the lyrical prose will float your boat! It is a silly story, but beautifully told – that is ‘the sort of magic’ this story contains.


Resources/activities: this would be a great book to read before a creative writing exercise – for any age. My son’s first grade teacher encouraged kids to use more daring descriptive words (calling them ‘million dollar words’) and this is a great example to ignite young minds with.


Today’s tidbit: the story of Steig’s crying chickens HERE

SteigFEST 3: Zeke Pippin


Publisher:HarperCollins, 1994
Ages: 4-8
Themes: humorous books, pigs, harmonicas
Opening: Moseying down his street one morning, Zeke Pippin found a harmonica. He didn’t exactly find it. It fell at his feetfrom a garbage wagon that happened to be rumbling by.
Summary: (from my library catalog) After finding a harmonica in the street, a young pig becomes an accomplished musician, but when his loving family falls asleep every time he plays, he runs away in search of a more appreciative audience.


I like this book because: it is a great discussion starter! It is also close to a Zen story I have often shared, about what we might consider to be lucky – read #6 HERE


Resources/activities: discuss communication, how one person can understand or remember a situation differently than another person, and what we can do about a misunderstanding before it escalates; learn to play a simple tune on the harmonica – HERE


Today’s tidbit: Always wanted to know how to pronounce his name? Click HERE

SteigFEST 2: Yellow & Pink


Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984, 1st ed.
Ages: 5 and up
Themes: humorous stories, contemplating life, philosophy
Opening: Two small figures made of wood were lying out in the sun one day on an old newspaper. One was short, fat, and painted pink; the other was straight, thin, and painted yellow. It was hot and quiet, and they were both wondering.
Summary: (from my library catalog) Two painted wooden figures argue about where they came from, whether they just happened by accident or were created by some other being.


I like this book because: The story touches delicately with subtle humor on the perennial question: Why are we here?


Resources/activities: great book to start a discussion about where we come from and why we are here in an open-minded classroom.

Y&PToday’s tidbit: Check out Michael Sporn‘s post with layout drawings that Steig did for an animated Alka Seltzer commercial – early 60’s: HERE


Welcome to SteigFEST!

SteigFESTI really admire William Steig’s picture books (just short of creating an in-home Steig-shrine!) and enjoy knowing there is much to his work for me yet to discover: with more than 30 books for children and numerous others, AND his cartoons and covers for The New Yorker, Steig was prolific! For each of the 13 days leading up to Steig’s birthday (born November 14, 1907 in Brooklyn, NY), I’ll post a picture book recommendation and tidbits collected while reading up on the picture book maker who did not patronize children, but presented their truths. In the end, you may think I’ve forgotten one of your favorites, but leaving out some of the most celebrated was deliberate: I hope to inspire you to read some you don’t know, as well as beloved ones again!


Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books/Harper Collins, 2003
Ages: 4-8yrs
Themes: William Steig, childhood, Bronx
Opening: In 1916, when I was eight years old, there were almost no electric lights, cars, or telephones – and definitely no TV. Even fire engines were pulled by horses. Kids went to LIBRARIES for books. There were lots of immigrants.
Summary: (from Amazon) This is the story of when I was a boy, almost 100 years ago, when fire engines were pulled by horses, boys did not play with girls, kids went to libraries for books, there was no TV, you could see a movie for a nickel and everybody wore a hat.


I like this book because: Published shortly before his death in 2003, it’s Steig’s return to his own childhood in the Bronx, not much different than that of my father born in Brooklyn 22 yrs later. Like Steig’s family, the Rowan’s were immigrants and moved around a lot. The colors are lively, and the lines are innocent yet sophisticated.


Resources/activities: ask children to interview a grandparent – certainly they would not have been born over 100 years ago, but ask what everyday objects didn’t exist for them as children; a good companion read: MIGRANT by Maxine Trottier and Isabelle Arsenault.



Today’s tidbit: Are you close to the University of Pennsylvania? You can visit the exhibit until December 19th, 2014: “As the Ink Flows: Works from the Pen of William Steig, explores the life and career of the artist, cartoonist, and children’s book author/illustrator William Steig.” More info HERE