Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

Fall 2017 Picture Books
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 9780553523225
Hardcover Price: $24.99

In 2011, a Mark Twain scholar came across a fragmentary story about a poor boy, some magic seeds, and a kidnapped prince. Twain had begun its outline in the 1880s, made some rough notes and set it aside. It has been masterfully shaped and finished by Caldecott Medal-winning author Philip and illustrator Erin Stead ("A Sick Day for Amos McGee") with giants, talking animals and notably Twain-like humor and observations of foolish humankind and a world in need of simple kindness. Johnny, the hero of the tale, is a gentle and lonely young country boy magically gifted with the ability to communicate with animals, and charged with finding a cruel king's missing son. Erin Stead's stunning illustrations (woodblock printing and pencil) evoke mood and nuance. Philip Stead captures Twain's voice, shifting the narrative between Twain's telling of the story, and his conversation with Stead about it as they sit outside on a cool September afternoon "on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan." When Twain departs in search of another cup of tea and doesn't return, Stead wraps things up, slyly suggesting the obnoxious prince's just desserts and giving honorable Johnny the poignant last word—followed with a perfectly timed, brief and humorous epilogue concerning a seemingly ill-fated chicken.

Lynne Heffley   ©2017 Parents' Choice
A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper's first weekly children's arts and entertainment beat.

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