Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

An Unlikely Blogger Salutes Mr. Steig

Please welcome an unlikely blogger. Those who know the luddite in me are falling off of their chairs with laughter, shaking their heads in disbelief, or cheering for my new-found courage. Old-fashioned soul that I am, I see technology as a speeding train. I’m holding on to the caboose and it’s dragging me along to places I’m not sure I want to travel, but I’m afraid to let go and be left behind. I’ve managed to get on board, at least some of the time, with the help and encouragement of family, friends, and colleagues. So here I am — writing my first blog post!

I’m calling this blog “The Book Itch” because — like my great uncle Lewis Michaux — I’ve got the itch.

My posts may not update regularly as I am the messy-desk type who sometimes can’t find a pencil, but I hope, when I do post, to leave you with something to think about or just a good feeling. Mostly I want to talk about books and writing and history and books and libraries and books and reading and . . . did I say books?

Let’s start with my love affair with Sylvester. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Winner of the 1970 Caldecott Medal, it was and remains truly deserving. In my 27 years as a children’s librarian, I shared it with thousands of story-time kids. This tender, magical story of love and devotion, separation and deep sorrow, happy reunions and finding what is truly important, never got old for me or the children. And never, not even once, could I read through to the end without getting choked up. I did try. Sometimes during story time, before beginning those final sentences, I’d pause and take a conscious breath, a running start of sorts, thinking, “I can get through it this time.” I never could. I am retired from my library work so, now, I read it in the privacy of my home and just let the emotion wash over me.

Thank you, Mr. Steig, for this brilliant work, this incomparable gift, this story that breaks my heart and leaves me cheering for Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, for how they love their son, and how he loves them. You’ve also blessed us with Abel’s Island, Doctor DeSoto, Pete’s a Pizza, and other wonderful stories, which I would hate to do without but, if you’d had only one book to give, Mr. Steig, Sylvester would be enough for me, and really, what more could I wish for?