It’s easy to see how Gorky Rises became a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. This children’s book was written by the inimitable William Steig, author of Shrek! and the Caldecott Award-winner Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.
Gorky is a frog with a huge imagination. Like many of Steig’s characters, he is about to embark on a journey fueled by magic. When Gorky’s parents leave him alone, he quickly concocts a potion. Ever a dreamer, Gorky decides to head out to Elephant Rock, his favorite place to do absolutely nothing at all. While there, he falls asleep in the sunshine and, along with his bottle of magic, floats off into a sparkling blue sky. What happens there will fascinate and engross even the most finicky reader. As with any dream-like journey, there’s always a time to come back home. This tale is really about growing up and moving on. Steig describes Gorky’s journey with such eloquent prose and the most ethereal illustrations that
the young reader will be captivated. But older readers—even adults—will find themselves drawn to Gorky. There’s a little Gorky in everyone.
In fact, adults can relate to the story from another perspective, and that is when their grown-up children are ready to flee their home and go on their own. The tale is a memorable one that parents and children alike will return to time and time again. The language used in the story, along with the illustrations, makes it a favorite of children. Visual images are quite helpful in the telling of a story and children relate to pictures so well. Steig’s minimalist style leaves plenty of room for the reader to conjure up their own details. Even the cover is sparse so that the reader can imagine Gorky to be anyplace they like. Steig has always known that simple is best and never crowds the reader’s thoughts. The
words in this children’s book are so lovely that it could actually stand alone without the illustrations. But readers will be glad they’re included.