Younger siblings will adore William Steig’s The Toy Brother. Steig, the author of the wildly famous Shrek ! and Caldecott Award-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, is a master at creating stories that children can see themselves in.
The Toy Brother is unique among children’s books in that it takes on sibling rivalry and the Middle Ages in one fell swoop. Not an easy task, but Steig does it beautifully. The author always manages to make the plot line interesting to children, while all the while relating serious human
traits and values in a way that is fun. Children might perhaps see themselves in part of this story role. What would happen if the same thing happened to their sibling? Would they be as kind and take care of them until a solution could be found?
Steig always poses interesting questions for young readers and listeners to think about and opportunities to explore their feelings. He also puts in interesting words – some he might make up – which has the result of engaging children in the desire to learn more words, and thus enhance their vocabulary. Steig’s books play so many roles in a young child’s life; the repercussions can be felt into adulthood. Many adults look back very fondly on learning books such as this one that bring good stories of great value to life in a fun way.
Older brother Yorick is the disobedient son who ventures into his alchemist father’s lab after being warned to stay out. When Yorick accidentally creates a potion that shrinks him to doll house size, he is forced to rely on his younger brother Charles. Ever at odds, the boys finally make peace after Charles shows kindness in his care of his diminutive brother.
The Toy Brother is set in medieval days and treats readers to a look back in time. The garb and household of the time are portrayed in Steig’s singular fashion. Squiggles and lines suggest scenes and appearances but leave most details to the reader’s imagination.
There are a host of topics for discussion from this one hilarious story. Empathy, family, consequences of disobedience, and trust are but a few.