Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The Real Thief

by William Steig.

I have drivelled on ad nauseum in various places about how dearly I love William Steig, so I am slowly tucking in everything of his I haven't read before, reading them between other, more current fiction I'm reading. This latest is the slimmest of chapter books, an Easy Reader size and format, with a handful of his illustrations, though I would not necessarily place it there because of the reading level Steig writes at. Steig loves rich vocabulary and tends to use words that would leave the average ER reader in the dust, so I would still place this in fiction for middle grades, despite its slender size.

In the book, Gawain, a most honourable goose who has been appointed Chief Guard of the king's treasury, finds himself in a terrible bind when he brings some small discrepancies in the treasury's inventory to the attention of the king. The thefts continue, and he is accused, being the only one besides the king who has keys. The king doesn't want to believe this, but faced with the evidence, he brings Gawain to trial, and the goose is cooked, so to speak. He escapes, flying away, and then we meet the real thief, who had not really faced that he was stealing, exactly, only redecorating with the help of the treasure he had found his way to. When he sees his friend Gawain accused, he decides he must steal more so as to make the goose's innocence obvious. Accomplishing this, he then returns all that he has stolen, and sets out to find his friend, bring him home, and restore his honour.

The story is lovely, of course, sweet and simple, and the language beautiful. It would be a great early read-aloud, but do be prepared to answer lots of "what does that word mean?" questions along the way.

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