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The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

By: Mark Twain

Philip C. Stead

Illustrator: Erin E. Stead

A never-before-published, previously unfinished Mark Twain children's story is brought to life by Caldecott Medal winners Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead.

ISBN: 9780553523232

JLG Release: Jan 2018


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Sensitive Areas: None

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Awards & Honors

School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2017, Middle Grade and Chapter Books
Amazon.com Best Books of 2017, Ages 9–12
Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017, Fiction for Older Readers
Fall 2017 Parents’ Choice Award, Picture Books Gold

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal*

School Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW]
Using 16 pages of abbreviated handwritten notes from 1880 and outlining a tale Twain made up for his daughters, Stead has created a rhythmic and imaginative story seamlessly blended with intermittent “discussions” between the two authors. Twain’s story is set in a land where “the luckless and hung
[STARRED REVIEW]
Using 16 pages of abbreviated handwritten notes from 1880 and outlining a tale Twain made up for his daughters, Stead has created a rhythmic and imaginative story seamlessly blended with intermittent “discussions” between the two authors. Twain’s story is set in a land where “the luckless and hungry remain luckless and hungry for all of their lives,” while “in the United States of America, everyone and everything is given a fair and equal chance. It would be rude to believe otherwise.” Young Johnny, the main character, lives with his mean old grandfather on a piece of arid land with a withered old apple tree and a chicken that his grandfather has ordered him to sell at the market “for something worth eating.” Along the way, he meets an old blind woman who trades a handful of blue seeds she obtained from a fairy for the chicken. After eating the flower that grows from the blue seed, Johnny is able to converse with animals who provide a banquet, help build him a house, and lead him to the missing Prince Oleomargarine. Here Twain disappears, and Stead is obliged to provide the story’s ending. Erin Stead’s numerous softly detailed illustrations in muted browns, greens, and yellows; laser cuttings; and block-printed silhouettes bring the unusual cast of characters to life. VERDICT The combination of Twain’s (often sarcastic) humor and “lessons of life,” a touch of allegory, and Stead’s own storytelling skills result in an awesome piece of fantasy.—Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Horn Book

From Twain’s notes on a bedtime tale spun for his children, Philip Stead develops a folktale-like American story with heaping dollops of nonsense. It involves our hero, the orphaned Johnny (whom Erin Stead envisions as a young African American boy); his pet chicken; a handful of blue seeds given to him by an old woman after he is kind to her; From Twain’s notes on a bedtime tale spun for his children, Philip Stead develops a folktale-like American story with heaping dollops of nonsense. It involves our hero, the orphaned Johnny (whom Erin Stead envisions as a young African American boy); his pet chicken; a handful of blue seeds given to him by an old woman after he is kind to her; and of course a life-expanding journey for its protagonist. After eating a flower grown from one of the “beautiful and plain” seeds, Johnny can understand animal language. He is able to communicate with a group of animals who build the almost-starving boy a home and create a bountiful feast. A wise skunk named Susy (the name of one of Twain’s daughters) helps Johnny make sense of it all. When they spy a handbill on a tree in the forest—“Reward: Prince Oleomargarine Is Missing! Giants Suspected!”—Susy encourages Johnny to be brave and search for the missing prince. The story meanders but maintains wry humor throughout and provides timely commentary on human nature. Interludes of imagined conversations between Philip Stead and “my friend” Mark Twain lend insight into the creative process behind this unconventional tale. The tenderness of Erin Stead’s pictures (created with “wood carving, ink, pencil, and a laser cutter”) invites a child’s contemplation of tiny but meaningful details, such as a spider dangling from a soldier’s spear. Twain and the two Steads have created what could become a read-aloud classic, perfect for families to enjoy together. susan dove lempke

Book Details

ISBN

9780553523232

First Release

January 2018

Genre

Fic

Dewey Classification

F

Trim Size

11" x 8"

Page Count

160

Accelerated Reader

Level 5.3; Points: 1;

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

Level 740L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Library edition with trade jacket added

Publisher

Doubleday

Potentially Sensitive Areas

None

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