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Book review: The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead

Stead, Philip C. The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead. Ill. by Erin Stead. Doubleday, 2017. $24.99. 152p. ISBN 978-0-553-52322-5. Ages 9-13. P7Q9

When his daughters were young, Samuel Clemens would make up stories for them at bedtime. This piece of fiction has been extended from a few notes that were found in his 1879 journal. The Caldecott-winning couple have expanded the story of Johnny, a sweet black boy, whose harsh grandfather makes him sell his pet chicken. In a take-off of Jack and the Beanstalk, Johnny ends up with seeds that grow flowers. Eating them gives him the ability understand and talk to animals, a skill that allows him to save Prince Oleomargarine after he is kidnapped. Within the narrative, Stead gives details about his meeting with the author, who died in 1910.

Verdict: Although the story can become a bit tedious, Erin Stead’s wood prints colored with oil paints for landscapes and characters creates a magical feel.

November 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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