The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip C. Stead, illustrations by Erin Stead


The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip C. Stead, illustrations by Erin Stead. Yearling, 9780593303825, 2021

Format: Softcover, 152 pages

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Adventure/Fantasy Fiction

What did you like about the book? An engaging and energetic tale told from multiple narratives and in dual timelines.  The story centers around Twain telling Stead, his friend, the story of a boy named Johnny who lives in a place, There, as opposed to where we live, Here.  The story begins as our hero, Johnny, lives in an almost Dickensian land, helpless, hopeless, with a chicken, Pestilence and Famine, as his only friend.  As may be expected, a journey ensues, Johnny is sent to sell his chicken, very similar to Jack and the Beanstalk, so that he and his grandfather can buy food.  The journey, as he follows the only road in There, takes him on a life changing journey. Eventually he does sell his chicken and is given seeds by an old woman he meets.  Thrown away by his grandfather as worthless, a seed does grow which begins a new adventure for our hero.  The story is interjected with conversations between Stead and Twain as they compare events happening in Here and There.  The stark differences between Here and There are noted in a humorous fashion by the men and adds to the narrative.  Colorful characters, unexpected consequences, and humor create a tale that will hook readers of all ages.  Erin Stead’s use of pencil, ink, woodcarving, and laser cutting techniques adds beautiful and haunting illustrations to this already masterful tale.  A forward and backmatter help to explain how the story was created and give information about the authors.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Not a criticism, however readers who get confused with multiple storylines may find the story difficult to follow.

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers, in grades 2 and up, who enjoy humorous fairy tales with humans and animals would like this title.  

Who should buy this book? This would be a good purchase for upper elementary/ middle school or public libraries that cannot get enough innovative fairy tales.  

Where would you shelve it? Adventure/Fantasy Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  I feel that this title would reside at the top of the “to read” pile.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Elena Schuck, Nathaniel H. Wixon School Library, Dennis, Massachusetts

Date of review: April 25, 2021

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