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The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

Illustrated by Erin Stead
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Paperback
$9.99 US
On sale Mar 09, 2021 | 160 Pages | 978-0-593-30382-5
New York Times Bestseller!
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

A never-before-published, previously unfinished Mark Twain children’s story is brought to life by Philip and Erin Stead, creators of the Caldecott Medal-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

 
In a hotel in Paris one evening in 1879, Mark Twain sat with his young daughters, who begged their father for a story. Twain began telling them the tale of Johnny, a poor boy in possession of some magical seeds. Later, Twain would jot down some rough notes about the story, but the tale was left unfinished . . . until now.
 
Plucked from the Mark Twain archive at the University of California at Berkeley, Twain’s notes now form the foundation of a fairy tale picked up over a century later. With only Twain’s fragmentary script and a story that stops partway as his guide, author Philip Stead has written a tale that imagines what might have been if Twain had fully realized this work.
 
Johnny, forlorn and alone except for his pet chicken, meets a kind woman who gives him seeds that change his fortune, allowing him to speak with animals and sending him on a quest to rescue a stolen prince. In the face of a bullying tyrant king, Johnny and his animal friends come to understand that generosity, empathy, and quiet courage are gifts more precious in this world than power and gold.
 
Illuminated by Erin Stead’s graceful, humorous, and achingly poignant artwork, this is a story that reaches through time and brings us a new book from America’s most legendary writer, envisioned by two of today’s most important names in children’s literature.

A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year

"Will capture the imaginations of readers of all ages"—USA Today, ★ ★ ★ ★ (out of four stars) 

★ "Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself would be proud."—Booklist, starred review

★ "A cast of eccentric characters, celestially fine writing, and a crusade against pomp that doesn't sacrifice humor."—Publishers Weeklystarred review

★ "Completing a story penned by arguably America's greatest author is no easy feat, but the Caldecott-winning author-illustrator (and husband-wife) team proves more than equal to the task. . . . A pensive and whimsical work that Twain would applaud."—Kirkusstarred review

★ 
"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."—School Library Journal, starred review

★ 
"Beautifully understated and nuanced illustrations by Erin Stead add the finishing flourishes to this remarkable work."—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“drawn with a graceful crosshatched intelligence that seems close to the best of Wyeth.”—Adam Gopnik, The New York Times

"Twain and the two Steads have created what could become a read-aloud classic, perfect for families to enjoy together."—The Horn Book

"Artful and meta and elegant”—The Wall Street Journal

"Should inspire readers young and old to seek further adventures with Twain."The Washington Post
  • SELECTION | 2018
    ALSC Notable Children's Recordings
  • SELECTION | 2018
    Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
  • SELECTION | 2017
    Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books
MARK TWAIN, considered one of the greatest writers in American literature, was born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died in Redding, Connecticut in 1910. As a young child, he moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, a setting that inspired his two best-known novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In his person and in his pursuits, he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at 12 when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental—and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia for the past helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, described by writer William Dean Howells as “the Lincoln of our literature.” Twain and his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, had four children—a son, Langdon, who died as an infant, and three daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean. View titles by Mark Twain
PHILIP STEAD is the author of the Caldecott Medal–winning book A Sick Day for Amos McGee. With his wife, illustrator Erin Stead, he also created Bear Has a Story to TellLenny & Lucy, and The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, based on a previously-unpublished children's story by Mark Twain. Philip has also written and illustrated his own books, including Hello, My Name Is Ruby; Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat; and A Home for Bird. Philip and Erin live in northern Michigan. Visit Philip online at philipstead.com. View titles by Philip C. Stead
ERIN STEAD is the illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee and its sequel, Amos McGee Misses the Bus, and the New York Times bestseller The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine. Her other acclaimed picture books include: Tony; And Then It's Spring; Bear Has a Story to Tell; Lenny & Lucy; If You Want to See a Whale; The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles; and Music for Mr. Moon. She lives in Michigan with her husband, author/illustrator Philip Stead. Visit Erin online at erinstead.com. View titles by Erin Stead
Classroom Activities for The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

Classroom activities supplement discussion and traditional lessons with group projects and creative tasks. Can be used in pre-existing units and lessons, or as stand-alone.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

About

New York Times Bestseller!
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

A never-before-published, previously unfinished Mark Twain children’s story is brought to life by Philip and Erin Stead, creators of the Caldecott Medal-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

 
In a hotel in Paris one evening in 1879, Mark Twain sat with his young daughters, who begged their father for a story. Twain began telling them the tale of Johnny, a poor boy in possession of some magical seeds. Later, Twain would jot down some rough notes about the story, but the tale was left unfinished . . . until now.
 
Plucked from the Mark Twain archive at the University of California at Berkeley, Twain’s notes now form the foundation of a fairy tale picked up over a century later. With only Twain’s fragmentary script and a story that stops partway as his guide, author Philip Stead has written a tale that imagines what might have been if Twain had fully realized this work.
 
Johnny, forlorn and alone except for his pet chicken, meets a kind woman who gives him seeds that change his fortune, allowing him to speak with animals and sending him on a quest to rescue a stolen prince. In the face of a bullying tyrant king, Johnny and his animal friends come to understand that generosity, empathy, and quiet courage are gifts more precious in this world than power and gold.
 
Illuminated by Erin Stead’s graceful, humorous, and achingly poignant artwork, this is a story that reaches through time and brings us a new book from America’s most legendary writer, envisioned by two of today’s most important names in children’s literature.

A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year

"Will capture the imaginations of readers of all ages"—USA Today, ★ ★ ★ ★ (out of four stars) 

★ "Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself would be proud."—Booklist, starred review

★ "A cast of eccentric characters, celestially fine writing, and a crusade against pomp that doesn't sacrifice humor."—Publishers Weeklystarred review

★ "Completing a story penned by arguably America's greatest author is no easy feat, but the Caldecott-winning author-illustrator (and husband-wife) team proves more than equal to the task. . . . A pensive and whimsical work that Twain would applaud."—Kirkusstarred review

★ 
"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."—School Library Journal, starred review

★ 
"Beautifully understated and nuanced illustrations by Erin Stead add the finishing flourishes to this remarkable work."—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“drawn with a graceful crosshatched intelligence that seems close to the best of Wyeth.”—Adam Gopnik, The New York Times

"Twain and the two Steads have created what could become a read-aloud classic, perfect for families to enjoy together."—The Horn Book

"Artful and meta and elegant”—The Wall Street Journal

"Should inspire readers young and old to seek further adventures with Twain."The Washington Post

Awards

  • SELECTION | 2018
    ALSC Notable Children's Recordings
  • SELECTION | 2018
    Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
  • SELECTION | 2017
    Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books

Author

MARK TWAIN, considered one of the greatest writers in American literature, was born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died in Redding, Connecticut in 1910. As a young child, he moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, a setting that inspired his two best-known novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In his person and in his pursuits, he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at 12 when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental—and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia for the past helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, described by writer William Dean Howells as “the Lincoln of our literature.” Twain and his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, had four children—a son, Langdon, who died as an infant, and three daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean. View titles by Mark Twain
PHILIP STEAD is the author of the Caldecott Medal–winning book A Sick Day for Amos McGee. With his wife, illustrator Erin Stead, he also created Bear Has a Story to TellLenny & Lucy, and The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, based on a previously-unpublished children's story by Mark Twain. Philip has also written and illustrated his own books, including Hello, My Name Is Ruby; Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat; and A Home for Bird. Philip and Erin live in northern Michigan. Visit Philip online at philipstead.com. View titles by Philip C. Stead
ERIN STEAD is the illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee and its sequel, Amos McGee Misses the Bus, and the New York Times bestseller The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine. Her other acclaimed picture books include: Tony; And Then It's Spring; Bear Has a Story to Tell; Lenny & Lucy; If You Want to See a Whale; The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles; and Music for Mr. Moon. She lives in Michigan with her husband, author/illustrator Philip Stead. Visit Erin online at erinstead.com. View titles by Erin Stead

Guides

Classroom Activities for The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

Classroom activities supplement discussion and traditional lessons with group projects and creative tasks. Can be used in pre-existing units and lessons, or as stand-alone.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

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