Saturday, June 30, 2007

Quote du jour/William Steig

I heard this on National Public Radio this morning. It is from William Steig's acceptance speech when he won the Caldecott Award for Sylvester and The Magic Pebble in 1970. Have you read the book? If so, I'm sure you've never forgotten it. Wonderful, touching story that strikes a chord in both children and their parents.

I am well aware not only of the importance of children -- whom we naturally cherish and who we also embody our hopes for the future -- but also of the importance of what we provide for them in the way of art; and I realize that we are competing with a lot of other cultural influences, some of which beguile them in false directions.

Art, including juvenile literature, has the power to make any spot on earth the living center of the universe, and unlike science, which often gives us the illusion of understanding things we really do not understand, it helps us to know life in a way that still keeps before us the mystery of things. It enhances the sense of wonder. And wonder is respect for life. Art also stimulates the adventurousness and the playfulness that keep us moving in a lively way and that lead us to useful discovery.


  1. I thing Steig is right on about art and its influence on our lives but I disagree with one point and that is when he says, "and unlike science, which often gives us the illusion of understanding things we really do not understand...." I am married to a biologist and my son is studying to be a physicist. While I often tease them about their linear approach to life's problems and decisions, they have the sense to know the study of science is not a science but a study of mystery and which one approaches with wonder. I am now jumping down off my soapbox... such a good quote, I wish I had tuned in to NPR this morning to have heard Steig.

  2. I am a public school librarian with both an elementary and high school library.....this quote is just amazing! I think I will transfer it onto an old book cover and hang it in one of my libraries. I am so glad you shared it...thank you.

    Your blog is so inspiring and beautiful.

  3. Catherine Mary, I wondered when I posted this quote if someone might question the science section. :<) I think, just think -not know, that perhaps what he means is what Hemingway said about writing. Kay at:
    offered this as a quote one day, and I've always thought it was so apt.

    "All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and the afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and places and how the weather was."

    He may be saying that art is true, while science is real. Does this make any sense? Am I in over my head here? :<)

    Here is the link for the show:

    There is a "listen" button. The quote was offered after the actual Daniel Pinkwater piece, so I'm not sure if it is there or not but you could try.

  4. Pamela, like you did with your daughter's picture? I thought that was such a creative idea! Thank you for such kind words about my blog.

  5. I do know this book. I searched for it this very morning for someone who had it on hold. We have 3 copies in our branch alone. It's a great book and I think I agree with what you said to Catherine Mary or at least I understand what you were saying. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Nan, I think I understand now what Steig may have been talking about after reading the quote from Hemingway. I'm going to read the acceptance speech and see if I can listen to the interview. I'm still having problems getting over that science bit though :-) so by reading it in the full context I may have a better idea of what he meant. I'm an art history major so I do believe in what Steig says about the power of art. What a good quote--it made me think about and question my opinion on art and science.


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