Saturday, May 4, 2013

The real thief by William Steig

One lucky class at my school are participating in a simple pen pal project with some children from Pennsylvania.  Their generous teacher sent a box of goodies for the students which included some books for our school library.  I have talked about Dominic in a previous post which is a book their whole school will read and so the teacher sent me two more Steig titles - which is how I came to read The Real Thief.

Gawain the goose is appointed by the King to guard the royal treasure.

"He had been chosen for the post by King Basil the bear because of his upright and trustworthy character, and he had accepted because he couldn't possibly have refused.  He loved the rough, gruff, fatherly King. His heart warmed in the King's presence. He admired his strength. He loved the smell of honey on him, on his fur, on his robes, on his breath. He wanted to please him..."

Only two people hold the door key to this fortress - the King himself and Gawain.  Inside there are jewels, medallions, crowns, money and gems.

One day when the king goes to count his treasure he discovers there are only 8,643 rubies when there should be 8,672.  Who is to blame? Who is the thief?  Since it cannot be the King.  Gawain stands accused.  He is completely innocent but the judge at his unfair trial finds him guilty.  Gawain flees the court and hides away in a cave out in the countryside.  Meanwhile the real thief has a huge moral dilemma to resolve.  Should he confess or leave Gawain to suffer.

I read this short book in one sitting. It is a simple story which raises issues of important morality.  I especially love the way Steig uses such a rich vocabulary in his books.   Here are some of the wonderful words in this book :

malicious intent
pall of gloom

This book would be ideal for a deep philosophical discussion and here are some questions to help you gather your thoughts.

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