Abel’s Island

by William Steig, published 1976

The cave was full of chattering animals who’d been lucky enough to find this haven. There were several mice that Abel and Amanda knew, and a family of toads they had once met at a carnival.”

Children's book - Abel's IslandI stumbled upon this children’s book in my library, and eagerly took it home, since I loved Steig’s other book for young readers called Dominic. I was not disappointed in this at all. A small little book about a mouse that gets stranded on an island due to a storm, and has to develop his own survival skills. It’s a very touching story about becoming interested in the bigger questions of life – who am I? what is home? what makes life meaningful? And yet, it does this in a very child-friendly way.

One of the lovely things about Steig’s writing is that he doesn’t dumb it down at all. His language and vocabulary is always elevated, providing a wonderful way to help children expand their own language. I see this children’s book and his others as great read-alouds for young children. I can’t quite decide the age for independent readers on this. Perhaps third and fourth grade would be able to read and understand it.

One of the nicest features of a children’s book like this is that we really get to leave the busy world behind. In this case, the little mouse was like a Thoreau, living in utter simplicity. And as he did, we, along with him, get to ask, what is really necessary to make a life? Food, Shelter, Water. And then, how to deal with loneliness. All in all, a thoughtful and lovable piece of writing, with a spattering of delightful Steig illustrations.