Hailed as the “King of Cartoons,” William Steig (1907–2003) produced a staggering 2,600 drawings and 123 covers for The New Yorker during his lifetime. His widow, Jeanne Steig, called him a “tragicomic artist.” An inveterate New Yorker, Steig was the son of Jewish immigrants who encouraged his artistic interests. He published his first children’s book, Roland the Minstrel Pig (1968), at the age of 61. Just two years later he was awarded the Caldecott Medal for the picture book classic Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. After his death, Steig’s cheerfully repulsive ogre Shrek become a Hollywood star.
In 2010, Jeanne Steig generously donated 1,400 artworks by her late husband. It is the Museum’s largest collection by a single artist other than Eric Carle. The Museum organized the exhibitions Heart and Humor: The Picture-Book Art of William Steig in 2004 and William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: A Golden Anniversary in 2019.
Steig published his first children’s book, Roland the Minstrel Pig, in 1968 at the age of 61. In this scene, Roland bids goodbye to his friends to seek fame and fortune as a singer. Their forlorn faces and the elephant’s lone tear leave no doubt of their sadness. Expressive animal characters are signatures of Stieg’s picture books.
Amos and Boris follow the tradition of stories in which little friends can be big heroes. When Amos the mouse falls out of his boat, Boris the whale comes to his rescue. How can Amos ever repay him? Readers find out when Boris is beached by a tidal wave.