Thursday, September 27, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For! Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter by Dave Horowitz

Once there was a stonecutter named Stanley. Stanley was good at his job, but cutting stone was a hard way to earn a living!

Hammering and chiseling is wearying work for a thin-skinned young frog, and when Stanley, coated with stone dust, is making his way to his hut one afternoon, he notices a businessman leisurely sipping his beverage inside the teahouse. He sighs out a wish:

"I wish I were a businessman!"

Suddenly Stanley is transformed, wearing a neatly pressed suit and briefcase, watching the world go by through the window of the shady teahouse. Now this is the life!

But then the king goes by, leading a procession, and Stanley can't help wishing he were emperor, with a retinue of attendants and sycophants to serve and praise him. And suddenly he is King Stanley! But leading his followers in the evening sun is hot work, and it occurs to Stanley that it might be better to be the Sun itself!

"Dude! I should be the Sun! "

Stanley's wishes become even more grandiose. As the sun he beams even more, a wayward cloud darkens his face, and he wishes to become the black cloud and obscure the sun himself. And then, scurrying before the wind, he wished to BE the unstoppable wind--until he blows smack into a great standing stone.

As the Wind, he blew his best, but the stone stood still. Still not satisfied, Stanley wishes to BE the unmovable stone. Nothing can affect him now. At last Stanley was satisfied with his state.

... until, the next day, when there appeared a young stonecutter....

Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it, is the theme of Dave Horowitz' droll rewrite of the Japanese fable of The Stonecutter in his Never Satisfied: The Story of The Stonecutter. (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). Horowitz's text is simple, letting his skillful collaged illustrations provide the details of the story, in a wry retelling of an oft-told tale with its age-old truth. For a fun compare-and-contrast read-aloud session, share this one with Margot Zemach's classic same-but-different tale of too much wish fulfillment, It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale (Michael Di Capua Books).

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