Children’s Book of the Week: The Great Quillow

The Great Quillow by James Thurber, illustrated by Steven Kellogg

Henry brought this book home from the school library, and it looked innocent enough, and then Dave opened it up to read it to the kids and said he felt duped. It’s essentially a wall of words. From the outside it looks like your basic 10-minute picture book, but it’s practically a chapter book.

But still! I have to recommend it, because it’s really quite wonderful. You have to love James Thurber; he writes in a way that is smart and funny and assumes kids can follow along with fairly sophisticated concepts (because they can!). Hunder, a big mean giant, comes to the outskirts of a little village, demanding three sheep a day, a pie made with a thousand apples, and a chocolate the size of a spinning wheel, as well as some clothes and boots. The people of the town are freaking out, because they’ll have to essentially give up on sleep to get all the giant’s work done. But Quillow, the town toymaker, who is pretty much dismissed by the townsfolk as an eccentric weirdo, has a brilliant plan to make Hunder think he’s going insane.

Steven Kellogg’s illustrations (as always) are wonderful, and the intricate story moves right along, despite being longer than you expected. Henry and Eli played “Quillow” every day after they read this. Love it! This book was originally published in 1944 (with a different illustrator), and republished in 1994, and is now out of print again. Oh well. I bet your local library has it!

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