Johnny is a boy whose life has consisted of nothing but hunger and misfortune (which, unfortunately, is the way of it There, but, thankfully, not Here).  With only a chicken, called Pestilence and Famine, for a companion, his journey takes a turn for the interesting when his rather horrible grandfather orders him to sell the bird at market.  With great reluctance, Johnny sets off on the road.  Along the way, he meets a great many people and animals that change his life in most surprising ways, including the venerable king and his son, Prince Oleomargarine.  And all, with the exception of a very few, will make you gather yourself up, stand tall, and say, “Book, I am glad to know you.”

This marvelous tale is a product of the imaginations of the great American legend, Mark Twain (but he’s dead, you say! how can there be new things?), and the ever-incredible Caldecott Award-winning team of Philip and Erin Stead (oh, that’s how!).  Based on a story that Twain told to his daughters, Clara and Susy, made 16 pages of notes on, but never published, author Philip Stead writes The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine as a conversation between himself and Twain over cups of tea and coffee – one that is abruptly left off at a most inconvenient place by Twain, but finished most delightfully by Stead.  With beautiful illustrations that will make you want to step right through the page and into Twain and the Steads’  world of There, you’ll spend hours poring over the details in this lovely book – weasels eating cookies, untrustworthy tigers, parades with cannons, vertically challenged kings, argumentative dragons, and a skunk that is most noble of heart.  Long after you’ve arrived at the conclusion of the tale of Johnny and his intrepid chicken, you’ll find that his story stays with you.  After all, it is the small things and small kindnesses that we take with us into the greatness of our own stories.  This is not a large book, but it is a great one – don’t leave it out of your holiday season this year!