Book: Stevie

Author and Illustrator: John Steptoe 

Publisher: Harpercollins Children’s Books, republished in 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0060270384 (Hardcover)

ISBN-10: 0060270381 (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 978-0064431224 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 0064431223 (Paperback)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Reading level: Ages 2 and up

Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Steptoe, JohnStevie (originally published in 1969 by Harper and Row Publishers).  Robert (Bobby) is an African-American boy, about age ten, who lives with his mother and father.  His mother takes in a part-time foster child named Stevie who is younger than Bobby, perhaps age five.  Stevie comes on Mondays to spend the week, and then his parents pick him up on Saturdays.  At first Bobby resents Stevie, whom he considers a greedy and selfish crybaby.  He has to take Stevie out to play with him, and all his friends tease him, calling him “Bobby the baby-sitter.”  Bobby wonders why he has to put up with all that.  But how does Bobby feel when Stevie’s parents come to pick him up one day with the announcement that they are moving away and Stevie won’t come back any more?

     This book, which was one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Children’s Books of 1940–1970,” is said to have been written and illustrated by John Steptoe when he was only sixteen years old.  There were two or three things that I did not like about the book.  One was the use of the modern African-American lingo type of grammar.  “I wished his mother would bring somma his toys….Why I gotta take him everywhere….I always been nice to him.”  Bobby’s daddy has some friends over who sit around making jokes and drinking beer.  And both Bobby and Stevie come across at times as whiny brats, although the book does have cute, albeit somewhat sad, ending.  It also has a good lesson for younger readers about acceptance and tolerance.

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