Caleb and Kate

Book review by
Kevin McCaffrey, Common Sense Media
Caleb and Kate Book Poster Image
Long, loving story, but little action.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

A fight with burglars; a dog is cut with a knife. Caleb and Kate quarrel, and she grieves when he doesn't return.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story is long and loving but has little action -- it is the emotional depth of love and longing that moves the plot.

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What's the story?

What is Caleb going to do? A witch has turned him into a dog, and when he returns home, his wife doesn't recognize him. William Steig's tale is a sophisticated but accessible look at relationships.


Is it any good?

This departure from William Steig's more gentle and whimsical animal fables convinces readers this is a more straightforward story, about strictly human actions. It's a story Steig must feel deeply about, because he pulls no punches. The story connects anger with consequences of loss. The loss feels as hopeless as in Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, but the reasons for the separation are more mean than just a natural deluge, as in Abel's Island. Caleb leaves in anger and becomes a dog, but, even more poignantly, he witnesses Kate's sense of loss, her search, her grief.

As a children's writer, Steig is not about to shy away from unhappy things that happen in life as naturally as the magic that occurs. But this is a picture book for parents and children to read and discuss together. This is a morality tale that introduces perspective into a child's life: that anger and love, abandonment and faithfulness, are two faces of a picture that for many people remains a mystery.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what happens to Caleb and Kate. How do they change over the course of the story? What do you think happens after they're reunited?

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