Caleb and Kate

Common Sense Media says

Long, loving story, but little action.





What parents need to know

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.

Not applicable

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 -- one 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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:William Steig
Illustrator:William Steig
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:January 1, 1986
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7

This review of Caleb and Kate was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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