We scored a bunch of free books at the kids’ elementary school’s literacy night, including a copy of William Steig’s The Real Thief. (Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it, but it was William Steig–of course I grabbed it!) I finished it a few days ago, and now I’m passing it off to my second girlie, because of all of my kids, she’s the one that struggles with the truth.
The Real Thief is the 58-page tale of Gawain, Chief Guard of the Royal Treasury and a famously honorable goose. When items start to disappear from the treasury, he seems guilty nonetheless–he and the king are the only two with keys! He is ultimately convicted on circumstantial evidence, which devastates and angers him; he flees his country and is living a solitary existence in the forest when he is sought out by the real thief. Gawain’s bitterness and struggle to forgive his accusers make an interesting contrast to the thief’s crushing guilt and desperation to fix the mess he has created. Steig does an excellent job of examining the thought processes of both the accused and the guilty; I wouldn’t have had patience with the thief as a child, but as a parent I am thoroughly impressed at what the author has created.
Bottom line? This is an impressive and accessible fable about guilt, innocence, and forgiveness. Don’t miss it!