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Wee Gillis

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A Caldecott Honor Book by the creators of the beloved Story of Ferdinand

Wee Gillis lives in Scotland. He is an orphan, and he spends half of each year with his mother's people in the lowlands, while the other half finds him in the highlands with his father's kin. Both sides of Gillis's family are eager for him to settle down and adopt their ways. In the lowlands, he is taught to herd cattle, learning how to call them to him in even the heaviest of evening fogs. In the rocky ...

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A Caldecott Honor Book by the creators of the beloved Story of Ferdinand

Wee Gillis lives in Scotland. He is an orphan, and he spends half of each year with his mother's people in the lowlands, while the other half finds him in the highlands with his father's kin. Both sides of Gillis's family are eager for him to settle down and adopt their ways. In the lowlands, he is taught to herd cattle, learning how to call them to him in even the heaviest of evening fogs. In the rocky highlands, he stalks stags from outcrop to outcrop, holding his breath so as not to make a sound. Wee Gillis is a quick study, and he soon picks up what his elders can teach him. And yet he is unprepared when the day comes for him to decide, once and for all, whether it will be the lowlands or the highlands that he will call his home.

Robert Lawson and Munro Leaf's classic picture book is a tribute to the powers of the imagination and a triumph of the storyteller's and illustrator's art.

Wee Gillis couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a Highlander like his father, and stalk stags or a Lowlander like his mother, and raise long-haired cows.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lawson's marvelous pen-and-ink drawings of the Scottish relations and their contrasting environments bring the story to exuberant life." –Horn Book Magazine

"Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson are best remembered for their 1936 classic, Story of Ferdinand, about a pacifist bull who's more interested in flowers than bullfighting. Three years later, they won a Caldecott Honor, one of the top prizes in illustrated children's literature, for a story set in Scotland, Wee Gillis. It had fallen out of print but has been resurrected as part of The New York Review Children's Collection, which brings neglected gems back to life. It doesn't show its age. With vivid pen-and-ink drawings in black and white, it's about an orphan with a tough decision to make: whether to live with his mother's relatives in the Lowlands and raise long-haired cows or his father's relatives in the Highlands and stalk stags." –USA Today

"First published in 1939, when it won a Caldecott Honor award, and now back in print with this handsome hardback edition, Wee Gillis relates how a young Scottish boy cleverly finds a middle way between two sets of shaggy, overbearing and cantankerous relations...In Robert Lawson's brilliant black-and-white illustrations, Wee Gillis keeps an amusingly bland expression even as his uncles are leaping about, fulminating and remonstrating...The solution comes (with a hilarious picture) when Wee Gilis suddenly realizes that he can use the respiratory sills he as picked up from both sides of his take up Schotland's noisiest and most musical occupation." –The Wall Street Journal

"Back in print after 20 years, this winsome story details a Scottish lad's road to bagpipe-playing greatness. Ages 4-8" –People Magazine

"This book is one of a number of largely unsung gems reissued by the New York Review Children's Collection's a charmer." –The Globe and Mail

“Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson have done it again….[Wee Gillis] has already won the hearts of children and adults. The pictures of the Lowland farms and the craggy Highlands of Scotland have sufficient beauty to make anyone who comes from that lovely country homesick for its hills and heather. Boys and girls from 7 on are deeply interested in the small Scottish lad who called the cows in the Lowlands and stalked the deer in the Highlands, while his lungs meantime grew stronger and stronger until at last he was able to play the largest bagpipes in Scotland and, since he was welcome in Lowlands and Highlands alike, had no further need to choose either one or the other as a permanent home. The drawings of Robert Lawson combine beauty and humor with a reality that makes the reader feel he has taken a trip to Scotland….this is a distinguished volume.” –The New York Times

“A delightful picture book for children, grown-up and otherwise” –The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly
Munro Leaf aficionados will also appreciate the Caldecott Honor book Wee Gillis by Leaf, illus. by Robert Lawson, in a handsome paper-over-board edition, starring the title hero, torn between becoming a Highlander who stalks stags like his father, or raising long-haired cows like his mother, a Lowlander. Pen-and-inks capture the boy's comic inner struggle with outer shenanigans. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson collaborated on four books, beginning in 1936 with The Story of Ferdinand. Ferdinand, the pacifist bull, has been with us ever since, and it is a pleasure to have this 1939 Caldecott Honor book join him again. Perhaps in recognition of the war clouds then gathering over Europe, Leaf and Lawson created another fable about peaceful solutions to strife—in this case, border issues. The Scottish orphan Wee Gillis is shunted between his Highland and Lowland relatives. Half the year is spent tending long-haired cows in the south, half stalking stags in the north. When the time comes to choose his final adult allegiance, the stamina he has gained in his jobs allows the lad to find an alternate plan that suits everyone. Leaf's spare narrative has aged well. So have Lawson's wry pen-and-ink sketches. Young Gillis dutifully downs the same large bowl of morning porridge from the same chipped bowl, north or south. His freckled face carefully masks his feelings about the adults controlling him—but his eyes give him away. When his moment of destiny arrives, Gillis has the strength and sense to act. This marvelous little book should be required reading for mediation sessions. It will charm new generations of children. Welcome back! 2006 (orig. 1938), New York Review Children's Collection, Ages 4 up.
—Kathleen Karr
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590172063
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Series: New York Review Children's Collection Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 538,920
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

MUNRO LEAF (1905–1976) was an American writer, illustrator, and columnist whose books for children include Manners Can Be Fun and How to Behave and Why (both of which he also illustrated). In 1936 he “dashed off in 25 minutes” a story about a bull who preferred flowers to bullfights as a showcase for the artistic talent of his friend Robert Lawson. The Story of Ferdinand went on to become a best-seller and the two men collaborated on three subsequent books, Wee Gillis (1938), The Story of Simpson and Sampson (1941), and Aesop’s Fables (1941).
ROBERT LAWSON (1892-1957) was a prolific writer and illustrator of literature for children and was the first person ever to receive both the Newbery and Caldecott medals. Among his forty-odd books are such classic stories as Rabbit Hill, Ben and Me, and They Were Strong and Good.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 6, 2013

    This book, when I read it aloud to groups of schoolchildren, nev

    This book, when I read it aloud to groups of schoolchildren, never failed to hold the attention of boys and girls
     as  young as six and as old as twelve years. Munro Leaf's expressive pen and ink drawings help to tell the
    tale of  young Willis who has to choose between living in the highlands and herd goats or in the lowlands and
    herd cows. He is fond of both sets of relatives.  Fortunately,  an encounter with a man and his set of  very large
     bagpipes helps him to find a happy solution. This book also appeals to bright older children who, for one
    reason or another, have not learned to read in the early grades and are trying to catch up. Highly recommended.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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