Which Would You Rather Be?


Both simple and profound, Which Would You Rather Be? was celebrated author/artist William Steig's recent triumph of humor and creativity-a charming, game-like picture book illustrated by the renowned illustrator Harry Bliss. The duo could not have been more perfectly matched!

Now in paperback, Bliss′ warm, accessible art and Steig's winning way with words make this book a treasure for any child.

Ages 3 - 5

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Both simple and profound, Which Would You Rather Be? was celebrated author/artist William Steig's recent triumph of humor and creativity-a charming, game-like picture book illustrated by the renowned illustrator Harry Bliss. The duo could not have been more perfectly matched!

Now in paperback, Bliss′ warm, accessible art and Steig's winning way with words make this book a treasure for any child.

Ages 3 - 5

Two children play a game with a rabbit, who gives them choices he pulls out of his hat.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Shrek creator William Steig collaborates with illustrator Harry Bliss on an amusing, thoughtful book that explores one of life's most penetrating queries. What would you rather be -- a stick or a stone? A snake or a crocodile? A rabbit magician asks these shape-shifting questions while conjuring up some startling surprises.

Sitting in front of a black top hat, a boy and girl gaze in wonderment while a wand-waving hare whips up objects, people, animals, and types of weather -- all exhibits for his pressing inquiry. Other questions include whether you'd choose to be a boy or a girl, a mouse or an elephant, a moon or a sun; and at the end, the kids (who only speak a few times) are asked to think about whether they'd prefer being alone or together.

With cartoonlike illustrations set against a stark white background, Steig and Bliss's book is sure to get kids' wheels turning. Steig's comparison game is thought-provoking and inspired, while Bliss's artwork offers a blissful dose of imagination with a hint of surrealism. An excellent springboard for other imaginative games, Which Would You Rather Be? offers a fun respite from bad-weather weekends, lackluster storytimes, or ho-hum car trips. (Matt Warner)

Publishers Weekly
In this wonderfully economical exercise, a shrewd question-and-answer format harmonizes with fine-tuned images. On almost every page, a big gray rabbit faces two children across an upside-down top hat. The rabbit is matter-of-fact, not cute. Voice bubbles contain its deadpan questions ("Which would you rather be?/ A stick/ or a stone?/ A cat/ or a dog?"), as each possibility emerges from the hat and the children react with a word or a gesture. When the dog chases the cat, the girl shoots an irritated look at her laughing friend, who shouts, "A dog!" As a hockey player crawls from the hat ("A boy"), the displeased girl crosses her arms. Her scowl turns to a competitive smirk when the next question ("or a girl?") suggests the skater could be female. After "an elephant" fills the page, only the boy's departing foot can be seen as the children retreat; when "a crocodile" lunges out, a well-placed voice bubble and the croc's gaze indicate that all three players have exited stage right. Bliss (illus. of A Fine, Fine School) composes his wry illustrations on a blank white ground in the fluid style of Charles M. Schulz or Crockett Johnson, and he loads his characters' every movement with subtle meaning. As in his Pete's a Pizza, Steig provides many more options than hard-and-fast rules, leaving the continuation of this game to the bemused audience. Ages 3-7. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-Throughout this picture book, a young girl and boy sit cross-legged around a top hat while a magic-wand-wielding gray rabbit asks: "Which would you rather be?" Some of the choices are a stick or a stone, a mouse or an elephant, an elbow or a knee, and all of the possibilities emerge, one at a time, from the hat. For the most part, the children don't answer; occasionally they do, or seem to. For example, in the cat versus dog dilemma, the girl smiles and reaches toward the feline, while the boy's body language and the accompanying text say, "A dog!" Later, both children agree that being a kid is favorable to being a grown-up. Bliss's big, bold, full-color illustrations against a white background carry the story line, since the minimal text appears in dialogue balloons. Children will enjoy imagining and formulating their own responses to the prompts.-Carol L. MacKay, Camrose Public Library, Alberta, Canada Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One New Yorker cartoonist gives a younger (of course, Methuselah would be younger) one a chance to show his chops. And the chops are considerable. With an interrogatory text running to just a few words per page, readers are asked in dialogue balloons whether they'd prefer to be a stick or a stone, an elbow or a knee, rain or snow, thunder or lightning, and so on. Bliss (A Fine, Fine School, 2001, etc.) reduces the actors in his painted scenes to a bare minimum-a magic hat, from which a plush rabbit with a wand conjures each alternative, and a boy and a girl wordlessly (until the end) reacting to their choices. Each form, each change of expression, is modeled with both spirit and exquisite skill, in subtle gradations of light and color. The final query, "Would you rather be alone . . . or together?" leaves the children undecided-an open invitation to readers to ponder this life-shaping choice. This thoughtful, though less gleefully silly, alternative to John Burningham's classic Would You Rather? (1978) showcases an up-and-coming illustrator with plenty of promise. (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064437929
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 388,002
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William Steig's drawings appeared regularly in The New Yorker since 1930. He also wrote and illustrated books for children, most recently his memoir, When Everybody Wore a Hat. His other books include Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, winner of the Caldecott Medal; The Amazing Bone, a Caldecott Honor Book; and Abel's Island and Doctor De Soto, both Newbery Honor Books; Doctor De Soto Goes to Africa; Pete's A Pizza; and Zeke Pippin.

Harry Bliss is the New York Times bestselling artist of Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and Diary of a Fly, by Doreen Cronin; A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech; and Which Would You Rather Be? by William Steig. He is also an award-winning, internationally syndicated cartoonist and a cover artist for the New Yorker magazine. He lives in Vermont with his son.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great illustrations - no real point to the story though.

    Mommy Bookworm's Thoughts: Until I read information about the author, I didn't know he was the creator of Shrek. I read one review online that mentioned it's odd to have him be the author here instead of the illustrator since he was an artist. I think the concept of the book is cute since the rabbit is the one pulling things out of the top hat instead of the humans. However, I feel there is no real point to the book. I guess it is just to get kids thinking of what they prefer, but there's no real story to the book other than just asking question upon question upon question - and the kids in the story don't even answer all of them. The illustrations are VERY colorful and fun though! As I noted above, the reading level is 4-8 years old, but Barnes & Noble has a note saying it's for infants and preschoolers. I believe that it would be a fun book for younger children because of the illustrations and big words, but children would definitely have to be older in order to actually read the book.

    Dahlia Bookworm's Thoughts: I liked the book because it was funny. The book was interesting because it had weird-looking pictures. The pictures looked funny.

    Daisy Bookworm's Thoughts: I could easily read this book by myself. I like the part where the kids say they'll have to think about whether they'd want to be together or alone. I also think the part where the bunny asked if you'd rather be rain or snow was funny because one is liquid and one is solid and I thought it was funny because they were opposites. I also like the pictures and all the colors.

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