The Little Brute Family and The Stone Doll of Sister Brute are utterly lovable, completely hilarious and thoroughly unforgettable.

The Little Brute FamilyBruteCover

Picture book

Ages 2-8

By Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

40 pages




The husband and wife team of Russell Hoban (1925-2011) and Lillian Hoban (1925-1998) were a giant force in the world of children’s books. Together the pair created Bedtime for Frances (as well as several other Frances books) and Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (which is the basis for the fantastic Muppet special). Their stories are sweet and funny and are imbued with valuable life lessons; their characters are endearing and identifiable.

These farcical stories featuring grumpy characters make for two truly adorable books.  Russell Hoban’s writing is charmingly droll; Lillian Hoban’s art is delightful. Though the images are small, they’re saturated with life. Her depiction of the Brutes is marvelously comical and readers will quickly fall in love with their homely faces and bad attitudes.

The Little Brute Family opens, “In the middle of a dark and shadowy woods lived a family of Brutes.”

The Brutes—Papa Brute, Mama Brute, Brother Brute, Sister Brute and Baby Brute—were unhappy and angry creatures.


No one ever said “please” or “thank you.” During mealtimes, Brother and Sister would kick each other under the table while Mama and Papa made faces. For breakfast they ate sand and gravel porridge; for dinner Mama made stew from sticks and stones.

In the spring the little Brutes made kites that were too heavy to fly, so they dragged them on the ground. In the fall they jumped into piles of leaves and stomped on each other, yelling.


Then one day Baby Brute caught a wandering good feeling in a field of daisies. He put it in his pocket and said, “How lovely.”


At dinner, when Mama Brute served Baby Brute his stick-and-stone stew, he said, “Thank you.”


“Then the little good feeling flew out of his pocket and hovered over the table, humming and smiling.”


The good feeling spread quickly throughout the Brute family and they wished for it not to hover, but to stay. The following day, instead of collecting sticks and stones for stew, Papa collected wild berries, salad greens and honey. In the spring the little Brutes made kites they could fly instead of drag; in the fall they collected nuts and acorns to roast by the fire.

“The little good feeling stayed and stayed and never went away, and when the springtime came again the little Brute family changed their name to Nice.”


The contrast between the brutish behaviors and the new nice attitudes makes the nice parts all the more satisfying. The Little Brute Family provides a gentle reminder to focus on the good parts of life, in a heartwarming and hilarious way.


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The Stone Doll of Sister BruteSBruteCover

Picture book

Ages 2-8

By Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

32 pages



Out of print


The Stone Doll of Sister Brute begins, “Once upon a time, before the Brute family changed their name to Nice, Sister Brute had nothing to love.”

When Sister Brute asked Papa for a doll he just walked away growling, so she asked Mama. “Mama gave her a stone.”


Sister Brute loved it anyway. She drew a face on it, made it a dress and named it Alice Brute Stone. One day, while Sister Brute and Alice Brute Stone were out walking, they encountered an ugly dog in hobnailed boots demanding to be loved. Though Sister Brute explained that she already had something to love, the dog threatened her.

‘“Love me,” said the dog, “or I will kick you very hard.”’


Then he kicked her! Sister Brute kicked back but her kicks weren’t as hard because she wasn’t wearing hobnailed boots. Sister Brute threw her stone doll at him but, since nobody ever played dolls with him before, he thought Sister Brute was playing and took this as proof of her love.

“So he followed her home with Alice Brute Stone in his mouth, and he kicked Sister Brute lovingly all the way.”

Before long Sister Brute complained that all she had was “tiredness and kicks and bruises.” Mama correctly responded, “Maybe that is because you have been loving only a hard stone and a kicking dog.”

When Sister Brute asked what else she could love, Mama said, “I don’t know.” It was then that Mama noticed Alice Brute Stone’s face, the one Sister Brute drew herself, and it looked just like hers.


‘“You could love me,” said Mama Brute, “and I will give you soft hugs and kisses and sing you lullabies.”’

‘“What will Papa give me if I love him?” said Sister Brute.”’

Papa would give her kisses and knee rides. Brother had smiles and string to offer, and Baby had rusty bolts, colored glass and turtles to share.

Sister Brute realized she could love Mama Brute, Papa Brute, Brother Brute, Baby Brute, her stone doll, and her kicking dog.



As many times as I’ve read these books I never fail to laugh, a lot, and I love them more and more each time.


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6 Responses so far

  1. 1

    johndwm said,

    Excellent characters – just like our favourite family members!

  2. 2

    objectpermanenceblog said,

    The Brutes sound wonderful! I love Frances, so I’ll definitely check these out. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. 3

    Mommy Quits. said,

    I must have these adorable books! Thanks for posting them.

  4. 4

    dbpigtail said,

    I LOVE these illustrations!

  5. 5

    anneb54 said,

    The Hobans created some very special worlds in children’s literature. 🙂

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