Horn Book Magazine
Lear's pea-green boat sails again, this time with the inimitable James Marshall at the helm. Envisioned as the S.S. Dorabella, this cruise ship will escort the Owl and his fianc‚e, the profoundly clothes-conscious Pussycat, from Pier 23, laden with suitcases marked for ports of call around the world. On calm seas, tuxedoed Owl serenades the flapper-inspired Pussycat seated in her deck chair; in rougher waters, Owl braves the weather to photograph his windblown beloved. Owl and Pussycat join the legion of goofy original Marshall creations: in their grass skirts and leis, the exaggerated portly twosome (he with his signature wide-owl eyes; she with coy looks and rouge-dotted cheeks) highstep it by the light of the moon. At his wacky best, watercolorist Marshall limns a huge priestly turkey, all seriousness with his pince-nez glasses and preposterous wattle; outfitted with a regal purple headdress and matching scarf, the extravagant turkey marries the dapper couple. Lear's famous poem, here calligraphed in white and black crayon, receives an irreverent, gently playful rendition. In a deeply personal afterword, dear friend Maurice Sendak pays homage to Marshall, who shared with him the "sketches" that became Marshall's final largess to his devoted following. Sendak is exactly right when he pronounces that, with this last book, Marshall's "charming slap-happiness [is] now wed to an odd poignancy that conjure[s] a sweet new essence."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hague gives free rein to dark whimsy in this eclectic sampling of Lear's verse, which includes such favorites as the title poem as well as "The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo," "The Cummerbund" and a host of limericks. Lear's menagerie of odd creatures and peculiar persons (e.g., the "Young Lady whose eyes/ Were unique as to color and size") provide rich material for Hague to work with, and he exploits it with robust comic grotesqueries. Saturated earth tones mix with fiery flashes of red and orange in a combination that's instantly identifiable as pure Hague, as is the profusion of detail. Ending, tongue firmly in cheek, with the limerick "There Was an Old Man of the Hague," the artist includes what just might be a sly self-portrait. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)
The blissful pairing of the owl and the pussycat isn't the only marriage made in heaven here-Wilson's (The Beautiful World that God Made) punchy collage art proves an exuberant partner to Lear's classic nonsense verse. Combining patterned papers printed with rich inks, the artist concocts a beguilingly off-kilter setting that, like the text, up-ends convention. The starring characters have a surface simplicity, but in fact each is highly stylized. Bronze and copper circles and curves adorn the paper from which Pussy is cut, while Owl is more complicated: gold squiggles thinly drawn on orange suggest the feathers for his head and wings, an orange oval printed with an open-weave-type design creates the texture on his breast and his face is a streamlined assemblage of simple solid shapes. However elaborate the components, the illustrations are remarkably harmonious, unified by subtly geometric motifs. When, for instance, the loving couple sails away, "for a year and a day," Wilson shows the two in their peapod-like craft ascending a circular horizon; the half-oval of sea they cross to reach "the land where the Bong-tree grows" is echoed in the ovoid shapes of those trees, each of which boasts detailed, bright designs. Elsewhere, curved lines of type reinforce the structure of the composition. Witty, fresh and rhythmic, Wilson's illustrations mirror Lear's whimsy and capture his musicality. Ages 3-7. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Lear's well-known verse from his 1846 A Book of Nonsense evokes many provocative images that have inspired illustrators over the years. The "beautiful pea-green boat," the owl singing of his love "to a small guitar," "the land where the bong tree grows," the pig with the ring in his nose that serves as the wedding ring, the "runcible spoon," all lend themselves to imaginative interpretations. Mortimer has chosen an ornate style which mixes realistic main characters and a few ancillary fish and insects with exotic foliage and fanciful waves and clouds. Mixed media allow for the delicacy of a gull's feather, the petals of flowers, jungle-like tree trunks, etc. Perhaps the nonsense verse is no match for these dramatic visuals. There are notes added on Edward Lear and on the aims of the Self Heal Association, to which the illustrator is donating part of the proceeds from the book.
Edward Lear (1812-1888) was an artist, traveler, and nonsense poet who also gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Maybe it was being the youngest of twenty children, or perhaps it was his epilepsy—but he had a way with getting into the dreamscape of minds, young and old. From the moment his ardent swain, the owl, takes his beloved pussycat to sea in a pea-green boat, the reader, too, is in love. Anne Wilson's interpretation of Lear's most famous poem does justice to it. Combining paper collage with mixed colors and extraordinary printing techniques, she brings every double-page spread to vibrant life. "What a beautiful pussy you are!" has the fabulous feline preening in a field of stars. And "the elegant fowl" is as masterfully robust and wide-eyed as any Victorian gentleman could be who has cast caution to the winds with his ladylove. As for that "runcible spoon"—well, it's not a spoon at all, but a three-pronged fork of Lear's invention. How nice of the man to have bequeathed us not only his poem, but an adjective that's really worth getting your teeth around. 2003, Chronicle, Ages all.
Children's Literature - Enid Portnoy
The delightful watercolor drawings of Stephane Jorisch refresh a favorite childhood poem of Lear in this whimsical treatment of animal love and courtship. Oblivious to the judgmental stares of other look-alike creatures, this unconventional but romantic pair sail away "for a year and a day" in delicious bliss. Although the poem's simplicity remains a hallmark of its everlasting charm, it is these illustrations which add an unusual blend of melancholy and humor to the text. They emphasize the elegance of the owl as compared to the waif-like innocence of the pussycat, his romantic partner. Readers will be amused as well as delighted by the dream like color washes of sea and animal creatures, obviously enjoying Lear's nautical rocking rhymes and rhythms. Young children will enjoy the illustrator's imagination, and "old" admirers of Lear will be equally charmed by the old world elegance and modern themes suggested. All will appreciate both looking at the lovely scenes and listening to this beloved poetry classic. This is certainly a book to keep in one's library and share with many generations. Lear's original poem was written in 1867, but this version suggests that true love, even among unconventional creatures, can overcome any reservations which friends and the world may express. The book is part of the series "Visions in Poetry," an apt title for the delightful images which rock the poem along. Reviewer: Enid Portnoy
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 4-Lear's poem is beautifully illustrated with a mixture of elaborate, stylized borders and sumptuous portrayals of natural elements like verdant plant and tree leaves and colorful tropical flowers. Realistic portrayals of sea creatures abound, and honeybees with exactingly delineated wings swoop above a fanciful beehive. Waves swell and swirl around the "pea-green boat," the owl holds his guitar with large outstretched feathers and looks appropriately lovelorn, and, in one arresting scene, the cat sits with her neck resting on his shoulder. In one playful spread, a solicitous owl feeds a slice of quince on the "runcible spoon" to his sprawling feline sweetheart. Each verse is presented on a separate page. Circle borders frame some vignettes, and narrow bands of white space around most of the pages add pleasing variety to the layout. A charming presentation.-Kirsten Cutler, Sonoma Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A new entry in the Visions in Poetry series offers readers a sophisticated reimagining of Lear's classic children's poem without losing any of its traditional whimsy in the doing, thanks to playful line-and-watercolor illustrations. This edition sets up the well-known romance with several wordless spreads that reveal Owl's privileged origins in a mansion overlooking the canals of an Old World city, his glimpsing the Bohemian Pussycat literally on the other side of the tracks at a subway stop and, most affectingly, their tete-a-tete at an outdoor cafe in the rain before they begin their famous voyage. Citing Fellini, Mir- and The Yellow Submarine as influences, Jorisch sprinkles startling images throughout, from the carnival masks worn as the lovers sail away, to the cross-dressing Piggy-wig who donates his ring, to the mermaid and other fantastical creatures who attend the wedding celebrations. Like others in this series, this volume offers older readers a new chance to revisit hoary classics and to indulge in the imaginative product of a unique artistic vision. The illustrations' worldliness does nothing to blunt the poem's good humor-just presents new possibilities. Delicious. (Picture book/poetry. 10+)
From the Publisher
"Galdone uses his imagination to extend Lear's ideas, creating a memorable version suitable for the youngest." Kirkus Reviews
"Anne Mortimer’s illustrations are a magical companion to Lear’s immortal whimsy."
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
This re-issued folktale classic is a treasure. Paul Galdone illustrates fanciful, joyous pictures of Edward Lear’s delightful nonsense tale. A large crowd of expressive cats and owls in holiday dress wave goodbye to the intrepid explorers, Owl and Pussy-cat, while an alert sandpiper watches from a post and leaping fish join in the adieus. Owl and Pussy-cat sing their love songs with joy and then go in search of a wedding ring, nearly falling out of the boat in their eagerness. Finally, having obtained the ring from Piggy-wig they are married by the Turkey on the hill. Then comes dancing in the light of the silvery moon. This wonderful book, filled with detail and beauty, combines Lear’s humor and rhythm-and-rhyme with Galdone’s love of the natural world and its animal life. Perfect for a cuddly read before nap or bedtime. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg; Ages 4 to 8.