Owl and the Pussycat

Owl and the Pussycat

4.8 9
by Edward Lear

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The owl and pussycat have gone to sea often in the past 100 years, but never in a boat so green, on a sea so blue, into horizons and lands so glowing with color. Artist Erica Rutherford has created beautiful silk-screened images of Edward Lear’s much loved fantasy poem of two unlikely companions and a spare little boat. First published 150 years ago, “The…  See more details below


The owl and pussycat have gone to sea often in the past 100 years, but never in a boat so green, on a sea so blue, into horizons and lands so glowing with color. Artist Erica Rutherford has created beautiful silk-screened images of Edward Lear’s much loved fantasy poem of two unlikely companions and a spare little boat. First published 150 years ago, “The Owl and the Pussycat” is impossible, nonsensical, whimsical, and it is in those very elements that its appeal lies.

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Publishers Weekly
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.
Children's Literature
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.
— Kathleen Karr
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.
Carolyn Phelan
Illustrated in full color, this poetry collection includes 18 examples of nonsense verse by two masters of the form, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Carroll's poems include selections from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass", such as "Jabberwocky," "The Walrus and the Carpenter," and "The Mock Turtle's Song," while Lear's famous Quangle Wangle, Jumblies, Dong, and Pobble make their expected appearances, along with the owl and the pussycat and some less familiar characters. The combination of writers works very well, though the illustrations won't please everyone. Aside from the vexing question of whether these poems should be illustrated at all--the artist's vision of the Jabberwock "will" preempt the child's imagining his or her own Jabberwock--the superreal, occasionally surrealistic, mannered style of Palin's full-color artwork, however deftly drawn, tends to overwhelm the verse. Larger libraries may want this on hand for those who like their nonsense illustrated and their illustrations polished.
Shelley Townsend-Hudson
Hague offers an assortment of selections from Edward Lear's immortal compendium of nonsense, still as absurd and extravagant as ever. Among the poems are "The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo," "Calico Pie," and "The Duck and the Kangaroo," as well as a generous sampling of limericks. The task of illustrating Lear's poems would be daunting for any artist thanks to Lear's own inimitable sketches, but Hague's quaintly antiquated style fills the bill, and his trademark use of lavishly dark and murky colors, which can easily overwhelm certain subjects, is well matched to the words here. Hague plays off the sensual and grotesque elements of the poetry and uses rich texture and imagination to extend the text's foolishness. This is a worthy collection, as zany today as it was when Victorian critic John Ruskin first included it in his list of the best hundred books ever written.
Kirkus Reviews
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+)
Roger Ebert
"Anne Mortimer’s illustrations are a magical companion to Lear’s immortal whimsy."
From the Publisher

"Galdone uses his imagination to extend Lear's ideas, creating a memorable version suitable for the youngest." Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Poetry Pop-up Bk.
Age Range:
4 - 6 Years

What People are saying about this

Roger Ebert
“Anne Mortimer’s illustrations are a magical companion to Lear’s immortal whimsy.”
From the Publisher
"Galdone uses his imagination to extend Lear's ideas, creating a memorable version suitable for the youngest." Kirkus Reviews

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The Owl and the Pussycat 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
gramieGF More than 1 year ago
This is a delightful visual twist on the original poem... There are lots of new things to discover in addition to the well loved characters. Thus, whether read aloud, read alone, or sung to little ones it is both a venture along well remembered paths of verse and an intriguing contemporary adventure !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great little book. flows just right. perfect for bedtime - nice and calming sweet story
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully illustrated. It brings new life to an old classic through its small touches. Note the seashells and flowers that change in the borders on each page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We love this book. We got it origanally from the library, but finally purchased our own copy. It's fun for us as parents to read, and it's fun for the family to look at. We could look at it again and again. The pictures are so beautiful, yet whimsical at the same time. Plus, as parents we love the sweet humor behind both words and pictures.
landrover More than 1 year ago
everyone should know this by heart. It is easy. Everyone should also know what a Runcible spoon is. (Macys doesn't have it - or have a clue what it is.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a favorite of mine since I was a child I got this for my niece for xmas
psycheKK More than 1 year ago
There are many illustrated version of Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat -- some are so breathtakingly gorgeous but lack the silliness of this story, some are cartoony and have no depth, and some are so deep they tread some very disturbing waters -- so far, though, this is my favorite version. Jan Brett's illustrations, as always are colorful, well-rendered and quite lovely; and, as usual, somewhat jarring. That's what makes them so perfect for Edward Lear. Edward Lear's writings fall somewhere between Beatrix Potter and Hilaire Belloc.  On the surface, they are silly with a rhyming scheme pleasing to the ear. But scratch a little below that surface and there is something a little "off" in his work. All was not safe in Potter's world -- Peter Rabbit's father was turned into a stew -- but there was a happy ending for the protagonist. Reading Belloc can still give me nightmares. There is no safety in Lear's writing, no guarantee of a happy ending, but it is thought-inducing, not nightmare-inducing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I placed an order with B&N online for the Owl and the Pussycat calendar in June and still have not received it. I charged it on my credit card and had hoped to have received it by now as a gift for a birthday present in the middle of July. I am still waiting and hope that it will be here soon. Please let me know. Thank you.