Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The late Ogden Nash's (Custard and Company) wordplayful 1936 rhyme gets a fresh start with timeless illustrations by Munsinger (Ho for a Hat!; One Hungry Monster). Title character Custard, the ``realio, trulio little pet dragon,'' lives with young Belinda, her dog Mustard, her cat Ink and her mouse Blink; while these housemates boast of their brave deeds, cowardly Custard cries for ``a nice safe cage.'' Yet when a pirate invades their home, the smaller pets desert Belinda (``Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,/ And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed''), and Custard courageously saves the day. Munsinger's watercolor-and-ink cartoons have a classic quality: Ink the cat appears Victorian, and there's a trace of John Tenniel's designs in pug-nosed, striped-hose-wearing Belinda. Custard is a little more up to date-like a lime-green beanbag with slender purple wings-and his moment of bravery reminds ``fearless'' readers of the purpose of guardians in a sometimes scary world. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Paging through this latest edition of Nash's classic nonsense poem for children is like meeting an old friend. Nash's work still feels comfortable and right. It still gives pleasure. Custard will always be a coward, but this does not stop him from saving his friends with gustatory Tlan from a villainous pirate. Munsinger's watercolors are appropriately humorous and de-scarifying.
Munsinger does an appealing job of catching the mix of wry humor and affection that has made Ogden's whimsical poem a favorite with audiences young and old for 60 years. "Belinda lived in a little white house, / With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse, / And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon, / And a realio, turlio little pet dragon." Called Custard because of his cowardice, the dragon is teased unmercifully by Belinda ("brave as a barrelful of bears") and her other supposedly courageous animal friends until a pirate frightens everybody but self-effacing Custard, "who gobbled him, every bit." At first, there seems to be nothing extraordinarily fresh about Munsinger's watercolor interpretation: Custard looks as dragons should (a little bit paunchy and a nice shade of green), as does the pirate, with his peg leg, tri-cornered hat, and red-and-white T-shirt. Yet the pictures are full of energy and expression, strong and lively enough not to be overwhelmed by the bouncy cadence of the verse. In fact, they have a genuine warmth and humor that will quickly make this version of Nash's poem a favorite.