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Marcia Vaughan
Illustrated by Linda Hendry
Toronto, HarperCollins, 1993. 64pp, paper, $5.95.
ISBN 0-00-647401-2. CIP.

Grades 2 to 4/Ages 7 to 9

Reviewed by Allison Haupt.

Volume 21 Number 5
1993 October

This slim little publication is unusual in several ways. It combines two holiday stories in one book, it's a "Canadian reader" in a paperback format, and it has colour illustra­tions. This is the second book about Goldsworthy, a badger, and Mort, an opossum, by Marcia Vaughan, the American author of such titles as Wombat Stew (Silver Burdett Press, 1986), The Giant's Child (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1991), and The Sea-breeze Hotel, and illustrated by Linda Hendry, the Canadian illustrator of Mrs. Mortifee's Mouse and the The Queen who Stole the Sky (Scholastic, 1989).

The Valentine story in this compilation is called "The Talking Rock" and is about an argument between Goldsworthy and Mort about who should eat the biggest Valentine's cookie that the friends have baked and iced. "I am bigger, so I should eat the big cookie. You are little, Mort, so you should eat the little cookie," says Goldsworthy. Mort cleverly retorts, "You are already big and round so you should eat the little cookie." The issue is not so much resolved but rendered redundant when the two throw their cookies at the "talking" rock, whom they have asked for advice and which of course only echoes back their own voices.

Comparisons to Lobel's story about cookies in the Frog and Toad series are inevitable, especially when there are so many parallels: two friends, cookies that look delicious and smell delicious, the birds who get the cookie crumbs, and ending with the baking of a cake. The friends' argument and its resolution is fairly "childlike" and realistic, and the story within the story of the "talking rock" at Echo Canyon is well integrated and the high point of this story.

"The Easter Egg Mystery" also has parallels in the Frog and Toad series about the autumn in which Frog and Toad rake the leaves in each other's yard as a surprise. Mort collects eggs throughout the woods, deco­rates them and hides them in Goldsworthy's yard as an Easter egg hunt surprise while Goldsworthy is out for a stroll. Returning home that evening, Goldsworthy finds them all and returns to Mort's house that night to hide them in his garden.

There is a bit of confusion in the morning, but once all the eggs are finally "in the basket" a very angry Hen, Duck and Goose waddle up to demand them back. Mort apologizes for "snitching" the eggs and they hatch at that precise moment, resolving the issue of which coloured egg belonged to which mother.

Both stories are pleasant, the print size is large, the vocabulary is easy without being tedious, and the relationship between the two friends is alternatively and believably fractious and friendly. We won't talk about what two nocturnal animals are doing out in the daylight or why the chicks, ducklings and goslings are all the same colour - this volume is obviously a study of human nature, not the natural world.

The colour illustrations are attractively rendered in pastel water-color shades with black ink outline. The illustrations vary in size and shape throughout the book, giving it a pleasant and appealing look.

Although somewhat predictable and not terribly new or imaginative, the book has obvious applications. It does "double duty" as a holiday book, it is a serviceable picture-book and easy reader for primary students, and the characters are appealing and unique enough to attract a readership. Although the cover is sturdy, the paperback format will restrict its shelf life somewhat. Ultimately, this little volume is well worth the price.

Allison Haupt is Coordinator of Children's and "Young Adult Services at North Vancouver District Public Library in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
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