________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 18 . . . . April 27, 2007


The Aunts Come Marching.

Bill Richardson. Illustrated by Cynthia Nugent.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55192-990-3.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***½ /4


The aunts come marching one by one,

                        HURRAH!  HURRAH!

The aunts come marching one by one,

                        HURRAH!  HURRAH!

The aunts come marching one by one,

It's Dainty Dot with her big bass drum.

"To the guest room please," says Pop.

Up she hops with a THUMP


            BUMP, BUMP, FLUMP.

Bill Richardson and Cynthia Nugent - what a perfect picture-book author/illustrator partnership! Richardson's love of word play and his uninhibited imagination have resulted in a truly wacky take on the old chestnut "The Ants Go Marching" (In this case, it's an invasion of relatives rather than insects). As successive groups of weirdly attired aunts come marching in, they produce a cacophony of sound that delights the children but drives their poor father into such a state that he sends the musical aunties one after the other up to the guest room. 

     Nationally acclaimed, award-winning artist Cynthia Nugent has created a parade of aunts in a truly mind and eye-boggling variety. They include piccolo Pat (in Egyptian costume) with sousaphone Sue (a horned and booted Viking), bare-midriffed and mini-skirted bagpipers, a clothesline hung with trombonists from the Wild West and finally ten musician aunts led by Auntie Gwen who is dressed in sumptuous Eastern-style purple attire replete with golden turned-up-toe slippers. Nugent's lavish and lively style of illustration appears in her best-selling Mister Got to Go and Mister Got to Go and Arnie, as well as the delightfully mischievous picture book version of the song When Cats Go Wrong.

     A chart giving the notes and chords for the well-known song is printed on the bright yellow endpapers of The Aunts Come Marching. Richardson has made a slight variation from the original version in the last few measures of the song to fit his words; however, the change should not create a problem for the adult reader/singer. The whumps, blumps  sproings, squawks and squooshes at the end of each verse are ideal for musical improvisation.

internal art

     As readers would expect of a writer, story-teller and broadcaster of Bill Richardson's ilk, humour is paramount. Coming up with poor frazzled Pop as a central figure brought to life by Nugent's artistic imagination is a stroke of brilliance. Pop's unexpected appearance on the last page puts a satisfactory finish to a song that has never really had a proper ending. Counting the aunts and singing the lyrics from The Aunts Come Marching will do a great job of bringing together readers and young listeners. Music and kindergarten teachers could use the book as a springboard to encourage creative movement and mime.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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