Betty Waterton. Illustrated by Barbara Spurll.
Volume 20 Number 5
In reissuing Betty Waterton's l983 book Mustard ¹, Scholastic has replaced Barbara Reid's two-colour line drawings with full-colour illustrations by Barbara Spurll, and has expanded the format to picture-book size. While the story is essentially the same, there have been minor editorial changes, such as replacing "doghouse" with "kennel" and paring down the descriptive passages somewhat. Visually, it is much improved by the larger, more colourful format.
The story itself is guaranteed to win the hearts of Primary children, whose affinity for pets is undisputed. Mustard is a large yellow puppy in the litter of small black puppies that appears one morning on Miss Goldfinch's doorstep. Unable to find a home for Mustard because of Mustard's boisterous nature and large size, Miss Goldfinch is pleasantly surprised when a young boy and a drowning kitten provide an unexpected resolution to her problems. Children, who are often "in the doghouse" because of well-intentioned errors of judgement, can identify with Mustard and are relieved by the tidy ending.
While the illustrations are bright and cheerful, they lack the humorous appeal of Spurll's animal characters in Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper² by Tololwa Motley. Her human figures are strangely elongated with triangular chins and popping white eyes. In addition, the pictures are not always true to the text. For example, Mustard is described as whiskery but there are no whiskers evident, the doghouse is listed as first to go in the wheelbarrow but is shown as last, and the final sentence of the book reads, "Mustard gave Miss Goldfinch one last happy wave of her tail - knocking the flower off the last snapdragon ..."; however, a whole row of snapdragons is depicted. These are minor quibbles, but children are very literal minded and find these kinds of inconsistencies disturbing.
In all, independent readers will enjoy this book and it would make a good addition to a classroom collection in Primary grades.
Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.
¹ Reviewed vol. XI/V September 1983, p. 220.
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