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Dennis, Lee
Illustrated by David McPhail Toronto, HarperCollins, 1993. 31pp, galley
ISBN 0-00-223996-5 (laminated boards) $14.95. CIP

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7

Reviewed by Maryleah Otto

Volume 22 Number 2
1994 March/April

Lee and McPhail are back again, this time with an adaptation of Lee's poem "Peter Ping and Patrick Pong" which first appeared in The Ice Cream Store, the ever popular poetry collection that won the Mr. Christie's Book Award.

In McPhail's version, Peter Ping is a baby boy and Patrick Pong is a baby bear. These two are accidentally switched at birth (can you suspend your disbelief long enough to accept that bears are born in hospitals?). Their parents lovingly bring them up, unaware that their "Children" are not their own.

Since this is an anthropomorphic depiction of bears, the bear family and the human family interact as neighbours, chatting together, strolling in the park, taking the children to school, and so on. This comic dramatic device allows the audience to be in on something that the players don't realize.

The two youngsters mature together, gradually outgrowing childish quarrels to become lifelong friends. What a lovely way to suggest to children that differences may be just a matter of perception, and even if they do exist, they needn't stand in the way of mutual affection. Lee's original poem is included at the end of the text.

McPhail's full-colour paintings are presented in comic-strip style with the dialogue enclosed in "balloons." The bright colours, minimum detail and simple outlines of the human and ursine characters are perfect for the intended audience. A child would have no difficulty following this wonderful story by the illustrations alone.

Maryleah Otto is a children's author and retired librarian in St. Thomas, Ontario
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