John Vernon Lord is an award-winning author-illustrator who has been working for nearly 50 years. He has illustrated many classic texts by Aesop, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, as well as his own stories, and he was also a distinguished lecturer and teacher of illustration for 45 years until his recent retirement.
Edward Lear (1812-1888) was an illustrator, natural history artist, and writer, though he is best known for his nonsense poems. His collection of poetry, A Book of Nonsense,was published in 1846 and helped to popularize the limerick, a humorous form of verse. His most famous poem, The Owl and the Pussycat,has been made into many picture books.
PreS-Gr 4-The Owl and the Pussycat has been illustrated by artists such as L. Leslie Brooke, Barbara Cooney, Michael Hague, Tomi Ungerer, Jan Brett, and Janet Stevens. None of the previous versions achieves such a perfect match to the lighthearted nonsense as Marshall's captivating, droll artwork. The hand-lettered cursive text adds immensely to the design. The double-page spreads offer watercolor illustrations in an amazing variety of warm and cool colors with a clarity that makes them visible at a distance for group reading; all of the pictures expand the humor of the story. In early 20th-century style, a jowly, self-important owl takes charge of a fussily dressed and suitcase-laden pussycat as they speed away in their chauffeur-driven roadster to a pea-green ocean liner. Dressed to the nines throughout the voyage and even when arriving in "the land where the bong tree grows," they are married by a turkey remarkably outfitted in full ecclesiastical garb. They loosen up a little during their wedding feast and finally succumb to the lunacy of the light of the moon, dancing on the beach in hula skirts to the accompaniment of a three-piece dog and chicken combo floating offshore. This nonsense verse has set the standard for the genre and has delighted generations. Marshall's talent has improved upon perfection. A moving tribute to the artist in an afterword by Maurice Sendak adds poignancy to this important book.-Marlene Gawron, Orange County Library, Orlando, FL
If there is a slightly sketchy, unfinished quality to Marshall's exuberant watercolors in this enchanting interpretation of the classic poem, it's because the gifted artist never lived to complete them. In true Marshall fashion, the artist lifts Lear's quirky duo to new heights, retaining the characters' eccentricities while endowing their relationship with human dynamics. In a preview to the book's title page, dapper Owl appearsÄwith the look of one long accustomed to such scenariosÄin jacket, tie, vest and spats showing a still-primping Pussycat his pocketwatch. He then dons a bowler and Pussycat sports a wide-brimmed chapeau as the two, chauffeured by a diminutive dog, depart in a roadster pulling a wagon stacked with no fewer than 19 valises and hat boxes. Marshall's inventive take on the "beautiful pea-green boat" is the S.S. Dorabella, an appropriately hued cruise ship that puts the QE II to shame. Despite the other implied guests aboard, Marshall retains an intimate focus on the romantic couple. A tux-clad Owl serenades his "lovely Pussy" on deck as his beloved reclines in a lounge chair, and they come ashore alone together in "the land where the bong tree grows." Marshall's supporting cast is as nattily and humorously turned out as these principals (e.g., the portly Piggywig, who supplies the wedding ring, is resplendent in grass skirt and a colorful lei). Maurice Sendak, as friend and colleague, pays eloquent tribute to Marshall's talent in an afterword. It would be difficult for readers to imagine a better couple to set sail with than Marshall's Owl and Pussycat. All ages. (Oct.)