The Owl and the Pussycat.

Description

48 pages
$11.95
ISBN 978-1-55337-232-2
DDC j821'.8

Author

Publisher

Year

2007

Contributor

Illustrations by St├ęphane Jorisch
Reviewed by Anne Hutchings

Anne Hutchings is a public-school teacher and librarian in Ajax,
Ontario.

Review

Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat and Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven are the latest titles in Kids Can Press’ highly acclaimed Visions in Poetry series. Stephane Jorisch, who was awarded the Governor General’s Literary Award (Children’s Literature—Illustration) for Jabberwocky, the first in the series, gives us his interpretation of the voyage of the pea-green boat.

 

Relying heavily on Lear’s own drawings for inspiration, Jorisch’s characters initially appear pensive and gloomy. Using pencil, ink, and watercolours, the four wordless pages at the beginning of the book emphasize the disparity in the background of the “elegant” Owl from Owl Heights and the common Pussycat from the other (wrong) side of the tracks. The disapproval of others is evident as the pair sip their drinks and as Owl serenades his lady. It is only when they travel to the faraway “land where the Bong-tree grows” that they find acceptance from other mismatched pairs. Jorisch has taken a simple love story about an unlikely couple and turned it into a tale of tolerance and the celebration of differences.

 

Turning from the sublime to the sinister, Ryan Price’s black and sepia illustrations, using a technique called “drypoint printmaking” (similar to etching but using a variety of tools instead of acid to etch the images onto a copper plate), emphasize the dark atmosphere of Poe’s classic. Some may take exception to Price’s work, for he suggests in his illustrations that the narrator himself may have had something to do with Lenore’s death. In any case, we watch as the man, haunted by the memory of Lenore and made fearful by the presence of the raven, descends into madness. The final image of him, crouched on the floor, surrounded by hastily drawn sketches of the visions spinning around in his head, raven-like himself, with Poe’s final word, “Nevermore!” is disturbing and extremely powerful.

 

Like previous volumes in the series, both The Owl and the Pussycat and The Raven conclude with useful endnotes about the poets and the artists. The Owl and the Pussycat could be used with children of any age although younger children may prefer those versions illustrated by Jan Brett or Anne Mortimer. The Raven is appropriate for intermediate or senior audiences. Both books are highly recommended.

Citation

Lear, Edward., “The Owl and the Pussycat.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/32825.