CM Archive
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Deirdre Kessler
Illustrated by P. John Burden

Charloltetown (P.E.I.), Ragweed Press, 1989. 32pp, paper, ISBN 0-920304-99-0 (cloth) $12.95, 0-920304-98-2 (paper) $6.95
Distributed by University of Toronto Press. CIP

Kindergarten to grade 6 / Ages 5 to 11
Reviewed by Jennifer Johnson.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

In Spike Chiseltooth, Karl buys a small rabbit at the pet store, only to find that his parents' prohibition of "a cat or a dog" also includes the rabbit, now named Spike. Given a brief half hour to remove the offending pet, Karl decides to deliver the rabbit, in secret, to a difficult neighbour. When Mr. Gribble, an abrasive recluse, arrives home, he finds the rabbit on his doorstep accom­panied by a pleading note. He takes in the rabbit and over a night and a morning becomes the nurturing owner of the nibbling and newly christened Spike Chiseltooth.

In choosing a picture-book format Kessler cramps the development of character and plot. The book reads like an outline for the story, rather than a finished text. The reader craves infor­mation on Karl, on his desire and campaign for a pet and on his family background. Mr. Gribble is introduced far too quickly. The quirky review of his "comforting" fridge contents (blood sausage, head cheese, liverwurst, etc.) breaks the flow of the story rather than adds the humour intended. Mr. Cribble's character changes abruptly and entirely, and while one can only be pleased with the result, the change is too hurried to be believable.

P. John Burden (illustrator of A Horse Called Farmer (Scholastic-TAB, 1987)) provides very sombre illustrations, which portray an urban apartment. Burden includes extra detail, which supplements the text: Mr. Cribble's apartment hall is a clutter of items while his apartment is practically unfurnished; Karl reads The Book of Rabbits before he checks on Mr. Cribble's progress above; the glass at Karl's ear touches boards complete with leaky pipes and families of mice and spiders.

Spike Chiseltooth is a moderately suc­cessful collaboration between author and illustrator, but the tale of Karl, Spike and Mr. Gribble would have been better served by a fiction format.

Jennifer Johnson, Ottawa Public Library, Ottawa, Ont.
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