________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005


Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda.

Margaret Atwood. Illustrated by Dušan Petricic.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter Kids, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $21.95.
ISBN 1-55263-609-7.

Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.

**** /4

In alliterative witty wordplay, award-winning author Atwood tells the stories of two children, Bob and Dorinda.

     Bob’s story: “When Bob was a baby, he was abandoned in a basket, beside a beauty parlour. His bubbleheaded mum, a brunette, had become a blond in the beauty parlour, and was so blinded by her burnished brilliance that baby Bob was blotted from her brain.”

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     Luckily, three canines, a boxer, a beagle and a borzoi become abandoned baby Bob’s surrogate parents. They provide him with food and shelter but bashful Bob is confused about his identity; he believes that he is a dog, not a boy. He barks, bites, and bounds behind bushes. Bob’s bemused canine companions are concerned about his behaviour!

     Dorinda’s story: “On a block beside Bob lived Doleful Dorinda. Dorinda’s dad and darling mother had disappeared in a dreadful disaster when she was still in diapers, and she had been dumped on distant relatives.”

     Dorinda is not treated decently by her relatives: she is fed disgusting food, dressed in dingy clothes, and assigned dismal duties. Dorinda becomes depressed and departs. As she trudges through the vacant lot inhabited by Bob, she hears barking and discerns two blinking eyes in a bush. Dorinda dedicates herself to teaching Bob to talk.

     A befuddled buffalo, that also suffers from an identity crisis because a “bungling bureaucrat … botched its diploma and declared it to be a big begonia,” escapes from the Botanical Garden. Bob, Dorinda, the boxer, beagle and borzoi embark on a comic rescue. In the end, the buffalo is returned to Alberta, and Bob and Dorinda are reunited with their parents.

     Although the wordplay drives the story, the tale is humorous; its literary elements and events resonate with many fairy tales. Colour is used cleverly by Dušan Petricic to communicate meaning: Bob’s world is rendered in murky tones of gold/yellow and Dorinda’s world is depicted in hues of purple. The characters’ worlds are ‘artfully’ blended together in the last illustration of the book. When the verbal text focuses on either Bob or Dorinda, the other character’s world is depicted simultaneously through the illustrations. As well as including a second narrative told entirely through illustrations on several pages in the book, Petricic has skillfully incorporated a mis-en-abyme on the double-page spread of the Alberta-bound buffalo. Finally, readers should take time to view and talk about the patterned mauve and energetic illustrations on the end pages.

Highly Recommended

Sylvia Pantaleo is a language arts professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC.

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