CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005
"Curiouser and curiouser," Alice might have remarked as she paged through Wallace Edwards' latest picture book, Mixed Beasts. According to Wallace, this bizarre compendium of creatures has been compiled by roving zoology Professor Julius Duckworth O'Hare Esq., whose portrait graces the title page. The fact that Professor O'Hare is a bespectacled rabbit in a vest and tie should alert the prospective reader to Edwards' little joke.
Kenyon Cox, a prominent painter, art critic and muralist who lived from 1856 to 1919, is the author and illustrator of the original edition of Mixed Beasts. It is this volume that inspired Wallace Edwards, author and illustrator of the Governor General's award-winning picture book, Alphabeasts, to create his own version of the 1904 book. To come up with his bizarre bunch, Cox combined names of beasts which naturally flow together, such as the Kangarooster, the Camelephant, the Bumblebeaver; or, as in the Creampufffin, the Flamingocart and the Peanuthatch, he dreamed up beasts by attaching the name of a legitimate creature to an inanimate object. Each of the 14 mixed beasts is accompanied by Kenyon Cox's verses, which are made up of rhyming couplets in the manner of the one explaining the Pelicantelope:
The Bumblebeaver, a rotund, bucktoothed, yellow and black striped fellow who appears on the dust cover, is described as:
There is no doubt that artist Wallace Edwards has had a huge amount of fun illustrating and augmenting Cox's original compendium of beastly mixtures. On each lavishly decorated page filled with exotic flora and fauna of the creature's habitat, there lurk specimens of other wondrous beasts encountered by the intrepid Professor O'Hare on his zoological rambles. Sharp-eyed readers will be able to pick them out, and, thanks to an illustrated appendix at the back of the book, be able to identify such curious beasts as the double-headed Cockatwo, the Chocolate Moose (ensconced in a truffle cup) or the violin-toting Fiddle Crab.
Mixed Beasts, Wallace Edwards third picture book, will surely not disappoint fans who enjoy his trademark combination of bold and bizarre visual wit. Although Cox's verses fall short of being hilarious, they display a gentle and innocent sort of nursery rhyme humour. Edwards has done a brilliant job of combining Cox's poetic talents with his own sumptuous and sophisticated artistic interpretations. In so doing, he has ensured that, like all really good children's books, Mixed Beasts will appeal to readers of all ages.
Elementary and Middle School librarians would be hard put to justify not spending $20.00 on a book that is bound to appeal to such a wide range of student age, grade and literary sophistication.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.