CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008
Toilet Tales. 20th Anniversary edition.
Andrea Wayne von Königslöw.
Toronto, ON: Annick, 1985/2008.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-131-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-132-7 (hc.).
Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.
Review by Bruce Dyck.
Children can use toilets.
Big boys and Girls can sit on them.
Toilets are for people, big and little.
Animals could never use toilets.
The answers to why the various animals in the book could never use toilets make up the majority of the book. From a too tall giraffe to a too small mouse, and many more in between, the reader is treated to a silly and engaging list of reasons why toilets are for big boys and girls and not animals.
Toilet Tales is a fairly simple book directed at the potty training set, and it hits its mark. There is just the right amount of silliness both in the illustrations and the text, and it is probably this quality that has kept the book in demand since its release.
It is not surprising then that the publisher would decide to offer a revised edition given that the original edition of Toilet Tales was released in 1985, a time when many parents of the intended audience were still in junior high, if not elementary school. What is surprising is just how improved this revised edition is over the original.
When the two are placed side by side, the first thing that jumps out is the illustrations von Königslöw has done for the new edition. These are not just updated editions of the originals, but they have been totally redrawn, and the effort was definitely worth it. It's not that the original illustrations were bad; it is just that the new ones are that much better, not to mention, they immediately make the originals look their age, or older.
The next thing that will leap out at the reader is just how much the readability of the story has been improved. When compared to each other, the original appears to be just a list of various animals and the reasons why they are unable to use the toilet, whereas, in the revised edition, the text is much more story like. Perhaps if I had read the original first, it wouldn't have been as noticeable, but when they are compared, the difference in the two editions becomes very apparent. The actual changes in the text are in many cases small, and in one case amounts to the addition of just one word. The result, however, is significant.
There are a few other changes that relate both to the illustrations and to story flow. The revised edition adds three new animals, an orca, kangaroos, and an octopus replacing the porcupine and the generic fish of the original. Both of the animals eliminated were problematic illustrations in the original. The porcupine just didn't seem to work as well as the other animals visually, and, as the original CM reviewer noted regarding the illustration for the fish: "...the large shark fin seen rising from the toilet bowl will need explaining. It may also cause some youngsters to fear using the toilet and thus defeat the purpose of the book."
With the new illustrations and animals, a slight change in order in appearance is understandable, and insignificant except for one tiny thing. That tiny thing is the mouse which has been moved from being the ninth animal to appear to being the last. While this is a small change, it is also an important one, given that this little mouse appears tucked away somewhere in each of the animal illustrations. The placement at the end then enables von Königslöw to place all of the previously appearing animals in the bathroom doorway looking in at the mouse, a nice visual wrap up prior to the concluding statement that "Toilets are made for big kids like you."
To be honest, I find myself harboring a lot of scepticism when it comes to the revised edition of any book less then 40 years old. An unreasonable bias, perhaps, but it seems to me that, more often then not, the revised edition turns out to be nothing more then a money grab by either the publisher, the author, or both. In the case of this book, that scepticism is totally unfounded. The revised edition has all of the qualities needed to become an instant hit with the potty training crowd and their parents, something I'm not sure I would have said about the original. The improvements in the illustrations and the readability of the book make this revised edition one that is worth going out and buying, even if you already have a copy of the original sitting on a shelf somewhere. This is especially true for libraries as I believe this latest edition will be much more appealing to a new generation of readers.
Bruce Dyck is currently employed by his wife and two sons as a stay-at-home dad in Winnipeg, MB.
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