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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where's Walrus, by Stephen Savage. Scholastic, 2011. $18.99 ages 3 and up

Not to be confused with the other 'W'  who also tries to lose himself in a variety of venues, Walrus is a zoo denizen and lives in the big city. It must be mid-afternoon (at least, that is when I am most likely to nod off for a quick nap) and all the zoo occupants are dozing, including the zookeeper.

For the adventurous and wayward walrus, it seems the perfect time to escape. He slyly observes the non-action and quickly skedaddles. He doesn't get too far...the fountain right outside the gate provides his first perfect hiding spot. He places himself opposite the resident mermaid, striking a pose that will hopefully help him blend into the scenery. The keeper is perplexed. He's got his net, and a stunned look as he searches for his charge.

Kids will be hooting and hollering in an attempt to help him, or enjoying the hilarity of said walrus spouting water while reclining in the fountain's damp. Next, we see him seated in a diner with four other customers (a la Edward Hopper). The joy is in the attention paid by those sharing this lively and imaginative tale. Kids will see the culprit immediately as there is not a whole to distract them from their search; while wise adults will make the connection to the famous painting and other familiar scenes. Enjoyment to be had by all.

The keeper remains oblivious to his quarry, and we watch as the walrus takes his place among models, workmen, fire fighters, can-can dancers. and even a line of landscape artists. His painting is definitely funnier than the rest and there for all to see. His comeuppance comes when he takes his place with a line of high board divers. His dive is so spectacular that everyone notices...the zookeeper included.

While the crowd cheers and the judges offer their perfect scores, the zookeeper is stunned; it gives him pause. The final page shows the result of that thinking!
So much can be told without one word being spoken. Stephen Savage sets his formidable talent to the task of creating a memorable story without saying so much as one word! His pacing is perfect, taking his young audience from page to page with wide-eyed anticipation. The bold illustrations show only what needs to be shown. There are no superfluous details. What a chase!

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