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Monday, February 18, 2013

The Man from the Land of Fandango, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2012. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Oh, whenever they dance
in Fandango,
The bears and the bison
join in.
And baboons on bassoons
make a musical sound,
And the kangaroos come
with a hop and a bound,
And the dinosaurs join
in the din."

And dance is what I wanted to do as I read this book out loud to myself. Such a loss with the death of Margaret Mahy...for so many reasons. Not the least of which is her way with words and their rhythms, whether for those who love her novels, short story collections or the many wonderful picture books that are sure to entertain  new generations.

The man from Fandango is a 'somersault star' whose vocation is to make children happy. The boy and girl who welcome him say nothing; they simply enjoy his visit. Their job is done with painting him so realistically that he jumps off the page, and 'bingles and bangles and bounces' from here to there and all around.

The pace of the story is madcap, and moves with great energy from one spread to the next. Polly Dunbar uses watercolor and collage to create her brightly colored and joyful art. As the words wind their through ups and downs on each page, her wonderful illustrations do the same giving a sense of joy and abandonment. Check out the bison, sporting red pumps on her hind hooves, a red bow on her tail and gorgeous red smiling lips as she cavorts with the children. The music that spouts from the baboon's bassoon is equally delightful!

This is a perfect blend of text and art...full of whimsy and charm with only slight remorse:

"And he only appears every five hundred years -
So you'd better be home when he calls!"

Lucky we are that the man from Fandango can visit us anytime we choose to open this book again and again!

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