cover image The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat

Edward Lear. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-205010-6

If there is a slightly sketchy, unfinished quality to Marshall's exuberant watercolors in this enchanting interpretation of the classic poem, it's because the gifted artist never lived to complete them. In true Marshall fashion, the artist lifts Lear's quirky duo to new heights, retaining the characters' eccentricities while endowing their relationship with human dynamics. In a preview to the book's title page, dapper Owl appears--with the look of one long accustomed to such scenarios--in jacket, tie, vest and spats showing a still-primping Pussycat his pocketwatch. He then dons a bowler and Pussycat sports a wide-brimmed chapeau as the two, chauffeured by a diminutive dog, depart in a roadster pulling a wagon stacked with no fewer than 19 valises and hat boxes. Marshall's inventive take on the ""beautiful pea-green boat"" is the S.S. Dorabella, an appropriately hued cruise ship that puts the QE II to shame. Despite the other implied guests aboard, Marshall retains an intimate focus on the romantic couple. A tux-clad Owl serenades his ""lovely Pussy"" on deck as his beloved reclines in a lounge chair, and they come ashore alone together in ""the land where the bong tree grows."" Marshall's supporting cast is as nattily and humorously turned out as these principals (e.g., the portly Piggywig, who supplies the wedding ring, is resplendent in grass skirt and a colorful lei). Maurice Sendak, as friend and colleague, pays eloquent tribute to Marshall's talent in an afterword. It would be difficult for readers to imagine a better couple to set sail with than Marshall's Owl and Pussycat. All ages. (Oct.)