cover image Franz-Ferdinand the Dancing Walrus

Franz-Ferdinand the Dancing Walrus

Marcus Pfister, trans. from the German by David Henry Wilson. NorthSouth, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4469-8

Walrus Franz-Ferdinand possesses three-foot-long tusks, dislikes moving, and has spent much of his 42 years fighting other walruses. When “one of the most famous flamingo ballet schools in the world” relocates to his neighborhood on the east coast of Greenland, though, he finds that he also has a dream: to dance with them. He cajoles the imperious Madame Flamenco, creates a tutu out of “the nearest floating carpet of plastic garbage,” and perfects the pirouette. When the appalled flamingos insist that Madame Flamenco and Franz-Ferdinand (now madly in love) depart, art and love prevail: they form “the best—in fact, the only—walrus ballet company in the world.” Pfister’s (The Rainbow Fish) chatty, unhurried text has the feel of impromptu narration from a family member, and Franz-Ferdinand is a marvelous creation—a wrinkly, speckled gray behemoth who exudes lighter-than-air grace and joy as he dances amid the pink flamingoes and dappled sea ice. References to climate degradation throughout point to a message beyond personal fulfillment; though the topics don’t always cohere smoothly, an author’s note ties it all together: “Just as walruses can learn to dance,” it reads, “all of us can learn new things. And so we humans can and must learn to change the wasteful and damaging habits of our consumer society.” Ages 4–8. (Oct.)