cover image How Pleasant Know MR Lear

How Pleasant Know MR Lear

Edward Lear. Stemmer House Publishers, $14.95 (74pp) ISBN 978-0-88045-126-0

Butenko, a Polish artist, disappoints with these eccentric, haphazard renderings of four poems by Lear. Butenko draws in grainy white medium on a dark, matte ground, givng the effect of chalk on a blackboard. He makes heavy use of preschoolish-fans might say ``primitive''-stick figures with spherical, smiley-face heads. The autobiographical ``How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear!'' (Lear himself called it ``Self-Portrait of the Laureate of Nonsense'') opens the volume, with Butenko hand-lettering every word; the other three selections pair doodles with mostly mechanical type. Unsurprisingly, the richness of this book lies in Lear's playful but melancholy verse: ``The Jumblies'' realizes the envy of people neither foolhardy nor brave enough to ``[sail] to sea in a sieve''; ``The Dong with a Luminous Nose'' evokes longing and heartbreak (for this selection, Butenko crudely copies Lear's own cartoon); ``The Scroobious Pip'' introduces a bizarre animal that suggests Lewis Carroll's Jabberwock. Neither Butenko nor Lemieux (see There Was an Old Man..., reviewed above) improves on Lear's own illustrations, which can be viewed in such volumes as the Everyman's Library Children's Classics edition of A Book of Nonsense. Ages 4-10. (Sept.)