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Owl and the Pussycat

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K-Gr 3 Thirteen eye-catching silk-screen type paintings illuminate the text of Lear's familiar nonsense rhyme. Each single-page bordered painting is composed of simple shapes in dramatic and unexpected color combinations, a mixture of green, pink, aqua, orange, and purple. Although the artistic style is spare, simple, primitive, and seemingly flat, the simplicity is deceptive and enticing, for shapes often appear to leap out at viewers, or conversely appear to draw readers into the perspective of the scene. Particularly interesting are the first and last picturesthe setting out to sea of the owl and the pussycat, and their dance by the light of the moon. Some of the pictures are haunting, while a few other scenes are a bit disjointed and awkward. Rutherford's version, which suggests the dreamlike surrealistic fantasy of the poem, contrasts sharply with two other recent interpretations of Lear's poem. In Hilary Knight's version (Macmillan, 1983), a young boy and girl literally enter the fantasy by actually becoming the owl and the pussycat as they listen to the poem read to them. The characters in Lorinda Bryan Cauley's version (Putnam, 1986) are touchingly expressive and convincing in their unlikely love. One might think that yet another interpretation of the Lear poem would be unnecessary, but Rutherford's modern abstract paintings with their green and orange seas and their blue mountains demonstate that there is always room for one more provocative interpretation of Lear's lyrical nonsense verse. Yvonne A. Frey, Peoria Public Library, Ill.

In her version of Lear's classic poem, accomplished artist Rutherford uses bold, Matisse-like blocks of color to create a sensuous, almost abstract interpretation. It's a very personal vision and a valid approach, but this may not be the version of the poem that is most likely to attract young readers. For one thing, these moody illustrations undermine the poem's humorlines like ``They took some honey, and plenty of money/ Wrapped up in a five pound note'' are wasted. Children coming across the poem for the first time may be put off by the picturesit is often difficult to make out exactly what is going on. Nevertheless, the paintings have artistic merit in their own right; this could prove a popular gift book. (All ages)

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