Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards

Yes, that Julie Andrews, which I admit was probably the sole reason why I picked that book off the shelf of the long-gone The Lion and the Crab Bookstore in Lincoln City with the birthday money my sister gave me.  According to the book jacket, the hardback copy cost me $5.95, and according to my book plate, I was calling myself Wendy Falalaconer in those days.  Judging by the wonky cursive, it was probably the summer after 3rd grade, so my 9th birthday.
Or maybe I just forgot how to spell my name.  Cursive is hard, man.  

If I picked it up because of my admiration for Maria/Mary Poppins, it became a favorite because of its whimsical story and lovable characters.  Reading it now, I certainly have issues with it, but it was my stock answer to "What's your favorite book?" for a big chunk of my childhood.  
My well-loved copy.

The story starts out with the three Potter children, aged 7, 10, and 13, being sent out of the house so their father can get some work done.  They take a bus to the zoo and buy themselves donuts, which RIGHT THERE lets you know this book was not written in this century.  There they happen to meet Nobel Prize winner Professor Savant (really, Julie? Savant?) who befriends them, talks to them about DNA, and then invites them along to Whangdoodleland.  Lindy, being the littlest one, is of high importance, because she has the best imagination and is most able to believe in magical things.  (Like another youngest sister whose name begins with an L...)

After rigorous imagination training, they have to make the trip sooner than expected, because the Oily Prock, the disapproving-of-humans-visiting Prime Minister to the Whangdoodle, has caught on to their plans.  Using magical hats, they transport themselves to a land with tangerine rivers and marmalade skies.  No wait, that's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."  But seriously, that song and this book have always reminded me of each other.  There is a boat that will only move if you tell jokes, a fluffy Whiffle Bird that gives useless advice (or is it?), Sidewinders, Gazooks, Oincks, Splintercats, Flutterbys...some of which are friendly, some of which are threatening, none of which ever manage to cause real harm.  The faun High-Behind Splintercat, for example, seems very sweet and charms Lucy Lindy--until it turns out to have betrayed her to the White Witch Prock.

The theme of the book is the importance of imagination, and in that aspect, it's timeless.  I see on Goodreads that many people love it, even upon re-reading, but I have to say, my own high rating was based on my memory of how deeply I loved it as a kid, not on my careful consideration as an adult.  This is a children's book that is best enjoyed by actual children.  I suspect my daughter would love it.  

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