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Review of The Man from the Land of Fandango

The Man from the Land of Fandango
by Margaret Mahy; 
illus. by Polly Dunbar
Preschool, Primary    Clarion    32 pp.
10/12    978-0-547-81988-4    $16.99    g

When it comes to contemporary nonsense verse, no one wrote it better than the late Margaret Mahy (see Susan Cooper’s reminiscence of her friend). With this latest offering, Mahy places herself right up there with the nineteenth-century masters of the form, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.  Here she uses an enclosed rhyme scheme, alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme with such precision that it feels as though there is not a word out of place — even though they are completely nonsensical. Most like her famous Bubble Trouble (rev. 5/09) in spirit, The Man from the Land of Fandango is less complicated in both its twists of tongue and story. After describing the main character, Mahy tells us what will happen when he pays a call: “Oh, wherever they dance in Fandango, / The bears and the bison join in, / And baboons on bassoons make a musical sound, / And the kangaroos come with a hop and a bound, / And the dinosaurs join in the din.” Next comes juggling with jelly and jam, dancing on ceilings and walls, jingling and jangling, tingling and tangling — all activities that would make the Cat in the Hat seem fairly tame. The quirky exuberance of Dunbar’s playful watercolor illustrations is a perfect match for Mahy’s verse; they show two young children reveling in a zany visit from a man they themselves created as a larger-than-life painting that flew off the page.

From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kathleen T. Horning About Kathleen T. Horning

Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books and teaches a popular online course for ALSC on the history of the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

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