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When a wacky pirate named Black and his fellow buccaneer Littlejack land on an island that doesn’t yield up treasure as quickly as the scurvy knaves would like, Black takes out his anger by stripping the land of the letter O, which he’s hated every since his mother got stuck in a porthole and had to be pushed out instead of pulled in. Lacking this valuable vowel means big changes for the island of Ooroo—which is now known as just “r.” Geese have to stay together—if one wanders off, it risks becoming a forbidden goose. Owls can’t hoot—they can’t even be owls. Cats can’t meow, dogs are verboten. The islanders can’t read books, or cook food, or even live in houses. Instead, they have to read magazines, eat snacks, and live in shacks. Shoe becomes she and woe becomes we; life gets very confusing indeed. But these folk are not about to give up without a fight. They keep their poodle dogs—they just speak French and proclaim their canines to be chiens caniche. They meet secretly in the forest where they utter the prohibited letter in hushed but defiant whispers. And, led by clever Andreus and the even wiser Andrea, they refuse to give up on hope, love, valor, and freedom. This children’s classic, first published in 1957, has been rediscovered the republished as part of the New York Review Children’s Collection. Author James Thurber’s wordplay is remarkable—the rhythm of the narrative dips and dives and sings and rhymes, and the jaunty illustrations by Marc Simont add vigor and zest to a sprightly little fable that is already instructive, creative, worldly, and wise.
posted Jan 21, 2010 at 10:57PM
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