Thursday, September 9, 2010

Move over, Shrek...

there's a new ogre in town. And he is, in the words of illustrator Jules Feiffer, “the biggest, meanest, filthiest ogre in the history of ogreship.” In fact, he is The Odious Ogre, and I for one can't wait to make his acquaintance. I'm even willing to overlook the fact that one of the the villagers he snacks on is the local librarian. For this ogre is the result of a new collaboration between Jules Feiffer and author Norton Juster, who fifty years ago created The Phantom Tollbooth. Yes, I know. I screamed with joy, too. Because The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my all-time favorite books as a kid. Quirky, playful, and oh-so-punny, The Phantom Tollbooth is a language-lover's dream, almost subversive in it's ability to transmit the message that learning is an adventure, and that bored people are boring people, without being the least little bit preachy. I mean, really, how could you NOT love a book sprinkled with quotes like these: "Why not? That's a good reason for just about anything - a bit used, perhaps, but still quite servicable." or "so many things are possible, just so long as you don't know they're impossible." Oh, Milo and Tock, how I loved you and your quest to save the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, as you travelled to places like the Island of Conclusions...which, of course, can only be reached by jumping to it. The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic, and Feiffer's whimsical yet sophisticated line drawings were the perfect counterpoint to the tale.

So, what have the now 81 year old duo cooked up this time? The story of an ogre: a rampaging, villager-eating, countryside-trashing bully of an ogre, who meets his match when he meets a kind and clever girl. Feiffer uses watercolors to flesh out his line drawings this time, and the samples I've seen online are wonderful.

Want to hear more from this creative pair, who joke that they'd love to collaborate again - in another 50 years? Go to this NPR page for a print and audio interview, and here for a great interview in Bookpage. And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a fairy tale to order.

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