What can a picture book do? It can reel us in for a ride of whimsy. It can move us to free our bodies and minds. It can be the motivation for a child- or the child inside the adult- to look at the playful side of life. When I first found Mister Whistler, written by one of New Zealand's most loved children's authors, I was confused. What is this story about? Here is a dashing man, summoned by his auntie, who gets dressed and undressed, dancing with a train ticket in his teeth? The illustrations by Gavin Bishop whirled me along with colors, textures and mismatched patterns, musical notation snaking across the pages as Mr. Whistler dances to a tune that flutters through his mind.
I love the Mahy's language, full of colorful images and delightful phrases. This book is not a moral tale, but a delightful flirtation with a character who has the energy of Fred Astaire, the humor of Jim Carey and the fashion sense of Oscar Wilde, steadily sashaying along like a happy train toward the future.