Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: The Walloping Window-blind, Adapted and Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

A capital ship for an ocean trip
   Was "The Walloping Window-blind;"
No gale that blew dismayed her crew
   Or troubled the captain's mind.

This picture book is Jim LaMarche's adaptation and pictorial vision of Charles E. Carryl's fun, rollicking, nonsensical, sea shanty-ish adventure poem, first written in 1885. My girls, who groaningly interrupted me after the first stanza with "Is this a rhyming book?" soon got into the swing of the poem, greatly aided by LaMarche's funny, imaginative illustrations featuring kids as the captain and crew of the Walloping Window-blind.

This is a poem I remember from my childhood, that I'd all but forgotten until I saw this book at the library. (It was made into a folk song at some point, and I remember hearing it on an LP record when I was young.) The poem has been "adapted" (i.e. changed) slightly from the original, in places, to reflect a more universal, PC appeal. It's not something that would necessarily bother other people, but I don't, as a general rule, like it when the words of an author are "updated" for PC purposes. I understand the reason for it (mostly), but I don't approve. (She said, with her nose in the air.) To me, it's changing the historic record. In all fairness, my peevishness aside, I think the changes are well done, and in keeping with the general spirit of the poem. And I adore LaMarche's kid crew; their facial expressions are priceless.

The Walloping Window-blind
(The original version)
by Charles E. Carryl

A capital ship for an ocean trip
   Was "The Walloping Window-blind;"
No gale that blew dismayed her crew
   Or troubled the captain's mind.

The man at the wheel was taught to feel
   Contempt for the wildest blow,
And it often appeared, when the weather had cleared,
   That he'd been in his bunk below.

The boatswain's mate was very sedate,
   Yet fond of amusement, too;
And he played hop-scotch with the starboard watch
   While the captain tickled the crew.

And the gunner we had was apparently mad,
   For he sat on the after-rail,
And fired salutes with the captain's boots,
   In the teeth of the booming gale.

The captain sat in a commodore's hat,
   And dined, in a royal way,
On toasted pigs and pickles and figs
   And gummery bread, each day.

But the cook was Dutch, and behaved as such;
   For the food that he gave the crew
Was a number of tons of hot-cross buns,
   Chopped up with sugar and glue.

And we all felt ill as mariners will,
   On a diet that's cheap and rude;
And we shivered and shook as we dipped the cook
   In a tub of his gluesome food.

Then nautical pride we laid aside,
   And we cast the vessel ashore
On the Gulliby Isles, where the Poohpoo smiles,
   And the Anagazanders roar.
Composed of sand was that favored land,
   And trimmed with cinnamon straws;
And pink and blue was the pleasing hue
   Of the Tickletoeteaser's claws.

And we sat on the edge of the sandy ledge
   And shot at the whistling bee;
And the Binnacle-bats wore water-proof hats
   as they danced in the sounding sea.

On rubagub bark, from dawn to dark,
   We fed, till we all had grown
Uncommonly shrunk, - when a Chinese junk
   Came by from the torriby zone.

She was stubby and square, but we didn't much care,
   And we cheerily put to sea;
And we left the crew of the junk to chew
   The bark of the rubagub tree.

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