We hold this truth to be self-evident: farting makes kids laugh. Walter, an apologetic-looking dog adopted from the pound, passes gas morning, noon, and night, no matter what he eats, whether it's a 25-pound bag of low-fart dog biscuits, cat food, or fried chicken. On the bright side, "If Uncle Irv let one slip, he just went and stood near Walter." When Father reaches the limit of his patience with Walter's flatulence, he decides the pooch is once again pound-bound, despite Betty and Billy's pleading. Poor Walter knows his days are numbered and "He resolved to hold in his farts forever." That very night, two burglars break into Walter's family's house, and (you can see where this is going) Walter gasses the burglars with a "hideous cloud" that forces them to drop their loot and run into the clutches of the police officers, "choking and gasping for air." The next morning Father and Mother discover Walter has saved the day--or at least their silverware and VCR. "And so the family learned to live with Walter, the hero dog. And that is the end of our tail." (Or is it? Fans will be pleased to discover the next book Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale
.) Audrey Colman's highly stylized illustrations, imbued with a surreal, Monty Pythonesque collage look, are as absurdly comical as this silly story that is purely powered by natural gas. (Ages 5 to 8) --Karin Snelson
A Q&A with Illustrator Audrey Colman
Q: How did you become interested in children's book illustration? Why did you decide to illustrate this particular book?
A: I didn't plan to do children's book illustration. As a freelance artist, I regularly sent out art samples to various businesses. I sent art to North Atlantic Books in hopes of doing book jackets, and approximately a year later they approached me with Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle. I was very excited because I was a big fan of Kotzwinkle's (not-for-children) book, Dr. Rat, about the wretched reality of the lives of laboratory animals. I'd recommended this book to many over the years and I would never have passed up an opportunity to work on a project with Kotzwinkle. Of course, it wasn't exactly an animal rights-themed picture book, but I expected that we'd agree on how animals would be depicted.
Q: Many people think "potty humor" is inappropriate in literature. Do you think there's a benefit?
A: If it encourages reading and laughing, it's beneficial.
Q: Everyone is asking about the spider that shows up throughout the book. Is there a particular story you’d like to share about the spider?
A: I'm often asked where the spider is on the Fart-Free Biskwee page in Walter the Farting Dog. Sometimes I say that he's hiding in the cupboard on that page, but the truth is that I just forgot that one. I tried to be careful not to leave out the spider in subsequent books so I wouldn't have to apologize again. (Who knew that so many people would notice my goof?) In any case, sorry for my mistakes and any ensuing confusion!
Q: Walter the Farting Dog spent an incredible 75 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list after it was first released in 2001, and there is even a Walter plush toy--that farts when you squeeze it. Are you surprised with how well this book has been received by parents and kids alike?
A: Of course! It's been ten years and five Walter books in the series later, and I'm still not always sure which ingredients are responsible for a book's success or failure!
From Publishers Weekly
Here's a companion to Taro Gomi's Everyone Poops, albeit with less educational value. Walter, a fat gray dog with an apologetic look on his face, comes home from the pound with two children. He has incurable gas, and his family decides to take him back. The night before he is to go, Walter sadly devours "the 25-pound bag of low-fart dog biscuits the vet had prescribed for him, which had made him fart more.... A gigantic gas bubble began to build inside him." Wouldn't you know, two burglars break in, and Walter's liability becomes his asset. Predictable stuff, but Kotzwinkle (Trouble in Bugland) and education writer Murray know their audience. Their simple strategy just keep saying "fart" should have children rolling in the aisles during read-aloud. Newcomer Colman likewise fixates on one visual gag, Walter with steam blasting out his backside. Unlike Babette Cole, whose Dr. Dog takes a mock-scientific approach to digestion, Colman specializes in reaction shots; in her surreal collages of photos and patterns, people hold their noses and a cat glances at the culprit. Yes, this lowbrow endeavor could be a crowd-pleaser but, like its topic, its disruptive effects will tend to linger. Ages 4-8.
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