In New Zealand, Margaret Mahy, who died in July of this year, was a national treasure. Here in the States, we don't know her as well as we should, but perhaps you know Bubble Trouble or Down the Back of the Chair, the first two picture books she wrote with illustrator Polly Dunbar. Their final pairing, The Man from the Land of Fandango, was just released here and it is every bit as playfully fantastical and charming as their first books.
The Man from the Land of Fandango is one rollicking rhyme about a man who "is coming to pay you a call. With his tricolor jacket and polka-dot tie/ And his calico trousers as blue as the sky/ And his hat with a tassel and all." As the illustration shows, the man from the land of Fandango is about to spring to life from a painting by two children. Mahy clearly has a love of language (animals "tingle and tongle and tangle/ Till tomorrow turns into today) and her rhymes are as sweet on the tongue as the cake that is eaten in a "friendly fandanical way." My favorite comes near the end of the book, and, considering my passion for books about food, I guess it makes sense...
He comes in at the door like a somersault star
And he juggles with jelly and jam in a jar
And custards and caramel creams.
Dunbar matches Mahy's words perfectly, taking the story to another level. While I couldn't find any interior illustrations for The Man from the Land of Fandango, I have reviewed other books by Polly Dunbar and I highly recommend you take a look at her work. Even without Margaret Mahy's lovely, mellifluous way with words, Dunbar can illustrate and write a fabulous story.
Source: Review Copy