Picture Book Nook: Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Gavin Bishop

Earlier this year we lost one of our national treasures, Margaret Mahy.  Margaret wrote many wonderful stories in her time, from picture books to novels, that are treasured by children all over the world.  October sees the publication of two of Margaret’s last stories, including the wonderful Mister Whistler, featuring gorgeous illustrations by Gavin Bishop.

Absentminded Mister Whistler always has a song in his head and a dance in his feet.  In a rush to catch the train, he is so distracted he loses his ticket.

Is it in the bottom pockets of his big coat or the top pockets of his jacket?  Perhaps he slipped it into his waistcoat…

Where is Mister Whistler’s ticket?

Mister Whistler is an absolute treasure.  It’s Margaret and Gavin’s first collaboration and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect pairing for this story.  Margaret’s story is delightfully old-fashioned and Gavin matches this with the styles and fashions of another era.  Mister Whistler is a rather distracted fellow, one of those people who would forget his head if it wasn’t screwed on.  He gets carried away by the music in his head, that makes his twitching feet long to dance.  While he is looking for his ticket he’s dancing out of his coat and tap dancing impatiently.  Children will love that they know something that Mister Whistler doesn’t – where his ticket is – and they’ll want to yell it out and tell him.

Gavin Bishop’s illustrations for Mister Whistler are my favourite of all of his work.  There’s so much joy and energy in the illustrations and you can see it bursting out of Mister Whistler, who is always smiling.  I love the way that Gavin has made the story flow from one page to the next, both my Mister Whistler’s dancing body and the musical notes which follow him.  Mister Whistler himself is quite gangly and I love the way that Gavin has him throwing his long limbs all over the place as he dances.  Gavin’s use of colour is spectacular, from Mister Whistler’s blue, checked trousers and very loud wall-paper, to the flaming sunrise in the background.  Gavin has added a real spark to Mister Whistler’s character too by giving him a crazy dress sense.

Once again, Gecko Press have produced an absolutely beautiful book that will be treasured by children and adults alike.  Mister Whistler is my favourite New Zealand picture book of the year and my pick for the winner of next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

5 out of 5 stars

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