The Wainscott Weasel
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This issue’s cover illustration is from Brian Wildsmith’s The Hare and the Tortoise (© Brian Wildsmith 1966) published by Oxford University Press and re-issued in 2007 (978 0 19 272708 4, £5.99 pbk). Brian Wildsmith’s work is discussed by Joanna Carey in this issue. Thanks to Oxford University Press for their help with this March cover.
The cover of this edition of a superb animal fantasy, first published in 1993, quotes a critic’s comparison of the story to E B White’s Charlotte’s Web. This is high praise, but for the first few pages I was tempted to dismiss this story of anthropomorphosised weasels addicted to woodland dance events as being merely twee. However, as we get to know the weasels and the other woodland creatures better, the more the tale intrigues. At the centre of the story is the mysterious, retiring hero of the weasels, Bagley Brown, who is in the throes of hopeless love for the beautiful and graceful Bridget. Unfortunately, Bridget is a striped bass. The writing is skilful enough to make you share the sadness of this impossible cross-species romantic agony. Meanwhile, the anthropomorphism fades into the background as Bridget’s fellow lake dwellers languish in a ferocious drought that exposes them to the depredations of a marauding osprey, and Bagley launches an Herculean attempt to rescue them.
This is an excellent story that becomes more and more powerful by the page. Marcellino’s evocations of woodland and water, depicting in pastel hues the play of light, foliage and animal movement, enhance the subtlety and forlornness of the tale.