the new and improved pantaloon!

    
     
Look what just came out this week!

A brand new, updated edition of the 1951 Golden Books classic, Pantaloon, written by Kathryn Jackson. Did you read it when you were little? Somehow I missed this one, even though I had a pretty large collection of Golden Books. It really is a charming story — I find it impossible to say the word, “pantaloon,” and not smile. Knowing it’s the name of a pastry-loving French poodle tickles me to no end. Pantaloon, pantaloon, pantaloon! Isn’t that a great word?

    
      Original version published by Simon & Schuster, illos by Leonard Weisgard.

The story itself has been revised a little in this new Random House edition — a few words changed, an extra bathtub scene added. To refresh your memory, Pantaloon loves loves loves pastry and cookies, and wants to be the baker’s helper. Unfortunately, the baker rejects him, thinking Pantaloon will eat more than he’d bake. Undaunted, Pantaloon disguises himself as an old lady who claims to be a good cook who never eats between meals. The overworked baker is so overjoyed, he dances with the old lady around the shop. Oops! She accidentally loses her shawl and bonnet, and Pantaloon gets thrown out of the bakery again.

Soon after, bicycle-riding Pantaloon collides with the baker, whose injuries confine him to bed. Pantaloon takes care of him, and fills in at the bakery. He does a wonderful job of icing and delivering the cakes and winning over the customers, but he also remembers his bicycle caused the accident. So, once the baker is well, Pantaloon decides never to show his face in the bakery again. How the customers miss him! The baker realizes he, too, misses the irrepressible, hardworking pastry dog, and comes up with the perfect plan to win him back.

    

Steven Salerno has brilliantly breathed new life into Kathryn Jackson’s simple story with his vibrant, expansive illos. (You may remember him as the illustrator for Laura Purdie Salas’s, Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School (Clarion, 2009)). The original illustrations were done by Leonard Weisgard — they’re sweet with a certain innocence about them, but have a rather static quality.

Salerno’s gouache, digitally enhanced illos, by contrast, really pop. They’re full bleed, pulsing with energy and brimming with detail. Salerno includes a much wider variety of pastries, breads and cookies in more kitchen scenes, populates the neighborhood with more people, and whets the reader’s appetite by showing him the bakery window from the very first page of the story. Overall, more expression, more movement, more joie de vivre.

Clever touches catapult Pantaloon into the 21st century. Both chefs resemble a “jolly round potato,” yet Salerno’s version appears taller and sports a very stiff, pleated toque rather than the more conventional pouffy chef’s hat (the taller the toque, the higher the chef’s rank). With his red scarf and bold gestures, he has more stage presence.

The old Pantaloon wears a red scarf and green hat, but no clothes. The new pantaloon prances through the pages in his striped pants, and his old lady disguise includes a pair of red stilettos. There is also a greater sense of place in which to anchor the story and establish a more definitive context. I love that when you first open the book, you see a colorful, delectable box of pastry, and when the story is over, the final page shows Pantaloon rolling pastry with shelves of treats behind him.

Call me picky, but there is one text change in the story that bothers me. In the original version, when we are first introduced to Pantaloon, he says, “I never can get enough of those cookies and yummy pastries.” The new version reads, “I never can get enough of those delicious baked-and-iced things!”

Baked-and-iced things? To me, it doesn’t read as smoothly, and being vague and more generalized, doesn’t feel quite as child friendly as “cookies and yummy pastries,” which is instantly familiar, evoking all manner of anticipation and delight. Sometimes, leave well enough alone. What do you think?

On his blog, Salerno says: “I was thrilled to have been chosen for the task to illustrate this tale about the baker and the over zealous poodle, Pantaloon. Who could pass up creating images about a baker, tons of pastries, and a dog who rides a bike? I also wanted to be a part of the Golden Books history!” Apparently, Salerno counted all the images of pastry he included in the book, and the total came to 490! See why I love his illos? ☺ Random House originally intended to re-release Pantaloon with the Weisgard illustrations, but the Weisgard estate couldn’t locate the original art for digital scanning, so they had to select a contemporary illustrator. In Salerno, they made a very wise choice.

I’m sure this new edition will be enthusiastically embraced by yet another generation of children. Who can resist such an exuberant, eager, comical dog? Pantaloon’s disappointment at being turned away is palpable, his undaunted spirit and cleverness admirable; his baking skills make him all the more lovable. Highly recommended! Plan on a trip to the bakery before, during, or after reading. Now say it with me and cheer: Pantaloon, Pantaloon, Pantaloon! We’re so glad you’re back! Hooray!

♥ Check out Steven Salerno’s blog for more tidbits about creating the illustrations for Pantaloon. You’ll find preliminary sketches and more spreads (posted alongside corresponding Weisgard illos). The relevant posts are here, here, here, and here.

PANTALOON by Kathryn Jackson
illustrated by Steven Salerno
published by Random House, March 2010
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 40 pp.
On shelves now.
Review copy provided by publisher.

*Spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 1951 Kathryn Jackson, renewed 1979 Random House, Inc., illustrations © 2010 Steven Salerno, published by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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