Mister Magnolia

Time for another classic.

This book is as old as me.  First published in 1980, it is one of the best of the books written by Quentin Blake, who is most famous as the oft-times illustrator to Roald Dahl.

Mister Magnolia has only one boot.  He has an old trumpet that goes rooty-toot, two sisters who play the flute, a newt, a parakeet-pecked suit, a water chute – and he’s a dab hand at juggling with fruit.  But poor Mister Magnolia has only one boot.  That is until a small girl turns up with a parcel…

This is great fun to read.  The absurd things in Mister Magnolia’s possession, all rhyming with boot, are delightful and of course beautifully and wittily illustrated.  The tiny mice marching past as he takes the salute are gorgeous.  And there is a kind of pathetic fallacy at the end as, depressed at the lack of a boot, Mister Magnolia stares out of the window at the rain and dull people hurrying past with umbrellas.  At the moment when he puts on his new boot, the sun is brightening and a man smiles at the sky, taking down his umbrella.  There is artistry and depth at work here.

For me, the most glorious aspect of this story is the fact that Mister Magnolia gets one new boot. Not a new pair of boots, but one new boot – that doesn’t match the old one.  That additional touch of the absurd is what lifts this story to classic status and has ensured it is now on its second generation (at least) of young fans.

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