Tor Seidler's The Wainscott Weasel
illustrated by Fred Marcellino
Book review by Heather Job
Ages 7 - 12
Bagley Brown is known for two things:
But that's not all that's different about Bagley. While the other weasels dance all night in the forest, Bagley steals away to the local pond, where he can watch Bridget, a beautiful fish.
Bagley isn't bothered by his separation from the other weasels. He has Bridget, and his frog friend Paddy. But when the summer heat threatens to dry up the pond and a greedy osprey starts to pick off the pond life, Bagley has to take a stand to save his friend.
Reluctantly enlisting the help of the other weasels, and even more
reluctantly starting to befriend them, Bagley finds the weight of his
father's legacy lifted from his shoulders.
The Wainscott Weasel is reminiscent of E.B. White's animal novels (e.g. Charlotte's Web) in both its timeless approach and appeal and its characters, who are distinctly animal, but also very distinctly human-like.
For example, the rowdy Whitebelly brothers have the impulsive, irrational, and, well… weaselly characteristics of weasels. But the illustrations (which give them backwards-slung baseball caps) and their goofy 50's-style slang (e.g. "spiffiest partner," "hitched up," "mad as a hornet") give them a distinct human quality.
Seidler humanizes the cast enough that they're understandable and accessible, but without sacrificing their identity as animals. It's a tough balance, and he rides it well.
The story has excellent forward motion and pacing, with high stakes all around. Will Bridget die in the drought? Will the osprey get her? Will the osprey get Bagley, the way an owl got Bagley’s father? Will Zeke Whitebelly be able to seal the deal with the high-class Wendy Blackish, or will she keep pining after Bagley? Will Bagley and Bridget be able to remain friends?
Seidler's book is a classic and charming tale that proves that heroism is found not just in individuals, but in communities, and that the way to be a hero is by being yourself. For readers of anthropomorphic and cheery tales (or tails?) like Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Sheep-Pig, The Wainscott Weasel will be a much-loved addition to the bookshelf.
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