William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray's Walter the Farting Dog
illustrated by Audrey Colman
Book review by Tamara Splingaerd
Misunderstood Flatulent Canine Adopted by Loving (Eventually) Family
Here’s something: I spent 3 years training my child not to scream, “I Farted!!!” in crowded restaurants and instead to whisper politely, “Mama, I Pooted,” because it’s ever so much more civilized.
Then along comes Kotzwinkle and Murray’s Walter the Farting Dog which threatens to derail all my hard work. I won’t buy it. A year goes by. I realize I’m a crazy person. I buy it.
Let’s start here: Walter is a round, filthy, mottled gray blob that looks like an overstuffed sausage balancing on rat legs. Plus he stinks. Not an appealing first look. Then there are the humans:
Computer airbrushed skin, piercing eyes, a grotesque full frontal assault. Creepy. The backgrounds are boldly colored multi-media modern clipart collages. And of course, the fumes…
These are NOT pretty pictures and I like pretty pictures. (See below.)
But here’s the thing of it: I love Walter the Farting Dog. I loved Walter before I was halfway through the story the very first time.
I love his blotchy bloated bod and the ethereal clouds floating around him. What I had initially resisted so strongly has become a family favorite.
First, Walter’s pathetically loveable. You can look into those sad, shameful eyes and instantly see he’s a trapped gentle soul. It’s no wonder Betty and Billy choose him at the dog pound.
“Nobody wanted him,” said Billy.
“But we love him,” said Betty.
Second, it’s funny.
Walter got the blame for everyone else’s farts too. If Uncle Irv let one slip, he just went and stood near Walter.
Then all he had to say was, “Walter!”
And everyone would look at poor Walter.
Third, there’s actually a cute plot and hilarious (and yes, totally predictable) resolution. Walter is going to be sent back to the pound if he doesn’t stop farting. So he holds it in and eventually ends up saving the day…and the VCR.
The best part is that the authors don’t find a way to stop Walter’s gas. They turn him into a hero. In the end the family loves him for who he is, stink and all. Perfect. Review continues.
On a side note, Kotzwinkle is the guy who wrote the novel E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial, which Steven Spielberg turned into one of the greatest films of all time. So maybe there’s a deeper message here? Like…
Love all creatures equally? Or maybe it’ll turn out that Walter is actually ET’s pet dog and in subsequent books he’ll come back for him and explain that Walter just needs to be in his own atmosphere again where he actually smells good.
I’m reaching now. Actually, the answer is in the dedication: “For everyone who’s ever felt misjudged or misunderstood.” Beautiful, sniff.
Okay, so it’s not Miss Manners’ top pick. It’s rude, crude and a teeny bit inappropriate but since I have no plans to have the Queen for tea anytime soon, Walter the Farting Dog is always welcome in my home. I like laughing with my kids.
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