Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda

Reviewed: March 21, 2005
By: Margaret Atwood / illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Publisher: Key Porter Books
32 pages, $21.95

One suspects that Margaret Atwood dashes off children’s books like these to lighten her spirits after wallowing in despair while producing books like Oryx and Crake.

Like her last excursions into kiddies’ territory, this tale of sad beginnings and happy endings is nattily narrated with a superfluity of anguished alliteration which will nist your twung ninto kots before you are done with it.

Bashful Bob, you see, was abandoned in a basket by his bubble headed blonde mother who was blinded by her burnished brilliance so that Bob was blotted from her brain. Bob was raised by some kind dogs who found him in the street. He grew up a little strange, not nearly as well adjusted as Mowgli or Tarzan.

Doleful Dorinda’s mum and dad had disappeared in a dreadful disaster when she was still in diapers, and she had been dumped on distant relatives. They apparently felt that Dorinda sounded a bit like Cinderella and treated her pretty much like that.

Dorinda ran away, bumped into Bob, worked on his communication skills, and they were happy for a time. One day they engaged in an act of unusual public service and, as a result became sort of famous. It then turned out that Dolinda’s parents weren’t dead and they found her. It also turned out that Bob’s mom regained her IQ when she became a brunette and recognized him in the paper.

Everybody got to live happily ever after or, in this book “delirious with delicious delight.”

See what I meant about that tongue?

This was actually a bit more fun than her last alliterative adventure, having a bit of a Lemony Snicket flavour to it. The story appears to cherry pick ideas from the boy’s adventure novels, fairy tales and classics that Atwood admits to having been addicted to as a child. Petricic’s art seems to fit the story - though I’m not certain about the pink bison. You decide for yourself.