The other day I bought Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie (illus. Frank Newfeld) for my step niece and nephew for purely selfish reasons. It was a favourite of mine when I was a kid and I was always fascinated by the illustrations. I remember trying to emulate them during my single-digit years. I have my favourite Dennis Lee rhymes and they’ve obviously made a mark on me so I hoped that by giving a copy to the mini step-relatives they’d one day have the same feeling I had when I came across the book in the bookstore last weekend. Nostalgia. (It’s been rather thick recently so I’d like to spread it around a bit). My battered childhood copy is packed away somewhere at my mum’s so it’s been ages since I have read the book but immediately upon seeing a copy on the shelf at kidsbooks verses started tumbling into my head… Alligator pie, Alligator pie, if I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die. And suddenly I was 4 again. It’s always fun to find yourself smiling stupidly to yourself in the middle of a store on a busy Sunday. Suddenly all the other books seemed to take on a thin veneer of banality.
Does the book hold up? I think so. I mean, I’m totally biased. There’s some retro 1970’s bell bottoms going on in the illustrations, but those have come back around and around a couple of times since I’ve been in charge of dressing myself. (I loooove the illustrations. I’m so happy they are still publishing this book with the original Frank Newfeld drawings). As well, rhymes about Saskatchewan or Winnipeg or peg-legged pigs don’t go out of style, do they? My step-niece was filling in the words for Alligator Pie on the first go round and if that isn’t a positive sign I don’t know what is. Also we had a rather serious discussion about Potamus and Grundiboobs although one side of the discussion consisted mostly of “why?” “but why?”
Today I heard Frank Newfeld is going to do a talk in Vancouver in April. I’m so totally there. This book and those drawings are one of the big things in my childhood. It’s been about 25 years since I’ve thought about the book* and suddenly I’ve had two servings of Alligator Pie in one week.