Warning: This book may cause flatulence. Walter is a fine dog, except for one small problem: he has gas. He can’t help it; it’s just the way he is. Fortunately, the kids Billy and Betty love him regardless, but Father says he’s got to go! Poor Walter, he’s going to the dog pound tomorrow. And then, in the night, burglars strike. Walter has his chance to be a hero. A children’s beloved classic, this story will have kids rolling on the floor with laughter. Adults are permitted to laugh too.
We hold this truth to be self-evident: farting makes kids laugh. Walter, an apologetic-looking dog adopted from the pound, passes gas morning, noon, and night, no matter what he eats, whether it’s a 25-pound bag of low-fart dog biscuits, cat food, or fried chicken. On the bright side, “If Uncle Irv let one slip, he just went and stood near Walter.” When Father reaches the limit of his patience with Walter’s flatulence, he decides the pooch is once again pound-bound, despite Betty and Billy’s pleading. Poor Walter knows his days are numbered and “He resolved to hold in his farts forever.” That very night, two burglars break into Walter’s family’s house, and (you can see where this is going) Walter gasses the burglars with a “hideous cloud” that forces them to drop their loot and run into the clutches of the police officers, “choking and gasping for air.” The next morning Father and Mother discover Walter has saved the day–or at least their silverware and VCR. “And so the family learned to live with Walter, the hero dog. And that is the end of our tail.” (Or is it? Fans will be pleased to discover the next book Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale.) Audrey Colman’s highly stylized illustrations, imbued with a surreal, Monty Pythonesque collage look, are as absurdly comical as this silly story that is purely powered by natural gas. (Ages 5 to 8) –Karin Snelson
A Q&A with Illustrator Audrey Colman
Q: How did you become interested in children’s book illustration? Why did you decide to illustrate this particular book?
A: I didn’t plan to do children’s book illustration. As a freelance artist, I regularly sent out art samples to various businesses. I sent art to North Atlantic Books in hopes of doing book jackets, and approximately a year later they approached me with Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle. I was very excited because I was a big fan of Kotzwinkle’s (not-for-children) book, Dr. Rat, about the wretched reality of the lives of laboratory animals. I’d recommended this book to many over the years and I would never have passed up an opportunity to work on a project with Kotzwinkle. Of course, it wasn’t exactly an animal rights-themed picture book, but I expected that we’d agree on how animals would be depicted.
Q: Many people think “potty humor” is inappropriate in literature. Do you think there’s a benefit?
A: If it encourages reading and laughing, it’s beneficial.
Q: Everyone is asking about the spider that shows up throughout the book. Is there a particular story you’d like to share about the spider?
A: I’m often asked where the spider is on the Fart-Free Biskwee page in Walter the Farting Dog. Sometimes I say that he’s hiding in the cupboard on that page, but the truth is that I just forgot that one. I tried to be careful not to leave out the spider in subsequent books so I wouldn’t have to apologize again. (Who knew that so many people would notice my goof?) In any case, sorry for my mistakes and any ensuing confusion!
Q: Walter the Farting Dog spent an incredible 75 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list after it was first released in 2001, and there is even a Walter plush toy–that farts when you squeeze it. Are you surprised with how well this book has been received by parents and kids alike?
A: Of course! It’s been ten years and five Walter books in the series later, and I’m still not always sure which ingredients are responsible for a book’s success or failure!
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