Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What do you think, Feezal? by Elizabeth Honey

“Where will I put my books?’ asked Bean. ... ‘Watch’ said Dido and she pressed the wall in a place where the wood grain was slightly darker and looked like a wizard’s face. Silently, a door swung open and a light came on to reveal the most wonderful hidden library. It was lined with shelves high and low, deep and narrow, just waiting for her books. It smelt like a forest.” “She spent a glorious morning unpacking and arranging her library. It was so satisfying, as it is when you have just the right place to store a treasure. …Favourites. Dogs. Very large. Funny. Small. Information. Once up a time. Real life. Animals. Scary. Then Bean found she had funny favourites, and some of the dog books were big, and some animal books scary and information books small. She put little books up high, heavy books down low, favourites on the shelf that was easiest to reach, scary books in the darkest corner, bird books up high sprinkled in the tree books, worm books down low. Riddle and joke books upside down. Mouse books and bird books well away from cat books, well away from the very large collection of dog books.”

Bean loves dogs. In fact she matches nearly everyone she meets with a dog breed. Her succession of babysitters make for some hilarious comparisons. Bean sadly is not allowed to have a dog because the family have just moved into one of the most expensive and impressive penthouse apartments in Sydney. When I read this book I thought of the building near the Sydney Opera House which we colloquially call “The Toaster”.

The plot of What do you think, Feezal? is a wild ride. If you have read One dog and his Boy by Eva Ibbotson or Too small to Fail by Morris Gleitzman, then you will love What do you think, Feezal? As you read this book you should also look for a book called Princess Beatrice and the rotten robber also by Elizabeth Honey. There are clever cross references to this little picture book embedded into the plot of this longer novel. Other popular books also get a mention which added to my enjoyment.

Bean is not allowed to leave the penthouse so she arranges her books, reads and plays with her whimsical collection of toys. Feeling bored she studies her surroundings through the enormous glass windows. The building caretaker is a particularly curious character. One day Bean sees him in a nearby café talking with some men. Little does she know this is all part of a conspiracy against her wealthy father. He has created a sealed office in the heart of the apartment where he works on computers crunching numbers and building his successful business. Luckily Bean suspects something is about to happen. That she might even be kidnapped so she prepares so very special survival undies.

This book was published in 1997 and it is great to see there is only a tiny reference to a floppy disk that is slightly dated. Reading the imprint information I was fascinated to see just how much input Elizabeth Honey put into her book. She is the illustrator (they are perfect), she designed the cover (the back cover is a reading adventure itself) and she even did the typesetting.

Finally one note of caution. I am sure this wonderful book is out of print so you will need to check your library. I found this copy at my local council library and we do have one in our school. This book was made when the paper was much better in paperback books so hopefully it has not been culled from the library you use – the paper has not gone yellow – the copy I have here is in fabulous condition. You should also look for other books by this talented Australian author. Some might be in the poetry section of your library. Also your copy of What do you think, Feezal? may have a different cover but I prefer this one.

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