“Mister Whistler” Dances Out of His Clothes and Into Your Heart

Margaret Mahy must have been taking a pretty big risk when she pitched her publisher on a children’s book that revolves around a grown man stripping down to his boxers, page by page. Not to mention that a crowd gathers, watches his show, and even stuffs money in his hat.

Does it sound a bit iffy? Don’t worry, it’s a charmer of a book!

Mister Whistler wakes up with a tune in his head. He dances his way into his clothes and then heads off to clean his aunt’s windows. When Mister Whistler gets to the train station he can’t find his ticket, so he begins to dance his way back out of his clothes in search of it. Item by item comes off as he checks his pockets for the ticket. All the while though, his ticket is firmly clasped between his lips. (How many of us are guilty of doing something similar?)

Mister Whistler’s little show begins to attract a crowd who loves the performance. Some drop money in his hat. And it’s a good thing they do, because even though Mister Whistler finds his ticket just in time to board the train, he accidentally swallows it as soon as he gets on.

Gavin Bishop’s nostalgic, stylized illustrations and soft color palette give Mahy’s not-so-typical story just the right tone. You can almost hear the tune whistling in Mister Whistler’s head as he shimmies, shakes, and spins.

Mister Whistler is a charmingly odd and oddly charming book, and that’s why we love it. Mahy has a knack for doing something a little different. Often times the books that some might describe as “different,” turn out to be the best ones.