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Monty Goes South

by Marc Tetro

Marc Tetro’s third picture book is a happy mix of preschool and adult humour. The premise is simple, the solution surprising. It’s time to fly south, but Monty, a Canada Goose, is afraid of heights. How to make the trip? His fellow geese suggest different modes of transport, all of which have some drawback. Monty even consults a (beaver) psychologist, but analysis doesn’t work either. Poor Monty is feeling the pressure, so relaxes with a nice swim in the river. Doing the backstroke, he doesn’t notice when he reaches a waterfall. He blithely continues, only now he’s flying – upside-down!

The message may be a little didactic (beginning with the epigram “fly your own way”), but the telling has lots of charm. Young children adore books about transportation (the cover illustration shows Monty driving a red car)… and what adult reader could resist geese who get together around the lawn furniture to “brainstorm”? (Less sophisticated preschoolers may need some explanation.) Imagine the art of Lucy Cousins and the sensibility of Daniel Pinkwater, and you get the idea. It is, however, the pictures and design that really make the book. The wavy, cursive typeface looks hand-lettered, fitting in perfectly with the context and design. The familiar bold, brilliantly coloured acrylics, thick black outlines, and generous white space that Tetro used in The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and his Disney 101 Dalmations tie-in, The Puppies Are Here!, are as appealing as ever. The drawings are so simple that details such as the frightened Monty’s wobbly legs and prominent Adam’s apple stand out clearly. As Monty approaches the watery drop, a fold-out shows the different stages of his fall-cum-flight.

Franco-Manitoban Tetro (Tétro in the RCMP book) now divides his time between Montreal and his New York studio. He may have dropped the accent in his name, but I think he’s slipped in a French pun – Monty sounds a lot like monter (to fly up). Though clearly meant for preschoolers, Monty Goes South is a flight of fancy for all ages.