Whangdoodle Dandy

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews Edwards – Yes, this was written by the same Julie Andrews who played Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp, under her married name. I wasn’t aware of this book in my own childhood, or indeed until fairly recently when Goodreads recommended it to me. It largely focuses on fantastic creatures, certainly a premise I can get behind. The term “whangdoodle” is apparently an old one, although it was really popularized when it appeared in a fake sermon in 1856. Roald Dahl used the word a few times in his books, but never explained what one was. Andrews does give a description, presenting the last remaining Whangdoodle as a moose-like animal with short legs that grows a new pair of bedroom slippers on its feet every year, and can change its color at will. When people stopped believing in fantastic creatures, the Whangoodle retreated to a realm of imagination known as Whangdoodleland, where he serves as king. The story involves three children hanging out with a weird, reclusive old man, because apparently parents were okay with that kind of thing in the seventies. Professor Savant is a brilliant geneticist with some eccentricities, his main one being his desire to visit the Whangdoodle, for which he needs help from childish imagination. While in Whangdoodleland, the professor and the kids encounter a lot of strange flora and fauna, including the riddle-speaking Whiffle Bird (possibly named after the animal from the Popeye comic, but not much like it otherwise), the fruit-of-the-months trees, the confused Oinck, the mocking ape-like Swamp Gaboons, a gum tree with actual gum, and the shape-shifting Gazooks. There’s also a Jolly Boat that runs on jokes, and a Brainstrain powered by hot air. The Prock, who serves as the Prime Minister of Whangdoodleland, is determined to stop the adventurers from meeting the Whangdoodle, and uses all kinds of tricks to stop them. In the end, however, both the Whangdoodle and the Prock are impressed by the travelers’ persistence, and the professor is able to create a wife for the king. It’s a pretty good story with some clever creations, and while the children come across as easily fooled, perhaps Andrews intended this to be part and parcel with their childish imaginations. It even comments on the ethics involved with cloning and other genetic experimentation, albeit without going into very many details. While the book was published without illustrations (save the one on the cover), I did find an illustration of an Andrews-style Whangdoodle by Nara Yu on this page.

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1 Response to Whangdoodle Dandy

  1. Another reminder that I really need to write her a fan letter.

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