TRAVELING ON A WHIM
By Tom Corwin. Illustrated by Craig Frazier. Flying Dolphin Press.
112 pages. $14.95. ****
Book editors receive stacks of books every week, usually a predictable lot of softback review copies, hardback would-be blockbusters and trade paperbacks.
Mr. Fooster announced himself with a postcard. It bore a drawing of a man blowing a gigantic bubble from a little wand, and read:
“As he blew the first bubble, he knew something odd was happening. The bubble just kept coming. And it was not shaping into a sphere, but rather an old DeSoto sedan, exactly like the one his grandfather used to drive.”
Bemused, I stuck the postcard on the wall by my desk. A few weeks later, when the actual book arrived, I sat down to look it over as usual.
But “Mr. Fooster” is in no way usual. Next I knew, I was closing the slender book, grinning, wishing I hadn't already finished it.
The plot sounds mundane: A man stuffs a wrinkled letter into his pocket and goes for a walk – the first of many, as it turns out. His mind wanders to random little questions. (“How come mandarin oranges came in perfect little segments without any mechanical engineering?” “Why is yawning contagious?”)
But things turn odd when a katydid smiles at him, and even more odd when he reaches for his bubble soap and inflates that drivable DeSoto. As days go by and his walks get longer, he meets “a bug the size of a bulldozer” that he charms with yet another astonishing bubble. This one forms an immense floating birdcage filled with fish, and so delights the bug that it, too, joyfully floats away.
Mr. Fooster wanders happily until one day, worn out, he pauses, then discovers his feet are growing roots into the ground. He becomes something like a tree, stranded in a natural leafy cocoon.
But this isn't the end of his adventures. He will see the bug again, and he will meet a butterfly and an angry man building a wall, and he will read his letter with the help of Scrabble tiles he finds along the way.
His kind attention to the little things – and his mysterious bubble soap – will produce just what's needed to transform every situation. And by the end of this deceptively simple tale, with its quirky happenings all illustrated by sepia-toned drawings, readers both young and old might also be transformed – at least a little. And like Mr. Fooster, we will be reminded “that life could bring an endless series of surprises.”
Ann Allen is the Observer's Books page editor.