CM February 9, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 17

image What Faust Saw.

Written and Illustrated by Matt Ottley.
Rydalmere, NSW, Australia: Hodder, 1995. 32pp, cloth, $19.95.
Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books.
ISBN 0-77336-0096-4.

Subject Headings:
Extraterrestrial beings-Fiction.

Preschool - grade 2 / Ages 2 - 7.
Review by Diane Fitzgerald.


One night Faust woke up, looked out the window and . . . saw something very strange. He tried to wake up Mum . . . and Isabelle . . . and Clayton . . . even Dad. But they didn't seem to want to WAKE UP.

image What Faust Saw is Australian writer, illustrator, and composer Matt Ottley's second picture book. Faust is a large hound dog who wakes up at night to see invaders from outer space land and start to creep about town. The invaders are truly, inventively, alien -- a mix-up of plants, dinosaurs, bugs, and pretty much everything else -- and comic rather than frightening or bizarre.

Good dog that he is, Faust tries to wake his masters -- he brushes his ears on their faces, sits on their heads, licks their feet, even pulls the covers off the bed. Nothing works until Faust begins howling in terror.

But waking the family just makes things worse, because the invaders hide whenever anyone but Faust is looking. Children will be amused by the illustrations that clearly show the huge aliens -- some as large as a brontosaurus -- hiding behind fences, hedges, even other houses, while Dad, out on the lawn in his pyjamas, looks in all the wrong directions. Fed up with Faust's seemingly irrational behaviour, his family puts him outside for the night. Where the aliens are.


Faust decides to run away ("Then they'd be sorry"), but the aliens pursue him until he finally turns and barks at the them to "Go away!" The aliens are taken aback, but Faust's bark is so loud that it attracts the attention of the dog-catcher, who impounds him, where he is, at least, safe for the night. . . .

In the morning when his family comes to get him, "Faust decided to forgive them and go home. He also decided that the next time he woke up and saw something strange . . . he would go back to sleep."


Children, so often unable to communicate their reality to adults, will enjoy identifying with Faust. And any child fond of animals will appreciate the illustrations; Faust is not only an excellent comic character but a very well-observed dog.

Ottley's aliens are just as well done -- weird enough to show why they would alarm Faust, but appealing and funny in their own right. The illustrations in general (done as oil-paintings) are full of comic detail that will continue to give even very young children pleasure for many readings. And the type twists playfully over the pages, shrinking and growing to match Faust's alarms and frustrations.

Highly recommended.

Diane Fitzgerald is an elementary-school teacher in Saskatoon.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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