Arrr, Mustache Baby!
Arrr, Mustache Baby!
Baby Billy was born with a mustache.
Baby Javier was born with a beard.
Usually, they were fine young gentlemen.
Billy’s mustache curled
up at the ends,
and Javier’s beard
ye shall have to
wait and see.
Readers last met Billy and Javier in the board book Mustache Baby Meets His Match in which the two, once rivals, became partners. Their new-found partnership is put to the test in Arrr, Mustache Baby! as they must bust a pair of pirates, Captain Kid and Short John Silver. As was the case in the earlier book, the humour in Arrr, Mustache Baby! is found in the contrast between what Heos’ text says and how Ang has imaginatively chosen to interpret Heos’ words.
If the words were to be read alone, the story would be told of a pair of upstanding, adventurous young men who go to sea where they engage in various occupations before settling on becoming navy sailors. In that role, they must thwart a pair of pirates, recover stolen treasure and return it to its rightful owners. Having achieved the last two tasks, our heroes are then confronted by the pirates and a pair of duels ensue. However, during the heat of battle, the heroes become more villainous than the villains and even became buccaneers themselves before being caught, tried and jailed in a dungeon. The now repentant pair manage to escape and make reparations, including befriending the pirate pair.
Joy Ang’s illustrations, however, take readers to an outdoor pool where many children and their parents are in or around the water, and Billy and Javier are floating on a large swim ring. The hidden treasures are simply children’s toys that have been buried in a sandbox. Captain Kid is truly a kid while Short John Silver is actually a girl. The dueling weapons are balloon swords and water noodles. Those arresting the misbehaving Billy and Javier are their parents, and the dungeons are portable mesh cribs. The pair’s “escape” occurs when their parents lift them out of the cribs. A final illustration reveals that lessons in appropriate behaviour may have been learned, but the changes will likely not be permanent. The addition of two new characters, who, by the end of the book, are friends with Billy and Javier, leaves open the possibility that they may appear in future “Mustache Baby” books.
The publisher’s choosing to present Arrr, Mustache Baby! as a hardcover title rather than as a board book was an excellent decision as its humorous contents are really aimed at an older audience, not the board book crowd. A worthwhile addition to school and public library collections.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.