Written by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, Illustrated by Audrey Colman
Frog, Ltd., 2001
Betty and Billy brought Walter home from the dog pound. “Nobody wanted him,” said Billy.
What makes this book so dangerous? It promotes fart humor.
Betty and Billy’s mother suggest that they give Walter a bath, since he smells bad. And when they see bubbles in the water, Mother hopes that he just has a nervous stomach. But it soon becomes apparent that Walter is a very gassy dog. He passes gas all day and even at night while he’s asleep. Betty and Billy don’t care, but Father suggests taking him to the vet. The vet thinks a change of diet may help, but nothing seems to help the situation. Father tells Billy and Betty that Walter will need to go back to the pound the next day and the children beg Walter to find a way to stop farting so that they won’t have to be separated. Walter resolves to never fart again and then eats an entire box of dog biscuits after the children fall asleep. Afterward, he lies down on the sofa, feeling the gas build up inside him. Two burglars break into the house and tie a rag around Walter’s mouth so he won’t bark and wake everyone up. Instead, he releases the giant fart that had been building up inside him. The burglars flee the house and get nabbed by a nearby policeman. Mother and Father are so pleased when they see that Walter was a hero that they make him a permanent part of their family.
I was unsurprised to learn that this book is based on an actual dog named Walter who had a problem with flatulence, due to the fact that this particular dog ate a lot of doughnuts and beer. Authors William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray have gone on to write another four books about Walter and there’s even a plush Walter you can buy that farts when you squeeze him. Plans for a movie have been in the works for a few years now and it was, for a while, planned as a vehicle for the Jonas Brothers. (There are SO MANY jokes I can make here.) The book overall has taken a lot of criticism for its use of potty humor, with detractors quick to point out the number of times the word ‘fart’ is used. Defenders are just as quick to respond that it attracted kids to reading who had previously not shown much interest before. Having grown up in a household where potty humor was pretty common, the book’s subject matter didn’t faze me.
This was the first picture book illustrated by Audrey Colman and she has illustrated all of the books in the series. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of her artistic style, as it seems weirdly distorted, out of proportion and just unattractive to me. But I have a friend at work who absolutely loves the pictures in this one, so (as always) it all comes down to individual taste. (Sharp-eyed readers will enjoy looking for the spider included in every picture.) Overall, I thought the plot was too predictable and flat, relying on the fart gag alone to keep the reader engaged. But I liked that it was dedicated to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, which gave the story a little warmth that seemed to be missing in the rest of the book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that when you really love someone, you accept them, farts and all.