Franz-Ferdinand the Dancing Walrus by Marcus Pfister


 Franz-Ferdinand the Dancing Walrus by Marcus Pfister. Translated by David Henry Wilson. NorthSouth, 2021. 9780735844698

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Fantasy/picture book

What did you like about the book? Franz-Ferdinand, a walrus who lives off the coast of Greenland, loves to watch the ballet company of flamingos which dances near his rock. Directed by Madame Flamenco, the group is graceful and everything that he is not. He decides to practice, and one day offers himself as a new member of the school. Madame Flamenco falls in love with Franz-Ferdinand, and admires his courage and “natural talent.” Sadly, the school ostracizes her. Can Madame Flamenco and her new pupil find success with an all-walrus dance company?

I like how Pfister incorporates global warming into the story – the walruses make tutus out of floating trash, and he suggests that the flamingos are in Greenland because Africa became too hot. The author’s familiar blue-tinged textural art perfectly complements the story. It’s always nice to read about a character bucking expectations and stereotypes to excel at something new.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The text is way too wordy, in my opinion. And Pfister relies on old fashioned stereotypes for comic relief – because of his size, Franz-Ferdinand doesn’t think he can dance, and his tutu is “too feminine.” I don’t think any libraries want a book where the character’s body type causes them to have to form a “separate but equal” organization, or where it’s okay to ostracize someone because they marry someone of a different species/race.

To whom would you recommend this book?  For die-hard fans of Pfister’s books, ages 4-8.

Who should buy this book? This is strictly a supplemental purchase for public libraries where his books are popular.

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: October 13, 2021

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