Standing Stones

by John Metcalf
ISBN: 0887621449

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A Review of: Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale
by Olga Stein

You probably have to be a guy. I feel guilty for saying this about a book so wonderfully illustrated and so well put together, but I simply don't like it. It isn't just that Walter is constantly farting. It's crude, but dogs fart, and if you don't find that funny, you can easily overlook this aspect of Walter. What bothers me about this book is the story from the very start. Walter joins father and little Betty and Billy at their yard sale table. The family has all sorts of items for sale but no one is buying. No one even approaches the table while Walter lies on the grass, contaminating the air. Suddenly there's a customer, but what he wants isn't some old dudad-he wants to purchase Walter. Father readily sells the dog for ten dollars, and this is where I found myself put off. When the children return, the father doesn't tell them he has sold the family pet. He pretends Walter has wondered off on his own. The father doesn't take into consideration his children's attachment to the dog. Obviously what he cares most about is money. He may not be a villain but he is vile.
But wait, there's a villain here too. The man who buys Walter is actually a bank robber. He uses Walter's stinky gas to blow up balloons which he pops at a bank, overwhelming the guards and customers, and thereby getting away with a heap of money. Somewhere in all of this is an animal rights message. The exploitation of animals is cruel-just look at poor Walter, unable to move in a contraption which keeps him immobile while gas is collected from his back end.
Of course the ending is happy. Walter escapes, leads the police back to the bankrobber, and is consequently hailed as a hero. Father is only too happy to bask in the limelight as Walter's good deed is celebrated at a special party given by the mayor. Fat, smelly Walter is likeable, but he is too passive a character. Nothing moved me in the story, nor did I find the plot engaging. Perhaps I simply don't get the subversive brilliance of this book while all those savvy customers, who continue to put this book on the Amazon.ca bestsellers list, do.

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