i can’t think of a more beautifully illustrated ‘black and white’ book than ‘the garden of abdul gasazi’ written and illustrated by chris van allsburg. i’ve had this book for as long as i remember, and the illustrations have always fascinated me. it’s not in the usual style i post here, but they’re the most beautifully rendered pencil drawings, so finely done, and i spent so much time curled up in bed pouring over them. so i hope you enjoy them despite their lack of over-the-top vintageness.
turns out either i’m a terrible ignorant parent or i lead a deprived childhood, because i only just learned that chris van allsburg also wrote jumanji, the polar express and zathura (none of which i’ve read or seen the movie of, but its nice to know my preciously loved ‘garden of abdul gasazi’ wasn’t a one off!)
The story starts with miss hester leaving her disobedient pitbull dog fritz with alan mitz while she visits her cousin. Alan does his best to keep fritz from chewing the furniture and finally they settle down for a nap. alan makes sure his beloved hat is safe from fritz who loves eating hats even more than furniture!
later alan takes fritz for a walk and lets fritz lead the way. they come across a sign: “ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NO DOGS ALLOWED IN THIS GARDEN,” signed by abdul gasazi, retired magician. fritz breaks free and bolts straight through the door with alan chasing behind him.
alan falls and can’t keep up with fritz, who disappears into the garden. alan is desperate to find fritz before mr gasazi finds out they’ve been in his garden.
alan searches for fritz everywhere and finally comes across some dog tracks which lead to the great and imposing house belonging to this mysterious abdul gasazi
alan asks for the dog back and gasazi says “certainly you may have your little fritzie, follow me.” leading him outside to a gathering of ducks. he tells alan how he detests dogs who dig up his flowers and chew on his trees. “do you know what i do to dogs i find in my garden? I TURN THEM INTO DUCKS” alan is horrified to learn that only time can turn fritz back – maybe years maybe just a day.
alan takes the bird in his arms and heads for home, devastated. behind him gasazi laughs. alan’s hat blows off and the duck flies off with it and disappears.
alan is convinced fritz the duck is lost forever, though he is comforted by the thought he at least had a hat to chew on. he tells miss hester what has happened to fritz, but she tells him it must have all been a joke: fritz is home, eating his dinner.
alan heads home, feeling silly, and is convinced he won’t be fooled again. miss hester calls fritz back into the house and he drops alan’s hat at her feet.
and for once, you too can get your own copy of this beautiful book!