The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
by Julie Edwards, published 1974
“Some people consider me an eccentric. I specialize in imagination. I imagine things most people wouldn’t even dream of.” “Like DNA and RNA,” said Ben.” “Precisely. And the Whangdoodle.”
I had an eerie experience reading this children’s book. I kept remembering a very important moment in some other children’s book, when a professor could not access his imagination, and a little child had to help him. But I couldn’t remember the book. Until suddenly, I reached that exact same moment in this children’s book, as they are about to cross the bridge to meet the Whangdoodle. Then, of course, I realized it was the same book. For some reason, nothing in the children’s book had stayed in my mind over these past ten years except that pivotal moment.
I think in some ways, that’s the way many books are. Particularly in the genre of fantasy and imagination, the details are wild, imaginary, and somewhat ephemeral, like dreams, easily forgotten. But the deeper message is never forgotten.
This children’s book is thoroughly about imagination, with kind, fantastical creatures, and some drama involving creatures that want to keep the children out of the magical kingdom. Standing fast, not buying into the fear or taunts, the children pass every obstacle until they meet the king of this land. Along the way, the professor is their kind and caring guide, for he too wants to meet this imaginary king.
When I read this book 10 years ago, I was editing my own book of contemplations, An Inquiring Life and I had used this story to make a particular point. As I wrote in that book, “The mystical lands are always there; it’s up to us to believe in the yearning of our hearts to visit them.” Whether the readers take that message from this children’s book, or the message of courage, or perseverance, or believing in the unseen, one thing is sure… each young reader will take something away that will stay with them. This is a beautiful and imaginative children’s story.