In this companion to his Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl (2010) Pinkwater saturates his customary eccentricities with a Beat-era flavor.
In this bildungsroman that does double duty as a love letter to Chicago’s artsy past, Harold Knishke has no idea he wants to be an artist until the guy in the army cap in Bughouse Square just asks him. Almost immediately Harold is taking drawing classes from a taxidermist and acquires a studio of his own in a building so mysterious he can’t tell a soul about it. In the midst of his artistic awakening, Harold makes the acquaintance of scads of people, including a future wise woman, the Wolluf (a wolflike dog), the Chicken Man (a crazy-seeming old man with a chicken) and a veritable army of people with funny-sounding names. He also has a best friend who is convinced that Bushman, the 427-pound gorilla who once lived in the Lincoln Park Zoo and is now stuffed and on display in the Field Museum of Natural History, is still alive. This book comes off as one of native Chicagoan Pinkwater’s most personal (albeit quirky) novels to date. With a tone that closely resembles Harold and Maude, it considers what art is, what it claims to be, what people want it to be, and what it must never be.
The cult of Pinkwater, already strong, now has a rallying cry for insiders in the know. “Bushman lives!” (Fantasy. 13 & up)