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MANNEKEN PIS by Vladimir Radunsky


A Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War

by Vladimir Radunsky & illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

Age Range: 3 - 7

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-689-83193-5
Publisher: Anne Schwartz/Atheneum

Without a doubt, one of the oddest monuments of Europe is the statue of the Manneken Pis (“Peeing Boy”) in Brussels; here he stars in a decidedly odd original anti-war fable. The story is simple: long ago in a beautiful town lived a little boy with his doting parents. Life is wonderful until unnamed enemies (armored green men with long tongues and lots of teeth) lay siege. In the confusion, the little boy becomes separated from his parents, and goes up onto the town wall to find them. “Poor little boy, he was scared. He needed his mother and father. But more than that he needed . . . / to pee.” So, spectacularly, he urinates on the combatants. At first struck dumb by the golden stream, everyone then begins to laugh and the war ends. The appealingly childlike illustrations depict soft-edged, rather blobby people in vaguely medieval dress. The emotional track of the story is charted by the happy pastels and flowers that are replaced by black backgrounds, cannon, and chaotic compositions—to be replaced again by flowers at the end. The text is ingenuous in the extreme, avoiding any real analysis of the conflict or its source—“Maybe they were jealous that the town was so beautiful”—which is entirely in step with a child’s level of comprehension of such large-scale violence. The brilliantly illogical simplicity of its resolution is also directly in tune with small children and their fascination with all things potty—much as it may take their parents aback. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to pull this very odd offering off—but Radunsky (Table Manners, 2001, etc.) manages to do just that. (Picture book. 3-7)