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Arthur's Nose by Marc Brown
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Arthur's Nose 07/24/12

cover art

Arthur the aardvark is two years older than Garfield the cat and he's changed just as much since his debut in 1976. Arthur first appeared in Arthur's Nose by Marc Brown, an appropriate and funny title for a cover sporting a typically shaped aardvark, but a little disturbing in thinking of what Arthur looks like now.

Brushing aside 20-20 hindsight for the moment, I want to look at the first edition book because that's the version I read. It's part of the K12 collection at Holy Names University that I cataloged for my MLIS internship. The book has probably sat there unread since the Education Department brought Sr. June's collection over from wherever they used to keep them to be housed in the main library.

The cover art is typical mid 1970s. It's done in browns, oranges and pink. Artistically it's firmly planted in the year it was published.

And there in the middle of the cover, framed in gold (or puke yellow) is a nerdy aardvark in an orange and yellow striped shirt and pocket protector. For fans of the more recent incarnation of Arthur, the only familiar details are the eyes and the rounded ears.

So Arthur's in school with some vaguely familiar looking friends. It's easier to tell through squinted eyes who the are. The entire cast seems to have transformed over the years. He's being teased for his nose and decides to do something about it.

Rather than treat the situation like a no bullying lesson from the get-go, Arthur decides on rhinoplasty to fix his problem. Being an animal in a world of anamorphic animals, Arthur's choices are beaks, trunks, and so forth. As those would all look even more ridiculous on his face than his current nose, he decides against the operation. As it stands by itself in the absence of all other Arthur books, it's a cute story with a solid message.

But wait! Look at modern day Arthur. Where the heck is his nose? By the 1980s, Arthur has morphed into his modern day form. If the moral of the story was be happy with what nature / genetics has given you, then where's his nose?

The disappearance of Arthur's nose in later books and in the PBS series calls into question the ending of Arthur's Nose in the same way that The Magic School Bus: Going Batty makes it clear that Ms. Frizzle is actually a vampire.

Five stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 22:27:45


I rather like the Arthur books, and so does my oldest kid. But I never even wondered what kind of animal Arthur was supposed to be — even though all his friends were recognizable creatures. It's kind of weird and disturbing to think he's an aardvark missing the long nose! I wonder if the artwork just gradually changed with the nose slowly getting less prominent? sounds like there was never a story somewhere along the way that explained its disappearance? but even that wouldn't make much sense as all his family has the same truncated face... how odd.

Comment #2: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 20:43:22


Looking at the cover art, it was a gradual transformation from the original aarvarkish Arthur to the modern day Arthur. Take a look at the second cover, , and you'll see that his nose is significantly shorter but he's still aarvarkish.

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