The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon
By Mini Grey
I have to admit that I’ve never had the change to read Mini Grey before. Somehow I managed to miss her numerous books. But after reading The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon, I’ll be looking for more of her creative titles.
The book follows Dish and Spoon after their very famous running away. They start a career doing vaudeville and become incredibly popular. The money rolls in and the duo become used to the finer things in life. When the money runs out they turn to knife gangsters to borrow more. The gang soon want their money back and intimidate the pair. The couple turn to a life of crime to pay back the debt and end up on the lam. In their hurry to escape from the cops, Dish becomes broken and the Spoon allows himself to be captured when he finds that she can’t go on. He serves his time and is finally released. He gives himself to a crockery and silverware shop, only to run into the recovered Dish. They run away (again!) and live happily ever after.
I love reinventions of classic stories, and this one has to be one of the more inventive ones that I’ve seen. Grey tells a subversive tale, that takes a sweet and silly nursery rhyme and makes it into a darker tale about greed and crime. Grey does it very tongue in cheek, never taking the story too seriously. “Someone put a record on the new record player. It was playing our tune. How could we resist?” The words swoop out the window along with the dish and the spoon, as you see two cat paws putting Hey Diddle Diddle on the record player. In fact the cat, the fiddle, the cow, and the moon appear throughout the book, even showing up in the crockery shop at the end or the lost cow sign posted after Spoon gets out of prison. In fact not only does the whole story play around with the nursery rhyme, but Grey spends most of the book playing around with us. There are little jokes throughout the book.
Grey uses a mixture of collage and paint to create frenetic images. With the mad caper going on, these illustrations are simply perfect. There are tons of things to look at, to read, and to savor. I found myself going back through the book over and over to try to catch all the little visual jokes. And each time I saw something new. The running away image is the perfect example. The scene includes collage cows jumping over a painted silver dollar moon. The dish in the spoon float in a painted sea. On either side, there are panels that show the pair’s dive into the ocean and their arrival in New York. Most of the book is told in two or three panel spreads, showing how frantic and wild this story really is. Things feel crowded and rushed but at the same time wonderfully silly. You want to linger on these illustrations but the story forces you to move faster. I’ve reread this little book at least six times since I first picked it up. And I’m sure I’ll read it again and again. A wonderfully subversive tale, filled with humor and fantastic illustrations. I must find more of Mini Grey’s work.