BOOKS

Jacob Two-Two in love

JACOB TWO-TWO AND THE DINOSAUR By Mordecai Richler

Brian D. Johnson June 1 1987
BOOKS

Jacob Two-Two in love

JACOB TWO-TWO AND THE DINOSAUR By Mordecai Richler

Brian D. Johnson June 1 1987

Jacob Two-Two in love

JACOB TWO-TWO AND THE DINOSAUR By Mordecai Richler

(McClelland and Stewart, 96 pages, $1U.95)

Jacob Two-Two, Mordecai Richler’s pint-sized protagonist, is back after 12 years. The Montreal novelist’s first book for children, Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, introduced Jacob as a plucky six-year-old beset by four older siblings. In Richler’s longawaited sequel, Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur, his hero has moved from Britain to Montreal (like Richler himself), and he has grown marginally older and tangibly wiser. Now 8, Jacob can dial a phone number, do “joined-up writing of a sort,” and, to the reader’s relief, no longer has to say everything twice in order to be heard. Once again he is in trouble with mean-spirited grown-ups. But the adventures of TwoTwo lí are far more imaginative and amusing than those of Two-Two I. Indeed, the ogre-and-dungeon fantasy of The Hooded Fang seems positively lugubrious next to the Swiftian satire of Dinosaur, a fable cunningly designed to delight children and parents alike.

The story is a romance between a boy and an exotic pet. On his return from a Kenyan safari, Jacob’s father gives him a small lizard that he smuggled through customs. The creature is, in fact, a baby dinosaur, a Diplodocus that an earthquake dislodged from a 65-million-year nap in a block of ice. Jacob names him Dippy, • and the reptile soon grows to

bungalow dimensions. But at the family’s lakeside cottage, Dippy becomes a monumental embarrassment.

He alarms the neighbors and offends members of the Certified Snobs Golf and Country Club. Professor Wacko Kilowatt, “the very brightest light in Prime Minister Perry Pleaser’s thinktank,” advises the government to exterminate Dippy with tanks and heat-seeking missiles. Fleeing the authorities, Jacob and his pet retreat to the Rocky Mountains, where Dippy develops a taste for pizza—and for freedom.

There is a reckless momentum to Richler’s narrative, a rhythm of slapdash invention that mimics the frantic pace of childhood fantasy. Yet Richler’s tale is well-ventilated with adult wit. Professor Kilowatt brags about the tolerance of his country club, which accepts “a few members who are black or Jewish or Greek, so long as they are also filthy rich.” Later, Prime Minister Pleaser’s coterie of “yes-men and yeswomen” applaud wildly when he ties his shoelaces “without help from anybody.”

Unfortunately, Richler has so far produced only two Two-Two books. The first was charming and clever but catered perversely to juvenile obsessions with ugly monsters and prisons. Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur is a splitlevel fantasy that taps an ageless sense of insolence. And Dippy the talking dinosaur makes an ideal mascot for children—or adults—out of sync with the grown-up world.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON