Custard and Company Critical Essays

Ogden Nash


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Although the book is a collection of humorous poems that seem random in arrangement, an overall unity is achieved by several strategies. Short, whimsical pieces on animals, for example, frame the Custard poems. It is as if the reader, like Belinda herself, is beginning a kind of imaginary journey through a zoo, a menagerie ranging from baby pandas to a porcupine that sat on a splinter. The first Custard poem is then followed by a series of delightful verses on domestic subjects, such as sniffles, uncles, and even clean platters. After the tale of “Custard and the Wicked Knight,” the journey concludes with a few poems on humorous insects such as the praying mantis, the centipede, and the ant and comes to an end with the galloping Wapiti, which goes “hippity-hoppity” off the final page.

The book gains significance as well from the tone and content of the Custard poems. They stand at equal positions near the beginning and end of the book and sound like bedtime stories told by a parent. The most implausible events—a pirate coming nonchalantly through a window or a wicked knight at the door—occur naturally to Belinda, as to any child, in a tone devoid of surprise or improbability. These events suggest that in Belinda’s world of imagination, a knight can enter while she is doing the dishes, just as lions are naturally chased downstairs by her pets. Even a “realio, trulio little pet dragon” is part of that world, without reservation or...

(The entire section is 515 words.)