Review by Frank Plowright
There’s an odd choice of cover and title to this volume. On the face of it the charming illustration of Lulu offering an umbrella service in the rain matches the title, but both refer to a story printed in the previous collection, Letters to Santa. That, though, hardly impacts on the internal quality as we have a further 220 pages of excellence from John Stanley and Irving Tripp.
While there is a repetition to plot elements Stanley uses, and rules he adheres to in setting an example – Lulu’s resourceful resilience always wins out, negative behaviour leads to downfall – he finds a seemingly endless method of flinging surprises within that formula. A mini masterpiece here combines two regular factors, Tubby being behind with his club dues, and Lulu separately mad at him. Into that Stanley weaves Tubby under instructions to collect a pound of string beans and the penalty for his club dues being to collect a pound of grasshoppers. Anyone who considers they’ve now figured the remainder out is wrong. Yes the bags are switched, but that’s nowhere near the end of it.
The West Side Gang are introduced in these stories, although in the same manner Carl Barks introduced the Beagle Boys to Uncle Scrooge, as an off-panel fearsome threat prompting comedic chaos. In this case it’s Tubby so afraid that they’ll destroy his gang’s clubhouse that he manages the job himself. We also have a proto-Witch Hazel manifesting in a story of the poor little girl that Lulu tells Alvin in the hopes of temporarily pausing his rampage. The real article’s still three volumes away, but this witch is certainly familiar with her counterpart’s repertoire as she transforms the poor little girl into a mouse then sets a magic broom to chase her.
As ever, Tripp takes Stanley’s layouts and produces what seems effortless simplicity, which any cartoonist will relate as an extremely difficult skill. There’s plenty more of it to follow, and the next volume is Late for School.