Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jon Agee: Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators

Want crazy laugh out loud books for kindergartners? Need a funny read aloud for a 1st or 2nd grade class? Try one (or two, or three) of Jon Agee's books. The silly stories and illustrations will definitely keep their attention.

In The Return of Freddy Legrand, we read about a famous Parisian aviator and his troubles stemming from a run-in with a farmer's tree. The farmer repairs his airplane, while Freddy attempts to help with the farm chores. Sensing immediately that a farmer's life is not for him, he thanks them for their hospitality and returns to Paris, causing much hoopla in the City of Lights.

Freddy returns to his escapades in the air, but trouble strikes again when he crashes his new plane into the alps. Unharmed, he recalls what he learned on the farm and manages to survive until help arrives, from the most unexpected characters.

In Milo's Hat Trick, we meet Milo the Magnificent, a magician. "But Milo wasn't magnificent at all. He botched his card trick. He tangled his rope trick. And his hat trick was just pathetic." (We see a very unimpressed audience.)

What's a magician to do, especially when his manager is threatening to fire him? Since his manager told him to pull a rabbit out of his hat, "or else," Milo sets out to catch a rabbit. (We see Milo attempting to catch a rabbit with a fishing pole.)

However, Milo doesn't catch a rabbit. He catches a bear. Since there don't appear to be any rabbits hanging around, the bear becomes part of Milo's magic show. And as they say, hilarity ensues.

What would you think if you won an all-expenses-paid cruise to Bermuda?

Most people would think, "Wowie! How lucky can you get?" Or some variation of that.

Not Eugene. He thinks, "I'll probably get a really nasty sunburn." Obviously, Mr. Eugene is a half glass empty kind of guy. Unfortunately, his trip turns out worse than he imagined. His ship runs into a storm, and everyone on the ship is rescued but Eugene, who washes up on a minuscule island.

It's not so minuscule that it can't house a parrot. A talking parrot, at that. What good is a talking parrot? " 'You'd be surprised,' said the parrot." Indeed, and the parrot can also helpfully draw a diagram of a boat, so Eugene and the parrot can get out of Dodge.

Eugene and the parrot continue on their adventure, with Eugene predicting doom and gloom along the way. Will Eugene ever get to enjoy (as much as Eugene can enjoy anything) his trip to Bermuda?

Terrific is another wacky, strange, and hilarious book by Jon Agee.

Alphabet books are a dime a dozen. While some are your basic "A is for Apple," very simple introduction to the ABCs, others are more creative and complex.

As you can imagine, whatever Jon Agee does, it won't be basic and everyday. On the surface, this is your basic and simple ABC book (well, I don't know of any other ABC book that has "alien" for the letter A). We see a bridge for the letter B, cake for the letter C, and so on. But look very closely on the pages. We see the letter Z crossing the bridge, taking a bite from the cake (doughnut, for D, already has a bite taken out), in the middle of a labyrinth, and so on, until we get to Z ("Hey everybody! I'm home!")

This is one of my favorite alphabet books. Funny and interesting choices, plus an "I Spy" game. What more can you ask for?

Next up: More Newbery and Caldecott books, plus books by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. After that, books by Louisa May Alcott. Hoo boy!

No comments: