What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there's nothing here to worry about. The artwork is squarely aimed at the funny bone, and the simple text is easy to digest. But it lacks any zest or poetry that might have amplified the pleasures of the figures of speech and homonyms it features.
What's the story?
A collection of common (and not-so-common) expressions, altered with clever homonyms, then depicted literally in pictures, to zany effect. The text is just the idioms, but the humor is all in the delightfully goofy artwork. Kids enjoy the verbal play, and thinking up their own versions.
Is it any good?
The major drawback to Fred Gwynne's chucklefest over the vagaries of language is the discrepancy between the audience who will enjoy his ingenuous visual humor and those who will understand the words or expressions he's punning. Youngsters will be amused by a plant draped with firearms, for example. But will they understand -- or even want to understand -- the difference between pistols and pistils? And what percentage of the four-year-old population is going to crack a smile at the picture of a girl sewing banners and the accompanying text: "In Sunday School they say when you are bad you should do pennants"?
With younger kids, you can expect this book to generate little interest -- or a lot of questions -- and therein lies its strength: as a provocation to delve into the suppleness of language and the joys of wordplay. Older kids who can be convinced to give it a look are often delighted.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the meaning and origins of a silly-sounding phrase like "pigeon toed" (which, to the human ear, sounds just like the "pigeon toad" mentioned in the book's title). Parents can also explain that these words and phrases are called homonyms and idioms, and can talk about the differences between the two concepts. Are there any homonyms you can think of that aren't mentioned in the book? What about idioms? Which illustration was your favorite? Why?