It's Only Stanley

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
It's Only Stanley Book Poster Image
Dog turns house into moon rocket in fun, wacky story.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids see a little about the moon and rocket ships.

Positive Messages

If you want something, you can work hard to make it happen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stanley is determined. He has a goal and works hard to accomplish it. The family takes things in stride and is happy for Stanley when he finds love.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that It's Only Stanley is a fun, wacky ride to the moon by popular author-illustrator Jon Agee (Little Santa). The Wimbledon family hears lots of spooky sounds at night. First, their dog Stanley is howling at the moon. But when the dog makes more noise -- cooking up a strange concoction, attaching satellite dishes to the TV antenna -- they can't sleep at all. "It's only Stanley," Dad reports. But what's he up to? When Stanley successfully turns their house into a rocket ship, they rocket to the moon, and he clasps paws with a moon poodle. Oh, so that's who he was mooning after! There are lots of fun sound effects ("Bzzz Bzzz Bzzz," "BLUB BLUB BLUB," "KAPOW!"), and the rhyming text has repeated refrains that add a fun predictability to an otherwise completely unexpected story.

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What's the story?

The Wimbledon family is settling into sleep when they hear a spooky sound. After Dad checks on the dog, he reports, "It's only Stanley. He's howling at the moon." But as the night wears on, the family's sleep is disturbed by a succession of more loud noises. Each time, it's only Stanley, who's diligently concentrating on a series of odd, un-doglike tasks: clanking on the furnace, cooking a bubbling concoction on the stove, reconfiguring the TV antennae. One by one, the members of the Wimbledon family end up huddled in bed together while Stanley turns their house into ... a rocket ship! They all land on the moon, where Stanley connects with a cute moon poodle, the object of his affectionate howling.

Is it any good?

IT'S ONLY STANLEY is a laugh-out-loud, highly imaginative, and tightly written story, told in rhyme with repeated refrains and lots of satisfying action sounds ("KAPOW!"). The illustrations of the cozily domestic but baffled family huddled against the disturbing night noises contrast humorously with the dark, elaborately detailed pictures of Stanley conducting his mysterious experiment. Is the dog diligent, demonic, or demented?

Although author-illustrator Jon Agee takes the story to the humorously absurd, everyone who's lived with the odd behavior of a pet can relate. Re-readings will increase the giddy pleasure, as kids find clues in the art and text (Look! There's a fuzzy image of the poodle in the TV screen!) and call out the funny ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about pets. Does your family have a pet? Does it sometimes have odd behaviors or do things you don't understand?

  • Families also can talk about spooky sounds at night. What do you imagine the sounds to be? What are they really?

  • When did you know what Stanley was up to? How did the author/illustrator give us clues? In the art? In the text?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and humor

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