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Sunday, October 2, 2011

When I Grow Up, written by Al Yankovic and illustrated by Wes Hargis. Harper, 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Cause maybe I'll be a
gorilla masseuse...
Or an artist who sculpts
out of chocolate mousse
Or a rodeo clown
or a movie director
Or maybe a professional
pickle inspector
Or big sumo wrestler..."

The possibilities are endless, are they not?

Billy is so excited that it's time for everyone in Mrs. Krupp's class! The subject is perfect for Billy and he is extremely well prepared. So, what does he want to be when he grows up? It seems there is no end to the ideas.

Al Yankovic recalls knowing at a young age what he wanted to do when he was grown...he wanted to write for Mad magazine. A well-intentioned counselor set him on another course, saying there was no future for him in comedy. As anyone who has followed an advised path rather than a chosen one knows, there is little inspiration for doing what you would rather not be doing. It was made clear to the author by his third year in college. Luckily, he got a job at the radio station on campus, and was able to create characters and comedy in an inconspicuous setting that did not expose his shy demeanor.

He learned early that unless he was happy, he wasn't going to be successful. That lesson is clearly evident in the text of his book. Billy knows that he can be most anything he wants to be, and he is eager to share that knowledge with his classmates. Some notions are very funny, some are serious...all are ingenious for an eight year old with big plans!

His litany of possible occupations is ended with Mrs. Krupp's suggestion that he make up his mind. That's when Billy shares a lesson from his centenarian great-grandfather:

"My great-grandfather Bob's
Been a whole lot of things, had a whole bunch of jobs:
A butcher, a barber, a bellman, a bouncer,
A telephone psychic and bingo announcer.
You know what? He just turned a hundred and three,
And he's still not quite sure what he wants to be!"

Who knows at eight where the road might lead?

Wes Hargis uses his sense of humor, and artistic talent, to bring Al Yankovic's show-and-tell story to life. He allows readers a warm and inviting look at Billy's classroom and classmates. He embellishes Billy's list of occupations with detailed, hilarious illustrations, brightly colored and full of expression.

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