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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop, written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. Bloomsbury, Penguin. 2010. $21.00 ages 5 and up

"Dog and Hen were walking down the dusty road when they passed an old shed. A fat cat was lying on a wall. Mice were jumping all around him. "You don't see that every day," said Hen. "Clearly that cat isn't any good at claw enforcement."

There are kids out there who will love and know every joke in this book before you finish reading it. Then, if you are very LUCKY(?) you will hear the humor over and over again, ad infinitum. I warn you that you might want to be out of their sphere of influence in coming days. It speaks to the fun and hilarity that Kevin O'Malley injects on every page.

The endpapers set the reader up for the fun to be had. Once inside, we meet Hen, standing on a make-shift stage and regaling the other hens with her humor:

"How do comedians like their eggs?
Funny-side up!"

When she chooses the life of a comedian over producing eggs for the farmer, he gives her an ultimatum. Not wanting to be Friday's dinner, off she goes. Along the road to fame and fortune, she meets Dog. He, too, wants to be an entertainer. While wowing the sheep one night, a wolf stole a side of beef and now his farmer has a 'beef' with him. It seemed time to leave.

Familiar to you yet? As the two companions in misery move further along the road to fame and fortune, they come upon a cat whose musical repertoire contains songs meant to be sung in a comedy club. Last on the list is Cow:

"See, I completely forgot about making milk. All I do is think about jokes. I guess you'd say I have Milk of Amnesia."

Hungry and tired, they come upon a farmhouse and the three robbers who find shelter there. The four friends wait patiently, all the while perfecting their routines. When the robbers leave, the animals move inside to partake of the food left on the table. The robbers return offers an audience for their comedy revue:

"Dog said, "My master asked me why I go into a corner when I hear a bell...I said,' 'Cause I'm a boxer.'" But the robbers saw only sharp teeth and heard: Growl, woof! Growl, woof!"

Corny? Sometimes. Hysterical? That, too. Kids are going to love it, and you will be reading it least until they can read it themselves.

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