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Friday, July 5, 2013

OY FEH SO? Written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Gary Clement. Groundwood Books, 2013. $17.95 ages 5 and up

"Aunt Essy sat down in the big armchair with a sigh. Aunt Chanah groaned as she lowered herself onto one end of the sofa. Uncle Sam winced as he dropped onto the other end. "Oy," said Aunt Essy. "Feh," said Aunt Chanah. "So?" said Uncle Sam. That was all they ever said!"

Telling family stories can be so much fun, or not! Cory Fagan proves that with this story of visiting relatives. They are old, and set in their ways. Their Sunday visits are filled with same old, same old...snarky responses to every conversation starter and always SO negative.

This week the kids are determined to change it up! They don masks, hoist swords, and execute the perfect robbery:

"Oy," said Aunt Essy. "Crime these days."
"Feh," said Aunt Chanah. "People are animals."
"So?" said Uncle Sam. "Did you expect anything different?"

When the robbery ploy fails, a dragon appears hungry for human legs. He's followed by an alien attack. Nothing seems to have an impact. It's enough to send our narrator into a frenzy:

"I was angry. More than angry. I stamped my foot.
"I can't take it anymore," I said.
I grabbed a handful of wool from my mother's knitting
basket. I put it on my head.
"Oy," I said. "Oy, oy, oy!"

And on they go! Mom and Dad are not impressed, but it certainly gets a response from their visitors. What a great family read this is! Cary Fagan brings his saucy sense of humor to this family story that will be enjoyed by those who have a chance to listen to it, or to read it themselves.

Gary Clement ups the humor quotient with his depictions of Essy, Chanah and Sam. He matches the tone of Fagan's story with the perspective changes, the expressive faces, and the single room setting. Our focus is constantly shifting and we feel we are party to their weekly exchange. The responses are blocked and large, allowing for repetition with a sense of purpose. I like that we see them coming and going, and are privy to the way in which the children respond to both. 

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