Two more book reviews

April 8th, 2008  |  Tags: , , ,

See here first for background on the Arturo and Zoltan stories.

Zoltan Goes Home, by Søren Tyggegummi and Jeremy Albrecht. (Arbitrary Haus, 2007)

After a well-received string of adventures with his friend Arturo (see The Unhappy Okapi, The Unhappy Okapi Learns to Unicycle, The Unhappy Okapi and the Best Spinach Sandwich Ever, and The Unhappy Okapi Writes An Impossibly Short Pangram), Zoltan the jackdaw heads home to his family. Illustrator Albrecht shares writing credits with Tyggegummi in this installment, which is rather darker in tone than the Arturo books but shares its immediate predecessor’s nearly prurient obsession with parlor-game wordplay. (For example, Zoltan is only able to escape from Gabor the butcher and his jackdaw-pie machine by offering five versions of a popular nursery rhyme — each avoiding a separate vowel.) While older children may appreciate Zoltan’s linguistic cleverness and ability to escape sticky situations, the setting may be rather grim for younger readers, and it is never made completely clear why Zoltan and his immediate family choose to live in a village in which jackdaws are prized as a delicacy.

Who Moved Daddy’s Ontology?, by Kensym G. Mooch. (University of Chicago Press, 2008)

This whimsical tale, presented in a handsome board book with sturdy pop-up flaps, recounts the metaphysical crisis that ensues one Saturday afternoon when Daddy can’t find his ontology — a situation that is sure to be familiar to most parents of toddlers. The book is rather longer than many board books, and it presents many alternative ontologies as Daddy and Johnny search the house (a particular delight is the melancholy family cat’s Wittgensteinian take, which was hidden inside the piano bench). Sensitive young readers may be concerned by the length of time it takes for Daddy to recover his ontology and his increasing angst as the narrative wears on; some parents may wish to use discretion, especially for children with shorter attention spans or who are easily troubled by metaquestions about the nature of existence. The exciting conclusion is likely to raise more questions than it answers, but the bright colors and easy pop-ups should offer hours of entertainment to small eyes and tiny fingers.

(Editor’s note: expect a review in the near future of Mooch’s anticipated next book, Time-out for Contingency, in which Daddy demonstrates that there is no possible world related to this one in which it is acceptable to put one’s feet on the table.)