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Posted May 26, 2001
A Goulash of Languages in a Far-Fetched Tall Tale
The best children's books entrance you with their images, the story and the images build on one another, and the story adds dimensions that are unanticipated and interesting. This book almost meets those tests, and adds to your language skills in the process. 'Last Tuesday morning, at 8:37 a.m., Henry P. Baloney was late once too often.' 'That's it,' said Miss Bugscuffle. 'Permanent Lifelong Detention . . . unless you have one very good and very believable excuse.' Then begins the wildest tale tale you've ever heard. It all starts when a zimulis is misplaced. It is on a deski in a torakku on the way to szkola, and suddenly the torakku goes past! Henry grabbed his zimulis and jumped out, right onto a razzo launch pad. He opened the pordo and landed on the next razzo while it was blasting off. Then things got really strange! If you could see the illustrations, you would be able to make more of this story. You would probably guess that a zimulis is a pencil and that a torakku is a truck. Decoding these strange words will definitely keep your mind occupied. Just when you think you have them figured out, they switch again. It turns out that the strange words are in Finnish, Latin, Ugbaric, Maltese, Swahili, French, Melanesian Pidgen, Esperanto, Italian, Spoonerisms, Dutch, Japanese, Welsh, German, Inuktitut, Latvian, and transpositions. There is an afterword that tips you off, and a decoder to help you decipher the words. But you will have much more fun trying it on your own, learning from the context of the surrounding words and the illustrations. So obviously, the text and the illustrations build on one another. Because you aren't always sure what the words mean, the story is unexpected. Unfortunately, the tall tale itself follows a path similar enough to all tall tales that it fails to intrigue of its own merit (without the clever word plays). I graded the book down one star for this weakness. I am also unsure how much fun it will be read this book over and over again. After all, at some point your child and you will know what each word means and how Henry's predicament ends up. Without the suspense that you will genuinely feel on the first time, this book will probably become much less special. If you are interested in intriguing your child with the potential of words to fascinate and draw attention, this is a definite book to have. The illustrations are outstanding, and nicely amplify the very unusual text. After you and your child have read the book, you can have some fun discussions about how to use context to determine which meanings of English words are intended. As you know, many words (like 'green') can have many different meanings. Are you supposed to see the color or a person who is inexperienced? Explore the full potential of any story, using all the tools at your disposal! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution
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Posted October 31, 2013
My son is not quite five. He is not in elementary school. He i
My son is not quite five. He is not in elementary school. He is not even in Kindergarten. He loves this book about "the green alien with big ears". Go figure. Actually, that may not be too surprising since I bought this book in 2001, long before my not-quite-five-year-old son was born. He must have inherited my sense of humor.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book is a challenge to read out loud because some words are in a different language, some are transpositions, and some are Spoonerism. That challenge actually adds to the appeal of the book for me. My son is learning to read and struggles with words in English. The story is funny, silly and absolute nonsense, as you would expect from the "Baloney" in the title.
Lane Smith does a marvelous job with the illustrations, from "the green alien with big ears", to the zimulis, to the razzo, to the Planet Astrosus, to the sighing flosser... The book is cover to cover wonderful.