Your 6-year-old may still be irony-free, but she'll love the Hockys, and not just because she'll be able to read the book herself. Lane Smith's wit plays on two levels: your wink-winky boomerish sensibility and your child's delight in Buster Keatonish pratfalls. The members of his Hocky family are paper cutout collages, laid out on the sort of pulpy paper that looks handmade. Their heads are round and bubbly, as endearingly vintage-looking as the words they use. There are lots of exclamation points. — Penelope Green
A decade after the original Happy Hocky Family!, Smith relocates the optimistic Hockys to a rural setting. At first, the chipper narrative and straightforward images seem to state the obvious: "Here is the Hocky family's new house./ Their new house is actually a very old house." The Dick-and-Jane style turns out to be a parody, however. The next page shows the Hockys huddling under an umbrella: "What a fun house./ When it rains outside,/ it rains inside, too." The Hocky parents and their three children marvel at the wonderful farm animals nearby (" `Look,' says Holly. `Chickens!'/ `Look,' says Henry. `Goats!' ") only to change their tune when the wind direction shifts (" `Pee-yew,' says Holly. `Chickens!'/ `Yuck,' says Henry. `Goats!' "). In brief chapters with deadpan titles, Henry listens quietly for birds as squirrels ransack his feeder, Holly picks poison ivy for a sweet little bouquet and, in "Baby's Friend," an ecstatic Baby Hocky offers a slice of pink cake to the business end of a skunk ("Run, Mr. and Mrs. Hocky, run!"). There are wry math lessons, too: "If Farmer Dill's rooster/ crows 17 times a day,/ and the Hocky family/ has heard him 6,205 times,/ how long has the Hocky/ family been in the country?.../ One whole year." In Smith's simple block-print illustrations, the Hockys have lollipop heads and stick bodies; the amiable, rustic quality of the speckly, oatmeal-colored pages belies the sly satire. The Hockys certainly do seem contented, though, which adds to the tongue-in-cheek humor of this mock-primer. All ages. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Lane Smith has a new sequel, The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country! Ten years ago, Smith published The Happy Hocky Family, and its many fans will be happy that the funny family stars in a second "I-Can-Read" parody. The book is printed on paper that recalls old textbooks. The few words on each page are simple and repetitive. Again, there is no plotted story to help independent reading, but the book's comical vignettes make it an excellent book for the soothing humor of a shared read. For example, on opposing pages we see the same words repeated-shoes, rattle and mower. The first page is labeled "city words" and illustrations show high heels, a baby rattle, and a push mower. The opposing page shows the same words, labels them "country words" and illustrations show sturdy boots, a rattlesnake, and a tractor. The six characters in the Hockey family are amazingly well rounded for stick figures and each page is filled with something to laugh at and lots to talk about. 2003, Viking, Ages 5 to 8.
Gr 2-5-Look! The Happy Hocky family is back! Look! They are moving to the country! In little vignettes, Smith shows their trials and tribulations. There's the new house that's really an old house, interesting neighbors, renegade squirrels and rabbits, and, of course, the ubiquitous county fair. The flat '50s style illustrations are printed on tan paper that adds dimension and texture. The art is combined with unusual typeface layouts on half and single pages and double-page spreads. Unfortunately, for all its intended humor, this book will have a tough time finding an audience. The parody of "Dick and Jane"-style readers doesn't work when children don't know the original references, and those who will get some of the humor will find the book "too easy." This is a clever book that is more likely to amuse adults.-Tali Balas, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The Hockys get a taste (and a smell) of rural living in this belated sequel to Smith�s deliciously post-modern primer, The Happy Hocky Family (1993). "In the city you use an alarm clock to wake up. In the country you don�t need one. COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO goes the neighbor�s rooster at 5:30 in the morning." Seen as minimal, but artfully colored figures floating on fields of brown speckled paper, the Hockys experience a range of delights, from a leaky roof to nearby livestock in shifting winds. Meanwhile they struggle (without success) to make the bird feeder squirrel-proof, to dispose of autumn leaves that can be neither burned nor deposited in the town dump, and to keep the "wild bunny" out of the garden. In time the Hockys once again demonstrate their resilience, and readers will hardly need Smith�s assurance that they�re "going to be OKAY in the country!" The language moves a little past the prequel�s "Dick and Jane" primer level, but the twists are still sudden, sardonic, and as diverting to children as they are to grown-ups. (Picture book. 6-8)