Jon Agee's choice of subjects is wonderfully various, ranging from Mirror and Newspaper to Gargoyle and Labyrinth. The letters are big, yet some are challenging to see -- the S-shaped seashore, for instance -- in a way that makes great exercise for the brain. This story may well spur the learning of letters, but well-lettered readers will enjoy it just as much.
Paul O. Zelinsky
Agee (Milo's Hat Trick) serves up a witty, stylish abecedary that is deceptive in its simplicity. Edging slyly into the proceedings with a pair of "preview" pages that show a bold red "Z" in a "City Zoo" sign climbing down a ladder, Agee sets up the book's working premise even before the title page appears. And when it finally does, it's clear what's happening here-quitting time for the hard-working Z. What follows is a deliciously silly trek homeward as Z crosses paths with some odd creatures in equally odd places. Each turn of the page reveals the featured letter pictured as the word by which it's represented. "B," for instance, is turned on its side spanning a canyon as a "bridge" (Z can be seen through one of its arches, crossing to the other side), while below, an "A"-shaped alien lurks along the riverbank. (For art aficionados, the spirit of Escher's work seems to haunt a stairway constructed from the letter "E.") Z runs H-shaped hurdles past a G-shaped gargoyle, gets karate-kicked by a K-shaped black belt and lost in a labyrinth made from Ls, etc. He finally arrives at his house to find his family of fellow bold red letters awaiting. As in many of Agee's books, there's a clever surprise waiting for readers on the final page. Agee's strong graphic lines and bold shapes hint at alphabet blocks; even those new to the ABCs can track Z's cheerful presence across the restrained, earth-toned scenery. All ages. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Gr 1-3-The letter Z heads wordlessly home after a long day's work atop the city zoo's gates, and on his way, crosses a bridge formed by a horizontal capital B, takes several bites out of a cake and a doughnut, jumps a few hurdles, sustains a karate kick into the lake, loses his way in a labyrinth, narrowly escapes a viper beside a woodpile, and at last makes it home to his family. Although there is a basic, satisfying narrative here, each spread may be viewed and discussed independently. The full-color illustrations, like those in Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Houghton, 1984), are suggestive of entire worlds beyond the borders of the page, and could inspire young readers to create their own stories explaining Z's exploits. How does Z escape the labyrinth full of Ls? Why doesn't Z help that man struggling out of the quicksand? Is he contemplating taking a yoga class? Packed with sophisticated visual sleight of hand that may require second and even third glances to appreciate (the sinuous curve of seashore, the pooling of ink on a jetty), this is not a book for youngsters learning to recognize their letters. School-aged children, especially those enamored of the all-graphics, all-the-time approach of the "I Spy" books (Scholastic) and "Where's Waldo" series (Candlewick), would be the most appreciative audience for this quirky title.-Sophie R. Brookover, Mount Laurel Library, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
When Z, from the zoo sign, climbs down a ladder and escapes, he travels an alphabetic trek through double-paged scenes where unlikely pairing of words (one per letter) are quixotically juxtaposed: e.g., Z passes ALIEN and crosses BRIDGE (B turned sideways); on a wharf INK is spilled on the JETTY as a man KARATE kicks Z into the water. Z is an integral participant in each scene such as jumping HURDLES behind two men. Agee's clean graphic design energizes and dramatizes the bordered pages and the last page defines each word in wrap-around lines. And when Z reaches the end of the alphabet? "Zowie, I'm home!" There's complexity in the simplicity that should intrigue readers. The Z Is Zapped meets Chicka Chicka Boom Boom in this zany abecedarium that zips with zesty creativity. (Picture book. 5-8)