FICTION

It's Only Stanley

illus. by Jon Agee. 32p. Dial. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803739079; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698176577. LC 2013042652.
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PreS-Gr 2—Agee applies his trademark humor to a wacky new picture book, featuring Stanley, a beagle whose odd nocturnal activities keep his family from sleeping. The single-minded canine drives the Wimbledons crazy one night, howling at the moon, fixing the oil tank, repairing an old TV, and making catfish stew, before finally revealing his master plan. Written in verse, the text serves up plenty of laughs, though a few rhymes seem a bit forced ("It was late as it can get,/When Wanda heard a buzzing noise/That made her all upset."). Agee's signature cartoon style is ideal for the narrative, and the expressions of the various characters, from the endearingly eccentric, steadfast Stanley to the beleaguered Wimbledons, are simple yet endlessly entertaining. The responses of the put-upon family cat in particular will provoke plenty of giggles (for instance, it's seen slurping at the catfish stew on a spread, then turning green on the following one). Sound effects ("SPLISH SPLASH," "KAPOW!") add to the zany humor, making this one perfect for read-alouds. The out-of-this-world but amusing conclusion is appropriately odd and surprising. Agee knows what his young readers want—plain silliness—and he delivers. Hilarious.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Dog Stanley's onomatopoeic disturbances ("HOWOOO!") interrupt--hilariously--not just the sleep but the perfectly cadenced rhyming account of his owners, the increasingly bothered Wimbledon family. As the night wears on, Stanley shows himself to be one clever beagle (and over-the-moon in love). The illustrations' thick lines and subdued colors bring out the story's considerable humor and focus attention on the ever-more-fantastical situations.
The Wimbledon family can’t sleep due to one noise (“HOWOOO!”) after another (“CLANK CLANK CLANK”). In each case, it’s the fault of their dog Stanley, whose onomatopoeic disturbances interrupt -- hilariously -- not just the sleep but the perfectly cadenced rhyming account of the increasingly bothered Wimbledons: “The Wimbledons were sleeping. / It was late beyond belief, / When Wylie heard a splashy sound / That made him say: ‘Good grief!’” As the night wears on, more and more family members are awakened, and Stanley shows himself to be one clever beagle (and over-the-moon in love). The thick lines and subdued colors in the illustrations bring out the story’s considerable humor and focus readers’ attention on the ever-more-fantastical situations. Agee understands the drama of the page turn better than anyone, with vignettes of the increasingly crowded Wimbledon family bed giving way to full-bleed double-page spreads of Stanley’s machinations until it all comes together (“KAPOW!”) to make everybody jump. Make sure your listeners have their seatbelts fastened. roger sutton

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