Who’s on First?

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, illus. by John Martz. Quirk, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59474-590-4
“Who’s On First?” is one of the crown jewels of our comedic cultural heritage, so a tip of the hat to Martz (Dear Flyary) for introducing a new generation to its glories. With source material so good, can any adaptation live up to expectations? Maybe not, but Martz does a solid job of translating the skit to picture book form. Abbott’s players with “some funny names” receive actual personas (Who is a snake, What is a blue dog, I Don’t Know is a chicken), and Martz breaks down the story into comics-style framing and speech bubbles. The rapid-fire rapport between Costello (a plump white rabbit) and Abbott (a big brown bear) is drained of some of its manic energy, and Martz’s stylized digital characterizations also dial down the real joy (and meta-meaning) of the skit: Costello’s high-pitched, escalating agitation in the face of Abbott’s gravel-voiced rationality and authority. So here’s the plan: play one of the many versions of the skit available online. Once those amazing voices and rhythms are ingrained in readers’ minds, read the book aloud. And be prepared to turn the pages—fast. Ages 7–up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 02/19/2013
Open Ebook - 978-1-59474-621-5
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