cover image Don't Make Me Laugh

Don't Make Me Laugh

James Stevenson. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31827-7

""I am in charge of this book. I make up the rules,"" announces Mr. Frimdimpny, a snaggletoothed creature (crocodile? alligator? dragon?) who lays down the law: ""Do not laugh! Do not even smile! Don't do anything you are told not to do."" Noting that he, personally, never laughs or smiles, the stern taskmaster cautions readers that they must go back to the beginning of the book if they fail to follow his directions. In a trio of vignettes, Stevenson proves that some rules are indeed made to be broken as various animal characters take turns instructing readers NOT to do things. In the first sequence, for example, a canine waiter, carrying an enormous tray of food, begs readers not to tickle him in a certain spot, conveniently marked with a large red X: ""Wait... What are you looking at? You are staring at my red X. What are you thinking? OH, NO!"" Comic calamity results. Finally, when Mr. Frimdimpny conducts an exercise to determine if, as he suspects, readers are ""smiling a tiny bit,"" he himself commits an offense that sends HIM back to the front of the book. Stevenson's trademark understated humor hits the bull's-eye; it's hard to imagine the reader who won't join in the joke. Ages 3-6. (Sept.)