cover image Elvis Lives!: And Other Anagrams

Elvis Lives!: And Other Anagrams

Jon Agee. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32127-7

With characteristic glee, oxymoron and palindrome fiend Agee (Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp?; Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!) here presents a set of anagrams--some of them borrowed from other wordplay enthusiasts. In this latest effort to unravel and reconstitute language, he demonstrates how letters can be rearranged to produce new meanings and pumps up the humor with pen-and-ink cartoons. Four sequential opening pages follow a fellow with a recognizable pompadour and polyester suit as he emerges from a manhole, proceeds to a billboard reading ""Elvis"" and shuffles the word to spell ""Lives."" (He reappears on the closing page, posing on a billboard for ""Levi's."") In the single-page images that follow, ""astronomer"" converts to ""moonstarer,"" and a pig pronounces a ""dormitory"" chamber a ""dirty room."" A spread of serpentine freeways that would inspire claustrophobia in Mario Andretti accompanies ""Southern California"" as ""hot sun, or life in a car."" In each case, Agee wittily unifies the dual results with his illustrations. For sophisticates, a sketch of an artist's studio shows ""Piet Mondrian"" pausing in his work to say, ""I paint modern."" And for fans who've noted the artist's penchant for depicting inmates, he offers a double entendre with a picture of prisoners painting vertical lines in their cell: ""Stripes/persist."" Agee--who must be one heck of a Scrabble player by now--creates a sketchbook of sorts that exposes words' hidden secrets. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)