cover image WHEN Z GOES HOME


Jon Agee, . . Hyperion/di Capua, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-1987-4

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.)