cover image Nothing


Jon Agee, . . Hyperion, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-3694-9

Money for nothing? Certainly—that’s the premise of Agee’s (Terrific ) wry story of desire and excess. Antiques dealer Otis has sold all his wares and is sweeping his bare floor when Suzie Gump, “the richest lady in town,” strolls in, dressed to the nines in a gaudy pink pantsuit and walking a fashionable purse-size dog. “Now, what’s for sale?” Suzie asks. After Otis glances around the empty store and says, “Uh, nothing,” Suzie writes a fat check for it. With misgivings, but believing that “the customer is always right,” Otis puts nothing in the trunk of her waiting car. Suzie returns the next day to crow, “Nothing is wonderful!... I must have more!” When Otis decides he can’t in good conscience sell her more nothing, the vendors next door are more than willing, and crowds soon flock to these and numerous other stores that pop up to sell designer, discount and imported nothing. (“Maybe there really was something to nothing,” muses the narrator about the improbable shopping frenzy.) Fortunately for secondhand salesman Otis, “in order to make room for nothing, they had to get rid of something.” His shop is soon brimming with unwanted household objects and the cycle reverses. In illustrations that possess a timeless air, Agee contrasts cluttered, patterned spaces with airy rooms, outlines chunky, geometric areas with firm charcoal lines and tints broad surfaces with transparent watercolor wash. Whether enjoying this Zen-like book for the wacky conceit or the consumer critique, readers will readily recognize that the emperor has no clothes; this timely parable is certainly “something” worth having. All ages. (Sept.)