cover image It’s Only Stanley

It’s Only Stanley

Jon Agee. Dial, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3907-9

Stanley the beagle is a diehard fixer-upper, and for some reason he likes doing noisy chores in the middle of the night. One by one, he wakes up every member of the alliteratively named Wimbledon family, from parents Wilma and Walter to their four children. Agee (Terrific) establishes a rhythmic word-and-picture formula in which Walter goes downstairs on six separate occasions, checks on Stanley (always in a wordless spread), and reports back to his restless family: “The Wimble- dons were sleeping./ It was later than before./ When Wendy heard a clanking sound,/ Below her bedroom floor./ ‘That’s very odd,’ said Walter./ Then they heard another clank!/ ‘It’s only Stanley,’ Walter said./ ‘He fixed the oil tank.’ ” Visual hints suggest that the industrious dog has more on his mind than home improvement, and rereadings shed light on Stanley’s master plan to transform the Wimbledons’ steeply pitched Victorian house into a rocket. As in Milo’s Hat Trick, Agee appeals to connoisseurs of the absurd, and he shapes ridiculous developments into a tightly composed and satisfying picture book. Ages 5–8. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Mar.)