cover image Boy Wonders

Boy Wonders

Calef Brown. S&S/Atheneum, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4169-7877-0

Runaway punnery and nonstop questions drive this rhyming book, which calls attention to similar-sounding words and figures of speech. Brown's (Hallowilloween) title refers to a pensive boy who asks, "Are you ever perplexed? Completely vexed?" and unleashes his ruminations. The text, illustrated in surreal acrylics that convey an imagination in overdrive, opens in a high-energy yet manageable way: "Do bees get hives?/ Do onions cry?/ Is pepper apt to sneeze?/ Do paper plates/ and two-by-fours/ remember being trees?" As pages turn, absurd tongue-twisters and weird images accumulate, as in a portrait of a frowning blue-violet bird in an icy landscape: "Would a happy toucan/ from the Yucatan/ become cantankerous/ up in Anchorage/ or the Yukon?/ How about in Tucson?" Enjoyment depends on a pleasure in assonance and consonance, and a capacity to deconstruct skewed metaphors ("Do clouds get jealous during storms,/ and steal each other's thunder?"); more than anything, this one seems likely to spur discussions about the idioms, animals, and vocabulary that appear within. Brown keeps the pace fast and furious, and his warped wordplay suggests a caffeinated Jon Agee. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (June)