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Z Goes Home Hardcover – January 1, 2001
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PreS-Gr. 2. The letter Z abandons its allotted spot in the City Zoo sign and heads off in Agee's innovative alphabet book. Children can track the red Z's journey past an Alien, over a Bridge, into some Cake, and over Hurdles until the red-letter moment when it finally finds its way to its similarly colored friends and announces, "Hey everybody, I'm home!" Each letter is exemplified by a noun (Ink, Jetty, Karate), but to make matters more interesting, the object is also shaped like the letter: a round cake, partially eaten by the Z, forms a C; the labyrinth where Z gets lost is composed of Ls; and the seashore, where Z is taking a dip, is S-shaped. The very last page whimsically defines the 26 words. In most alphabet books, letters follow one after the other and children know what's coming next, but this is less predictable. Bold shapes and lines create a clean, comical look. Karin Snelson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jon Agee is the author/illustrator of The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau (an ALA Notable), The Return of Freddy Legrand (an SLJ Best Book), and Dmitri the Astronaut, each chosen by The New York Times as one of the ten best picture books of the year. He has also created six popular books of wordplay, among them Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog! He lives in San Francisco. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I suppose a creative parent could work the seemingly-random pages into a plot of sorts, but otherwise this is just a cute & unexpected alphabet book. It's not my favorite Jon Agee book, but I did at least enjoy reading it aloud.
It's the end of a long day. On one page we see a ladder leaning against a sleeping bear's cage and the words "CITY ZOO" standing proudly up top. In the next instance, the "Z" in "ZOO" has climbed down the ladder and is returning home. To do so, he wanders through a series of paranormal scenes, all hiding a letter of the alphabet somewhere in their midst. A walk over a "B" shaped bridge looks down on an "A" shaped alien in a valley. A "J" shaped jetty sports a karate master who has fashioned in body into a perfect "K" and who has also (though this is unclear) just kicked "Z" into the awaiting water below. I wouldn't say that the longer you read the goofier it gets since these scenes are pretty goofy to begin with. Still, it's hard not to stare in confusion at the "N" shaped newspapers or the inexplicably hollow oak that could just as easily have displayed an "O" had it not been so mysteriously emptied of its inner wood. By the time you get to the lady in the black and white checkered skirt creating copy after copy after copy of the letter "X", you're as relieved as "Z" is to finally open the door and announce, "HEY, EVERYBODY, I'M HOME!". Other letters lounge about the place, including a mysterious exclamation mark who somehow earned himself letter status in the household. With a final page simply titled, "ZOWIE!", Agee provides a one to eight word sentence that defines each term used in the book. From this you can learn that ink is, "a liquid that stains your clothes", and that rocks are, "large masses of stone".
Yeah, I was a little weirded out by the whole exercise. Agee can't quite decide whether to make this the actual journey of our hero "Z" or just a wild conglomeration of a wild assortment of people, critters, and things. The journey isn't understandable. You don't know from one page to the next where "Z" is going or where he's about to go. It doesn't feel like the letter is covering any distance here. Instead, it feels as if "Z" has been zapped into each scene without any rhyme or reason for it. This isn't an objection, by the way. It just means that if you've a literal child who needs to see a series of steps taken to achieve a goal (i.e. getting home) get them "Ånno's Journey" by Anno and skip "Z Goes Home". This is a book for the child who finds the image of "Z" sunbathing beneath a palm tree, while a legless man pulls himself from a vortex-like circle of quicksand, intriguing.
Agee's drawing style has changed over the years. In the aforementioned "Felix Clousseau" he was all about shadows and dark corners. "Z Goes Home" typifies his later work and has a look that's far more similar to his later "Terrific". If there is a sky or a plain background to these scenes, it's gonna be white or the very lightest of grays. There's a cleanliness to each picture in this book. Tiny details and messiness are absent from the whole kerschmozzle. I also found it mildly interesting that Agee chose to put a teensy bit of product placement as one of his words. "Xerox" isn't really a term, though it's used like one, and I'm sure the Xerox Company would have loved this bit of a mention, no matter how small or unintentional it was.
I wasn't thrilled with "Z Goes Home". I'll admit it. I can't vouch for whether or not kids will take to it either. None of the reviews for this book (as of 12/8/05) have mentioned whether or not children enjoy reading it. Adults do, sure, but many adult who read this will already know their letters. Do kids like its gentle insanity or are they put off by it? My vote goes towards the put off camp, but since I've no evidence for this (and since I've never had a child ever recommend an alphabet book to me) I can't say for certain. What I can say is that this is an enjoyable book with interesting pictures that works well as a picture book and oddly as an alphabetic one. If you're looking for a sure-fire hit with the kiddies, "Z Goes Home" would not be my first recommendation. Try "Alphabet City" by Stephen Johnson or "The Turn-Around Upside Down Alphabet" by Lisa Campbell Ernst instead. If YOU would like a cool alphabet book to look at, however, knock yourself out.
Last page is a glossary. Don't miss it!
It's a great conceptual book, I highly recommend it.