Review: It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

Its Only Stanley by Jon Agee

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee (InfoSoup)

Something odd is happening tonight in the Wimbledon house. There are mysterious noises. The first noise is Stanley the dog howling at the moon. But then new noises start. The clanking noise is Stanley fixing the oil tank in the basement. A little later, the funky smell that makes the cat ill turns out to be Stanley cooking catfish stew in the kitchen. The buzzing noise is Stanley fixing the family’s old TV in the living room. Splashing noises are Stanley fixing the plumbing. Each noise wakes up the human family and the father has to head out to see what is happening. But just as everyone is starting to get very cranky from loss of sleep, something happens that shows exactly what Stanley has actually been up to all night.

Agee is a master at creating understated books that have a distinctive feel about them. Here he takes a strong matter-of-fact tone and uses it to add to the silliness of the entire book. Told in natural-feeling rhyme, the book has a buoyant tone that makes it great fun to share aloud. Throughout the book the father heads out each time without much emotion and returns to report that it is just Stanley and what the dog is up to. The oblivious family heads back to bed only to be awoken again and again. This builds wonderful tension until it’s released with a literal bang.

Agee’s art is done in his unique style with flat color and thick black lines. Throughout, readers will be able to watch for clues as to what Stanley is actually up to and readers who are paying close attention will figure it out before the family does. Even those children who don’t piece together the clues will want to re-read the story to notice them. Also keep an eye on the cat who seems to always get into the worst of it as the story progresses.

Not a bedtime story despite being set at night, this picture book is strikingly funny and has a grand warped feeling throughout. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.