That's Not Funny by Adrian Johnson
Alfie likes to laugh. He particularly likes making practical jokes - often rather nasty ones and delights in the misfortune of others. One day, he welcomes the chance of going to town with his grandfather, when, initially, his expectation of having many occasions to exercise his developed sense of schadenfreude is fulfilled. Things take a different turn when Grandpa invites Alfie to a circus. Alfie's comeuppance is inevitable, and when it eventually happens - truly glorious.
|That's Not Funny by Adrian Johnson|
|Category: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: This cautionary tale with brilliant, modern illustrations & creative typography will cause giggles, chuckles or even an odd cackle & extend vocabulary of the little 'uns. Highly recommended for 4 to 6 year olds.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: January 2007|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
That's Not Funny is an excellent picture book. It has an attractive story, which will appeal to a sense of slapstick comedy and love for practical jokes common to most children (and many an adult). Alfie's nastiness is anarchically untempered and beautifully contrasted with Grandpa's concern. It ends with an obvious moral, which the parent can take either way: either endorsing the vengefulness natural for small people ( it does rather serve him right, dear, doesn't it?) or trying to demonstrate higher levels of moral functioning (while secretly laughing at Alfie's fate themselves). The spirit of this book might make some parents recall Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Verses though it's much, much tamer.
The graphics are fantastic. Illustrations are modernist, on the surface very grown up, in mostly non-primary colours, with simple figures in what was rather cubist spirit to me. The background is sparse, but contains surprising detail here and there (look our for a shadowy Godzilla). Typography is used very creatively, with speech bubbles, capitals and various, including a few rather ornate, fonts.
And finally, there is the language content - in what I think is his first authored-and-illustrated book, Adrian Johnson copes admirably, with simple text which, however, has a useful educational angle, exploring the laughter vocabulary (including giggle, chuckle, cackle, expressions like rackety laugh and even an adverb: gleefully). Schadenfreude' is introduced at the end, after the story concludes, and includes Anglicised phonetic spelling for those reading on their own.
The most appropriate audience for That's Not Funny are probably children in the last picture-book reading stage, with emerging readers of around 6 years old likely to enjoy the challenge and appreciate the short text, while benefiting from injection of some new vocabulary. On the other hand, there is no reason why a 3 year old couldn't enjoy a giggle or three while exploring Alfie's antics.
For another book with bit of subversive spirit for older pre-schoolers and early readers, look no further than the Dr Seuss classic, The Cat in a Hat.
Our thanks to the publishers for sending this book.
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You can read more book reviews or buy That's Not Funny by Adrian Johnson at Amazon.com.
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