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Who’s On First? by Abbott & Costello, with illustrations by John Martz, is now available in a picture book format from Quirk Books ($16.95, ages 7 and up). And, as the name implies, this publishing house is anything but conventional having gained recognition with its popular Mashup series of books including a personal fave, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I’m so glad they’ve decided to add Abbott & Costello into their mix.
Now, as we approach baseball season, it’s time to introduce a new generation of fans to one of America’s most beloved comedy teams. Abbott & Costello’s genius for fast-paced, perfectly timed routines should hook your kids as it did mine. In fact you may not know that Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First sketch has been named the best comedy sketch of the twentieth century by Time magazine and the duo was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. I’m still trying to figure out their Loan Me $50 routine!
If you’ve got a child with a great sense of humor and a good memory, try practicing this most hysterical of routines with him or her. My 11-year-old son may not read picture books anymore, but he’s a huge Abbott & Costello fan just like his mom and dad. The minute he saw this book land on my desk he picked it up, read it and pronounced, “This is perfect! The rabbit and bear even look like Abbott and Costello.” He also wanted me to tell readers how well imagined the artwork is and I agree. From the fabulous selection of colors Martz (who also happens to be a cartoonist) has used on every page to the way he captures Costello’s (okay, the rabbit’s) facial expressions as he gets more and more frustrated is a big part of why the book works. Even the title design shouts “Batter up!”
Come meet the kooky cast of characters including Who’s, the first baseman snake; What’s, the second baseman dog; I Don’t Know’s, the third base chicken; Why, who just happens to be an alligator and the left fielder and of course, Because! Because, the red-capped cat covers center field and Tomorrow, a duck, is the pitcher. Got that? Don’t forget the heavy hitter, an elephant who is going to bunt the ball. Terribly exasperating? Imagine how the rabbit feels!
If you think it’s over when the rabbit proclaims, “I said I don’t give a hoot!” Think again! That’s the shortstop (an owl).
There’s a brief history of “Who’s on First?” in the end pages to share with your children and if you’re like my family, you’ll probably want to rent a few Abbott & Costello movies to see how they perform the sketch. So, in case you couldn’t tell, this book’s a hit with me. NOTE: The book’s publication date is February 19, 2013.
Reviewed by Ronna Mandel