TWO NEW TITLES FROM JON AGEE, THAT AREN’T NEW | KALW

TWO NEW TITLES FROM JON AGEE, THAT AREN’T NEW

Sep 29, 2017

The host of a radio call-in program I frequently hear often informs listeners that the day’s guest “is out with a new book.” This always makes me wonder what other kind of book would be promoted. Well, children’s book author James Agee, of San Francisco, answers that question with “Terrific” and “Milo’s Hat Trick.”

Both titles went on sale earlier this month, but a quick look inside reveals they’re recycled: the copyright date for “Terrific” is 2005. The book already has an existing resource blog for young readers along with other teaching resources.

At least this edition has a new cover, which is more than can be said for the main character’s coat, which looks more like mid-1950s fashion than early 2000s.

Parents can probably expect to hear the young readers of “Terrific” repeating that title for a few days after finding this book. It’s the ironic response to any situation encountered by Eugene Mudge of 23 Crumb St., Dismal, ND. He wins a trip to Bermuda and his reaction is, “Terrific, I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” And thus the story begins.

It’s a clever story, too, with big words that are fun to say, such as “warthog” and “pomegranate.” It even contains a diagram for building a boat.

“Milo’s Hat Trick” is even older, having first appeared in 2001. Even the author blurbs are dated. Maurice Sendak (died 2012) is quoted as calling “Milo” “an astonishing masterpiece.” This story seems more complex than Agee’s other reissue, with perhaps fewer words. Masterpiece or not, that’s a neat trick, which brings us to the story.

Milo is a struggling magician. He can’t even get the crowd-pleasing rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick to work, and the theater manager is furious about it.

Maybe Agee’s solution to Milo’s problem was inspired by watching episodes of “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” cartoons, with their variations on that trick, but whatever his source, it works.

I’m not going to reveal Milo’s solution here, but I will suggest something to save you from being tricked into buying these titles: Search your children’s book collection first. You may discover they already have both of them, from decades ago.