One of the funniest comedy routines ever to be heard doesn’t successfully translate to print although nearly every word is intact.
Abbott appears as a red-nosed bear, and Costello is a hapless rabbit, with both creatures dressed in striped shirts and red baseball caps. The dialogue is variously presented in word bubbles, boxes or “shouted” in explosive, full-page format, with all the text in sizes appropriate to the characters’ levels of frustration. Superbright green, yellow, red and blue backgrounds make it all pop. But in book form, the dialogue comes off as merely amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, partly since in its original form it was completely auditory. The two men delivered the lines in fast-paced, smartly timed patter with voice inflections indicating annoyance, anger, impatience or resignation. The fun was in the misunderstanding of the wordplay. While Martz’s cartoon animals indicate their emotions in their body language and facial expressions, it’s just a little flat. In addition, depicting each player as an animal (Who is a snake, What is a dog, etc.) makes it possible for readers to actually visualize a “real” team and diminishes the wordplay. To work at all, it must be read aloud in two distinct, enthusiastic voices so young readers can share the experience.
Not up to the original—leave it on the shelf and find a recording of the real Abbott and Costello. (afterword, biographical notes) (Picture book. 7-10)