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BALONEY (HENRY P.) by Jon Scieszka Kirkus Star

BALONEY (HENRY P.)

By Jon Scieszka (Author) , Lane Smith (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 12

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-670-89248-3
Publisher: Viking

It’s “Permanent Lifelong Detention” for Henry P. Baloney, unless the tardy alien can come up with “one very good and very believable excuse” for Miss Bugscuffle. Henry earnestly spins the tale of his near-disastrous trip to school: “I misplaced my trusty zimulis, then I . . . um . . . found it on my deski. But . . . someone had put my deski in a torakku.” The Math Curse (1995) team of Scieszka and Smith combine talents once again, this time to celebrate wordplay in its near-infinite variety. Henry’s story is peppered with words from such diverse sources as Estonian, French, and Inuktitut (there’s a “decoder” in the back). Each time a new word occurs for the first time, it is set off in yellow type—the trick is to decode it through illustrations (“zimulis” clearly applies to a standard-issue Quest pencil, number “ZZ”) and from context (“I jumped smack in the middle of a . . . razzo launch pad.”). Henry himself is an appealingly bug-eyed, freckle-faced green urchin who leaps, fast-talks, and erases his way through a retro-looking space-age world, learning the hard way the importance of linguistic accuracy when he forgets the Astrosus word for “thank you,” using instead the word for “doofbrain.” Clearly intending to do for words what the previous book did for numbers, the illustrations and narrative sizzle along in a madcap rush until the story is brought to an abrupt halt when the humorless Miss Bugscuffle decides to allow Henry to apply his talents to the day’s assignment of writing a tall tale. Carefully—if zanily—adhering to the “three-finger rule” (no more than three unfamiliar words per page), Henry P. Baloney’s story might go a long way toward convincing kids that learning to read is an adventure in itself. If only all pedagogy were this much fun. (Picture book. 6-12)