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A Mixed-Up Word Dilemma

by Mark Shulman ; illustrated by Adam McCauley

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0914-5
Publisher: Chronicle

It is bad enough that Robert’s Mom and Dad Are Palindromes (2006), but when he learns that his sisters are anagrams, it nearly sends him over the edge. 

To Shulman’s credit, while presenting the “more than 101” (according to the jacket) different word, phrase or sentence pairs that have the same letters, he manages to create a plot with a problem for his hero to resolve: “Grandma Reagan is in Anagram Danger.” The strategic use of distinct typographies for the wordplay and the mirroring of color for specific letters in selected pairs will help readers see just how true this and other statements are—literally. They will have a field day tracking the word puzzles, from the cross-stitched Neil Armstrong quote (and its re-phrased version) on the endpapers to the “Despaired dried peas” and “Old Nose noodles” in Grandma’s pantry. McCauley’s mixed-media compositions, rendered in primary colors, take inspiration from comic books, The Twilight Zone and pop art for a mid-20th-century aesthetic. The far-fetched and funny conclusion featuring a giant “tuna” is an appropriate match for the opening, in which grandma sends Robert to find his “aunt,” but only the savviest of vocabulary aficionados will have seen it coming. Repeated readings reveal more playfulness, starting with the dedication.

Although the complex form is challenging to imitate, this tale will surely spark fun wordplay; successful practitioners will fawn proudly. (Picture book. 6-10)