AS: A Surfeit of Similes by Norton Juster
Kirkus Star

AS: A Surfeit of Similes

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The author of The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) returns with a delightful, and exhaustive, exploration of smiles: explicit comparisons that "reveal the. . .essence of whatever we want to describe. . .to enlarge our understanding or perception of human experience and observation." Small contributes a pair of scholarly-looking characters in sailboats who introduce the subject with a punning circle--from simile to salami to Salome and back to simile--and act as narrators and observers thereafter. Most of the text is in rhymed quatrains composed of similes, many of them cliches, others both fresh and apt ("As light as a feather/As wrinkled as prunes/As stiff as a poker/Elusive as tunes"), sometimes combining in unexpected poetry ("As pale as a moonbeam/As brisk as November/As startled as sparrows/As gone as 'Remember?'"). Small adds to the sense--and nonsense--with his witty, deftly penned drawings, not trying to include all of the images, but adding to some of them (two weeping hammers among the mourning relatives at a dead doornail's funeral); he also slips in a host of familiar characters, from children's literature and elsewhere. Occasional changes of pace help sustain interest (be careful of comparisons: an elephant as big as a house might prove to be very small, if the house was); there are even some wise aphorisms ("As useless as hate"). Wonderfully entertaining, both verbally and visually: an unforgettable definition of its subject, but not a surfeit!

Pub Date: March 24th, 1989
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
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