Book Review: Who's on First?
Authors: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and illustrated by John Martz
Published by Quark Books
Release: Feb. 19, 2013
It’s always brave to try and reinvent a classic. Happily, editor David Borgenicht decided that paying tribute to this classic wasn’t a matter of changing it and modifying it for a modern audience but spinning it and introducing the classics to a group of people who probably had never actually seen it -- kids.
And while the target audience of this book is children of 7-plus, it’s a book that delights not just the little ones, but the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and older siblings who not only get to recall the great classic but share in the delight and humor through the eyes of a child. In that it’s a book for kids of all ages.
Of course reviewing a book aimed at children isn’t exactly standard operating procedure for us here at At Home Plate. So to see just how successful this routine came out as a children’s book I had to recruit my favorite five year old (yeah I know they suggest that it’s for 7-plus, but I happen to live with a five year old) so I could see just how she liked the book.
Hard to decide if this was a smash hit or a home run because either analogy works. Not only did she get the concepts, but she could read the book herself, over and over, laughing harder and harder as she reread the book time and time again. In the first 24-hour period she read the book to herself at least a dozen times and the more she read it the more she started making jokes and doing things like coming up to me and asking “who’s on first?” then giggling uncontrollably every time I fed her the next line.
Now my daughter has watched baseball with me since she was old enough to care about TV, so she probably has at least a slight advantage over many kids her age when it comes to understanding the game and she easily grasped most of the concepts of the famed skit. However I think this is a great gateway book for young kids trying to understand a bit about how the national pastime actually works.
The humor endures even more than 80 years later through the well thought out illustrations of John Martz (which portray each of the characters as a anthropomorphized animal). These simplify the book enough that even young children are able to figure out when Abbott is asking his who, what, why and when questions and when Costello is using those same concepts as proper names.
All in all this is a fun little book -- and it was done far better than I could have imagined them doing it. That said, it’s a novelty book for adults, but a great fun read for the kids.
If you’ve got children between 6-9 (or those precocious enough to read and get things a little earlier) it’s a sure winner. Give it a solid 3 balls for that crowd, but for adults knock it down a full ball to 2 balls. You’ll still really enjoy it. After all it is a baseball classic.
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