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Z Goes Home Hardcover – 1 Jul 2003

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Circuitous doesn't even begin to describe it! 9 Dec. 2005
By E. R. Bird - Published on
Format: Hardcover
That's it. I'm just going to have to write a book all about the abundance and diversity found in alphabet books out there. There's nothing else for it. Every time I convince myself that I've reviewed my last alphabetical picture extravaganza, I discover another one and it's down that slippery slope I slide once more. I've eventually come to the conclusion that alphabet books fall into two distinct categories. In the first are the ones that try to appeal to children in some way. They may utilize racecars, dinosaurs, or puppy dogs. It doesn't matter. At their heart is an overwhelming need to be loved by people under the age of 12. Then there are the alphabet picture books that couldn't care less what kids think of them. These are designer alphabets. They're tricky and clever and exist in their own little world. Which brings us to Jon Agee's 2003 foray into the alphabetic picture book world. Like any good illustrator (I've always admired his, "The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau") he's given his own little touch to the genre. The result is a book that somehow manages to walk a fine line between kids and adults while at the same time zooming into wide-eyed devil-may-care zaniness. If nothing else, "Z Goes Home" is an exercise in alphabetic clean-lined surrealism.

It's the end of a long day. On one page we see a ladder leaning against a sleeping bear's cage and the words "CITY ZOO" standing proudly up top. In the next instance, the "Z" in "ZOO" has climbed down the ladder and is returning home. To do so, he wanders through a series of paranormal scenes, all hiding a letter of the alphabet somewhere in their midst. A walk over a "B" shaped bridge looks down on an "A" shaped alien in a valley. A "J" shaped jetty sports a karate master who has fashioned in body into a perfect "K" and who has also (though this is unclear) just kicked "Z" into the awaiting water below. I wouldn't say that the longer you read the goofier it gets since these scenes are pretty goofy to begin with. Still, it's hard not to stare in confusion at the "N" shaped newspapers or the inexplicably hollow oak that could just as easily have displayed an "O" had it not been so mysteriously emptied of its inner wood. By the time you get to the lady in the black and white checkered skirt creating copy after copy after copy of the letter "X", you're as relieved as "Z" is to finally open the door and announce, "HEY, EVERYBODY, I'M HOME!". Other letters lounge about the place, including a mysterious exclamation mark who somehow earned himself letter status in the household. With a final page simply titled, "ZOWIE!", Agee provides a one to eight word sentence that defines each term used in the book. From this you can learn that ink is, "a liquid that stains your clothes", and that rocks are, "large masses of stone".

Yeah, I was a little weirded out by the whole exercise. Agee can't quite decide whether to make this the actual journey of our hero "Z" or just a wild conglomeration of a wild assortment of people, critters, and things. The journey isn't understandable. You don't know from one page to the next where "Z" is going or where he's about to go. It doesn't feel like the letter is covering any distance here. Instead, it feels as if "Z" has been zapped into each scene without any rhyme or reason for it. This isn't an objection, by the way. It just means that if you've a literal child who needs to see a series of steps taken to achieve a goal (i.e. getting home) get them "Ånno's Journey" by Anno and skip "Z Goes Home". This is a book for the child who finds the image of "Z" sunbathing beneath a palm tree, while a legless man pulls himself from a vortex-like circle of quicksand, intriguing.

Agee's drawing style has changed over the years. In the aforementioned "Felix Clousseau" he was all about shadows and dark corners. "Z Goes Home" typifies his later work and has a look that's far more similar to his later "Terrific". If there is a sky or a plain background to these scenes, it's gonna be white or the very lightest of grays. There's a cleanliness to each picture in this book. Tiny details and messiness are absent from the whole kerschmozzle. I also found it mildly interesting that Agee chose to put a teensy bit of product placement as one of his words. "Xerox" isn't really a term, though it's used like one, and I'm sure the Xerox Company would have loved this bit of a mention, no matter how small or unintentional it was.

I wasn't thrilled with "Z Goes Home". I'll admit it. I can't vouch for whether or not kids will take to it either. None of the reviews for this book (as of 12/8/05) have mentioned whether or not children enjoy reading it. Adults do, sure, but many adult who read this will already know their letters. Do kids like its gentle insanity or are they put off by it? My vote goes towards the put off camp, but since I've no evidence for this (and since I've never had a child ever recommend an alphabet book to me) I can't say for certain. What I can say is that this is an enjoyable book with interesting pictures that works well as a picture book and oddly as an alphabetic one. If you're looking for a sure-fire hit with the kiddies, "Z Goes Home" would not be my first recommendation. Try "Alphabet City" by Stephen Johnson or "The Turn-Around Upside Down Alphabet" by Lisa Campbell Ernst instead. If YOU would like a cool alphabet book to look at, however, knock yourself out.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
surprising alphabet story book 15 Mar. 2011
By M. Heiss - Published on
The letter Z escapes from her sign at the zoo, and tours through town noticing the other alphabet letters. Z gets into quite a bit of trouble - eating cake and falling into an earthquake zone, receiving a karate kick and even getting lost in a labyrinth - and finally makes it home. Zowie! Whattabook!

Last page is a glossary. Don't miss it!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Creative and innovative author/illustrator 7 Aug. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Z goes home is a very creative book. Readers will wonder where Jon Agee comes up with his illustrations. Many will make you smile and laugh. Children and adults alike will enjoy "Z Goes Home" and many other of his works.
Creative alphabet book that's over the head of toddlers 25 April 2014
By Becky Laswell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I only have toddlers, but I already feel like I've been around the block with alphabet books. There are only so many ways people can present the ABCs, right? No, not at all as Jon Agee proves with this fun book. Each page is filled with clever illustrations of a word starting with each letter of the alphabet (featuring the given letter worked into a shape). Most of the entries are creative -- like "jetty" for J or "xeroes" for X.

I suppose a creative parent could work the seemingly-random pages into a plot of sorts, but otherwise this is just a cute & unexpected alphabet book. It's not my favorite Jon Agee book, but I did at least enjoy reading it aloud.
Great book, for teaching words, not just alphabet. 1 Dec. 2010
By ARD - Published on
Format: Hardcover
We actually checked this out at the library but now I am looking to buy two copies, one for me and one for my son's school. I have two kids 5 and under and while my youngest daughter is very receptive to reading eventhough she isn't 3 yet, my 5 year old son is difficult to get him to try and read. This book he's excited to try and read and it actually does quite well. It's basically a word per letter, but their words not common to other books, and I teach him other stuff based on the drawings.

It's a great conceptual book, I highly recommend it.
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