Great Illustrated Books

Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue

By Jon Agee

Hyperion Book CH, 2009
Pages : 32
Suggested Ages: 6-10
ISBN: 1423103157

The 35 tangue-tungling poems in this seriously silly book are rhyming tributes to tongue twisters like "Unique New York" (which no one can say fast), about which Agee writes: "Unique New York, unique New York, / You know New York's unique. / You know you need unique New York, / You know New York is chic." Two more verses are equally fun, and the full-page watercolor on the facing page shows people crammed on the subway, with big speech bubbles in six languages. Read each poem fast or slow, but be sure to read it way more than once, and have your kids join in. There's a whole poem about Peggy Babcock, which is impossible to get through without a lip cramp, one about the holes in Andy Bundy's undies, and one about an overeager ogre.

Speech teachers will be elated with these poems which will have kids doubled over with laughter or mouth pain. As a school or home-based project, compile a book of tongue twisters everyone already knows (like "toy boat," and "good blood, bad blood"), and have your kids write some new ones for everyone to recite. Agee has done many other witty collections of wordplay. Find anagrams (when you rearrange the letters in a word, phrase, or sentence to make a new one) in Elvis Lives and Other Anagrams. All will especially love reading his books of palindromes (words and phrases that read the same forward and backward), such as Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog!: And Other Palindromes. Then there's Smart Feller Fart Smeller: And Other Spoonerisms, where you switch initial consonants of words to produce silly results. Named after the Reverend Doctor William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), an Oxford University professor who mangled many a sentence, Spoonerisms are great fun to translate. You think this stuff is frivolous? Not at all-if children don't fool around with language, they'll never get Shakespeare when they grow up.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Agee, Jon. Elvis Lives and Other Anagrams. Farrar, 2004.

Agee, Jon. Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog!: And Other Palindromes. Farrar, 1992.

Agee, Jon. Milo's Hat Trick. Hyperion, 2001.

Agee, Jon. Palindromania! Farrar, 2009.

Agee, Jon. The Retired Kid. Hyperion, 2008.

Agee, Jon. Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!: More Palindromes. Farrar, 1999.

Agee, Jon. Smart Feller Fart Smeller: And Other Spoonerisms. Hyperion, 2006.

Agee, Jon. So Many Dynamos!: and Other Anagrams. Farrar, 1997.

Booth, David, comp. Doctor Knickerbocker and Other Rhymes. Ticknor & Fields, 1993.

Emrich, Duncan, comp. The Hodgepodge Book. Four Winds, 1972.

Emrich, Duncan, comp. The Nonsense Book of Riddles, Rhymes, Tongue Twisters, Puzzles and Jokes from American Folklore. Four Winds, 1970.

Hirsch, Robin. FEG: Ridiculous Poems for Intelligent Children. Little, Brown, 2002.

Janeczko, Paul B., sel. A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout. Candlewick, 2009.

Prelutsky, Jack, comp. A. Nonny Mouse Writes Again! Knopf, 1993.

Prelutsky, Jack, comp. Poems of A. Nonny Mouse. Knopf, 1989.

Rosen, Michael, comp. Walking the Bridge of Your Nose. Kingfisher, 1995.

Schwartz, Alvin, comp. And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry from Everyone. HarperCollins, 1992.

Schwartz, Alvin, comp. I Saw You in the Bathtub and Other Folk Rhymes. HarperCollins, 1989.

Schwartz, Alvin, comp. Tomfoolery: Trickery and Foolery with Words. Lippincott, 1973.

Schwartz, Alvin. A Twister of Twists, a Tangler of Tongues. HarperCollins, 1972.

Sierra, Judy, comp. Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids' Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun. Knopf, 2005.

Silverstein, Shel. Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. HarperCollins, 2005.

Steig, William. CDB! Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Critics have said

"While all of the poems are crowd pleasers, one or two will have youngsters howling. In addition to being just plain funny, Agee is a wordsmith and accomplished illustrator, factors that have produced another must-have winner from a comic master."
School Library Journal