Reviews for That's Not Funny

Booklist Reviews 2005 October #2
K-Gr. 2. Even if kids have never heard of schadenfreude, they'll recognize the phenomenon and learn to pronounce the word after reading this parable about an insensitive giggler who ends up on the wrong side of the joke. Alfie is a freckled little blighter who "likes to laugh at other people's misfortune," as when a Buckingham Palace guard trips over Alfie's pet mouse. But when Alfie suffers an undignified accident at the circus, his enraged cry of "THAT'S NOT FUNNY!" falls on deaf ears. In the same spirit as his popular What! Cried Granny! (1999), Johnson's wild presentation forestalls literal-minded interpretation, with Rocky and Bullwinkle-style characters and a modish design full of unexpected color combinations, dueling typefaces, and graphic elements borrowed from 1950s Formica patterns. Although the slightly mean-spirited, tit-for-tat conclusion may prevent this from getting serious use in discussions about hurtful laughter, kids will take gleeful pleasure in both Alfie's transgressions and his comeuppance, particularly on first readings, when the slapstick episodes are freshest. ((Reviewed October 15, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
Alfie enjoys laughing at others' misfortunes--tripping, being chased by dogs--until his grandfather takes him to the circus, where Alfie inspires much amusement when an elephant lands on him. The story ends not with news of Alfie's change of heart, which is implicit, but with a definition of schadenfreude. The graphically rich art has an appealing fifties-retro style. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2005 August #1
Johnson lowers the boom-or more precisely, the elephant-on a lad who takes delight in the misfortunes of others in a pointed, if unconvincing, import illustrated in a postmodern, retro-'50s style. Life is a barrel of laughs for Alfie, as he watches a dog chase a mail carrier, his pet mouse Mr. Swiss trip up a guard at Buckingham Palace, a jogger run headlong into a tree and other mishaps. A trip to the circus, though, leaves Alfie only bored-and annoyed when, chasing after Mr. Swiss, he ends up underneath a startled elephant, and responds to the amusement of the crowd looking on with, "THAT'S NOT FUNNY!!!" Begging to differ, the author then goes on to teach readers how to spell and say a new word that describes Alfie's sense of humor: "Schadenfreude." Who knows-along with building vocabulary, this might give readers food for thought. But probably not. (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 October #1

Sly wit and early-1960s visuals mark Johnson's (What! Cried Granny ) tale of young Alfie. The fellow's V-shaped legs would look at home under a kidney-shaped coffee table, and his head is round as the moon, his arms curl around like ribbons and he has a wicked sense of humor--as long as the wickedness is happening to someone else. "On the way to the station, Alfie chuckled when a mean-looking dog chased the mailman down the street." The roughly inked outlines of the boy and his tweed-capped grandfather contrast with crisp blocks of computer-generated textured background that scrolls along, cartoon-style, as the two (plus Alfie's sidekick, Mr. Swiss the mouse) head for the circus. When Mr. Swiss heads for the world's largest cheese, he scares Oberon the elephant. "Oberon jumped so high he nearly hit the roof. Then Oberon began to drop... right onto Alfie!" " 'That's not funny!!! ' said Alfie. "But actually," says the omniscient narrator primly, "it was." Kids will have a good laugh as they enjoy Alfie's discomfort, and parents will love the little commercial for the German language on the last page. "Schadenfreude ," it says. "A malicious delight in the bad luck of others." Like a brief episode from a nostalgic cartoon, Johnson's tale wraps some gentle moral prodding into a pleasing visual package. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2005 September

Gr 1-3 -Alfie likes to laugh at other people's misfortune. He especially seems to enjoy laughing at his grandfather, who takes him and his pet rodent, Mr. Swiss, to town one day, where the child finds many things to laugh at, including the mailman getting chased by a dog and a jogger who runs into a tree. At the circus, Grandpa hopes to show Alfie things that are truly funny, but the child does not even chuckle. However, the last laugh is on Alfie; when an elephant falls on him after being frightened by Mr. Swiss, the audience roars. "That's not funny!!!" he cries. The story ends with the sentence, "But actually it was-wouldn't you agree?" The German word schadenfreude and the definition ("a malicious delight in the bad luck of others") appear on the final spread. The jagged, flat, cartoon illustrations, done in a retro palette (burnt orange, tawny red, matte gray), add comedic effect, as do the scattered text and varied lettering, but the quirky humor (such as the exclamation, "Holy emmenthal!") and mature undertones will be lost on the younger crowd.-DeAnn Tabuchi, San Anselmo Public Library, CA

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