Agee, Jon. Smart Feller Fart Smeller and Other Spoonerisms. Michael Di Capau Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0786836925 64 pp. $22.50
What happens when you mix up the first letters of a pair of words? Shel Silverstein’s last book Runny Babbit (Harper Collins, 2005) did exactly that, and in Smart Feller, Fart Smeller, Jon Agee presents his own twist on the concept – why not make spoonerism riddles? A slew of verbal mix-ups follow.
After an introduction to how spoonerisms got their name, he provides a series of questions, such as “What did Rapunzel say to the filthy giant?” The reader turns the page to find the answer: “You need to shake a tower!” Or, “What did the weatherman say about the soggy forecast?” “Expect more roaring pain!” Just in case you miss a few, the final page helpfully pairs the mixed-up sentences with their intendeds.
The illustrations have Agee’s classic softly rounded style – dots and lines for eyes, a few wide strokes to suggest details such as patterned clothing and hair, and shades of gray to break up the black & white illustrations. The layout varies, with every other two-page set containing a border.
Out of twenty-eight pairs, this reviewer guessed only one. Less than half of the question illustrations contain any hint to the answer, and the questions never contain the words that are going to be mixed up. In most cases, the illustration depicts the question, rather than hinting at the answer. Matching the answer illustration to the question would have been a much safer (and less frustrating) move. I’d give this title four stars for the concept, but only two for the execution.
Cautious librarians can rest assured that “fart smeller” is as edgy as the text gets. An obvious class exercise is to share the book and have students invent their own spoonerisms.