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Dulton Children’s Books, 2003
Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones might be one of the most delightful children’s stories I’ve read in the past year. The story cinematically comes to life on the page. The narrative surprises you, takes you on Skippy’s make-believe adventures, which are wildly playful and push the boundaries of play and imagination. With Skippyjon, there’s no telling just how crazy and fun the journey might be.
What’s most notable about this story is the attention to language, particularly in the form of its bilingual narrative. When Skippyjon jumps into his closet, he jumps into another world. In this story, it’s Mexico. And in this story, he is a Siamese cat, but by the power of his imagination, he transforms into a Chihuahua! When he travels down a long, dusty road in Mexico, he comes across a "mysterioso band of Chihuahuas” called the Chimichangos. Skippyjon renames himself El Skippito, and when he approaches the pack of dogs, they ask him:
“‘Why the maskito, dude?’
‘I go incognito,’ said Skippito.
‘Do you like rice and beans?’ asked Pintolito.
‘Sí, I love mice and beans,’ said Skippito.
‘He might be the dog of our dreams,’ whispered Rosalita.”
The names used in this story are also incredibly fun. For a taste: Mrs. Doohiggy, Mama Junebug Jones, Ju-Ju Bee, Jezebel, Jilly Boo Jones, Don Diego, Poquito Tito, Tia Mia, Alfredo Buzzito, and El Blimpo Bumblebeeto Bandito.
Speaking of names, I love how Skippyjon has so many funny nicknames from his Mom. Even though she’s often chastising him for something he did wrong, the nicknames without a doubt show her love and endearment for her son. Some of these nicknames include: Mr. Fuzzy Pants, Mr. Kitten Britches, Mr. Fluffernutter, and Mr. Cocopugs.
There are many things to love about Skippyjon and the story itself. I’m looking forward to reading more of Schachner’s work in the Skippyjon Jones series and beyond.
Allie Leach is the Poetry Center's Education Programs Assistant and co-editor of the Wordplay blog.