There's a particular type of reader, the one who finds words endlessly interested. Not just what the words say; in fact, for these people the story and its action pale next to the words themselves. For them, a pun is as engaging as plot. They can somehow stop themselves in the moment of the word before moving through it, to take time there and see the word—its sound, its form, everything about it.
I am not one of those kinds of readers.
But I seem to have given birth to one (how does that happen?), and it's been amazing to watch her navigate her way through books. Readers like this, I think, are the ones who end up being poets. Or punsters. Or worse! But it's kind of a thrill to watch them go through a book, seeing it in an entirely different way from how I read it, in which the words disappear and I am in the world, with nothing separating me from it.
No doubt you know some readers like this. If so, here are some books for them.
For the tiny (and yes, there are tiny poets):
It should come as no great surprise that this is written, in fact, by a poet. A big-time poet no less. It's really great, sharp and silly and funny.
What if there were no letter A?
Cows would eat HY instead of HAY.
What's HY? It's an unheard-off diet,
And cows are happy not to try it.
I cannot fully express the hilarity with which this was greeted when we read it to a certain 4-year-old person. Over. And over. And OVER. But it's not one you really mind rereading.
Next step up? This:
Even now, a certain person will come and look over my shoulder as I am typing this, and see Runny Babbit and say, "Hey! That's funny." And yes, yikes, it's written by yet another poet (what is it with you poets?), which makes all too much sense (can you tell that I fear having someone in this house decide they want to be a poet?).
And then your friendly small word person wants more. And you should read this to them:
For heaven's sake, it's got a Todal! It's sort of an older, longer version of The Disappearing Alphabet focused only on O. And there was, indeed, great hilarity around the dinner table when we tried out each other's names in this circumstance. But a hint for the clean-mouthed: don't try to say your friend's name if your friend is named Hanna Fox. Just fyi.
And then we get to the crown jewel of silly word-based fun, the book that is oh so beloved in our house that even when we run into a copy of it in a store, it elicits a shriek, "Look! There it is!"
This book is loved. LOVED. A sort of silly, punning, absurdist murder mystery whose whole existence will hurtle some of us back to the 1970s when everyone had mustaches and absurdity was somehow more culturally prevalent. And we will be happy there.
And from there, to where? I don't know. Certainly Monty Python scripts. My husband thinks Pynchon is somehow in this lineage. Or is it fantasy? I have no idea. But these excellent books—think of them as a gift from our house to yours. Because I know that I can't be the only one who has pleasant silly word-obsessed incipient poet in the house. Right?