Prather’s Pick: A picture book with funny-sounding names

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Children love “big words” (like the names of dinosaurs), and the funnier-sounding the words are, the more they like them. Besides that, the book is highly imaginative and colorful, and the “beastie” characters in the book aren’t scary at all. I think kids will enjoy having the book read to them over and over again.

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Diane Prather

I ran across this week’s book when I was dusting off a pile of books this past weekend. During fall semester two years ago, one of my Children’s Literature students brought this book to my attention so I ordered it. My student was right. The book is every bit as delightful as he said it was. There are lots of creative books out there, but this book is in a class of its own.

“Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo” was written by Mercer Mayer and published by FastPencil PREMIERE. The book first was copyrighted in 1976, and the copyright was renewed in 2011. The hardcover book is a Mercer Mayer Classic Collectible, the first in the “Little Monster Series.”

Professor Wormbog is the leading character in the book. As the book opens, the professor, dressed in an explorer’s outfit, is feeding his collection of “beasties.” He pulls a lunch wagon behind him that’s loaded with different kinds of foods, including a ham and some carrots. He stops to feed the Fydolagump (from Somewherelse).

The Fydolagump is one huge beastie — lots larger than the professor. He resembles a dog except that he has a horn just above his nose. His claws are quite large and sharp-looking. He wears a dog collar bearing a tag with “Fydo” on it. Professor Wormbog feeds him what appears to be a potato, served up with a long fork.

Some pictures of the professor’s other beasties are tacked along a fence, arranged in alphabetical order. There’s one creature for each letter, except for “Z.” Zipperump-a-Zoo has never been caught so this beastie is “Not in Stock.” (Some of the other names include Olilifant, Verakisser, Little Laff and Hefalo.)

On another part of the fence is a picture of the Zipperump-a-Zoo, however — the only known picture. He’s short and furry with people-like feet, bat-wing-like ears, a red nose and mustache. Professor Wormbog decides to go catch one.

First, the professor digs a wide, deep pit that he covers with sticks and leaves. He baits the trap with tangoes (that look like pears) and wild yukananas, purple fruits that resemble plums except that they have facial expressions. Then the professor climbs up into a tree and knits on a stocking as he waits.

The professor falls asleep but awakens when he hears a crash. He rushes down and pulls up the net, but he doesn’t have a Zipperump-a-Zoo at all. Instead, he’s caught a Little Laff that has been following him everywhere.

So next, Professor Wormbog rents a boat from Island Joe, who also rents tubes, rubber ducks, and pelicans, and heads out to sea where he hopes to find the Zipperump-a-Zoo. First, he catches a Blowfat-glowfish and then a Great Glern of the Sea, both huge creatures, and since he has one of each in his collection, the professor lets them go. Then he snags a creature that is hard to pull in, but it turns out to be — once again — a Litte Laff.

Professor Wormbog even disguises himself as a feathered Croonie, but Isabella, Queen of the Croonies, falls in love with him and takes him to her nest. A storm brews and the glue holding the feathers to the professor’s disguise fall loose and he escapes. But the professor keeps right on trying to find a Zipperump-a-Zoo.

The book ends with a surprise.

Mercer has written other picture books, including “A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog," the first in a series, and “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet,” a book that has helped lots of kids deal with their fears of the dark.

This is a creative book with colorful, detailed illustrations. The book can be ordered. The hardcover book costs about $16.95.

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