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Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Called Shirley: Jennifer Allison

Book: Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Called Shirley
Author: Jennifer Allison
Illustrator: Michael Moran
Pages: 202
Age Range: 7-9

I enjoyed Jennifer Allison's first book about Iggy Loomis, and was happy to accept a copy of the second book in this entertaining illustrated chapter book series. This review will contain spoilers for the first book. 

The Iggy Loomis books are narrated by an elementary school age-boy named Daniel Loomis. At the start of this second book, Daniel has a best friend named Alistair who is an alien in disguise. An incident in the first book led to Daniel's preschool-age brother Iggy developing super bug powers. When happy or stressed or just tickled the right way, Iggy does things like sprout wings or extra legs. Daniel has managed to keep this situation a secret from their parents, but Iggy's twin, Dottie, is happily in the loop. The kids are mostly left to their own devices, but are occasionally beamed up to an alien spaceship for help and/or discipline. 

As Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Called Shirley begins, Alistair has adopted a fairly disgusting pet, the titular hagfish named Shirley. Hagfish are slime-producing eels that normally live in the ocean. Alistair is hiding one from his parents, who don't believe that Blaronites should have pets. Due to a misconception on Iggy's part about what happens to things that are flushed down the toilet, Shirley is, alas, lost. What follows is a mix of realistic "loss of a pet" response and, well, madcap adventures involving an alien and a hybrid bug-boy.

There are more than sufficient references to slime and "poo-poo" to please seven year old readers. Parents should be forewarned, however, that there is an attempt to use a fishing pole to retrieve Shirley from the toilet. Here is Iggy's response:

"Iggy didn't care; he was jittery with excitement. "Dis so awesome, Dano!" Iggy grabbed my arm. "WE FISHING IN DA TOILET!"

I suddenly realized that "fishing in the toilet" was probably the worst example we could set for Iggy, who already seems to think of toilets as some kind of playground. "Don't ever this this at home, Iggy," I warned.

"Okay, Iggy said, "I only going potty fishing a COUPLE WHILES." (Page 51)

The above excerpt highlights my personal favorite thing about the Iggy Loomis books: Iggy's preschool boy voice. Every time Iggy says something like "a couple whiles" I actually hear the voice of a young friend of my daughter's (even though said boy has moved past Iggy in his language development). Iggy's voice, and Dottie's as well, though she's a more minor character, is just dead on. Pitch perfect and hilariously funny. Iggy also has a dead caterpillar in a jar, but tells everyone that it is "napping." 

Iggy would be perfect even if he didn't grow "insect parts, like wings, antennae, stingers, and even little bug fangs or claws." The insect parts, of course, add immense kid-appeal, particularly when Iggy is able to use his special skills to save the day. 

Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Named Shirley is chock-full of black and white sketches of Iggy transforming, together with cartoon-like pictures of the other characters acting up and acting out. These illustrations augment (but don't replace) the text, helping to keep the book accessible to relatively new readers. There are 33 short chapters across the book's 200 pages, and plenty of dialog, complete with upper case and italics throughout for emphasis. 

Bottom line: Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Named Shirley is absurdly over-the-top, kid-friendly fun that will, I think, appeal especially to kids who have pesky but lovable preschool-age siblings. For what it's worth, my four-year-old was intrigued by the cover of this book (showing Iggy, Shirley, and the toilet), and asked me to start reading it to her. But when there were no color illustrations inside, she decided to wait until she is five or so. But I think if you had a seven-year-old new reader, one with a tolerance for madcap science fiction, Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Named Shirley would be the perfect gift. Best to read the books in order, though, so look for Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training first. This series would be a great pick for an elementary school library, too. Recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: October 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the author

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).