I like to write funny kids’ books. I’d even like to publish one someday. But no matter how funny I am, it’s humbling to know that nothing can ever top the humor of this simple line: “Wooshee gaga.”

“Wooshee gaga” comes on page 20, paragraph two of Ian Falconer’s brilliant picture book, Olivia and the Missing Toy. It is Olivia’s baby brother William’s reply to her query, “WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY TOY?” He earnestly delivers it with a wide smile.

If you’d like to test just how funny this is, read it to a class of kindergarteners. No matter how much classic literature I introduce to these discerning young scholars – Scieszka, Pilkey, Shannon – “Wooshee gaga” remains the one line that sends them rolling on the floor. Class after class. Year after year. They ask me to repeat it, and I do. And again. And again. Until I’m Wooshee Gaga blue in the face.

Oh, that it would end there. But then, for weeks, months and even years later, I see these same students in the hall or at the bus circle, and a select few always call out to me, “Wooshee gaga! Wooshee gaga!”

I turn and force a smile. “Wooshee gaga,” I’ve learned, is the proper response. They nod and walk on, secure in some secret knowledge.

It really does crack them up like nothing else. I just pray I haven’t started a cult.


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