"All books are either dreams or swords,/You can cut, or you can drug, with words." - Amy Lowell, 'Sword Blades and Poppy Seed'

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Children's/YA: It's A Book

Smith, Lane. It's A Book. New York: Roaring Brook, 2010. 32 pages.

"Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-fi? Tweet? No...it's a book." (excerpt from book cover)

Overall Rating: ***** (out of five)

  • Plot. I am strongly in favor of exposing children to the value of books, and though this book highlights all of the things that books can't do, it also highlights what books can do.
  • Illustrations.  The pictures in the book are adorable and evocative.  The full page spread without words that shows the jackass (because, hey, that's what donkeys are sometimes called) discovering how engaging a book can be is beautifully illustrative of the magic of the printed word.
  • One of the Characters is a Jackass. Literally (see above).  And it is introduced as such on the first page, setting up to the book's punchline.  If anyone objects to exposing their children to a less than flattering term used in its correct context, then just read it for fun and don't share it with the kiddies.

So, a monkey, with the help of his mouse, tries to explain to a jackass what a book is.  Well, the monkey more says what the book isn't.  There's the basic plot.  And while the book doesn't go out of its way to denigrate technology, it does emphasize the density of the character that cannot seem to quite grasp the concept of "book."  And nowhere does the book actually explain the magic of books.  And yet I think Smith illustrates it quite well (both literally and figuratively).

Now, I am all in favor of computers (I even own a Kindle), but let's face it.  Nothing quite beats a book, and we need to make sure that the next generation has a chance to learn that.  There's nothing wrong with starting them out on it early.  Anyone familiar with The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (both of which Smith illustrated) probably knows the mix of subtle, clever, and blatantly punny humor they can expect of this book.  I'd give examples, but the book is short and I don't want to give any of the jokes away.  Smith's author biography even has footnotes, and every use of the word 'book' is emphasized.  The book is a witty homage to the magic of books.  Even if you don't have kids, I'd recommend sneaking into the children's section of your local library or bookstore and flipping through it.  You might find yourself buying it anyway...

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