Our book today is the latest sweet little masterpiece from Lane Smith, It’s a Book, about a jackass, a monkey, a tiny mouse, and a suddenly beleaguered piece of old technology.
The monkey is quietly reading his book when the jackass comes along, carrying a laptop, and asks a troubling question right out of the starting gate: “What have you got there?” I cringe in anticipation of hearing that question myself, and I know it’ll be sooner rather than later.
The monkey tells him its a book, which prompts a flood of questions: does it need a password? Do you have a screen name? Where’s your mouse? Can you make the characters fight?
Understandably peeved, the monkey hands his visitor the book and invites him to try it for himself. He opens to a page of Treasure Island (Smith wonderfully changes up his drawing style to show us a panel from the story), and although he complains that there are too many words (he offers to help by converting them to the odious acronym-speak that has even crept into the spoken language of the dumber sub-species of young person – the first time I heard a teenage girl actually say “idk” I replied, “Is this a prank? Are we being filmed?” – which garnered me an even blanker stare than usual), he falls under the book’s spell and reads for hours.
When it becomes clear to the monkey that he’s not going to get his book back, he announces that he’s going to the library (I’m hoping this is the subject of Smith’s next book). Trying to be helpful, the jackass reveals that he still hasn’t quite figured out this new device:
For some mysterious reason (one hopes it’s not at the author’s direction), It’s a Book is being categorized in most big retail bookstores as “Humor” instead of “Picture Books” – which is bad for three reasons: 1) Humor almost never has the attractive display-space given to Picture Books, and this is a very visually pleasing book, 2) Humor of course implies that the book it some kind of farce, when underneath the playful exterior, the subject here could hardly be more serious, and 3) given the polio-like spread of electronic readers (that do indeed log on, scroll down, have passwords, play music, and power off if they’re not recharged), kids more than ever need to be introduced to the humble book, that amazing item we all love that’s never looked more endangered than right now.
Probably that appearance is deceiving; probably the book is here to stay. Certainly this old bookworm found It’s a Book enormously reassuring.