It was fortuitous, then, that It's a Book, the new picture book from Caldecott Honor illustrator Lane Smith arrived at my store on Friday. Filled with subversive humor and bold clever illustrations, It's a Book is delightfully contrarian in its celebration of the printed page at a time when customers, retailers, and publishers alike are jumping on the digital bandwagon with gleeful abandon.
Smith's prose adopts a simple call-and-response format as the younger, tech-savvy Jackass peppers his older companion Monkey with questions about what he's reading ("Do you blog with it?" "Does it tweet?"), to which Monkey always answers, "No. It’s a book." The illustrations are equally simple, yet richly textured. In this regard, It's a Book is a perfect example of why eBooks won't completely replace print books (at least, not yet). I shudder to think how Smith's illustrations — which frequently take advantage of the two-page spread by having Jackass on the left-hand page and Monkey on the right — would be completely mangled on the six-inch grayscale display of a Nook, and would even lose something on Apple's iPad (which has a full-color screen and can be rotated to show a two-page format).
Smith, best known for his frequent collaborations with author Jon Scieszka, really strikes a blow for "dead tree books" with It's a Book. Kids will love the illustrations (and snicker at a certain word), while parents will be able to relate to Monkey's patience and perseverance with a child who's grown up in a world of digital ubiquity.
Jerry Pinkney's new book is a beautifully illustrated version of the classic Aesop fable about a lion who learns that sometimes big friends come in small packages. The opportunity for the reader to create their own version exists because there are very few words. This means you can enhance or shorten the story to suit your needs - great for bedtime! The kids loved acting out the animal sounds during storytime. This book is a delight to look at and fun to "read" This is a must for teaching about friendship, trust and loyalty to younger children.
If you're looking for a fun book for younger kids, I heartily recommend the picture book The Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz. The illustrations, all created with colored pencil, are vibrant and beautiful. The facial expressions of the characters are particularly charming! The story is told in whimsical and clever rhymes reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. (There's also humor tossed in for adults; be sure to check out the "cast bios" section at the end).
The Hiccupotamus is already a Storytime favorite at my Barnes & Noble and is the most requested bedtime book for my toddler at home. My five-year-old friend Sam simply calls it "THE BEST BOOK EVER." Finding a book that captures the attention, imagination, and giggles of children is a treasure indeed. I eagerly await whatever Aaron Zenz comes up with next!