BooksForKidsBlog

Friday, March 04, 2011

No Charge! It's A Book by Lane Smith


WHAT HAVE YOU THERE?

IT'S A BOOK.

HOW DO YOU SCROLL DOWN?

I DON'T. I TURN THE PAGE. IT'S A BOOK.

Not that the physical book needs any defense, but in his latest, Lane Smith sets up the face-off over the various virtues of print and screen both humorously and elegantly.

On the left side of the page we have a small donkey, for whom the book is a totally unknown quantity. On the right side we have a large monkey, trying to enjoy his book in his armchair despite the know-nothing questions of his companion. The donkey continues to pester him with questions about the book. Can it "Tweet?" Can it "text?" Does he need a "screen name?" Where's the mouse? Can he program its characters for combat?

Finally the monkey simply hands off the book, Treasure Island, to the donkey to read a page for himself:

"ARRRRRRRRR," NODDED LONG JOHN SILVER. "WE'RE IN AGREEMENT THEN?"

HE UNSHEATHED HIS BROAD CUTLASS.

JIM WAS PETRIFIED."


The donkey is unmoved. "Too many letters," he pronounces. He converts the passage to IM style:

LJS: rrr! K? LOL!

JIM: :( (! :)

Despite his re-write, however, the little donkey finds himself drawn into the story. In a double-page spread Lane Smith shows his new reader's increasingly engrossed body language as he sits mesmerized in his chair while the clock moves through a long afternoon. When the patient monkey finally asks if his companion is going to give him his book back, he gets a simple but meaningful reply:

NO.

The monkey unflappably reaches for his hat and remarks that if that's so, he's off to the library for another book.

DON'T WORRY. I'LL CHARGE IT UP WHEN I'M DONE!

IT'S A BOOK!

Lanes Smith's It's a Book (Roaring Brook Press, 2010) is a subtle but sophisticated advocate for the virtues of the traditional book. Smart and stylish, Smith's design and illustrations are as au currant as any, with each character illustrated in his spare, modernistic flat format, each given his own typeface--a cyberistic sans serif for the donkey, a sturdy blocked serif font for the monkey, each in his own color. The third character, an eavesdropping mouse, provides comic relief, popping from out under the monkey's hat when the donkey inquires about where the "mouse" is for his reading device and delivering the oft-repeated, but here final ironic line "It's A BOOK!" Kids conversant with both traditional and electronic books will snicker at the donkey's clueless questions about how to "operate" the hardback even as Smith delivers a humorous and subliminal message about the virtues of the print and paper book.

See Lane Smith's short and sweet trailer for this BOOK here.

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