Friday, July 12, 2019

Shakeup? Shakedown? Abner and Ian Get Right-Side Up by Dave Eggers

The curtain has gone up...

and so have the actors, apparently. Abner and Ian are sideways, perpendicular to the earth, itself a vague silhouette on the backdrop.



"Can't you see? We're sideways!"

Yes, Dear Reader, it's happened again. You have opened a meta-book, one of those interactive volumes where the characters expect you to do all of the work.
"We can ask that kid," suggests Abner.

"Hey, Kid! Do us a favor. Shake the book, then turn the page!"

Well, they're not stuck on the side of the page anymore. Now they are suspended from the top.

Ian is dubious about the efficacy of under-aged plot movers, but he's getting too woozy to argue.

Luckily, Abner is an experienced reader. He's cites that story where the author tells you to shake the book, and when you do everything is fixed. Ian says he's familiar with the genre, and after some banter, the two manage to cooperate on the cue.

Nope! The Kid cooperates, but each shake seems to make things worse. Abner and Ian find themselves joined at the hip in the book's center seam. How do they get out of the gutter? More shakes find them disambiguated and discombobulated. It's time to try something different.
"Kid? Can you turn out the light and count to ten? We'll meet you on page 76."

And finally, Abner and Ian, feet planted on terra firma, should be ready to start the story, in Dave Eggers' latest theater of the absurd picture book, Abner and Ian Get Right-Side Up (Little, Brown and Company, 2019). But will they? Now Abner and Ian need a nap! All they need is for someone to close the book and make it be nice and dark in there. The End.

In this latest, a sort of spoof of Herve' Tullet's graphic metabooks such as Press Here Game and Mix It Up (Interactive Books for Toddlers, Learning Colors for Toddlers, Preschool and Kindergarten Reading Books) and Bill Cotter's Don't Push the Button! and sequels, artist Laura Park lets the illustrations tell the meta-story with some charm and wry humor. This one is a fun read-aloud for grown-ups (who will appreciate some sophisticated asides planted for them by the author) and especially for youngsters who cut their literary teeth on Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggy early reader series. Says Booklist, "A mind changer for anyone who every thought reading was a sedate occupation!"

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