It’s a Book – Subversive and Smart

It’s a Book by Lane Smith

This is signature Lane Smith in every possible way.  A donkey and a gorilla sit in a living room together.  The donkey has a laptop, the gorilla has a book.  The donkey is puzzled by this book.  How do you scroll?  Does it blog? Where is the mouse?  The gorilla answers again and again, “No, it’s a book.”  Finally, the donkey gets the book in his hands and refuses to give it back.  The gorilla stands up to leave, heading for the library when the donkey offers to charge it when he’s done.  All leading up to the final line: “You don’t have to… It’s a book, Jackass.”  This is like a long lead up to a perfect punch line. 

I shared this book with my sons, aged 9 and 13.  They both adored it.  They got the references to blogging, video games, charging and mice.  By the final line, they both had huge grins on their faces and both looked rather slyly at me to see if I had realized what I had said.  Then we all laughed and read it again. 

Smith has created a book that will be enjoyed by adults and older children.  Young children will not get the references to the technology and will not get the punch line.  So let’s not waste time discussing whether that last line is appropriate for  preschoolers or story times.  The entire book is not for them. 

Smith’s wonderful art is modern, sleek and yet has a timeless quality to it.  It is ideal for this mashup of technology and books.  The day I got it in the mail, I took it to one of our staff luncheons.  It was read aloud, everyone loved it.  I’m going to have it tucked with my things for the upcoming state library conference.  They will all enjoy it.  And I expect plenty of the same looks my sons gave me and plenty of laughter too.

A picture book for adults and older children, this is one to read aloud to librarians and teachers rather than the other way around. 

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

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4 thoughts on “It’s a Book – Subversive and Smart

  1. This is interesting to me, Tasha (besides the fact that the MacMillan site says the book is for ages 6 and up). The kids I shared it with also had that sly grin at the end and also got the references during the book. But they also clearly knew what a book is and isn’t and never concern themselves with the delineations that cause the conflict in the book – they aren’t confused. Period. The end. They did like the illustrations and predicted the questions… yet their big takeaway was that they could say “jackass.”


  2. Gregory K – MacMillan says 6 and up? Wow! I’ve read this a couple of times, and I’ve seen a bunch of reviews, and the concerns about sharing it with young kids. I can see the various sides.

    Maybe I’m naive but I wasn’t sure how 6-year-olds would *get* the meaning as much as a 9-year-old, who’s a little more tech savvy. Tasha, I like the idea that being able to say “jackass” and laugh at it like it’s an inside joke with our kids. You’ve convinced me to share it with my almost 9 year old.


    1. I had actually come back to clarify my point. The takeaway isn’t simply that they can say “jackass.” The takeaway is that they can call someone that. The whole book vs. computer thing amused them but had no resonance as an issue.


      1. My slightly older kids got the tension between book and technology. But then, they are my kids and have heard me talk passionately and at extreme length about books vs. technology. Perhaps all that means is that my conditioning is taking hold. 😉


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