It's a Book.
Today's kids are so smart and tech savvy. I see the little guys on their laptops and I'm blown away. I'm sure in the future everything will be digital and kids will rarely encounter a traditional book. I thought this conflict would make a funny premise for a picture book. I originally envisioned the lead character as a goofy-looking kid, but I thought that might be perceived as making fun of kids so I took a cue from Aesop and made the characters animals.
Text courtesy of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.
Perhaps our minds might stretch back far enough to remember a time before e-readers, computers, iPads and WiFi? It's a Book provides a playful and lighthearted story with a subversive twist.
Imagine this scenario--Monkey is sitting quietly reading the classic (which we later find out is Treasure Island) when his tech-savvy friend Donkey asks him what it is. Monkey tells him 'it's a book'. Donkey becomes quite puzzled and quizzes him on the purpose of the book, the conventions of the book and the maintenance of the book. In doing so, he makes constant comparison between gadgetry and affordances of the computer (like ... does it scroll down? do you blog with it? can it text? Tweet? Do you need a password .). Monkey patiently answers all his questions to reveal a unique and humorous conversation. In a moment of frustration (after the twelfth question!), Monkey becomes irritated with Donkey and puts the book in Donkey's hands. A sequence of images lets us know that much time passes as Donkey reads and appears to finally understand what a book is.
This book struck a particular chord with me. As a researcher who spends a lot of time considering digital literacy, I promote computer-based technologies and what they offer to classroom life. I encourage teachers and students to think about how technology has permeated every aspect of our lives and how this might be embraced in classroom experiences. However, like most educators, while intrigued by technology and all it offers, I do worry about the future of books. Perhaps we are afraid that technology will make the wonderful world of books obsolete? This book qualms many of those fears and reminds us of the simple joys of reading a book.
I appreciated the wry and sly humour Lane Smith presents. My personal favourite was the translation of the 43 word excerpt from the classic Treasure Island to a mere 23 characters using the much abbreviated texting language offered by technology. While a reminder of the living nature of our language, it is a confronting look at the detail and richness of our language that can so easily be omitted!
The last line has attracted significant attention and poses the question; who exactly is this book aimed at? While it is clearly a picture book with wonderful illustrations, I'm inclined to think it's greatest appeal is with adults. I must admit I'm not entirely comfortable with young children parroting the word "jackass". But, it does leave us pondering as we consider was "Jackass" used affectionately as the name for the carefully selected animal character for the book? Or the name we should attribute to those who don't understand the true value of the book? I leave that decision to you.
Teacher Educator Researcher
If you walk past It's a Book in a bookshop, don't mistake it for another simple picture book for four year olds; it's not. This clever book by Lane Smith shows how technology in some ways is taking over from books. It also shows how an 'old fashioned' book is in some ways better than a new high tech computer.
The book features two main characters, a book-reading monkey and a slow thinking jackass who has a laptop. The jackass (who is unfamiliar with books) asks the monkey "Can it Text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-Fi? Tweet?" The monkey simply replies with his catch line "It's a Book" (that's where the title comes from).
It shows how younger generations are using technology instead of reading books. It also shows how young people are simplifying words, and as the jackass says "Too many letters. I'll fix it." He then goes ahead and simplifies the book, replacing words with things like 'LOL' and 'rrr!'. The jackass then gets very interested in the book and spends a long time reading it, much to the annoyance of the monkey.
It's a Book shows that the simplicity of a book is in many ways better than a computer, you don't have to log in, scroll or need a mouse, all you need to do is turn the page! This story is humorous and intelligent, plus it has a good message. It also has excellent illustrations. I recommend this book to people who are 10+, but it can be good for practising to read with younger people. I give it five stars out of five. If you see this book, get it!
by Darius Whittaker, 12 years
Mount Kembla Public School, NSW
This is a witty, intelligent, humorous thinking outside the box kind of book, by Lane Smith. It features a book reading Monkey, a quiet Mouse and of course a computer freak the Jackass. This simple book contains the many differences between an olden day book and a modern day hi-Tec computer.
It's a Book is suitable for ages 10+ that will make the whole family laugh out loud or LOL as the Jackass would say.
by Meg Cauduro, 12 years
Mount Kembla Public School, NSW
This humorous and intelligent book written by Lane Smith is a book you'll enjoy reading from beginning to end.
Do you know what a book is? Well Jackass doesn't. He thinks a book is just like technology containing Wi-Fi, texting and Twitter. The interested monkey loves reading books but keeps getting interrupted by Jackass asking questions like "How do you scroll down?" Will Jackass ever understand what a book is?
I thoroughly enjoyed It's a Book because Lane Smith is getting across a significant message that children are using too many devices. After reading my plot you're probably thinking this book is for 5 year olds but I recommend 'It's a Book' for ages 10 and up. My rating is 5 stars out of 5.
by Lauren Nackovski, 11 years
Mount Kembla Public School,