Review By JESSICA ALMY
It’s hard to believe that people have called It’s a Book by Lane Smith subversive, simply because it uses a mild expletive. I can see calling this picture book (which I suspect is geared more to adults than children) crude, dumb, or mundane. But subversive should be reserved for books that really seek to upset the established order of things – books like Ruby Roth’s That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals or Nathalie VanBalen’s Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice. I mean, what could be more subversive than getting children to reject the animals-are-things-for-us-to-eat-use-and-abuse mentality that underpins a large part of American culture? Getting them to curse? I don’t think so.
This book’s shtick is its use of the word Jackass. Introducing the donkey character as Jackass at the beginning of the book sets up the joke. The donkey sees Monkey reading a book and proceeds to ask a series of ignorant questions about the book: How do you scroll down? Do you need a password? etc. Eventually, he becomes absorbed with the content of the book, and ends up mumbling, “Don’t worry, I’ll charge it up when I’m done,” to which a third character Mouse responds, “You don’t have to … it’s a book, Jackass.” Ha ha.
I wouldn’t recommend you buy this book. Parents of elementary age children may, however, consider borrowing it from the library and reading it with their kids. While it’s not really funny, and may encourage a potty mouth, the use of the word jackass could inspire an interesting exchange about the use of words, especially bad words, in our culture. Why, for example, is it insulting to call a person a jackass? Or a pig or a rat, for that matter? Why do so many expletives target women and other females, such as female dogs? And perhaps most importantly, why do we call every other species “animals,” but never apply the term to ourselves, even though humans are every bit as animal as dogs, cows, and kangaroos?
This book is geared to ages 4-8, but is most appropriate for ages 7-10.