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When Books Know They are Books

I am sure I’d love a Kindle. Actually, no. I’m not at all sure I’d love it, but I’m pretty sure I’m ready to stop hearing about how super they are. Many people like paper and ink books as art objects, or because the binding glue smells good, or for the feel of the paper against their fingers, or because they’re mementos with sentimental value that are fairly easy to store, compared with stuffed animals. But what I like best about books in their traditional form is that they can be scavenged.

On our winter vacation, sunhatted people of all ages gazed at Nooks. The casual/nosy passerby had no idea what these moms and grandpas and teens and toddlers were reading, but could be quite sure that, upon completion, whatever it was wouldn’t be left behind with the wet towels and empty sunscreen tubes. When someone finishes a book on a device, they don’t leave it in a heap of junk or loan it to a stranger. Add to this non-sharing the impossibility of learning, in the normal way, what the people around us are reading (i.e. from glancing surreptitiously at the back of the rectangular item being held by those reading in proximity to us.)

Lane Smith’s It’s a Book addresses the book format issue very satisfyingly. This is a deliciously peevish yet lighthearted children’s story starring a monkey, a mouse, and a “tech-savvy jackass” who have different ideas of what a book is and can be and should be. Throughout the story, the jackass (who is a donkey but also, unabashedly, a total jackass) pesters the monkey about his book. Does it have wifi? Apps? Can it tweet? How do you turn it on? Does it have a mouse? The patient monkey calmly replies over and over again, “No. It’s a book.” It’s fun to read out loud, as most children’s books starring an imbecile are. And it leaves readers feeling that, hey, this paper and ink book is pretty nice. The video about It’s a Book is very pleasant too, if a bit antithetical to this celebration of books as books.

Another new release that tickles the idea of what a book is and can be and should be is Herve Tullet’s Press Here. In a simple white square format, readers are invited to press dots, shake and tilt the book, blow on it, clap, and witness thrillingly reasonable results as they turn each page. Simple colors and great pacing draw readers in, even those old enough to know that tapping a painted dot on a non-iPadded page can’t make it multiply. It’s pure fun, at any age, to see what the artist has created. (Want to see? Watch the trailer!)

What do you and your kids like best about books–or about your e-readers? Share your thoughts with us by posting your comments.

The details:
Press Here
by Herve Tullet
2011 Chronicle Books $15

It’s A Book

by Lane Smith
2010 Roaring Brook Press $13

Editor’s note: Chronicle Books sent a review copy for our consideration. Kidoinfo never accepts payment for reviews.

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  • I would love to have a kindle for it’s portability like when traveling but I love bound books not only for the feel but the atmosphere they give to a room when they are just there you can tell something about the occupants by the amount and type of books they have.

  • i just think i would ruin the thing. i’m kind of hard on my books due to eating sloppy salads while reading at lunch.

  • truthfully i have not really even looked into book-reading devices at all.

    they just don’t appeal to me.

    then again at this time last year, i was SURE i didn’t ever need a ‘smart phone’ and now i can’t imagine my days without it.

    i enjoyed this post a lot katy. thank you.


  • i heard you can check e-books out of the library & read them on an iPad. what?! i don’t get it. why do people buy e-books?

  • I agree it is not a “this” or “that” situation. But for me I still LOVE curling up with my magazines and books. The designer in me loves the variables of size, color, sheen, size and heft when reading books with my kids or my own books or magazines. I am on my computer so much. Love the screen break.

  • Great post. I personally enjoy both. There’s a time and a place for everything. I was a “I’d rather hold a book” die-hard until my parents bought my daughter a Kindle for Christmas. She’s thoroughly enjoys her Kindle…but she loves her traditional books as much.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s a “this or that” situation. As long as kids and adults alike are reading, then I’m happy :o)