It’s a Book by Lane Smith

It’s a Book by Lane Smith.  Roaring Brook Press, 2010.  32 pages.

Reading Level: Picture book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 10-12 and up

Bottom Line: This picture book contrasting the printed page to texting may appeal to the 4-8 reading level, but the point is probably above their heads.

It’s a Book, by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press, 2010), is marketed as a children’s picture book (age level 6 to 10), but it’s really a battle-cry against the post-literacy represented by texting, tweeting, and other forms of instant electronic communication. The “story” consists of a donkey querying his friend the ape on that foreign object the ape is holding: seems to be sheets of paper clamped between two covers. “Can you blog it?” “Can you tweet it?” Finally the donkey takes the object to have a look for himself. He scans a few paragraphs from Treasure Island: “‘Arrrrr,’ nodded Long John Silver, ‘we’re in agreement then?’ He unshealthed his broad cutlass laughing a maniacal laugh, ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ . . .”

This is all too much for the donkey: “Too many letters. I’ll fix it.” He translates the passage as

LJS: rrr! K? lol!

Jim: 🙁 ! 🙂

Readers may judge for themselves as to which version has the greater emotional impact. It’s doubtful whether the preschooler who lugs this book over to you and plops it on your lap will understand the context, and the last line, spoken by a mouse who’s been a silent observer all this time, is inappropriate for little ones. But as a literary critique, It’s a Book make its point, however obvious.

Cautions: Language (“Jackass” is the final word)

Overall Rating: 3 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3
  • Artistic value: 4

Categories: Picture Books, Humor, Reading


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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Emily on February 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    2 FUN E.

  2. Julie Bryant on March 26, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    My great aunt taught me this one when I was just a little girl:


    Janie, let me know if you need an interpreter. It took me a while, but I’ve never forgotten it.

    • Janie on March 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      I’m working on it . . .

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