this is an excellent book that combines humor, melancholy and alien technology all in one tidy mcsweeney’s package. it’s about the size of a book of postcards, and would make a great holiday gift, says me.
so the gimmickry first. the back of the book claims “each drawing has hidden images beneath, visible only when the reader rubs the page to warm the ink.” the reality is that you have to have fingertips made of the sun to make that work. hope you like friction!
this book is shelved in the children’s section not because it is babyish, but because children, with their constant low-grade fevers, hyperactivity, and powder-keg of youth and vitality are really the only ones able to make this book work with their chubbly flushed little hands. me, i am old and frigid, with the circulation of a near-corpse, and i had to wrap a flannel shirt over my hand and rub and rub and triumphantly squeal with glee when my efforts were eventually successful. it’s like magic eye…for your hands. the book suggests that you can use a hairdryer, but it probably would have been more effort for me to go out and buy a hairdryer than to perform my flannel-rub. but if you own a hairdryer – you should probably use that. unless you like rugburn and sore biceps.
so that’s the only downside, because this isn’t like the forgiving hypercolor of my youth, this is straight up alien tar.
(psst, greg! what do we say?)
but i assume most of you have hair dryers, so you can skip the whole paragraph above. hahaahah too late, suckers!
but once you penetrate the layer of seeecrets, it is worth losing your fingerprints for, because underneath is more wonderful jordan crane artwork all packed together and crazy like it is. plus, the thrill of discovery. much more fun than those “where’s spot?” books.
as for the content, it is a story about a girl and a boy going through the rooms in their house, where an alarming party is taking place. i’m not really sure who all these people are, and why they are having such a messy party with animals everywhere and food half-eaten on the floor, jumping on the couches, shoes and wrenches all over the place… but the story isn’t about them – despite how frenetic all of that is, the real story is what is happening underneath. and once you rub and rub (or blow and blow) you see what the children see:
that there are even more inexplicable things happening beneath that no one but the children can see. so it becomes a story about imagination and about what we lose as we grow up. like body heat. and the ability to see “the big ol’ black dog” in the piano. and even the memory that once upon a time, we did know these things.
the book ends on the back cover with the little girl, arm around the boy, entreating, “don’t forget, okay?”
and on the one hand, that is really sweet, but at the same time, you wonder how much imagination they have had to employ just to get through whatever turtle-infested, child-services-should-really-be-notified kinda frantic life these kids seem to have been forced to lead.
but fun, a really fun book. don’t listen to old cold-handed cynical me.
is gift-giving season!! give as gift!