Book Review for It’s A Book

It’s a Book by Lane Smith

Nettie texted me a few weeks ago and asked me if I’d read It’s a Book by Lane Smith. It rang a bell although I couldn’t recall from where, so I did what we all do when this happens and googled it. When I found out that Lane Smith was the illustrator of two excellent books, as yet to be written about here (watch this space), The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, I immediately bought it. And I’m very pleased I did, it’s very funny!

It’s about a monkey, a jackass and a little mouse that has a small but important part to play too. The monkey is reading a book whilst the jackass is on his laptop.  Clearly, the jackass has never come across a book and wonders how it could possibly be as interesting as a laptop. It can’t scroll down, it can’t blog or text or tweet. The monkey patiently replies, to start with at least.  As usual for this site, I won’t spoil the ending, but as a book lover myself, I like the ending. A lot!

5 Reasons to Read
1 It’s a Book

I had to put this down as a reason, I couldn’t resist using the title. The modern world is filled with all singing and dancing electronics. And we can be pummelled by the bright flashing lights and the non-stop noise.  We have sensory overload. Where better to escape the madness than in the pages of a book? I know of no better place I’d rather be at the end of a long day. All books provide us with new experiences and new knowledge and some books go beyond this. They give us opportunities to think. It’s A Book gives us just that.

Illustration of a monkey reading a book and a jackass on a laptop
2 It’s a book about a book

The monkey is reading. After endless questions he shows the jackass the book he is reading: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  At first the jackass is critical and says it has too many letters. But he soon settles down and is completely absorbed in the tale. What a great way for children to see the power of a book. It also demonstrates a literary device, intertextuality, when authors mention or refer to other books. Encourage your child to see if they can find these mentions or references when they read.

Page in It's a Book showing a page in Treasure Island

3 It provides an opportunity to learn about non-verbal communication

Good picture books do this in spades. The monkey’s facial expressions in It’s a Book are brilliant! What I particularly love is that the eyes are so subtle that you could miss it completely, so I recommend re-reading it and pointing them out to your child. Children love making faces. They could pretend to be the monkey. Help them use voice intonation as well as eye movements to match those of the monkey’s.

Illustration of a monkey looking irritated

4 Great vocabulary

The book in It’s a Book is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. One double page spread is used to show the page the monkey is reading and on this page we have unsheathed, broad, cutlass, maniacal and petrified. What great words for your child to add to their vocabulary.

Picture of the jackass pointing at a book

5 Learn a literary technique

Authors often use word play for effect. In It’s a Book there is a lovely moment when the jackass asks “Where’s your mouse?” and the monkey offers a simple response of looking up. The jackass follows the monkey’s eyes to see his mouse. It’s just a lovely moment and one you could explain to your child. Lane Smith has used the fact that the word mouse is a homonym and has two meanings, but is spelt and sounds the same. Can your child think of any others?

I hope this book will make you and your child smile, as it did for us. Perhaps it is more apt for older readers, like me, who grew up when computers were being developed but required whole rooms and even whole buildings to house all the hardware. This book gives you an opportunity to talk about that and how quickly technology has become a natural part of our lives.

Additional learning opportunities
  • The clocks show the passage of time. What times are they telling?
    Look at the text. How does the author show who is talking? (Hint: the colour of the text)
  • This book is akin to a playscript, but there is one page that is different. Can your child see the difference? (Hint: find the speech marks)
  • How do you know the mouse is shouting on the last page?
  • Just like the monkey, you could go to your local library.
  • Are you up for the challenge of reading Treasure Island to your child? Maybe not yet, but have a copy ready for the right time and you’ll see that it’s a classic for a reason.