We recently received this accusatorily-titled book from Harper Collins Australia and were immediately primed to see whether the claim on the cover – that this was a book that would “drive kids crazy” – was accurate, because we all know there is nothing funner than inciting (quickly reparable) mental anguish in children. Before we begin, this is definitely a read-aloud title and involves a bit of audience participation, so if that’s not your bag, you should probably move along.
Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
From the brilliant brains behind THIS IS A BALL comes a new giggle-inducing bestseller!
For the Grown-Ups:
OK. Two things you need to know. Firstly, your favourite thing in the whole world is the letter B. And secondly, you’re about to sneeze and all the Bs are going to be blown out of the book. So until you can get your favourite letter back, you’re about to sound really, really silly … And the kids will love it!
Did You Take the B from My _ook? by Beck and Matt Stanton is the epitome of interactive reading. In order to appreciate the book, it MUST be read aloud, and requires the listeners to contribute in order for the narrator to solve the problem of the missing ‘b’s. The illustrations are basic and sparse here and don’t really carry the story at all, but are helpful in prompting that listener participation that is so vital to the reading experience. I can imagine that the larger the audience experiencing the book, the better the overall fun factor will be, as it’s the kind of book that benefits from more than one voice in the telling.
Admittedly, on first reading, I was skeptical that this book would actually be as funny as the cover and blurb make out. Not being the target audience, however, I decided that in order to be fair, I would have to snaffle a mini-fleshling or two and use them as guinea pigs (in the pursuit of literature-based science, obviously). Luckily, I had both a five and a two-and-a-half year old mini-fleshling just lying around the place ready and willing to sacrifice their sanity for the greater good of this blog.
So on I read.
And while the older mini-fleshling warmed to the book slowly and quite enjoyed the audience participation elements, the two-and-a-half-year-old wandered off in the middle in search of fruit, seemingly uninterested in the plight of the narrator and the ultimate fate of the tale. The five year old didn’t ask for the book to be read again, either, which may, or may not, be a telling factor in his level of engagement with the book. On the other hand, he did say that he enjoyed the book because “it was tricky” (in the sense of tricksy, rather than difficult), which would indicate that the authors have hit the mark in making this unlike your average storybook.
Clearly, my experiment involves a statistically insignificant sample and no great conclusions can be drawn from it. I still have the sense that this book didn’t quite work to the level I expected, given the enjoyment we’ve extracted from other such interactive tomes – Please Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt or This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne, for instance. The difference, of course, is that the two books I have just mentioned rely heavily on the interplay between words and pictures to drive the interactive nature of the story, whereas Did You Take the B from My _ook? relies more on the aural aspect.
Overall, I would have to say that while there were enjoyable elements to this book, I think it is best suited to read-alouds with a bigger audience – in the classroom or library storytime, for example – where the interactive nature can really shine and listeners can bounce off each other and the narrator. As holidays are just about to end here in Queensland, maybe some parents should pick this one up and casually drop it to their child’s teacher, then sit back and bask in the admiration that flows from being the one to bring in “that really funny cool book”.
Thanks again to HarperCollins Australia for sending us the copy for review.
Until next time,