Friday, March 5, 2010

Et Tu, Ricky Gervais?

Why should I be surprised to find children's books written by Ricky Gervais? It seems every celebrity or quasi-celebrity on the planet is trying their hand at writing children's books. Some are complete flops (Madonna), while some are quite good and successful (Jamie Lee Curtis, John Lithgow). Where does Ricky Gervais fall on the spectrum? I don't know at this point. I guess I will have to find more copies of his "Flanimals" book series to read and review.

For those of you who have been under a rock and are unfamiliar with Ricky Gervias, he is a British actor/comedian; the creator of The Office; star of Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying; and best selling author of "Flanimals." To clarify, that is the UK best sellers list. Most people in the US don't even know he published a children's book - but they will. A new pop-up version is set to be released this month and Illumination Entertainment is working on a 3-D feature film adaptation.

So why am I surprised? Let's just say Gervais isn't known for his children's humor. His offbeat, satirical bent on the human condition is layered with dark, adult humor and social commentary. The Invention of Lying for instance, while occassionally funny was more often a cynically, depressing commentary on religion as a lie created to make people feel a little better about the human condition. This type of humor and commentary may be good for scholarly debates and comparative religion classes, but it does not generally translate well to children's literature. Hence my surprise and slightly jaded ideas of his book, "Flanimals Pop-Up" (suggested for children 5 and up.)

"Flanimals" is a book about grotesque animals. They are ridiculously, pointlessly, ugly - so much so they actually creep back to being considered cute. At least that's the idea here. Gervais created several whimiscally, crazy creatures like the Bletchling, the Grundit or the Splunge - useless creatures who appear to be created just for fun. Now that is something children will be able to connect with and enjoy.

The pop-up illustrations are fun and well-crafted with pull-tabs to encourage interaction and play. Not sure how you feel about your children helping a Hemel Sprot get devoured and swallowed by a Sprot Guzzler, but it seems like fun. And the Flanimal evolution page, which spoofs Michelangelo's Creation of Adam appears to be all in good fun as well. There really isn't as much to offend readers as one might expect from the creator of The Office. However,  I am reserving my rating and/or reccomendation until I have had time to read the "Flanimals" a little more closely. In the meantime let me know what you think.


  1. Flanimals has been a bit hit over here (in the UK), but I have to say I've not looked at them - I laughed at the Office, but Gervais' style is not really mine!

  2. Thaks for the feedback. i'd love to get your take on "Flanimals" if you get a chance to read them. BTW, nice site. I have added your link to both Chapter One Reviews and Book Bag.

  3. Aagh typos! I really have to take more time with my typing.