Last month I wrote about Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Search for WondLa, a fantastic sci-fi tale for middle-grade readers. DiTerlizzi is back with some new books, but this time they’re for “tiny earthlings.” Tony teamed up with his wife Angela to create a series of short picture books about Meno, “elf of space.”
The publisher sent me the first two books to review, and at first I really wasn’t sure what to make of them. With his bad grammar and weird jellyfish friend, Meno reminded me of some of the “Engrish” I’ve encountered on my trips to Taiwan. The stories are quite short—the first “Big Fun!” has Meno looking for his friend Yamagoo and then having “big fun”—which turns out to be, well, farting together. In the second book “Wet Friend!” Meno and Yamagoo ask their friend Wishi to give them a new friend. She tries various options, including DAY-vid HASS-hel-hof, before finding something appropriate.
But my kids absolutely loved it, and my wife thought they were pretty cute, too. We’ve ended up reading them a lot for bedtime stories, and the nice thing is that they’re short enough that I don’t mind reading them over and over again—at least not yet—but with enough pages that my four-year-old can start to anticipate the jokes. My hesitation about them is that I’ve never been one for baby-speak to little kids, the way some people can’t talk to kids without switching to purposely incorrect grammar and pronunciation. (“Is her a cute widdle girls?”) The Meno books have a little tinge of that, although it’s supposed to be because Meno is from outer space and doesn’t really speak English. I suppose if these aren’t the only books you’re reading to your kids and you don’t use baby-talk then it’s okay.
The artwork is pretty great—it looks like something out of an old Golden Book (“Presented in Dazzling Meno-color!”), run through a Sanrio filter. You can check out PlanetMeno.com for a few sample pages from book three, some coloring pages (which my kids also enjoyed) and various other Meno-related goodies.
If you’ve got some toddlers in need of some funny books, check out Meno and pals—just be sure to supplement with something a bit more substantial as well.
Wired: Silly, funny, cheerful and extremely weird.
Tired: Not everyone is a fan of bad grammar.