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Animals of the Ocean: In Particular the Giant Squid
By Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-on-Whey
McSweeney’s Books
64 pages
$18

“You have purchased this book and now you will learn. My name is Dr. Haggis-on-Whey and I am a scientist. I will not pretend to be your friend. We are here to study animals of the ocean and I will not mince words. If you pay attention I will be less dissatisfied.”

So begins Animals of the Ocean: In Particular the Giant Squid, the third in McSweeney’s HOW Series, ‘Dedicated to the Exploration and Dissemination of Unbelievable Brilliance.’ (Warning: Everything about the HOW series is to be taken with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

A copy of this slender but magnificent-looking tome, with its “foil-stamped and leather-inspired cover,” landed in the Seed offices a couple of days ago (thanks, Dave), and it had such an appealing retro/Jacques Cousteau/Little Golden Library/1960s-science-museum-exhibit look and feel that I couldn’t resist giving it a read.

Animals of the Ocean is the third installment in a series of “science” books including Giraffes? Giraffes! and Your Disgusting Head. It is also, itself, a pretty weird animal.

It is:

  • Sumptuously designed, by Mark Wasserman and Irene Ng of Plinko, to ape the look of Atomic Age science books for kids
  • So silly as to border on Dadaistic
  • The place to go if you want to know, for instance, the “Most Popular Baby Names for Fifty Seldom-Seen Sea Animals” (tongue worms favor “Elijah” for boys and “Kiara” for girls–true story), or “Why Most Giant Squids Will Not Watch TV in Black and White”
  • Likely to provoke hearty giggles from adults with a taste for the absurd, and who remember the kinds of books that this volume spoofs

It is not:

  • Actually for kids

Let me amplify that. This book is not for kids, because nothing in it is true. It’s wall-to-wall parody of genres and conventions that kids won’t know about. And it’s full of lies. Hilarious to you, perhaps, but guaranteed to be confusing to the young’uns.

That said, it really did make me giggle out loud.

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