Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Purple Kangaroo

by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Peter Brown

Simon & Schuster, 2010

$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

In this goofy fun book by Comedy Central comedian Black, a monkey claims to be a mind-reader and tricks readers into thinking exactly what he wants them to.

When readers first meet the monkey, he appears be running a lemonade stand. But then he starts talking about reading their minds and it's clear he isn't selling drinks.

What this long-tailed wiseacre is "selling" is a joke, but first he's got to set it up and give readers a good mental image, in this case one so vivid that it will seem like their own.

The monkey, a slick fellow with a perma press smile, opens his routine using the element of surprise.

Hidden behind the lemonade stand, he calls out, "Hey Kid!… I can read minds. It's true. In fact, I can read YOUR mind."

Then he pops up from behind the stand, and slides a "Mind Reader" sign over the one reading "Lemonade" on the stand.

(Clearly this is a bit the monkey's done before.)

Next, he asks readers to think of something "so spectacular that nobody has ever thought of it in the entire history of thinking about things."

He plugs his ears and asks readers to say their thought out loud, assuring them that he can't hear anything they say.

After all, "I'm just a picture in a book."

Next, readers witness the monkey's "unusual, incredible, amazing, and slightly alarming magical powers" (his eyes spiral), as he makes a wild guess at what they're thinking.

"You were thinking about a purple kangaroo!" he exclaims.

Of course that wasn't what readers were thinking about and the monkey, like any smooth-talker, has already thought of what to say before readers can reply.

Pretending he needs to jar their memory of the kangaroo, the monkey launches into a succession of absurd details about the kangaroo.

You remember, he says emphatically,...

The monkey who was looking for his chinchilla friend Senor Ernesto de Pantalones while roller skating and juggling five fragrant bananas?

The one who blew an enormous bubble of rainbow gum out of his nose and was showered with gold coins for his feat?

The one who then used the money to hire a rhino to fly him in a paisley blimp into the stratosphere so he could search for his friend?

The one who found his friend waving a flag on the moon?

Well, he adds with a fit of laughter, you're thinking about it now!

A goof at heart, Black uses the craft of joke-telling, adds in a bit of absurdity and creates a book too silly to resist.

Black co-stars with Michael Showalter in Comedy Central's "Michael & Michael Have Issues."

Don't miss the hilarious video below of Black reading his book!

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