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Mash-up, indeed.

In a sort of coloring book meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Choose Your Own Adventure, Nosy Crow’s new Mega Mash-Up series by Nikalas Catlaw and Tim Wesson (December) combines marginally true information about, say, Roman gladiators, with dinosaurs (or, in another volume, aliens vs. mad scientists and—well, you get the idea) into an interactive story where the reader is encouraged to add details, drawings, or sound effects inspired by the sheer wackiness of the stories. With captions and arrows, the authors suggest drawing ideas but leave plenty of white space for the reader’s own additions. Cartoons and bathroom humor, together? With aliens and robots? For boys, at least, the combination is irresistible.

In a highly scientific study, I asked my own seven year old to read the first in the series. At first he was confused by being allowed to write in it (apparently I’ve successfully imparted the importance of respecting one’s books—hooray!), but once he got over that, I watched as his ideas, like the authors’, seemed to get sillier and sillier on every page. Lack of artistic talent (don’t tell him I said that) aside, he flipped that book around until every inch of white space had words or pictures. When he was done, he beamed, “Look at the book I wrote!” Reader and writer in one fell swoop? Nice touch.

And pretty smart marketing too: once the pages are filled with the ephemera of a second grader’s disturbing little mind, the book can’t be passed around from friend to friend for reuse. So, I am going to take credit for starting a new craze in at least one second grade. Nosy Crow, if you’re wondering, the answer is yes, if you insist, I will accept a commission…

About Rebecca Kirshenbaum

Rebecca Kirshenbaum is a current editorial intern at The Horn Book, Inc.

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