Weird Al Yankovic! The name is synonymous with clever pop song parodies. A comedic and musical genius (No really, he is a genius… have you ever seen him play a polka on his piano accordion? If you had, you’d agree.), Mr Yankovic has now turned his hand to children’s picture books with When I Grow Up.
I’m a long-time fan of the amazingly talented Weird Al, following his career since he first burst onto the charts in the 1980s with “Eat It”, a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. (Okay yes… he had another album before this one, but it was the “Eat It” single that really propelled him into the limelight.) His popularity and wit have continued through the decades, with songs like “Smells Like Nirvana” (a parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) in the 1990s, through to the 21st Century with his latest hilarious offering — “Perform This Way”, a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.
Now Al is following in the footsteps of pop stars like Madonna and Hilary Duff and becoming an author. (Check out my earlier post, Pop star Authors.) His first book, When I Grow Up, is a kids’ picture book illustrated by Wes Hargis.
You may think it a little odd for a comedy musician to write a kids’ book, but it’s not actually that big a stretch. Although Weird Al’s music is not specifically aimed at kids, his fan base seems to include a fair few young people (when I went to his Melbourne concert a few years ago, a large portion of the audience was made up of families with kids), and his humorous lyrics are often driven by a child-like enthusiasm and a childish irreverence. And he is no stranger to the realm of specific children’s entertainment. In 1988 he narrated a rather unique version of “Peter and the Wolf” on a children’s album made in collaboration with pioneering synth musician Wendy Carlos.
But what about the book? How does When I Grow Up hold up? You know what? It’s funny! It’s a bit weird! And it’s wonderfully entertaining! I loved it… and so did my eight-year-old… and so did my two and a half-year-old.
If you’re a Weird Al fan (and, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I AM), you’ll immediately recognise his style — the weird leaps in logic, the bizarre juxtapositions — as a young Billy tells his class what he might like to be when he grows up. The humour is good-natured, child-like and delightful. As well as being funny, it’s also a testimonial to the importance of education, good teachers… and leaving your options open.
The illustrations compliment the text very well indeed — not an easy task given the bizarre potential occupations Billy comes up with.
All up, this is pretty much a perfect picture book — a book that adults are likely to find just as entertaining as the kids they are reading it to. A big thumbs up for Mr Yankovic. I hope he writes more books.
NEWS FLASH: Latest news is that When I Grow Up is now available as an iTunes app for iPad, iPhone and iTouch. (Okay, okay, a newspaper article dated 17 June doesn’t constitute latest news given that it’s now August… but it sounds more dramatic that way.)
Oh, and here’s a book trailer…
Catch ya later, George
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