I Sense Some Nonsense by Aaron Zenz
I have always been attracted to joyful Nonsense. I’m drawn to books and writings that turn norms on their head.
From the time I was young, young, young, my favorite poem has been Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”:
Who cares what it meant! It was so fun to say! And to memorize. And to recite.
Coming in a close second was “Eletelephony” by Elizabeth Richards:
Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)
It’s no wonder that the books I’m attracted to today continue to swim in swirls of nonsense. In fact, all the books I’ve written to date have some kind of nonsensical element to them.
I know these two books were directly influenced by “Jabberwocky” and “Eletelephony.”
The Hiccupotamus begins:
There was a hippopotamus
Who hiccuped quite-a-lotamus.
And everytime he got’emus
He’d fall upon his bottomus.
I sometimes laugh at the one-star reviews these books get on Amazon saying things like: “The author was so desperate to make the book rhyme, he resorted to making up words. I hate made-up words. I want my child to know how to read real words.”
Actually, the ONLY reason these books exist is because of the nonsense words. I made up the nonsense words first and then hung the story around them. I really wouldn’t have had any particular interest in writing a pair of books about animals who couldn’t control their bodily functions. BUT… the chance to craft and then read books with words like “bottomus,” “cementipede,” “dental flosserous,” “buffaloaf,” “shampoodle,” and “hippopotamustard”???? Sign me up! It’s ALL about the nonsense.
These three books are about the specific names for baby animals (like Puppy and Kitten), names for male animals (like Ram and Boar), and names for female animals (like Doe and Mare). This sounds pretty science-y. Rather real-word stuff.
But there is one reason and one reason alone these three books exist. It is the day I learned the name for a baby platypus. Do you know what it is? Are you ready for this? A baby platypus is called… a Puggle. I kid you not. And when I found out that the word “Puggle” existed and that it meant “baby platypus,” I knew I could not rest until I had written a book with the word “Puggle” in it. It was this beautiful sounding nonsense, grounded in reality.
A few of my other favorite weird words from these three books: A baby mouse is called a Pinky, a baby eel is called an Elver, a female kangaroo is called a Flyer, and a male kangaroo is called a Boomer. Who knew?!
Which brings us to my newest book, Monsters Go Night-Night, released this week!
Can you get any more nonsensical than monsters? Things like hooves and horns, stripes and spikes, tusks and tentacles all exist in the real world. But shake them them up and mix them around… and you’ve got endless nonsensical beasties!
And for a double dose of nonsense, this book also turns the idea of the Guessing-Game on its head.
I think its a hoot when the wrong answer is the right one.
(Oh, I can just hear the one-star reviews now… “I want my child to know how to brush with a toothbrush.”)
I thought I’d share a few other categories of books that turn the reading experience on its head. If you have a little nonsense-lover like me in your life, they may eat these up too:
In these books, the characters recognize they are in a story and often interact with the reader. But we know that’s not what’s really happening. Right? Do we?
The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
There are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz
Would You Like to Play Hide and Seek by Jon Stone & Mike Smollin
There is no way to know exactly what is going on in these books. And I love it.
Black and White by David Macaulay
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Wonderful collections of otherworldly beasts.
Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi
Bestiary by Jonathan Hunt
Dragons, Dragons by Eric Carle
Subcategory > Griffins:
Griffins ROCK! I’ve been in love with this particular nonsense creature since childhood.
Gryphons Aren’t So Great by Strum, Arnold, and Frederick-Frost
Sir Toby Jingle’s Beastly Journey by Wallace Tripp
The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg by Bill Peet
Books you play:
Sure it looks like a book, but soon you are running mazes or solving riddles…
Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman
Wild About Shapes by Jeremie Fischer
Who Done It by Oliver Tallec
When these books first hit, there’s nothing else like them. NOTHING else like them.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak
Seeing hidden things in the random, the unusual.
How Are You Peeling by Freymann and Elffers
Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson
Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybèle Young
Pretty much anything by David Wiesner, Mac Barnett, or Arthur Yorkins is going to have some wonderful nonsense inside.
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Hey Al by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
“Have you seen this book? This freaking amazing book???”
You just have to see these ones to understand…
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Who Needs Donuts by Mark Alan Stamaty
I’ve only given three examples in each category, but of course there are lots, lots more! What are your favorite books that turn things upside down? I’d love to hear in the comments!
This post is part of a Blog Tour celebration for Monsters Go Night-Night! Click HERE for a list of all the stops along the tour and for a chance to win two copies of the book – one for you and one for a friend!
Aaron Zenz has illustrated 33 books, 9 of which he’s authored as well. You can see more of his family’s favorite books at www.bookiewoogie.blogspot.com He lives in
West Michigan with his lovely wife and super creative six kids.
I’m always amazed that people would take the time to give a book a single star. Don’t like it, don’t bother! You sir, should never get anything less that 6 stars! ******!
What a wonderful resource! Thank you from the top of my ted to the tip of my hoes.
Great post! There’s a clever new picture book I love called FISH by Liam Walsh. It uses text in a very unusual way.
Oh, my gosh, Aaron! I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that somebody else loved Eletelephony. Nobody I’ve ever mentioned it to has even heard of it. 🙂
Thanks for all these awesome recommendations! I too love nonsense poems, David Wiesner, Shaun Tan, Chris Van Allsburg, Barbara Lehman, and of course my absolute favourite book The Invention of Hugo Cabret ❤ I'll be adding the rest to my TBR!
This is awesome!!! 😀
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Great recommendations! Thanks so much.