Review: Flanimals by Ricky Gervais

I love Ricky Gervais. I know, I shouldn't. He's politically incorrect and sometimes even quite vulgar. But he makes me laugh long and hard. And besides, he can't be all that bad if he's friends with Elmo.

I also love pop-up books, possibly even more than I love Ricky Gervais. So when the two of them are combined, as is the case with the Flanimals Pop-Up book by Ricky Gervais and illustrated by Rob Steen (Candlewick Press, $19.99), you know this grandma is surely in heaven.

Ricky's people (the publisher) recently contacted my people (me) ending with me being the lucky recipient of a copy of Flanimals to review. It's a magical, often hysterical, introduction to the Flanimal kingdom, a collection of outlandish creatures existing in the twisted mind of Mr. Gervais. In Flanimals, the creatures -- everything from Sprengled Humpdumblers and Splunges to Bloggulous Boinglubbers and Bletchlings -- spring to 3-D life with the turning of pages.

One of the niftiest Flanimal features is that there's not only a major pop-up popping from the center as each page is turned, there also are minor pop-ups and wiggly wonky-does in the corner of each page, set into motion with the pull of a tab or opening of a small flap.

I found Flanimals ingeniously delightful, at times rather insightful. Take, for instance, the Flanimal called "Print" (aka the Addle-Sprungnurdler), which pops from the corner of one page. Its description: "The Print can fly, but only vertically downward. ... It uses gravity and stupidity." Sounds much like the print publication I used to work for, actually.

Yes, I loved opening and closing the pages, pulling the tabs, wiggling the wonky-does of Flanimals. But the real test of such a delightful book was Bubby. I thought he'd be enthralled by the creatures coming to life before his eyes. And he was ... for a bit. His favorites were the Grundit and the Molf, but mostly because they had large mouths in which he was determined to insert the golf balls he carried around the house with him. Grandma cut those ball-swallowing tricks short, for fear my precious Flanimals would be damaged. Same goes for his pushing and pulling of the tabs on each page, tabs he insisted on manipulating himself.

I must admit, it was likely my reluctance in fully sharing Flanimals that kept Bubby from enjoying it to the full extent. Although even if I had let him have at it, I still think the craft and creativity of Flanimals would be lost on one so young. The book is recommended for ages five and up, but I'd say Flanimals is best enjoyed by adults ... or older kids who just might be savvy enough to pick up on Gervais' sarcasm and subtle wit -- while gently pulling the tabs and popping open the creatures.

Which is just fine with me, for I can now put this extra-special book safely away on the shelf -- for me and only me to pull down and pop up and open safely by myself.