What is Punk? Book Review
What is Punk? is a non-fiction children’s book that uses a 1-2 punch of rhyme and insanely detailed, colorful clay art to bring the history of punk music and culture alive. By introducing children to early punk icons spanning the US and UK, the book sets out to answer basic, (but broad) questions such as “what is punk,” and “did punk come from here or way over there?” Author Eric Morse covers a lot of ground dropping band names and highlighting specific artists across a broad spectrum of punk, ranging from David Johansen of the New York Dolls to Polystyrene of the X-Ray Specs.
Do not fear, however, that the book is solely didactic in nature; Anny Yi’s captivating clay illustrations stir the reader to want to get closer to the visceral punk scene and experience the “deafening roar/that inspired the people/like never before.” Kids will be able to sit alone or with a reading partner and marvel at the handcrafted figures, fashion, album covers, posters, punk ‘zines and backgrounds. They will want to reach out and touch the studded spikes on a leather jacket, run their hands over an album cover, try on Lou Reed’s sunglasses, and snatch the mic from Henry Rollins’ hand. Who knew punk looked so good in colored clay?
Described as having “glitter and grit,” female punks-Debbie Harry, The Slits, Polystyrene and Siouxsie Sue- are also featured, but their impression falls flat. The male punks are predominantly 3 D clay figures making music or with instruments, while the punk goddesses are reduced to two-dimensional portraits behind gilded frames. And even though there was more room on the designated pink page, there was no mention of The Adverts or the unofficial godmother of punk, Patti Smith.
The publishers note that this book has a YA imprint, but the rhythmic cadence of the text, use of catchy couplets and a simple 4-line rhyme scheme (think “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) and the dynamic illustrations will make this book appeal to kids of all ages. The YA imprint most likely comes from the reference to some more complicated concepts such as anarchy, political dissonance, and punk as a movement. And let’s not forget the “saucy” band names!
Joey Ramone is quoted as saying, “All punk is attitude.“
What is Punk? conveys a sense of that attitude so kids will be inspired to give the music a listen. It will make a wonderful addition to the burgeoning library of any young anarchist, musician, artist, or freethinker.
Bring on “What is Post Punk?” (Please)
Title: What is Punk?
Author: Eric Morse
Illustrator: Anny Yi
Age Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Akashic Books
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Cheryl Campos, former Goth dancing queen, is the mother of a spirited little girl and resides in Queens, NY.