Many books find their way to my desk from publishers. Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile arrived this week from Candlewick Press when I absolutely needed a moment to relax. Ever been so tired you just want to weep with weariness? Ever been so bored you don’t have the energy to get in trouble? You’ll appreciate this new title that encourages you to take a few minutes to "relax, think, imagine, or daydream" to be rejuvenated. Or, in my case, to get motivated to make some trouble.
Frankie and Sal are the two characters that won my heart in this new title on sale May 12th. Tony Fucile’s experience as a designer and animator for cartoon feature films (like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, The Iron Giant, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles) has resulted in a comical book that appeals to the visual humorist in me. I love the facial expressions, particularly Sal’s raised eyebrow look that makes Frankie straighten up. The white space focuses our attention onto these two boys who have simply "done everything" and decide to try doing nothing for ten seconds.
Of course, they cannot succeed at being still and doing nothing for ten seconds. They are young boys with active imaginations! You’ll love watching Frankie shoo the "imaginary" pigeons away and just wait until he things Sal dog is checking out his tree-imitation. I was delighted in the story beginning before the story began. Take that, you teachers who insist upon teaching the title page in the most boring way imaginable!
Simple illustrations in Let’s Do Nothing are balanced with words and thinking moments. These illustrations provide the reader with enough details to giggle out loud, yet there are enough quiet moments of introspection to consider "deep thoughts" – even the "Zen-like thoughts"* that drive my family crazy.
I forced #4 son to read this with me and he was frustrated with the idea of doing nothing. "You can’t do nothing!" he screamed at me, "because even after you’re dead, you’re still doing something."
"What?!" I asked. "What are you doing when you’re dead?"
"You’re being dead!" he said, "You’re still being so that is doing something."
Aha! Let’s Do Nothing inspires larger concepts of thinking about the existence of life and being. Bet you won’t find that often with first graders… but I’m willing to try. I may have to pop into the elementary school around the corner this week to read aloud. Dana, do you have a moment?
I’d love to share this title with kindergärtners and first graders during early story times. We could even develop a ritual of "doing nothing" for ten seconds each visit. Imagine ten seconds of stillness among 4-7 year olds…. Ah, bliss!
By the way, I still disagree with #4 son, but I choose to channel my energy elsewhere. One aspect of Let’s Do Nothing that made me question what I was reading came in the *publishers’ notes. Some people read titles like this and refer to it’s Zen-like aspects. I’m not sure if they think the characters are meditating or if they are trying to become one with the universe. Perhaps I’m bothered by the suggestions of Zen because I consider this book to illustrate Taoist principles more than Buddhist principles.
Wonder what the difference is? I tried to find a quick and easy answer for you, but kept stumbling upon cheat-essays online. One of the blog forums for smart people had an answer, but it won’t appeal to the intellectuals among you. The wikianswer is simply flawed. The Yahoo answer at least mentions Zen Buddhism. I like the paragraph on Wu Wei in the wikipedia answer. M2_Walden had an interesting essay on PlanetPapers, but I couldn’t verify anything, so I have to return to my favorite Taoism text – The Tao of Pooh.
Yes, readers, it’s that time once a year when I pull out Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh and enjoy an hour of effortless reading about Taoism. Thanks, Doc Perrill for introducing me to this lovely little paperback 22 years ago. I still lend it to friends for an evening of fun conversation and "just being." Some of my favorite passages:
"What could we call that moment before we begin to eat the honey? Some would call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that. We would call it awareness. It’s when we become happy and realize it, if only for an instant."
"When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun."
"Knowledge and Experience do not necessarily speak the same language."
and the loose translation from the Tao Te Ching, "Tao does not do, but nothing is not done."
Ahhhh, so satisfying. Why aren’t there more children’s picture books illustrating the concepts of Taoism? Maybe some author will read this blog post and stumble upon Kelly Young from Canada’s geocities page on Taoism and be inspired.
Uh, Oh! While discussing the concept of Wu Wei and Wei Wu Wei, my friend Jason just alerted me to the fact that the dress Glenn Close wore to the White House Correspondents Dinner had an error on it with its Chinese character! The big character Jr meaning ambition is upside-down right in the middle of her chest. Argh! How sad! While it is true that the character luck is written upside down during Chinese New Year, there is no explanation for an upside down Ambition character. Hello, Mr. Armani? You wouldn’t let someone walk into the White House with the English words Coca-Cola, God, or "the economy" upside down, would you? I wonder if people who are choosing to wear Chinese characters ask what the words mean or not? Would you? Do you care? Do you believe there is power in the written word?
Enough fretting over the problems of the world, and back to my efforts to Do Nothing. Right after I tell you to go Do Something – Go buy this book for your young students, and then, Let’s Do Nothing together.