The United States Of Lego: A Brick Tour Of America, by Jeff Friesen
On one level, this is precisely the sort of book that one would expect children to read, if reading is defined very loosely. It consists of between 50 and 100 pages of pictures featuring Lego blocks (and Lego people) with various humorous captions organized in alphabetical order by the state of the union. Its contents, at least on a superficial level, are easily accessible to small children or those who are fairly childish (or, perhaps more kindly put, young at heart). For example, A picture of a robot in an automobile manufacturing plant in Michigan has the following caption: “Machines will never replace humans in manufacturing or caption writing. Ha!—This automated caption generated by Dumbchuckle Software’s Groaner 5.1 (44),” while the blue Lego house on the next page with white snow on the roof and ground has the humorous caption: “’Twas the snowstorm before Halloween” for the same state (45). Each of the pages in the book shares this basic pattern: the state being mocked named on top, a scene created out of Lego blocks taking up most of the page, and a humorous caption on the bottom of the page.
The fact that the book can be read on the literal level without difficulty by small children, who would likewise also be able to appreciate the photos of a fireman dousing the flames for Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, or a picture of two reptilian life forms on a Florida beach—namely an alligator and an old man in a speedo, or a picture of Georgia O’Keeffe’s wacky cartoon portrait phase for New Mexico, or a picture of Ohio kids enjoying living in a swing state by swinging side by side in contrasting blue and red painted clothing, or any other number of humorous and odd pictures, only makes the book more fun for those adults who can read additional layers of meaning beneath the goofy surface meanings. As it happens, the author knows a surprising amount about the states for someone who lives in Nova Scotia, riffing on Canon Beach, Oregon and the Bonneville Salt Flats and making a biting joke about the dangers of mining and Arthur Fonzarelli’s career of cheese harvesting after jumping the shark. Fully grasping the humor of the book requires a great deal of cultural knowledge for a book featuring Lego scenes from an author with a distinctly twisted sense of humor.
The audience of this book may not be large, but it is the sort of audience that is likely to be appreciative of the author’s sardonic humor and immense skill at crafting memorable Lego scenes. A few qualities, if combined, would ensure that a reader enjoys this book: a love of Legos , a wide degree of knowledge about the United States and an almost encyclopedic memory for random trivia, and a love of comical material that is aimed at a distinctly juvenile audience . This is the sort of book that a sufficiently youthful adult would read with a lot of laughs and snickers and wry grins, reflecting on matters of politics and culture, while reading aloud to children and trying diligently to explain the source of the humor as they look puzzled at what Fonzi and cheese have to do with Wisconsin, why the sight of Davy Crockett wearing a cat as a hat in front of the Alamo is so uproariously funny, or what is nightmarish about frosted tips and Italians along the New Jersey shore, or why it is so bizarrely appropriate that the Iowa State Fair a “Stick O’ Butter” stall right next to a doctor with a defibrillator. This is a rare book that educates readers about the stereotypes of states with juvenile humor, and that can be satisfyingly read by young and old as long as the old are willing to explain as well as smile and laugh at what they are reading.
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