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Book Review: Kids Go! by They Might Be Giants

Forgive the lateness of this review. This book came out in 2009, and it is now 2012. So sue me. I have spent the last three years making sure my children didn’t die or get abducted. Also, feeding them things, and wiping poops. So I didn’t have time to keep up with the ten billion TMBG projects for kids. I didn’t want to get poop on them. It didn’t seem sanitary.

Think of The Children.

That’s right- They Might Be Giants have done a TON of music and other media for kids, and their adults, and they have a history of stepping outside the bounds of standard rock band realm of albums and music videos. They have done so much stuff, they have their own wiki to track it all. Like freakin’ Star Trek! TMBG had a glorious beginning as an 80’s “alternative” band, with a sweet sound and quirky style that was 100% awesome and unlike anything else out there. They did a McSweeny’s book, for fancy literate hipstars. They did a charming song for the film Coraline, actually an entire soundtrack, but most of it got nixed. They did the “Malcolm In The Middle” theme and the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” theme, two of the most annoying pieces of TV music on the planet. (Those two are so obnoxious I refuse to link to them.) And they have done a couple of children’s records, “Here Come The 1-2-3’s,” “Here Come The ABC’s,” “Here Comes Science” and “No” which are all pretty popular, critially acclaimed and well-loved.

Kids Go!

And then there is this hardbound book, packaged with the companion DVD: Kids Go! Apparently this song and video were made for PBS as part of a campaign to get kids to get up, move around, and stop being so damn obese. They don’t phrase it that way, but that’s the general idea.  That would explain why the song clocks in at a speedy 2:20, 1:00 if you watch the TV edit. Here’s the video for the PBS cut- sorry the sound is not synched correctly. Sound appears to lag by one second. All the ones online are like that. This is the official Simon and Schuster video, and even it is screwed up! Good job, Simon, good job, Schuster. I include it here purely for gloating purposes. The time lag is about to drive you bonkers.

I’m about to videotape my TV and upload another video of it to youtube, though. I might be crazy, but I’m not insane. I can’t stand the lag, and the full version has some cool bits you gotta see.

See? The song is short, but kind of catchy! GO! Not too shabby. I told Stella to weigh in. “It’s good” she said, before the vocals even began. I had to agree.

OK, now to the book itself. It’s hardbound, nice graphic design from A French Artist (Pascal Campion), cool dust jacket, cool cover, cool end pages. Cool sleeve for the DVD in the back. Campion’s art inside looks pretty much exactly like the video. Very fancy packaging-wise, kind of like a high-end graphic novel or something. Obviously built to appeal to the parents and hardcore TMBG fans, and it does succeed as an ephemeral object.

Cunning design!

Cute cover under the dust jacket!

However, content wise, it falls flat. I read this over lunch, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. I mean the art is cute, a sort of loose sketchy style with two kids and a monkey jumping around and so forth. A French Artist did the art, so of COURSE it’s cunning!

“Get off your chair and GO GO GO!” we are told. “If you’re hearing this song, it’s time to jump along!” Well, that line actually only works if you are hearing the song. If you are reading the book, say, at bedtime, then you are NOT hearing the song, young lady, and please don’t jump around, thank you very much. Get under the covers, put your head on the pillow, and calm down. I’ll pick out another book. This one doesn’t have much of a story.

It’s true, actually. The song lyrics are the entire book. There IS no story- just a couple of kids and a monkey jumping around like idiots. At least they aren’t obese idiots. Don’t get me wrong, it works great as a song, and is very cool as an animated short on PBS. But making this 2:20 minute long song into a book, and then charging $20 for it, was not the wisest decision The TMBG International Corporation ever made. The message is a good one, but in the context of a book, it makes for some pretty thin reading. No pun intended. (Seriously, I did not intend to make that pun.) You can either awkwardly read the lyrics, which doesn’t really work, or you can sing the song to your kid, which I really didn’t feel like doing. This may explain why I found it in the bargain bin at Walmart for $4. I guess the Walmart shoppers in Georgia are not up to speed on their They Might Be Giant ephemera.

$3.97 is more like it.

“But it comes with a DVD!” you cry. Yeah, the DVD was a selling point. I figured it would have a handful of cute TMBG animations and would be worth the $4 price tag by itself!

X! (cue Family Fued buzzer) WRONG!

You get the two minute, twenty second long video, kids, that’s it! No mp3, nothing else! But rest assured- it’s on infinite repeat! You thought Barney was annoying? Try watching THIS for 30 minutes. 5 minutes into it, Stella told me to shut it off now, Daddy.

Two minutes, twenty seconds. It takes longer than that for me to power up the DVD player, open the tray put the DVD in, close the tray, change the input on the TV, get the remote and push play. How often will it be worth it for us to play this DVD? Exactly ONE time, that is my prediction. To see what is on it. That’s it! I don’t have much higher hopes for the reading part of things.

All in all, it is worth four bucks, but not twenty.

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About Uncle Dad

DJ, musician and Dad of three!

4 responses to “Book Review: Kids Go! by They Might Be Giants

  1. gpox ⋅

    yes. i love this band the most and this was a disappointment (though the song kinda rules) – the popular theory is that it was mandated by contract and they weren’t 100% into it. (ps: your mash-ups are great)

    • Uncle Dad

      Why thank you! Yeah, the song is pretty good. And I STILL don’t have it even though I bought the book and DVD! Grr. Ah well- it’ll probably show up on one of their other kids records, if it hasn’t already.

  2. Auntie BJ ⋅

    Huge fan of TMBG in college, and drove around in the mini van for several years listening to No. All time favorite is Triangle Man.

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