The first thing you should know about 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore is that – if a book can make me laugh with its title alone, there’s a 80% chance that I’m either going to buy it or, at the very least, borrow it from the library and keep it until I incur late fees. It might seem immature to be such an easy sell, to be so willing and eager to literally judge a book by its cover, but if an author can make me smirk with something as basic as a book title, that’s an accomplishment I can appreciate. Heck, I believe that the innate power of a killer title is the primary reason why Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep was such a sensation last year. When you encounter a title like that, how can you NOT want to read that book?

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

And, I’ll admit, it was totally the title that sold me on 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore. I was at the annual American Library Association Conference last year, walked past a table displaying Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter’s picture books, and the featured titles alone caused me to stop in my tracks and turn around. (The pair has another book, 11 Experiments That Failed, that also sold me on its title alone.)

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

Admit it. This is kind of a genius prank, isn't it?

As the title hints, 17 Things is a very, very funny picture book, which falls decidedly into the “Kids Behaving Badly” genre of children’s books. Well, “behaving badly” might be a little harsh, but the protagonist of 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore is definitely a grade-A hellraiser. She’s precocious, stubborn, obstinate, and extremely self-possessed. And I think that’s a wonderful thing to see in a kid’s book.

Our unnamed narrator walks us through the “17 things” she’s no longer allowed to do anymore and, as we learn more about her past offenses and the related fallout, personally, I think it’s hard not to fall in love with her. Her list of “things” starts out slow:

I had an idea to staple my brother’s hair to his pillow.
I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore.

It’s a hilarious scenario, which is made even funnier by Nancy Carpenter’s pitch-perfect illustrations. I actually think that 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore is one of the most visually striking picture books we own. Carpenter composes wonderfully comic illustrations for the main characters, but she also creates this fantastically tactile world around them by digitally building their environments out of real-life objects. The backgrounds of the page-spreads are sometimes sheets of notebook paper, sometimes a child’s painting, or sometimes pieces of fabric. In the stapler pages, for example, Carpenter inserts real pictures of staplers and staples into the collage-style page-spreads. It’s original and extremely cool. It almost reminds me of a hybrid of Tony Fucile’s illustrations in Bink & Gollie and Lane Smith’s collages in Cowboy and Octopus. (BTW, both of those books are incredbly awesome.) [read the rest of the post…]