Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review: You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons, by Mo Willems

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons - The World on One Cartoon a Day My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Usually these kinds of post-college trips around the world lead to nothing more than a few souvenirs -- perhaps an object that perfectly sums up a culture, for the low-low price of $15-- and the satisfaction of knowing that you're just that much better than everyone else. Sure, this little group of "true travelers" all know of their superiority over the tourist horde. Sure, they may now throw around the term "culturally enlightened" a bit more. But, hopefully, it ends there. Most people don't write a book about it, and those that do rarely get published.

The author of this book, when he's not playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers while posing as a black man (really, who is he fooling?), is apparently a children's-book author of some renown. At the time of the trip, 1990-1991, he was just another fresh-faced youth with a goofy haircut -- but fame tends to add relevance to just about anything.

During the trip, Willems drew a daily single-panel cartoon, depicting the day's most interesting happening. Years later, in a time known as 2006, he regathered these hundreds of cartoons, added some explanation or commentary to each, and sent them out into the world in an orange, paperback binding. And I bought it! (or checked it out from the library -- books are expensive!)

I'm not one to make sweeping statements, but, well, here it is: most people want to travel and "see the world," but most people don't. In this book, Willems repeatedly voices his hope that it will encourage others to make the plunge. How many it encouraged, I don't know, but I'm not convinced. A series of black-and-white, kid-style drawings of the world is not the world. Nor do the occasional funny moments lift this book to anything thrilling. I say, if you want to see the world, without seeing it, read a traditional travelogue or log onto the Internet.

Nothing against this book, however. The author seems like a nice guy, and I wish him luck with writing stories about crazy pigeons that find hot dogs, and may or may not drive buses. I just wasn't terribly, terribly impressed with this book.

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