Halfway through Textbook, Amy Krouse Rosenthal reflects on her unique mid-life crisis. She didn’t have an affair or buy a fancy new car or any of those cliches. She merely found herself becoming more emotional, moved to tears by the everyday things her kids did or by the small kindnesses of strangers.
Known mainly for her children’s books, including Little Oink, Uni the Unicorn, and Spoon (a favorite at Muddy Buddies, my wife’s storytime/ceramics class for kids), Amy Krouse Rosenthal has also had some success writing books for adults. Her newest, Textbook, is tough to describe. Amy is obsessed with coincidence and serendipity, with finding transcendence in the mundane. Part memoir, part poetry, part conceptual art, part interactive project, the book collects Amy’s thoughtful remembrances, observations, drawings, and photos into sections organized like a school textbook with subject headings Art, Music, Math, Science, History, etc. Occasionally, the smartphone-using-reader is prompted to send a text message to Amy and receive one in return. The responses either augment the book with sound recordings and videos or ask you to participate in the book. Submit a story of your own. Suggest a tattoo. Make a self portrait. Assist in the search for a long-lost copy of Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast. Reader submissions are being archived online at www.textbookamykr.com.
While my cynical side wants to call Textbook too cute or too clever, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were stories in the book that made me tear up, thinking about all the goodness in the world. Maybe Amy and I are sharing a mid-life crisis.