October 02, 2008


The Book of Sexy Games. By Chris Stone. Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

Bizarro Buccaneers: Nuttin’ but Pirate Cartoons. By Dan Piraro. Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

Da Crockydile Book o’ Frendsheep: A “Pearls Before Swine” Gift Book. By Stephan Pastis. Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

     There goes one of the last bastions of innocence: the small, hard-cardboard board book, intended for the youngest children and filled with pretty pictures, cute poems and lots of love. Probably no pirates. Certainly no lust.

     It would be easier to mourn the passing of this for-kids-only format if the new adult versions weren’t so much fun. The Book of Sexy Games, from its front-cover spinner to help you decide which game to play to its slightly risqué descriptions of moderately sexy but not really raunchy party games, is certainly adult – but nowhere near as “adult” as you would find, say, in the phrase “adult film.” Each game – “Breathless,” “Horny House of Cards,” “Sexy Charades” and so on – gets a “sexy rating” on a 10-point scale, with all of them rating between 7 and 10. “Daring Dice” (8 out of 10), for example, involves three different dice, one with an action (kiss, caress, lick, etc.), one with a body part and one whose numbers represent the players’ names; rolling all three determines which action you must do to which part of another player’s body. “Getting Fruity” (9 out of 10) requires getting together fruit and other food that resembles body parts, blindfolding someone and having him or her identify produce by touch – and, if correct, getting a small sexual favor involving the body part that the item resembles. Illustrated with pictures of multicultural twentysomethings in various stages of (always modest) undress, Chris Stone’s book is just silly enough, and just amusing enough, to be fun at get-togethers where friends are looking for something beyond movies or video games. The Book of Sexy Games looks like a board book but is decidedly not for children.

     Neither is Don Piraro’s Bizarro Buccaneers, which isn’t sexy but which features humor a little too…well…bizarre for kids. This board book – a six-inch square – contains cartoons from the single-panel strip dating from its early days in the 1980s right through to today. Piraro’s humor is not for everyone, and his pirate humor is definitely not for everyone, as in the cartoon showing a woman at a bar, dressed in full pirate regalia, with hook hand and peg leg, telling a man, “It seems to make people less uncomfortable with my disabilities.” How politically incorrect can you get? Well, there are a couple of cartoons in which pirates look forward to docking their ships in handicapped slips. Then there’s the not -really-pirate-themed panel showing two people finding a message in a bottle: “Help me, I’m a diabetic stranded on a dessert island.” There’s the onboard pirate exercise program, “Pilates of the Caribbean.” And there are two separate versions of a panel in which the pirate captain, whose men are shooting at an approaching small boat, tells them, “Hold yer fire! It’s a prosthetics salesman!” Again, not much child-friendly humor here, despite the board-book format.

     And then there are all those adorable little animals drawn by Stephan Pastis for Pearls Before Swine: cute pink Pig, adorable striped Zebra, cuddly green crocodiles – just right for the kiddies, yes? Maybe, if you want them to grow up to be hypersarcastic lapsed lawyers (like Pastis himself). Otherwise, this little gift book – which is bound in traditional hardback form rather than as a board book, but whose smiling crocodiles on the cover make it look as if it is meant to appeal to kids – is a pit of corruption that you should under no circumstances allow near anyone under the age of 21, or many people over that age. Pastis’ sense of humor is about as skewed as they come, and his comics are hilarious – if you have the mindset to enjoy them. Otherwise, they are crude, mean-spirited and thoroughly unfunny (a point Pastis often makes himself in various strips). The vicious but inept crocodiles, always trying to catch and eat their next-door neighbor, Zebra, seem unlikely characters for a book on friendship. They are not even friendly to each other – Pastis kills them off with startling regularity, inevitably because of their own self-centeredness and stupidity. And of course, that is exactly the point of Da Crockydile Book o’ Frendsheep: it’s a kind of anti-friendship book. We watch a crocodile swallow a zebra whole, encouraged by two others, above the words, “Frends eet ded tings togedder.” We see one crocodile demonstrate his prowess with a spear gun by accidentally killing another crocodile: “Frends sumtime shoots you.” We see a delighted Pig meeting one of Santa’s elves, which gets eaten by a crocodile while Pig goes to get his Christmas list: “Elves is taste like gud chicken (not reely have to do wid ‘frendsheep’ theme).” We see two crocodiles trying to frighten a computer into assembling itself and working: “Frends help you scare applyances.” And we get several strips that simply show the crocs’ lack of intelligence and common sense, with notes from them saying those strips do not belong in the book. This is a gift book only for a frend…err, friend who really loves Pastis’ humor – or for someone you would rather not have as a friend anymore.

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