Becky’s Arm Part 3: Lane Smith’s “It’s a Book”

Lane Smith’s It’s a Book explores the tension between the digital world and the written word, yet it’s a children’s book.  How cool is that?  For kids you’ve got a monkey, a mouse, a jackass, and the thrill of being able to say “jackass.”  For adults – especially bibliophiles – you’ve got the affirmation that this:

it's a book jackass reads

Is worlds better than this:

too many screens

When Lane Smith visited Books & Books, Becky had only been drawn on by Eric Carle and Mo Willems.  She’d also been turned down by a couple of illustrators.  For people used to working with canvas and paper, drawing on a person can be an odd proposition.  Luckily for Becky, Lane Smith is all about the odd propositions.

Before you look at these pictures of Lane drawing a monkey on Becky’s arm, you should know she’s ticklish as hell and prone to fits of laughter.  For example, this is what it sounds like when she calls my voicemail and notices something funny.  See what I mean?

lane smith i'm so psyched

Look how psyched Becky is for this tattoo.

lane smith uh oh


lane smith gigglefest

And now Lane has to try rubbing Sharpie off of moving flesh.

Fortunately, Lane is a pro.  His experience sketching in an open-hatch modified Land Rover while on safari in Africa (researching Big Elephant in the Room) helped.

POV monkey tattoo

A Monkey, from Becky’s point of view.

In the inking process, the spots on the Monkey’s shirt had to be slightly enlarged in order to see the detail.  Another detail that might be too small to see in pictures is what the Monkey is holding.  The book-within-It’s a Book that gets the donkey hooked is Treasure Island.  Meanwhile the Monkey on Becky’s arm holds a copy of Stinky Cheese Mana picture book that helped define children’s books for a generation.  Does that count as two drawings from Lane?  I think that might count as two.

Lane Smith BEA

Becky showed Lane the finished product at Book Expo America.

I’ve bought It’s a Book at least half a dozen times for gifts; it’s like a perfect date: cute and funny and just the right amount of sass.  As a bookseller, I’ve enjoyed putting it in customer’s hands more than any other book featured on Becky’s arm.

Becky’s third tattoo couldn’t have been a better illustration* of her book love.

* See what I did there?

3 thoughts on “Becky’s Arm Part 3: Lane Smith’s “It’s a Book”

  1. That is just too good! I can’t believe an illustrator would turn down such a cool gig.
    I don’t know how old Becky is (and I sure as heck wouldn’t ask!), but sadly, books come and books go; but one day in the future, say, twenty or so years down the line, somebody will see that ink and ask: “Hey, what’s that monkey all about?” …and IT’S A BOOK will live again!

    Keep up that fine ink acquisition!


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