I Am a Pole (And So Can You!)

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
I Am a Pole (And So Can You!) Book Poster Image
Clever, satirical picture book isn't really for kids.

Parents say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

A rundown of many different kinds of poles, from barber poles to ski poles to flagpoles. 

Positive messages

Find your true calling. Pledge allegiance to the flag. 

Positive role models & representations

Boy Scouts raise the American flag on the pole, and all the characters in the book -- including Stephen Colbert, Santa Claus, the late Maurice Sendak, and President Obama -- pledge their allegiance to it, hands over their hearts (or, in the case of the scouts and a soldier, saluting). 

Violence
Sex

A pole-dancer appears on two pages, wearing only a G-string, high heels, and tasseled pasties on her breasts. 

Language

On The Colbert Report, in his conservative TV show host persona, Colbert sometimes speaks in politically incorrect ethnic accents, which comes through in this book when the pole narrator explains why he failed at being a totem pole: "Me no smoke-um the peace pipe." There's also a punning reference to a "pole-ish joke."

Consumerism

A bag of Doritos Nacho chips, the Gallup Poll, an unlabeled screen shot of The Colbert Report.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that comedian Stephen Colbert's picture book, I Am a Pole (And So Can You), isn't really for kids. It reflects his sarcastic humor and includes the adult concern of being called at dinnertime to answer questions for a Gallup poll; a coy visual reference to his late-night TV show, The Colbert Report; and a scantily clad pole dancer. The wordplay is clever and funny, but the book seems intended for adults and media-savvy tweens and teens who are in on the joke rather than for the usual age 4-to-8 picture book audience -- the pole-dancer image pretty much kills this as a book for little kids. The title and cover image recall Colbert's bestselling book for adults, I Am America (And So Can You!).

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What's the story?

A pole doesn't know what type of pole he should be, so he tries to find his \"true pole role,\" taking a stab at being a lamp pole, barber pole, maypole, totem pole, fireman's pole, telephone pole, etc., before finally finding something that suits him: being a pole for an American flag.

Is it any good?

For satire-savvy fans of wordplay and Stephen Colbert's humor, I AM A POLE (AND SO CAN YOU!) will be a delightful diversion. But this seemingly cute picture book isn't really for little kids due to its sophisticated jokes about such things as the Gallup Poll and evolution and one scene in which the pole is onstage for a pole-dancer who's wearing only a G-string, heels, and tasseled pasties on her breasts. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether I Am a Pole works as a kids' book or is really meant for an older audience. Do you think most of the humor would go over a little kid's head? 

  • Parents will have lots to to explain, from "a pole-ish joke" to the identity of the old man in the picture of people saluting the flag. (It's Maurice Sendak, the late kids' author, who critiqued this book on The Colbert Report before it was published and whose blurb appears on the cover: "The sad thing is, I like it.") 

  • Do you think Colbert is making fun of kids' books or just having fun with an idea? 

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Book details

For kids who love picture books and funny books meant for kids

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