sometimes you just have to laugh at life

by Jenny Slate & Dean Fleischer-Camp
ages 2 - 8 years, but it keeps being funny for older kids, teens and adults too / funny, imagination

Pretty much everyone likes ‘cute’—and Marcel the Shell has cute in bucketfuls.

He’s funny too, and has an interesting perspective on life. He’s happy with who is he but still has things he wants to do. All of which makes him relatable but hilarious for kids.

Marcel began life as the subject of a short ‘documentary’—and now he has three short docos and two picture books (the three docos are on YouTube and have had a total of something like 37 million hits!).

My tip is to read the picture book first. That way, you and your children will get to envision your own Marcel— his voice and attitude will be yours rather than having the voice from YouTube in your head. 

But don’t worry if you do it the other way around, the YouTube voice is pretty darn cute.

There’s a lot to be gained from reading this book. For starters, a good communal or family laugh is a wonderful thing—plus:

It's an anticipatory story. After the first page or two Marcel’s personality becomes pretty clear and it’s fun to anticipate where he is going, for example, when he says: “My one regret in life is that I’ll never have a dog.” (Spoiler: he compensates by tying a bit of lint to a hair and dragging that around.)

It's great to have a book that isn’t printed in typeface—young children especially need to be exposed to lots of styles of writing; this time it’s a stylized free hand. (But that does mean that it probably isn’t ideal for a beginning reader to attempt to read without a little bit of support.)

Marcel is positive about his life and makes some really great affirmative statements, like: “I like that about myself and I like myself, and I have a lot of other great qualities as well.”  He does a great job of modeling positive self-assessment that isn’t comparative.

And then there’s the illustrations. They’re very much a collaborative effort and it’s a hugely successful collaboration. (There’s a short paragraph explaining the process at the beginning of the book.) The pictures are full of little details that make searching carefully very worthwhile. They give a bit of a kick to Marcel’s laconic narration and, because they utilize the everyday, they make Marcel feel as though he could be part of our lives too. (Also, they’re gorgeous.)

There’s a Marcel the Shell website here with a Marcel interview plus some activities. They’re pretty good, but the book can well and truly stand on its own. You’ll get plenty of enjoyment and benefit from simply reading it and laughing together.

This is one heck of a fun book to own and reading and the second book, Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been is high on my wish list.

Just a little note—although I’ve recommended this for ages 2 to 8 years, it’s one that keeps being funny for older kids, teens and adults too. And thanks so much Nina and Bronwyn for the recommendation, it’s become a favourite.

Amazon  -  Book Depository

Book Depository has free postage anywhere in the world and great pricing, but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.

Names in this book: Marcel