By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****
Hilarious, heartfelt and deeply personal, Go to School, Kanunu (2019) by Chris Esper is a perfect children’s book. Inventive and lively in its storytelling, with a multitude of terrific illustrations by Cardigan Broadmoor which bring these inherent qualities in the text to eye-popping life, the thirty-two-page tome has a look and demeanor that is easily aligned to the collective works of Dr. Seuss. This aspect can be easily assessed in the colorful and tone-setting cover Broadmoor conceived. It deftly summarizes Esper’s brief saga in a single image.
What further broadens this comparison to the ever-iconic catalogue of Dr. Seuss is how the project moves efficiently, effectively and enjoyably from one smirk-inducing situation to the next. Commencing with an ordinary moment, a mother telling her son to finish breakfast and do as the title of the effort suggests, the narrative becomes increasingly off-the-wall. This is as the mother seeks out inanimate objects as well as household animals to help get Kanunu to listen to her demands. They range from a timeout chair to a mouse.
Yet, what is most admirable about the self-published endeavor, which was released on July 30th of this year, is that it has a wide-ranging accessibility. This is most apparent in its theme of having a sluggish start to the day. Such is a topic guaranteed to ring true for every youth. It’s moral emphasis, the importance of punctuality, is fashioned in an easy-to-understand and amusing manner. It is one which its target audience will retain without difficulty.
As mentioned above, there is a private component to the undertaking which makes Go to School, Kanunu much more than an engrossing chronicle. In the touching Introduction, Esper states that this is a fiction his father would tell him and his sister. It was passed down to his father from his parents. Both of whom receive a loving dedication in the opening of the literature. This intimate connection tightens when we learn that Esper sees the yarn as a link to his Syrian heritage. It is an account his grandparents most likely heard themselves for the first time in the Middle East country. Esper’s hopes that the folk tale “may also shed a different light” on Syria is just as moving as the information garnered in this early passage.
Punctuated by an appropriately pleasant concluding note, Esper’s sophomore trek into the world of the printed word (after his brilliant 2016 debut, The Filmmaker’s Journey: Or What Nobody Tells You About the Industry) further showcases his depth and range as an artist. Whether tackling the subject of anxiety in the fantastic silent short “Imposter” (2018) or penning an engaging item for kids (as he does in his most recent opus), there is a consistently introspective nature to Esper’s material that is as relatable as it is endearing. This element illuminates every page of Esper’s latest venture. With great assistance from this quality, Esper has crafted an undertaking that feels immediately timeless. Go to School, Kanunu is an instant classic.