As anyone who watched the one true version of The Office knows, Ricky Gervais is a comic genius. A few years ago he turned that genius towards the world of picture books with Flanimals, a field guide to the grossest, ugliest, most repulsively entertaining monsters on the planet. A year later he followed that up with More Flanimals, which explores Flanimal behavior and evolution in more detail. There are two more sequels, Flanimals of the Deep and Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling, and a TV series is scheduled to start in Britain sometime this year. I have only read the first two books and am trying to get my hands on the rest (they were never purchased for my library system!), so I’ll just talk about those two for now.

Both books were illustrated by Rob Steen, who manages to make disgusting and scary-sounding monsters just look laugh-out-loud funny. The books are hilarious, and kids (and adults) who laugh at absurd words and toilet humor will enjoy them. Gervais’s writing here is a very different style from his TV shows and stand up. The books reminded me of Monty Python and REALLY reminded me of Douglas Adams, but aren’t those influences the basis for all good modern British humor? Parallels aside, his monsters and their behaviors are fun, totally disgusting, and kind of addictive.

Here’s an example of the writing (unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture):

Underblenge (Ekino Plunge-Dermer)

Snerbulent splench-sucker that captures prey by sticking to their faces and suffocating them–its suckers are impossible to pry off. Unfortunately, it can’t catch anything as it can’t move from the rock it was born on.”