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Smart kid lit

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Published 5/7/2008

In this time of Balkanized blog bluster and ballyhoo, when literacy is disappearing as fast as bookstores, the self-publication of a small, tightly knit children's book for adults, illustrated and written by an outsider art couple, is as surprising as it is charming. Schnook's War on Terrorism is a quixotic, illustrated allegory of the life of a fuzzy little dog-like figure named Schnook who's seeking a meaningful, heroic life. Lithuanian-born Detroit artist and art restorer Renate Palubinskas and her partner, Zachary Schafer, have composed a totally unpredictable but timely fable-like story that will leave both the reader and the heroic Schnook in a quandary about what's right and wrong.

Beautifully illustrated by Palubinskas in her inimitable classically trained old-world style, the story begins with Schnook, chin on paws, sadly daydreaming in the doorway of his little doghouse. With the determination of naive youth, Schnook heads to Washington to see the president and ask
what he can do to make things better. "Little Schnook, fight terrorism! Catch the terrorist's goat leader and bring him back to me," the president tells him. Palubinskas' painting of President Bush as the incarnation of banal power is worth the price of admission here.

The short resolution to the story and the perplexing simplicity of the ending is a light antidote to the depressing, anti-democratic condition of American corporate politics and seems to promise a sequel in Schnook's search for a meaningful life.

Palubinskas and Schafer sign hard-cover copies of their book from 6-9 p.m., Friday, May 9, at Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8540.

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