Millennial mammals: Picture book features aimless animals

Bookworms: Chelsea Marshall and Mary Dauterman will launch their new picture book for millenials, “What are we even doing with our lives?” on Aug. 8.
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Good-bye to “Goodnight Moon!”

A satirical new picture book by two Brooklynites will not lull you to sleep — but it may leave you sitting up with existential questions. In “What are we even doing with our lives?” launching on Aug. 8, a cast of millennial animal characters live a nonsensical urban life, working in coffee shops, going to boozy brunches, and documenting everything on their smart phones. The authors hope that the cartoon renderings of everyday life will make readers realize how silly it all is.

“The world we live in now is kind of an absurd place and it’s good to take a step back and be like ‘What the hell is going on?’ All of these things you think as normal are actually really weird,” said Chelsea Marshall, a Bushwick resident, who wrote the book with illustrator Mary Dauterman.

The book uses a style similar to the famous children’s book “What Do People Do All Day?” by Richard Scarry, with text scattered throughout the pages, jokes hidden in the background, and labels defining succulents and selfies.

The story is set in Digi Valley, a city inspired by hipster enclaves in Brooklyn and San Francisco. One scene features kids visiting a rooftop farm inspired by Brooklyn Grange in the Navy Yard, while another takes place at “Brewski’s,” a drinking hole full of people taking selfies, doing shots, and hanging out with their kids — a scene inspired by the nightlife in one of Brooklyn’s toniest nabes.

“We kind of based that off a Park Slope bar where you see a parent in their 30s with their kid — and I don’t blame them,” Marshall said. “There’s not a distinct age anymore when things are supposed to happen. You have a group where they’re on Tinder, and someone with a kid, which makes for an interesting dynamic.”

The book is sub-titled “The most honest children’s book of all time,” but its main audience is 20-somethings. But cynical moms and dads could read it to their youngsters, as long as they skip over one PG-13 scene, said the book’s illustrator.

“The only page I wouldn’t read is the one-night stand after the bar,” said Dauterman, a Crown Heights resident. “But that might be a really great segue to explain sex if you feel like it.”

Marshall hopes that readers will see themselves in the book’s stressed-out mice, cats, and dogs, as the millennial mammals worry about maintaining internet followers, choosing the right preschool, and unraveling the mysteries of the cloud.

“We hope they laugh and just feel happier than they did before,” she said. “I think it would be cool if people are like, ‘I’m not the only one who thinks this stuff is weird.’ In the world we live in it’s so easy to get stressed out — but it’s totally fine because no one knows what they’re doing.”

“What are we even doing with our lives?” release party at Ode to Babel (772 Dean St. at Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights). Aug. 8 at 7 pm. Free. Books $15.99.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Posted 12:00 am, August 4, 2017
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Reasonable discourse

Wanda from Downtown Brooklyn says:
I like the idea, but the book is far too sexual. I don't think we should produce borderline pornography for children.
Aug. 4, 2017, 8:41 am

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