Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: W » What Is Punk?

What Is Punk?

By: and

A wonderfully illustrated children’s history of punk rock, from a progressive/idealistic perspective.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

One of The Globe and Mail‘s Best Books of 2015

“A punk primer for the youngest set. . . . Yi’s incredibly detailed clay figures are a kinetic and inspired art choice. Their crazy creativity matches the expressive spirit of punk. . . . As [Morse] points out, the best way to learn about punk it just to listen. . . . If invested adults love the topic, a shared reading experience can’t be beat.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Clay artist Yi molds . . . fantastically detailed Plasticine figures to create scenes of the birth of punk. Using a benign craft-project material for the skinny bodies and ragged clothing of Joey Ramone, Sid Vicious, and their rowdy, fist-waving audiences is very much in the spirit of punk (Plasticine is especially good for mohawks), and readers will spend long stretches inspecting her painstakingly modeled guitars, amplifiers, and safety pins.”
Publishers Weekly

“Why It’s Wild: A history of punk music for kids illustrated in Gumby-esque claymation (minus the –mation).”
School Library Journal, 100 Scope Notes’s Wildest Children’s Books of 2015

What is Punk? is fun, sophisticated and beautifully illustrated introduction to the music genre for kids—or adults.”
New York Daily News

“Reading What is Punk? to [my kids] made me feel as if I was passing on something truly significant. Morse and Yi have created a comprehensive and articulate . . . documentary about the roots of punk rock.”
The Globe and Mail

“An essential way to pass down to your son or daughter the lesson that pop culture can be political.”
The Globe and Mail, 100 Best Books of 2015

“A cool book of punk history for kids by Eric Morse, with great clay illustrations by Anny Yi.”
Slate, Mom and Dad Are Fighting podcast

“Eric Morse’s book What Is Punk? explains the envelope-pushing genre to the younger set, and perhaps some adults, as well.”
St. Louis Public Radio

“Think Wallace and Gromit with liberty spikes and anarchy patches . . . While [Anny Yi’s] images of Johnny Rotten and Henry Rollins are cute, they’re presented as live action dioramas that are adorable, accurate and engaging.”
San Diego City Beat

“While What Is Punk? is undeniably a children’s book, it can serve as a history lesson for potential fans of any age . . . . What Is Punk? exposes the reader to the rebellious sub-culture in a friendly, educative manner.”
Alternative Press

“Detailed clay scenes illustrate this succinct overview of the punk revolution, introducing American bands, like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and those shaking up London, such as the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols.”
Booklist Reader

“A fun little book intended to serve as (rhyming) curriculum for little punks learning their Punk History 101. . . . Sid, Glenn, and Milo meet Wallace and Gromit.”

“What’s the coolest picture book out there for a generation that grew up with The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Stooges? No, it’s not Where the Wild Things Are. It’s What Is Punk, a rhyming retelling of punk rock history accompanied by Play-Doh facsimiles of Iggy Pop, Johnny Rotten, and the like.”
Culture Sonar

“Pairing Yi’s Wallace & Gromit-style clay pictorials with Morse’s rhyming ride through the history of punk music across the globe, the children’s book is ready to raise the next generation of riot grrrls. . . . You’re going to want to give What Is Punk? as a gift at every baby shower this year. Just don’t be surprised if your niece ends up bleaching her hair blonde and tearing up her leather jacket at age 6.”

“Written by Trampoline House founder Eric Morse in classically Suessical iambic, the book is lusciously illustrated with photographs of Play-Doh recreations of all mommy’s and daddy’s favorite punk heroes: the Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges—and Debbie Harry, David Byrne, David Johansen, Tom Verlaine, and Lou Reed all standing in front of CBGBs.”
Bedford & Bowery

“With its clay illustrations and rhyming couplets, What Is Punk? introduces kids to the likes of The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Ramones and punk idols like Siouxsie Sioux. The book exposes the little ones to punk’s rebellious side in a G-rated way, while also making note of the sub-culture’s desire for equality and inclusiveness.”

“Wonderful . . . . In addition to marvelous clay figures of seminal figures like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones . . . Yi also created tableaux of the Clash, the façade of CBGB, and most wonderfully, Iggy Pop’s famous 1970 crowd-surfing stunt. ”
Dangerous Minds

“Eric Morse’s book, with illustrations by Anny Yi, is written in rhyme with photos of colorful clay characters and settings to recreate the history of the deafening roar/that awakened the people/like never before.”
Outlook Magazine

What Is Punk? is a primer for punks with kids. Its best function is to keep you, as the parent, from getting bored out of your skull with all the pink ponies you get to read about over and over. It was made for me. . . . I love this book.”
Psycho Moto Zine

“Every once in a while, a children’s book comes along that will entertain parents (or grandparents) even more than it will kids. What Is Punk? is precisely that sort of book . . . . Morse writes fluid verse that sounds something like Dr. Seuss, although the subject matter is dramatically different. Instead of green eggs and ham, Morse writes about the punk movement . . . Accompanying the text are Yi’s striking illustrations . . . [What Is Punk? is] informative and sweet.”
The Oklahoman

“Are you sick of flipping through candy-coloured picture books full of frolicking, anthropomorphic animals with your young ones? Want them to learn something about your own youthful obsessions? Well this book is a great introduction to punk as written for kids.”
Sydney Morning Herald, included in Bookshop column

“A creative claymation-influenced illustrated condensed history of punk rock for kids . . . . This highly imaginative narrative verse condensation of Punk history is ideally illustrated with detailed clay figures and objects that define state of the art punk in a truly unique and fun, zany way. Just like Punk.”
Midwest Book Review

“For those not in the know, the book is just as educational (and entertaining) for adults, too. . . . What Is Punk? just might be the coolest bedtime story ever written.”

“[A] lively, clay figure-illustrated primer on all things punk. With a bouncy cadence perfect for reading aloud, What is Punk? delves into the history of punk from the early days of CBGB, the Clash and the Velvet Underground to later acts like Henry Rollins and Sleater-Kinney. The art direction on this one is stellar, with the clay figures inhabiting dimly lit clubs, hanging out in record shops or even perfectly mimicking Joey Ramone’s unmistakable posture.”
Pacific Northwest Inlander

What Is Punk? belongs on the bookshelves of music-loving parents, because Morse’s creative, charming narrative and Yi’s unforgettable clay scenes bring to life the genesis of a music that’s all about freedom and energy, and they do so in an amusing way that has my kid excited to travel down the many rabbit holes of punk history.”
Westword Denver

“This is the single best primer for anybody who is interested in the music or history of the punk rock movement . . . The art work of this book is simply phenomenal! Claymation figures of punk icons are uncannily realistic. The text is fun, witty, and spirited . . . This one is an absolute WINNER!”
Saline Library

“This book surveys the early history of punk rock in delightful rhyme.”

What is Punk? is a non-fiction children’s book that uses a 1-2 punch of rhyme and insanely detailed, colorful clay art to bring the history of punk music and culture alive. . . . Anny Yi’s captivating clay illustrations stir the reader to want to get closer to the visceral punk scene and experience the deafening roar/that inspired the people/like never before. Kids will be able to sit alone or with a reading partner and marvel at the handcrafted figures, fashion, album covers, posters, punk ‘zines and backgrounds. They will want to reach out and touch the studded spikes on a leather jacket, run their hands over an album cover, try on Lou Reed’s sunglasses, and snatch the mic from Henry Rollins’ hand. Who knew punk looked so good in colored clay?”
Punky Moms

“This book is great! I love looking at the perfectly detailed clay animated photos. What a great way to teach my child about the energy and hard-edged spirit of punk music!”
All Beautiful Mommies

“Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to play them kids’ music. The book What Is Punk? serves as a primer for parents of toddlers and preschoolers who might need some convincing. . . . What Is Punk? has great art by Anny Yi that make some of the angriest and most antisocial bands in punk history perfectly adorable.”
The Daddy Complex

“Both my husband and son love What Is Punk?, and share raucous laughter and snippets of songs as they read through together. Not only is What Is Punk? a fun take on pop culture, it’s an accurate rendering of Punk rock and its key players (all modeled from clay).”

“This captivating and informative little book will teach little readers all about the rise of Punk music and introduce them to some of the most famous and important Punk bands. . . . Charming, smart, and a lot of fun, What Is Punk? is the perfect read for the music lovers in your life!”
Word Spelunking

“This is an incredibly cute book telling of punk rock’s history in rhyme with claymation type illustrations . . . . Read it to your child and, maybe, play the music! Teach ’em young.”
Iced Tea Diaries

“With impressive claymation illustrations, this is a real eye-catcher.”
Glass of Wine, Glass of Milk


Interest level: 3–up | Grade level: 4 | Lexile Level: 700L | Guided Reading Level/F&P: R

Part of Akashic’s Black Sheep YA imprint.

What Is Punk? is a must-read pop-culture primer for children—an introduction to the punk revolution, recreated in vivid 3-D clay illustrations and told through rhyming couplets.

From London’s Clash and Sex Pistols to the Ramones’ NYC protopunk, from Iggy Pop to the Misfits, this volume depicts some of our culture’s seminal moments and iconic characters. A delightful read for kids and parents alike, illustrated in a truly unique visual style, What Is Punk? lays the groundwork for the next generation of little punks.

Check out an interview/feature on Eric Morse and What Is Punk? at St. Louis Public Radio.

Check out a review an Spotify playlist based on What Is Punk? at Shut Up and Play the Books.

Listen to an interview with Eric Morse at Moncrieff (radio show).

Read a tribute to David Bowie written by Eric Morse at Medium.

Listen to the interview with Eric Morse at KEXP’s Morning Show by John Richards (Seattle).

Watch Eric Morse discuss What Is Punk? on the BBC Radio 6 Craig Charles and Funk Show.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Published: 10/6/15
  • IBSN: 9781617753923
  • e-IBSN: 9781617754289


ERIC MORSE is a writer and father of four living outside of New York City. He was the founder and editor of Trampoline House online magazine, and a music industry marketing executive. When he’s not listening to old hip-hop records, he’s listening to new hip-hop MP3s. Eric is also the author of What Is Punk? and What Is Hip-Hop?

More info »

ANNY YI is an artist from Los Angeles, California. She makes clay-art dioramas and stop-motion films inspired by fashion and music. Anny Yi is the illustrator of What Is Punk? and What Is Hip-Hop?

More info »