'High Five' Readers Invited To Participate In Secret Tournament NPR's Rachel Martin talks to best-selling, children's book author Adam Rubin about his latest: High Five. It tells the story of a secret high-five tournament that's been held in the animal kingdom.

'High Five' Readers Invited To Participate In Secret Tournament

'High Five' Readers Invited To Participate In Secret Tournament

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NPR's Rachel Martin talks to best-selling, children's book author Adam Rubin about his latest: High Five. It tells the story of a secret high-five tournament that's been held in the animal kingdom.


First, there was the children's book, "Dragons Love Tacos." It was a huge hit. Then there was the sequel, a couple other books following that, and now Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri bring us their latest, "High Five."

WYATT: (Reading) A high-five is a handy way for happy friends to say hooray, a special slap to celebrate when everything is going great. But there's a contest held each year, where high-five fans from far and near all press their palms against the rest to see whose high-five is the best.

MARTIN: That is my 6-year-old, Wyatt, reading the opening few lines. We've had it in our house for a little over a week, and it is already on heavy rotation at bedtime, as have been your previous books, Adam Rubin. Thank you so much for being with us.

ADAM RUBIN: Thanks so much for having me.

MARTIN: OK. So is there a lot of high-fiving in your life?

RUBIN: Well, recently, I've been on tour sharing this high-five book with hundreds and hundreds of kids all across the country, and so there has been a lot of high-fiving in my life and maybe a little more Purell than normal.

MARTIN: Right?


MARTIN: OK, so let's get into the book. Can you lay out the storyline?

RUBIN: Yeah, so this is a story about a secret high-five tournament that's been held for generations in the animal kingdom. And the reader is invited to participate as the first human contestant. So they're going to have to face all sorts of interesting challengers, from a shifty lizard who can turn invisible and camouflage himself to Gigantic the bear that's 700 pounds of hair. It's a motley crew. But if you bring some creativity and some inventiveness to your fiving technique, you might have a chance at the championship.

MARTIN: So the sensei - the guy who is kind of the narrator of this, the master - is orchestrating this tournament. He gives it a kind of a martial arts sort of feel. I mean, this is a serious sport, high-fiving.

RUBIN: High-five tournaments are something that maybe only exists in the book right now.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

RUBIN: But I imagine that they could grow into a sort of air guitar-style activity for children.

MARTIN: Oh, nice.

RUBIN: You know, they put on costumes and music and come up with their own techniques and routines.

MARTIN: That is brilliant.

RUBIN: It's - it could be really fun because there's not a lot of opportunities outside the dance floor to express yourself physically.

MARTIN: Right.

RUBIN: To bring, like, inventiveness, and do fun things with your body and make sounds and collaborate with another person. So that's - what's - what could be fun about this book is that what happens off the pages is just as interesting as what's happening in the pictures.

MARTIN: Speaking of the participation, there is a call-out - like, this is your moment, readers; you've got to show me what you got. Can you read a little bit of that?

RUBIN: Sure, sure.

(Reading) You'll have to show a little style to make those high-five judges smile - a special look upon your face, a striking pose or some cool phrase. Express your creativity because that's the thing we want to see. High-five.


RUBIN: That was me imitating what - a person would hit the book.

MARTIN: (Laughter) That's good. Right, right.

RUBIN: There's a big hand on the book.

MARTIN: Yeah (laughter).

RUBIN: You can't see it on the radio, but there's a big hand...

MARTIN: You can high-five the book, right.

RUBIN: You've got to hit it, yeah. So then the sensei, he's disgusted. He says...

(Reading) Was that your new signature slap? My grandma five's better than that.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

RUBIN: (Reading) Perhaps you didn't understand. I don't want to see something bland; I want to see something brand new, a high-five only you would do, a fresh technique that's so unique it leaves me unable to speak.

MARTIN: (Laughter) I love it. So as you mentioned, there are all kinds of interesting characters in this competition that you, the reader, are asked to, you know, tackle. They are kind of random; like, the references are just random. I don't know if kids find them funny, but adults - I mean, I find them hilarious.

RUBIN: (Laughter) Well, I try to write books that are just as funny for kids as they are for grown-ups. It's something they can both laugh at together. It's got this universal appeal, which is really exciting for me because when the kid's laughing along with the grown-up, they feel sophisticated; they feel like they're in on something.


RUBIN: And when the grown-up's laughing along with the kids, they feel ridiculous; they're reminded of the fearlessness of being silly, and that can be a powerful moment.

MARTIN: Yeah. All right, so now the ultimate question - what is your signature high-five? Can you explain it to us?

RUBIN: There's a few high-fives that I like to keep in my back pocket.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

RUBIN: There's the classic jump five, which is great because you don't need to really give anyone instructions to do that one; you just - you go for it.

MARTIN: Just go for it. Yeah, you just go for it.

RUBIN: One that I really like is the no-look high-five. It has a high failure percentage, but when you nail it, oh, it's so sweet.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Like, both participants have their eyes closed?

RUBIN: Yeah. You just - you look straight forward, you do the high-five, and then you look each other dead in the eye.

MARTIN: Oh, nice.

RUBIN: It's a powerful moment.


RUBIN: The cool thing about this book is that it's an object you have to interact with. You can't just - it's not a passive experience, like an iPad or a TV show. You know, you put that down in front of a kid, and they just - you hope they are quiet during dinner. This is a book - it's a shared experience.

MARTIN: It is. It's awesome. Adam Rubin, he is the author of the new book "High Five." The illustrations are done by Daniel Salmieri. Adam, it was such a pleasure. Thank you so much for talking with us. I wish I could do, like, a - oh, I could just air - no, that's lame, to air five you?

RUBIN: Can we air five? Can you see me on the video?

MARTIN: Can we do it? All right. One, two, three.


MARTIN: OK, that was close enough.

RUBIN: That was pretty good.

MARTIN: Awesome.

RUBIN: That's the NPR five.

MARTIN: Totally, totally.


MARTIN: Oh, man. David, I have to tell you - when I got home, my kids totally pulled off the no-look high-five.



MARTIN: And as a parent, I could not...

GREENE: Pure joy?

MARTIN: ...Have been prouder (laughter).

GREENE: Yeah, I can imagine. No-look high-five.

MARTIN: No-look high-five. It's more...

GREENE: No better way to live.

MARTIN: No, it's so true.

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