Stack Overflow: Stories About Stories

I love books. What’s more, I love books about books. Today’s Stack Overflow is a collection of picture books that are themselves about books and stories. (I actually have a list of books about books for adults, but I haven’t read them yet, so you’ll have to wait for those…)

My Pet Book

My Pet Book by Bob Staake

The little boy in this story wanted a pet, but he wasn’t a dog person and was allergic to cats. So he got a pet book–it wouldn’t run away and didn’t have fleas, although it also wouldn’t fetch sticks. The story is told in rhyming verse, and the illustrations are bright and colorful. The meter is a little clunky in some places, but the story is silly and funny, and I can sympathize with this kid.

Where Are My Books?

Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Spencer’s favorite book, Night-Night, Narwhal, goes missing overnight. And then other books begin disappearing from his shelf, prompting him to come up with a clever solution to find the thief (and a fun surprise ending). But I have to admit: what I liked most about this book is the fact that Spencer keeps his books organized on his shelf so he knows exactly where to find them–a kindred spirit, for sure! For once, a picture book that doesn’t end with the implication that being neat and organized is in opposition to fun and happy.

Willy's Stories

Willy’s Stories by Anthony Browne

Every week, Willy the chimpanzee walks through the door of the library and steps into the pages of a story. Anthony Browne sets the scene for each book that Willy is reading with a page of text and an illustration showing Willy as a character in the story. (All of the characters are depicted as apes, and there are books throughout all of the illustrations, too.) I like the way that he hints at the story without telling you outright, and each page ends with a question for the reader: What do you think happened next? What would you have done? What do you think I found?

The Whisper

The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski

A little girl who loves stories borrows a book from her teacher, but the words fall out on her way home. She’s heartbroken to find beautiful illustrations with no words to tell her what’s going on. But then she hears a whisper that she can imagine the story herself by starting with a few simple words … and then you, the reader, get the full-page illustrations with a story prompt for each page. The illustrations have a dream-like quality and are full of little details that can be brought into your own story. Even though the book-within-the-book is wordless, The Whisper is actually a fairly long framing story around it. I think it could make for a very cool writing prompt, a bit like The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Rufus the Writer

Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Instead of a lemonade stand, Rufus decides to open a story stand. Kids come by and trade him things for stories, which he writes and illustrates. Throughout the book are four of the stories that Rufus writes for the kids based on his interactions with them. It’s a cute idea, and may inspire your kids to make up some of their own stories, or even set up their own story stands.

Beatrix Potter Guinea Pig

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake

This picture book is based on an actual event in Beatrix Potter’s life (though slightly modified), and shows her as a young girl surrounded by a menagerie of creatures that she loves to paint. She borrows a guinea pig from a neighbor so she could paint a picture of it, and, well, there’s an unfortunate outcome. The story is told in a similar voice to Beatrix’s own writing, and even includes some excerpts from her diary. It’s a funny (though somewhat tragic) tale, and offers a small glimpse into the life of this well-known author and illustrator.

Sleep Tight, Anna Banana

Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! by Dominique Roques, illustrated by Alexis Dormal

Anna Banana’s animals want to go to bed, but Anna is engrossed in her book–so the light’s on, she’s laughing too loudly, and her poor animals are exhausted. They finally give her a taste of her own medicine, and then everyone gets some sleep. This one is from First Second Books, and it’s a cross between a comic book and a picture book–gotta get the kids started on comics early, right?

Shhh! This Book Is Sleeping

Shhh! This Book Is Sleeping by Cédric Ramadier, illustrated by Vincent Bourgeau

This large board book is sleepy, and a little pink mouse tells you how to put it to bed. Each page has the mouse and some dialogue on the left side, with the big blue face responding on the right. It’s a fun way for your kids to play out the bedtime routine, which you can then (hopefully) repeat to put them to bed.

Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.

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Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.