It’s time for another Stack Overflow on books about books! I love books that get kids thinking not just about the story they’re currently reading, but about the act of reading itself. Here are some picture books that celebrate books and reading.
London and Remkiewicz have created dozens of books about Froggy, a loud frog kid who is really enthusiastic about a lot of things. I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of Froggy in general, but I did appreciate his love for the library. He was so excited he was ready to dash out the door without even changing out of his pajamas or eating breakfast. Once he gets there, he needs some reminders about using his indoor voice and not standing on tables (to be a T. Rex), but his enthusiasm for stories is contagious and even the librarian can get behind that.
Every card has a special job. Giant Card is a manila folder; Wide Card is a postcard, Round Card is a price tag. Little Card finally gets his assignment … as a birthday card! He’s so excited, because he loved the games and the decorations and the singing and the presents. But then it turns out that the assignments got mixed up: Long Card is the birthday card, and Little Card is actually a library card. Little Card has to learn some new skills, but maybe his previous training will come in handy. This one was a cute story about books and libraries—and the idea that a library (though it isn’t a birthday party) is still something worth celebrating.
Ralfy Rabbit just loves books, unlike other bunnies. Eventually he starts sneaking into houses to read books while people were sleeping, and before long he was stealing books. But then a little boy named Arthur notices his books going missing, and the chase is on! It’s a silly tale and kind of goes in several different directions, but in the end it’s all about loving to read. (And not stealing people’s books.)
When Lucy sits down to read a story to her dog, Mr. Barker, he wanders off in pursuit of a butterfly … and they wind up in a home with three chairs (one broken), three bowls of porridge, and a golden-haired girl. And then a house made of straw. And then a giant-sized dining room. With each scene change, they find themselves in a different fairy tale, chased by the antagonists of those stories. The pages have little cut-outs that peek into the next or previous page, and the illustrations are a lot of fun. Each fairy tale is introduced with some hints first before the story is named in the text, so that kids can guess the answer on their own.
This book is a picture book, but it’s about a book that isn’t. A little duck finds a book on the ground and opens it excitedly, only to be disappointed that there are no pictures, just words. But as he gives it another try, he realizes that he recognizes some of the words—some of them are funny, some are sad, but together they take him on a new journey. As the duck describes the types of words in the book, the illustrations depict him (and his beetle companion) experiencing those descriptions outside of themselves, too. It’s a fun picture book about the beauty of words.
One bonus feature: the endpapers tell the entire story of the picture book in prose. But at the front of the book, most of the words are all jumbled up: “Rsdwo ear so cfuidiftl.” At the end of the book, the text is unscrambled: “Words are so difficult.” I like the way the endpapers reflect the little duck’s journey toward comprehension.
I happened to see this one at the bookstore and was intrigued: the cover is made to look like an old book—a slightly worn red cover with just the title printed on it—except that the Os in “Good” were turned into the eyes of a smiling face. It’s about a little book in a library—it wasn’t the most popular book or an award-winning book. And when a young boy is sent to the library for a time-out “to think things over,” he turns to this little book out of boredom … and falls in love. He reads it again and again, carrying it with him all the time.
I loved this quote: “It didn’t turn him into a bookish boy, or improve his naughty behavior, but it did become a loyal companion, there to see him to sleep and distract him when he had to ‘think things over.'” Then, one day, the book is lost. The boy is bereft and searches for it everywhere; eventually he discovers other books, and it turns out that the Good Little Book goes on to inspire the love of reading for somebody else.
It’s a lovely little book—the story and the illustrations are both a lot of fun. It’s about falling in love with a book, even if it doesn’t make you “bookish” or somehow improve you. It’s okay to just have a favorite book—and it’s okay to move on to other books eventually, too.
Cozy Classics by Jack and Holman Wang
The Wang brothers are well-known for their needle-felted figurines (also seen in the Star Wars Epic Yarns series). Their Cozy Classics series is back, with new covers and a few new titles. Each book re-tells a classic story with 12 words, each paired with one photograph. The figurines and the sets they create for their characters are amazing. Great Expectations is a new title and joined Pride & Prejudice, War & Peace, and Moby Dick this spring. More will be coming this fall and next spring.
If you like the idea of bite-sized classics but you want a little more than a dozen words for each story, you could give Shrunken Treasures a try. Scott Nash has run several stories through his “Versizer,” turning each literary classic into a much shorter poem, with adorable illustrations. He takes some liberties with the tales: his version of A Thousand and One Nights turns the sultan into a tiger and Scheherazade into a tiny mouse, and Hamlet isn’t just a Dane—he’s a Great Dane. Most of the tales have been given endings that are, if not happy, at least a little ambiguous.
A young boy just wants to tell a story about his cat, Emperor Falafel, but he keeps getting interrupted by other characters: a pirate, a dinosaur, an alien, a knight … and every one of them thinks it’s their story. What’s a kid to do? The book has very fun illustrations, done in a sort of comics format where each character has a different-colored speech bubble. Whose story is it? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I love stories that are about stories, and this one fits the bill perfectly.
Want more books on books? This Stack Overflow column has a few more.
Disclosure: I received review copies of these titles except The Good Little Book.