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Recommended Picture Books: Metafictive Picture Books

barnett_how this book was madeBarnett, Mac  How This Book Was Made: Based on a True Story
Gr. K–3     48 pp.     Disney/Hyperion

Illustrated by Adam Rex. Barnett and Rex tongue-in-cheekily describe the process of creating a book. “Ideas can come at funny times,” muses Barnett, shown as a cartoon character arm-wrestling a tiger. It only gets wackier from there, as the book being developed takes quite a journey. Rex’s multidimensional art is full of detail and sly visual humor. Young audience members will love every over-the-top moment.
Subjects: Picture Books; Books and reading; Authors; Humorous stories; Publishers and publishing

bingham_circle square mooseBingham, Kelly  Circle, Square, Moose
Gr. K–3     48 pp.     Greenwillow

Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Irrepressible Moose (Z Is for Moose) forces his way into another concept book, this time on shapes. An offstage narrator addresses Moose directly — “Hey! Don’t eat that!” — in bold-type text. When Moose proves ever more disruptive, his old friend Zebra comes to try to save the day. Zelinsky expertly juxtaposes the expected orderliness of a book with the chaos caused by Moose’s interruption.
Subjects: Picture Books; Animals—Zebras; Humorous stories; Concept books—Shapes and sizes; Animals—Moose; Behavior; Books and reading; Friendship

byrne_this-book-is-out-of-controlByrne, Richard  This Book Is Out of Control!
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Holt

Something goes awry with the remote to Ben’s new fire truck: it’s actually controlling Bella’s dog instead. Trying to correct the situation only lands all three of them on the ceiling. As in We’re in the Wrong Book! and This Book Just Ate My Dog!, this book’s bright art, combined with the interactive text and design, invites readers to get involved physically with the story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Pets; Fire engines; Friendship; Humorous stories; Fire trucks; Animals—Dogs; Toys; Play

coudray_goofy guide to penguinsCoudray, Jean-Luc and Coudray, Philippe  A Goofy Guide to Penguins
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     TOON

Illustrated by Philippe Coudray. A twin-brother author-illustrator team supplies “everything you never, ever asked about penguins!” The comic’s horizontal trim size allows for four-panel spreads; young emperor penguins hang out on the edges, providing narration and asking and answering silly questions in a kinda-sorta informational fashion. Philippe Coudray’s crisp illustrations are rendered in a cool palette, matching the frigid setting. Back matter provides “100% genuine, real facts.”
Subjects: Picture Books; Animals—Penguins; Cartoons and comics; Graphic novels; Humorous stories; Books in translation

falatko_snappsy the alligatorFalatko, Julie  Snappsy the Alligator: Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Viking

Illustrated by Tim Miller. This is a book-length sparring match between exasperated alligator Snappsy and an offstage storyteller-foil who criticizes Snappsy and ignores his pleas to scram. Falatko’s ability to sustain the tension at length; Miller’s savory palette; and the unvoiced suggestion that when fiction is working well, a character can take on a life of his or her own all serve this meta-story well.
Subjects: Picture Books; Humorous stories; Animals—Alligators; Parties; Storytelling

hall_frankencrayonHall, Michael  Frankencrayon
Preschool     40 pp.     Greenwillow

In this companion to Red: A Crayon’s Story, three disappointed crayons and a pencil narrator describe how a giant red scribble disrupts plans for their production of…Frankencrayon. Chaos ensues; the picture book is canceled. Oblivious Frankencrayon makes the planned entrance onto the scribbled page, fixes the problem, and saves the play, er, day. The complex structure offers inspiration for thinking about theater, bookmaking, and storytelling.
Subjects: Preschool; Books and reading; Monsters; Crayons; Humorous stories; Plays

john_quit-calling-me-a-monsterJohn, Jory  Quit Calling Me a Monster!
Preschool     40 pp.     Random

Illustrated by Bob Shea. A pear-shaped, purple-fur-covered creature speaks directly to listeners. “I’m no monster!” This not-a-monster’s appearance and behavior belie his message; the cognitive dissonance between text and pictures is what makes the book funny. Shea’s kinetic illustrations take full advantage of the silly premise and offer loads of character. Jittery lines and bold background colors make the pages pop with nervous energy.
Subjects: Preschool; Humorous stories; Monsters; Self-perception

novak_bookwithnopixNovak, B. J.  The Book with No Pictures
Preschool     48 pp.     Dial

On crisp white pages, in a large black font, listeners and readers are clued in: “Here is how books work: Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say.” Listeners will be tickled when adults say ridiculous things and then whine about it, as the text directs. Comic pacing and theatrics ensure a silly trip; visual cues keep (pictureless) pages lively.
Subjects: Preschool; Humorous stories


ruzzier_this-is-not-a-picture-bookRuzzier, Sergio  This Is Not a Picture Book!
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Chronicle

A duckling happens upon a book: “Where are the pictures?!” A bug asks: “Can you read it?” As it happens, the book is so engrossing that the duck can’t take its eyes off the page; only the bug (and readers) notice Ruzzier’s pen, ink, and watercolor landscapes reflecting the duck’s book-sparked revelations. A beguiling pitch for reading — magic that turns words into pictures.
Subjects: Picture Books; Books and reading; Animals—Ducks; Imagination

stead_ideas-are-all-aroundStead, Philip C.  Ideas Are All Around
Gr. K–3     48 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter

An author attempts to walk off writer’s block. The suggestion is that the nameless, faceless writer-narrator, who walks with his dog, Wednesday, is Stead himself, and that this is the “story” Stead writes. Just as improvisational-seeming as the text are the mixed-media illustrations accented with Polaroids. This book will reward readers receptive to the notion that the world speaks to those who listen.
Subjects: Picture Books; Authors; Books and reading; Neighborhoods; Animals—Dogs; Creativity; Writing

FishWalsh, Liam Francis  Fish
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter

In this nearly wordless book, a boy and his dog go fishing and pull in not a fish but a large letter F. I soon follows, then S. The boy, after reeling in a disappointing letter Q, is then pulled underwater for a mini-adventure. The story’s pacing is spot-on, with full pages, spreads, and occasional panel art working together to reel in laughs.
Subjects: Picture Books; Fishers; Sports—Fishing; Animals—Dogs; Wordless books

whisperZagarenski, Pamela  The Whisper
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Houghton

A girl borrows a book from her teacher but discovers the words are missing (they escaped from the book as she ran home and were captured by a fox with a net). She ponders and creates stories herself. The next morning she encounters the fox, who returns the words in exchange for a favor. Opulent imagery and mysterious detail will have children imagining their own stories.
Subjects: Picture Books; Books and reading; Animals—Foxes; Storytelling; Imagination

From the December 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good Picture Book?”

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