Review of Off-Limits

by Helen Yoon; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
10/21    978-1-5362-0731-6    $17.99

As the book opens, a nondescript-looking man walks away from his home office, having just affixed an “off-limits” sign to its door. Around the corner (and from the edge of the title page) peeks a pigtailed girl, and we follow her as she opens the door to view her father’s neatly ­organized office, all drab grays and browns. “I’m just looking. There’s nothing wrong with just looking…and I don’t think anyone would miss one piece of tape. Just one little teeny-tiny piece.” We can guess what happens next. The girl begins taping up everything in sight, adding paper clips and binder clips…and then — dramatic pause — she finds the Post-it Notes. “Hello!” From here the pages become a whirlwind of exuberant color and swirled patterns and pure unadulterated joy. The office now festooned to the max, the girl comes down to earth from her creative jag and realizes that she’s in a lot of trouble. “Uh-oh.” She sneaks back to her bedroom and opens the door to find — “Daddy!” — that the chaos there matches that of the office, with toys in a huge pile and her father wearing a tutu and dress-up wings. All ends happily with a colorful father-daughter tea party, dullness and drabness banished. Yoon (Ball & Balloon, rev. 9/19) uses the drama of the page-turn beautifully, typography is employed creatively, and the book is perfectly paced. The girl’s bliss as her office-supply art creation grows shines through in both text and mixed-media art, and her curiosity and mischievousness are so very relatable. Open the door to this spectacular book and go right in.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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