It’s Children’s Book Week, so I have a couple of posts featuring some of my favorite children’s books.
Today, I’m featuring books that use their physical form to their full potential. They bend what can be done with a book without relying on anything but paper, ink and an enthusiastic reader. Plus, many are much more post-modern than adult books while still being awesome for kids.
The Monster at the End of this Book: This one is a classic that predates digital trickery. If you haven’t read it, it involves lovable, fuzzy old Grover begging you not to turn the pages of the book because there’s a monster at the end of it. He comes up with increasingly elaborate ways to prevent you from going forward, all to no avail. By having the action driven forward by the child’s active participation in turning the pages, this book makes the reader an actual character. It was meta and fourth wall breaking way before loads of other media poked at these boundaries. As delightful as it is, the one downfall is that if you have a particularly kind or sensitive child, you may never get past the first page! The first time we read it, Sprout didn’t want to torture poor Grover. While there is an app of this book, I feel like digitizing it loses much of the magic. For bonus points, one of my favorite bloggers is using the opening page in a book analyzing the neoreactionary political movement. For a similar book with a slightly different twist, I Will Chomp You involves a cute but aggressive monster trying to protect his baked treats at the end of the book.
Robosauce: I saw the authors preview this at the Gaithersburg Book Festival last year and was frankly stunned. The trick they pull is one of the most creative and fun things I’ve seen in a kids’ book in ages. The book is about a little boy who wants to be a robot so badly that he’s willing to eat an awful concoction called Robosauce. When it doesn’t quite go as planned, he sprays the whole world with the transformational sauce. Including the book itself. The reader must take off the cover, flip it around and turn the book upside down to reveal an entirely new Robobook – complete with Robocover. It is awesome.
The Book with No Pictures: Right what it says on the cover. While that’s totally normal for an adult book, it’s little odd for a children’s book. What the title doesn’t reveal is that the words inside are a bit unusual, to say the least. The trick is that this book is meant to be read out loud by an adult and that adult must read every word in the book – even “purple flying monkey butt!” Hilarity ensues. But clearly a book that doesn’t work read alone or on a tablet.
Press Here: Like The Monster at the End of This Book, Press Here plays off the idea of the reader physically interacting with the book influencing the content. But instead of just page turning, Press Here requires the reader poke, swipe and shake the book! Each action “changes” how the multi-colored dots react. While the book has zero plot, it totally works as an avant garde art project disguised as a kid’s book. Bonus factoid – my mom once remembered the title of this book as “Hit That.”
Mix It Up / Tap the Magic Tree: Both of these take the basic idea of Press Here and apply it to different situations, for very different results. Mix It Up, by the same author as Press Here, pretends the reader is mixing different colored paints. From “making” purple by squishing pages with red and blue together to smearing white on different colors, it’s the least messy form of finger painting ever. Touch the Magic Tree carries this outside, where the reader interacts with an apple tree to carry it through the seasons. Rubbing apple blossoms to get them to pop or wiggling your fingers to bring snow makes the cycle of nature more charming than if the book just described it outright.