by Mordicai Gerstein
You’ve heard of actors “breaking the fourth wall” when they address the audience directly. Well, the characters in A Book break through the ceiling!
Mordicai Gerstein lifts the roof off of his characters’ house in this inventive picture book. No stranger to innovative perspective, Gerstein won a Caldecott Medal for his high-wire views of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Here, the author-artist gives readers an aerial, almost three-dimensional perspective on his characters’ home life, and makes readers participants in A Book. He introduces a father, mother, girl and boy, and some pets. “When the book was closed it was night in the book, and the family slept.” Readers turn the page and observe the morning routines of the family (waking, brushing teeth) and their pets (yawning, stretching, licking the children). At the breakfast table, the girl asks, “I know we live in a book, but what is our story?” Each member of the family (including the cat, dog and goldfish) tells his or her individual subplot (“Why, it’s the story of a loving father who is a hardworking circus clown,” says her dad), then races off to fulfill his purpose. The girl alone remains: “Everyone has a story but me. What’s my story!” she thinks. “And off went the girl to the next page.” A goose explains about readers (“Look up,” says the fowl, then later lays a golden egg). Children will delight in identifying characters from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland and the like, as the heroine tries on various genres for style. Is her story a fairy tale? A mystery? A high-seas adventure? The gratifying ending proves that the heroine was in charge of shaping her own story all along. More seasoned readers will be inspired to rethink what a book is (pun intended), how it works, and their own part in bringing it to life.