A carnivorous book invites readers to participate.
The book opens with an unseen little girl named Bella calling from within the book to her dog, asleep on the copyright page. Presumably, Bella passed the gutter of the book without event, but this proves confusing given what happens to her dog. As the tragically obedient dog crosses the gutter, it disappears. While Bella is aware that she’s in a book, the background illustration could easily be interpreted as the sidewalk of a nondescript street (a less confusing choice may have been a text or white-space background, à la David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs). Once her dog disappears completely, various other characters come to help but are also consumed by the book. Eventually, so is Bella, but she sends a note to readers from...beyond...requesting that readers turn the book 90 degrees and shake it. Lo and behold, all the characters fall out, and all ends well. This happy ending presents another mystery: If all those characters were “eaten” by the book, how could they simply fall out? The metafictive picture book has ceased to be a novelty and become its own, increasingly substantial genre, which poses an existential crisis of sorts for it. If metafiction becomes ho-hum ordinary, is it still doing its job?
Misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)