It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this Monday gathering of book-readers/bibliophiles. My post this week still has something to do with our current bimonthly theme on books about books.

I Hate to Read! and I Still Hate to Read!

Story By: Rita Marshall
Illustrated by: Etienne Delessert
Publisher: Creative Editions, 1992; Creative Editions, 2007
Borrowed from the public library.

The premise of these two books is quite straightforward. The young Victor Dickens is described to be a fairly good kid who unfortunately detests reading. He claims that he is a victim of the “I Hate to Read” syndrome and despite his family’s best intentions, he prefers his favorite TV shows over the reading materials that his parents continually buy for him. Things changed a little bit one evening when he was ‘pretending to read’ so that he could watch TV afterwards. Creatures started oozing out of the pages against his will: a crocodile in a white coat, a field mouse planting coins, and a parrot who appeared like a pirate in search of a hidden treasure, and exotic birds tap-tap-tapping at his window – among others. Before he knew it, he was at the end of his book, and he actually hated the feeling of reaching the end, knowing that he would miss the characters he has grown to love. The second book has a similar premise – only this time, Victor is depicted as a rebel who has multiple secret identities. He claims that he “still hates to read” – but truly, he is working [or reading] undercover, away from everyone’s appraising stare and his annoying little sister who loves poetry and enjoys looking up 5-syllable words in her dictionary.

While the books are fairly enjoyable, I had a hard time following the surreal plot that brought on quite a number of characters, some beloved, others unfamiliar, into the narrative. It really is more like fantastical imaginings run amok for a boy who claimed he hated reading. Some of the allusions (e.g. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven) may also be lost on a few younger kids – making me wonder what the target group for this book is. The illustrations are glorious though, and the books worth checking out.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Story and Illustrations By: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2006
Borrowed from the public library.

I fell in love with this book big time. I first discovered Oliver Jeffers through The Great Paper Caper then I was awed by the powerful metaphors in Stuck. He is one of those book artists who is not constrained by any type of boundaries as he works with seemingly different types of media, with illustrations that are deceptively-simple but plain brilliant. In this particular book, a part of the book cover is chewed off in one corner, and it has this scrapbook-vibe that reminded me a little bit of Saul Steinberg’s The Passport

Henry, the book-eating boy, has taken his passion for books to a different level altogether as he munches, chomps, bites, literally eats books.

It all began quite by mistake one afternoon when he wasn’t paying attention.
He wasn’t sure at first, and tried eating a single word, just to test.
Next, he tried a whole sentence and then the whole page.
Yes, Henry definitely liked them. By Wednesday, he had eaten a WHOLE book.

It does not seem surprising in the least, that the more he ate, the more he gained in knowledge. And he ate absolutely everything: from dictionaries, to atlases, to maths books, story books. He has a special weakness, though, for red books.

Before long, though, he got so high from eating all these books that he began eating three or four at a time – he wasn’t really fussy, anything would do, as he “wanted to know it all.” And what happens, dear friends, when you overeat? You get sick, of course! Which is exactly what happened to our dear Henry. And soon enough, everything that he ‘swallowed’ got all mixed up in his brain as “he didn’t have time to digest it properly.” How he solved this terrible dilemma, I shall leave for you to discover.

As an academic, I feel that this would also work with my own students in the university as it provides a powerful message of ‘digesting’ facts without thoroughly understanding them and their implications – these are things that could potentially make you sick to your stomach. Another thing that can be raised is the indiscriminate consumption of reading materials alongside a discussion of books that might make you sick in your head. While it may appear lighthearted and fun, the book does have multiple layers to it that deserve to be explored further.

I also found this short video clip that was inspired by the book – truly cute!

Currently Reading…

I have just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and I fell in love with it. I will definitely be sharing my thoughts about this book before our bimonthly theme ends.

Currently, I am immersed in The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers – and there is just sooo much to love about this book, that I am at a loss for words. It’s that good.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

Incredible Book-eating Boy. 2007 Irish Book Awards (winner), 2007 Norfolk Libraries Children’s Book award (Bronze Award), 2007 Independent Bookseller’s Book of the Year (shortlist), 2007 British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year (shortlist), 2007 CBI Bisto Book of the Year Awards (Merit)

I Hate to Read. Winner of the 1993 Benjamin Franklin Award.

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 100-101 (35)

PictureBook Challenge Update: 107-109 of 120

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

15 comments on “Monday Reading: On Munching and Hating Books

  1. The Incredible Book Eating Boy sounds wonderful! I’ll have to check it out. And I’m so glad you loved Fahrenheit 451 – that’s a favorite of mine 🙂


  2. You have been reading some great looking books… I am eying up that Book Eating Boy one.


  3. love the short video-how funny & what a premise about too much ‘eating’, not enough ‘digestion’. It is a problem with some of our more prolific readers & how to slow them down for more savoring. I also liked hearing about The City of Dreaming Books-will look for it, Myra. Thank you!


  4. The Incredible Book Eating Boy looks like a riot! The illustrations are just amazing. I bet readers and reluctant readers would both get a kick out of that one! Thanks for sharing.


  5. therelentlessreader

    Books about books are the best! Isn’t 451 amazing? I’ll look forward to your thoughts on that one 🙂

    Have a great week of reading!


  6. I am a huge fan of Jeffers and although The Incredible Book Eating Boy isn’t typical Jeffers, it is like Jeffers in a different mood. I adore it. The only problem, once I do it as a read aloud, I never see that book in my favourite read alouds basket again until June. It travels from student book bin to book bin – often multiple times. Love that book!


  7. Fahrenheit 451 is one of those “classics” that escaped my reading canon. Sounds like I need to fix it. The Book Eating Boy is a favorite at our house, and I’m intrigued by your remarks on the Moer book. I’ll need to check that out!


  8. I mis-read the title of your second book with giggle-inducing results — I thought it was The Incredible Boy-Eating Book. I think I need a second cup of coffee this morning.


  9. The book eating boy is now on my list, Myra….I love everything about it, including the video.


  10. I love Fahrenheit 451. Perfectly classic.

    If you’d like to stop by, here’s what I’m reading this week.



  11. I don’t know Jeffers. I learn so much reading these posts and will look for The Incredible Book Eating Boy. The video clip was so cute.


  12. Pingback: Be Afraid.. Be Very Afraid of this Book: The Book that Eats People «

  13. I don’t think I ever read Fahrenheit 451, but I dimly recall a movie. I must catch up! Love your picture books. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy! And thanks for visiting my blog.


  14. Pingback: October Round Up! «

  15. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] A Book-Eating Zombie and Other 2015 PictureBooks to Look Out For | Gathering Books

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