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Books about Books (Or Story Within Stories) in CYBILS-Nominated Fiction PictureBooks for 2015

Myra here.

Part of our reading theme until end of February involves going through the 2015 Nominated Titles for the CYBILS.

Widget Handcrafted by Iphigene for GatheringBooks.
Widget Handcrafted by Iphigene for GatheringBooks.

Since I serve as second round Judge for the Fiction Picturebook Category, I thought I might as well read through most of the titles just for me to get a feel of those that have been eliminated and those that were able to make it to the top seven.

I also put together these four books as they celebrate reading, the joy of storytelling, and all kinds of bookish love. We did have a Books about Books reading theme in 2012 and these four titles would have been a great addition to that theme.

IMG_8116How To Read A Story

Story By: Kate Messner
Illustrated by: Mark Siegel
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2015. Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the perfect book to introduce storytelling and reading aloud to young readers – it would also do for a good start-of-year book with explicit step-by-step instructions on how one should go about reading a story.


While I personally enjoy too-scary books and would have preferred not reading the parenthetical bit here, this is indeed a good first step in finding out which books might potentially speak to a child – and seeing that spread of books makes my bookish heart leap with joy.


In very simple language, the book also introduces the reader to not only the anatomy of a book, it also sets the entire stage for an effective read-aloud: to finding a reading buddy, setting up the perfect reading nook, and the many voices one has to use in making the dialogue come alive:


Think of this as the juvenile equivalent of Jim Trelease’s classic The Read-Aloud Handbook – but with more art.

Inside This Book (Are Three Books)IMG_8112

Written and Illustrated ByBarney Saltzberg
Published by: Abrams Appleseed, 2015
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I literally gasped aloud when I opened the pages of this book (within a book within a book). Saltzberg was not kidding when he noted that there are three books inside this book.

I like how modern publishing houses now make these kinds of book engineering possible:


Each little book is written by the three children in the family: Seymour, the eldest bespectacled one who documents everything that happens to him; Fiona, the poet and artist;


and even the littlest brother Wilbur who drew the pictures and dictated to Seymour what he wants written in his book:


This book actually reminded me of Jesse Klausmeier’s Open This Little Book illustrated by Suzy Lee which was a CYBILS 2013 Finalist.

While Saltzburg does not have the polished book-like packaging of Klausmeier and Lee, it has a scrapbook-DIY-feel to the book that invites the young reader to start writing their own book.

IMG_8102The Whisper

Written and Illustrated By: Pamela Zagarenski
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge fan of Zagarenski’s art. I am taken by her angular, colourful, otherworldly-almost-ethereal art that is her signature. I am especially taken by her illustrations in Joyce Sidman’s Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Coloursand Sidman’s What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings.

In The Whisper, Zagarenski ventures into writing her own story with a young girl who borrows a mysterious book from her teacher only to have the words spill out of the page on her way home (effectively captured by a magical, sly fox though as can be seen in the image below):


Upon realizing that the words are gone, the young girl heard a whisper in the wind inviting her to come up with her own words, reminding her that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And most importantly, that there are no rules in imagining any story that she feels would best capture the images she sees in the pages of the book:


While the art is undoubtedly exquisite, I felt that the stories/vignettes were too fragmented – and I was not too sure whether there is a thread connecting the child’s tales or whether they were stand-alone stories that are only loosely related to each other:


It was the trying to figure out what was going on exactly which took me out of the story. Regardless, this is a beautiful tale of reinvention, inspiring the reader to be their own writer, and that stories can lead you into whichever direction you so choose.

The Good Little BookIMG_8108

Story ByKyo Maclear
Illustrated by: Marion Arbona
Published by: Tundra Books, 2015. Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is my favourite out of all these four titles. With a simple-looking cover that is reminiscent of most books I used to hold in my hands as a child – with the rectangular-tall shape and the unassuming cover – each of the page here bursts with so much vitality and life.

I also liked how The Good Little Book has been juxtaposed with the other books found in the boy’s parents’ shelves: look at that clever play with words: Pull Lizard Prize! Called A Cat Medal! and the Deliciously Daring New Berry Medal!


A young boy was sent to his parents’ study for some time-out: to “think things over” and ostensibly to reflect on his behaviour – leading him to discover The Good Little Book.


While I am not absolutely certain of the effectiveness of this kind of “punishment,” this is one I would invariably use both as a parent and a teacher again and again. And so this sullen, chastised young boy was taken outside of himself and brought to other lands through the pages of a book. I also like how Maclear tried to make the story realistic as seen here:

No matter what his days held in store, the boy never tired of reading the good little book. It didn’t turn him into a bookish boy, or improve his naughty behavior, but it did become a loyal companion, there to see him to sleep and distract him when he had to “think things over.”

This book shows exactly what a comfort-read is – the books that we go back to again and again when we are upset or when we need to be taken outside of our skin. But then the most tragic thing happens: the boy loses the book!


Whether or not he gets his book back, I shall leave for you to discover. All these four books would be wonderful addition to anyone’s library.

1 comment on “Books about Books (Or Story Within Stories) in CYBILS-Nominated Fiction PictureBooks for 2015

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