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This book is breathtakingly beautiful. Dreamlike and imaginative, you are drawn into the wonder of what can be created with a few pieces of paper and board, and a little artfully-applied ink.
Book is about the book as a physical object. It reminded me a little of the award-winning The Boring Book, and my favourite book about books A Book is a Book. It carries on the recent trend in picture books of talking directly to the reader, drawing them in directly, through a great use of the slow-reveal. As the reader is brought closer and closer to the words, they come alive.
The wee boy who is climbing into the world is then taken into the world of imagination, with floating lighthouses, and a slightly steampunk-feeling world of hot air balloons and blimps, with suspended castles and stairs leading to the top of a story-place. Cut-up newspapers in various languages are used to beautiful effect, but when the narrative of the story is told using these strips of paper I found it very difficult to follow when reading the book aloud to 5-year-old Dan.
As we are drawn closer into the world of imagination, there are little monsters that are reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s illustrations, plus fairies, witches… As the story says, ‘A place where everything is possible.’ Our wee boy gives a key to the witch, and she sends him off on a flying book, into the woods, where many of the most familiar characters of fairy tales await him.
The illustrations by newcomer Natalie Hoopes are utterly faultless – graceful and light, with a sense of wonder infusing each of the pages. The story emphasises the many qualities of books: they are there when you want to learn, when you need a friend, or when you want to escape from world for a bit. There is a slightly long dig at technology, with an accompanying illustration of old electronic equipment: “There, no alarm will disturb and no screen will crack. Because it doesn’t have one. Or an off switch. Or a password to keep you out.”
This is an ode honouring the joy of paper books, and of reading. It would make a beautiful gift book for somebody who is just beginning their reading journey themselves, and discovering the possibilities of the world of literature. It would also make a wonderful resource for schools, for teachers to use the words scattered throughout as story starters. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by David Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes
Published by Familius, distributed here by Exisle Publishers