My favorite meta books

The Jacket_JacketBook was solid and strong, smart and playful. But he was also lonely and desperately wanted to be loved. Then, one day, Book was discovered by a girl and he became hers, cherished in the way he had always dreamed. It was perfect – well, almost; the only problem was the girl’s sweet and sloppy dog, Egg Cream.

One peaceful afternoon, as the girl read Book outside, Book’s greatest fears transpired: Egg Cream splattered mud everywhere rendering Book temporarily blind and very frightened. That night, the girl went to bed sad and mad, but the next morning, when the girl woke up, Book could see that something inside her had shifted. The girl immediately began making something and it had to do with Book: it was a jacket of Book’s very own. 

The Jacket_Interior

I have a distinct childhood memory of peering out a window on a blustery evening in early winter and watching a single leaf on a tree. Even from a distance, I could tell that the leaf was brown and brittle, and that its grasp on the branch was tenuous; with each gust of wind, I feared that the leaf would lose its grip and hurtle off into the cold and dark unknown. As night approached, I realized that I either had to walk away from the leaf’s plight or go outside and save it. Of course, I went outside. Without a coat on, I was quite cold and the wind was really whipping about; the leaf was also higher in the tree than it had appeared from inside. But I eventually got it, and that’s where the memory ends. Years later, as an adult, I was cleaning out my childhood room and I found a box under my bed. Inside that box was the leaf, laying on a cushion of cotton balls.

A child’s ability to empathize with an insentient object is extraordinary. (I once couldn’t part with an empty box of Junior Mints either, but that’s a different story.) The Jacket beautifully captures that childhood propensity to imbue life into the inanimate, and it does so with the most marvelous object of all, the book. To top it off, the jacket of The Jacket is the jacket made by the girl for Book and the cover of The Jacket is Book himself.

The Jacket_Jacket and cover

The Jacket is written (and presumably conceived – it’s really so very clever) by Kirsten Hall who also runs a book packager and boutique literary agency called Catbird Productions. The fabulous! superb! illustrations are by Dasha Tolstikova. It is published by the continuously amazing, Enchanted Lion (2014).


Roger Is Reading a Book_Cover

Another great meta book is Roger is Reading a Book.

It begins:

SHHHH! Quiet.

Roger is reading.

Roger is reading a book.

Across the page from Roger, bouncing balls scatter giving an indication of what’s to come:


Emily is playing,

Emily is playing a game. 

Next door, Emily is bouncing a ball. Accompanied by his trusty dog, Roger knocks on her door, but, even so, Emily’s noisy activities continue and Roger gets increasingly agitated. And then Roger has an idea! He buys Emily a book and they both read, quietly … Until Roger’s dog WOOF’s repeatedly, and Roger and Emily take him out in the rain, to pee.

Author/illustrator Koen Van Biesen cleverly utilizes the picture book’s form, calling attention to it and working within its parameters in creative and innovative ways: the size and placement of the typography indicates sound volume and intonation; the book’s gutter (something you have to always think about as an illustrator) is the apartment wall and door separating Emily and Roger’s homes; the last moment of the story – when Roger and Emily take Roger’s dog outside to pee under a lamp post – takes place on the end papers (the front and back most pages), which is often reserved for a solid color, a pattern, or thumbnail images. And then, of course, Roger is Reading a Book is a book about reading and about books.

Roger Is Reading a Book_Interior

Published in America by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014. (First published in Dutch as Buurman Leest Een Boek by Uitgeverij De Eenhoorn, 2012.)  



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