‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’ by Oliver Jeffers
My picture book review
My bonus picture book lesson
My link to Just Awesome Picture Books
Henry is a boy who likes eating books. He absorbs knowledge as he happily munches his way to becoming the smartest boy on earth. Everything goes well until there’s an internal rebellion. Share Henry’s journey as he discovers something better than eating books.
Award-winning Oliver Jeffers’ concept is clever and I found his plot madly appealing. The illustrations are unique and show creative grunge like an old diary or well-used notebook. For me, although the story has the potential to be scary, it is handled in an adventurous way with Henry supported by believable characters which adds intertextuality to an otherwise imprudent tale.
I think The Incredible Book Eating Boy is best suited for small group readings or child-and-parent because there’s a lot happening and the visual literacy may need some explanation for younger children.
All in all, a praiseworthy picture book with a good message for 4 – 8 years range to which I give a 5-Star rating. GBW.
In my opinion, less is more! Wordy picture books tire the reader and the listener. The illustrations should highlight the uncluttered wording. The words push the narrative forward and the child uses their imagination from the visual cues.
It’s a common fallacy that picture books are easy to write. This is far from the truth because the very minimalist nature of picture books means that every single word has to be perfectly rendered. Learn more about writing for children from author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.
As a general guide, here are some basics:
A children’s picture book is 32-pages but 8 pages are used for endpapers and book information. The story is over 24 pages or 12 spreads of text and illustrations which span two opened pages at a time. These pages can be half-page spreads, single-page spreads, double-page spreads or vignettes. A number of vignettes are used in The Incredible Book Eating Boy.
There is symmetrical, complementary and contradictory illustration approaches and I think The Incredible Book Eating Boy is approached in a complementary manner. Oliver Jeffers plays around with the location of text to good effect.
Board books, pop-ups and novelty may have no words, just illustrations.
Young picture books are aimed at 2 to 5-year-olds with 200 to 400 wordcount.
Trade (general readership) picture books are suitable for 3 to 8-year-old children with 500 to 600 wordcount.
Picture story books for older children 6 to 10-year-olds with 1000 to 3000 words are often non-fiction.
Chapter book fiction over 3500 words are suitable for competent readers, with a sliding age range due to small sketches and quirky touches often added between the pages to enhance the reading experience.
YA (young adult) are the more tailored books suitable for older teenagers.
Something different. A theatre performance video of the book at The Joan, Penrith’s premier performing arts centre The Incredible Book Eating Boy production. The cast use song, movement and puppetry to bring Oliver Jeffers’ much loved story to life on stage.
Enjoy eating, er, reading this picture book with that special little someone.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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