Everything is dark and you can just barely make out three beds, a rug with a dog and cat sleeping on it, a sink and the stand with the goldfish in his bowl on it. Of course in this story there is a mother, a father, a boy and a girl. In the morning everything bursts with activity when everyone wakes up. Yaaawn! Snort, snore! Everyone hops out of bed and does "all the things families do when they get up and begin the day." The little girl knows they "live in a book," but doesn't quite know what her story is. The father is a circus clown in one, her mother is a firefighter, her brother is a boy who grew up to be an astronaut, the pets each have a story, but she doesn't' have one. And so, she goes off in search of one.
Watch out! She's looking up at you. She travels past all kinds of fairy tale creatures, including the three bears, but decides that she's sure her story "is not a fairy tale!" Next she encounters a detective who thinks her story may have been stolen. The little girl wends her way past detectives and seedy characters of all sorts, including the ghost of a story that was "done in by a nasty critic," but decided that mysteries made her nervous. As soon as she escapes those pages, a white rabbit grabs her up claiming the queen would "be furious." Wrong story. And then there were all those pirates, those people in the historical novel and even her brother, the astronaut. Was she going to ever find a story of her own?
This was an ingenious tale, quite unlike any other I've seen in a children's book. The chase through children's stories of all kinds was a fun and very busy venture. The art work "matched" the theme of whichever story the little girl was racing through at the time . . . from whimsical to serious and beyond. Dear reader, this one is a keeper!
on August 30, 2009
I started reading A Book with my son last May when he was barely two-and-a-half, and this quickly became one of his favorite books. Not only is it lots of fun, but the format provides a framework for introducing new books by genre. For example, we soon started reading classic fairy tales to get the references on the pages where the girl in A Book wonders if she's in a fairy tale. We're now starting to read Alice in Wonderland, to get the references on those pages. And of course the pirate pages have been a huge hit all along, not only teaching him how to dress and speak Pirate but contextualizing a recent visit to the pirate exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago.
In sum, it's a terrifically pleasing read -- my son still giggles when the girl looks up at him and shrieks "Eek! What's that?" (Mother Goose: "That's a reader. Watch out, it can read whatever you say") -- with great potential to lead onward to other pleasing reads. What more could you want in a children's -- or any -- fiction?
Self-consciously writing about stories and writing, especially for children, is a daunting task. It can easily turn out stilted and leave the reader feeling rather baffled and excluded from a private joke. Gerstein's approach of taking the perspective of characters living in a book is clever enough and well enough executed that it largely avoids this pitfall. In fact, "A Book" is layered well enough that children can enjoy the story at their own level, while adults appreciate the more sophisticated humor.
The book is engaging right from the start. A nearly black page, with only ghostly outlines of a family in their beds tells us about a family who lives in the book. And when the book is closed, it is night and the family sleeps. Right away we want to open the book and meet the family.
Looking down into the book has the effect of drawing us into the story . We are especially drawn in when the main character in turn recognizes us, the reader - "EEEEEK! What is that huge... blobby thing that looks something like a face?" In some ways this feels a bit gimmicky, but it's an especially effective gimmick. My not-quite-four-year-old laughs with delight at this page.
The girl then draws us along with her, page by page, as she runs through many other stories attempting to find her own. We go through several different genres of stories - other people's stories - before the girl figures out her own story. I was rather disappointed, however, that with a clown for a father and a firefighter for a mother, we don't go through either of the parents' stories (we do, however, go through the fish's story - odd, that).
"A Book" is a tad hokey, but in a very original and enjoyable way. I recommend this book for kids starting around age four, as they will be able to grow with the book and see new things in it and appreciate more of the humor as they grow, and it's a book that's enjoyable for parents to read as well, in case you're getting a little tired of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".
on May 7, 2009
My six year old granddaughter is entranced by this book. So am I. It's clever, engaging and full of wonderful pictures. Gerstein has captured a child's curiosity with his humorous and adventurous story.
on June 21, 2009
I look forward to sharing this with my fourth grade students in the fall. As you can tell from the previous reviews, the story stars a girl who is trying to find her own story. In the course of her search, readers are introduced to characteristics of graphic novels, mystery, pirate/adventure, historical fiction, and science fiction. I can see this book leading to great readers theatre, discussion of genres and their characteristics, and writing activities!
on July 13, 2011
This is a fun look at book characters as a young girl breaks away from the other characters to go off and find her own story. As she travels through fairy tales, adventure, historical fiction and mysteries the reader gets a small dose of categories of fiction (genres). Kids love it when they realize she is looking up at them; asking about the reader! It's like learning how to do a magic trick-getting to peek "inside" a book. Perfect for elementary students and teachers looking for books on perspective.
on January 11, 2013
My 4-year-old son loves this book. It contains references to the major fairy tales, and identifying those stories is part of the fun... though the central plot - about a girl looking for *her* story - appeals more to the book-loving mama in me.
on December 5, 2010
I first read this children's book to my granddaughter at the library. I was so taken with it that I bought it for her. It's a clever mix of finding oneself out of the personalities, actions, and goals of her family. The one outside looking in becomes the story teller. I thought is was a treasure.
on July 22, 2009
Mordicai Gerstein's A BOOK provides a whimsical story of a family who lives in a book. Their story begins when the book is opened... but what happens when a girl questions the story line? Ages 4-8 will find this a fun exploration.
on January 19, 2016
Wonderful book by my favorite children's author. I bought this for my future granddaughter, Brynlee Beth.