Today we’re publishing a very special picture book: Use Your Imagination by Nicola O’Byrne, illustrator of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winning Open Very Carefully. This is a wonderfully clever, inventive picture book all about storytelling and the power of imagination – and so, in honour of the occasion, we thought we’d collect together some of our favourite picture books about books and storytelling – an increasingly popular genre, and one which includes a number of true modern classics. I’ve tried to be strict in my definition here and not include – for instance – fractured fairytales, which feel to me to be about a different sort of thing… but I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. Here are our choices:
Use Your Imagination, Nicola O’Byrne
The story of an imaginative rabbit, who outwits a wolf and becomes the hero of his own adventure – and like Open Very Carefully, it’s also a brilliant celebration of the physical book in all its glory, with a STUNNING fold-out final spread.
Buy the book.
Open Very Carefully, Nicola O’Byrne and Nick Bromley
What would you do if you were settling down for a quiet bedtime story and you realised that a crocodile had fallen out of one story and into yours and was – not to put too fine a point on it – furious? Would you slam that book shut, cram it in the bookshelf for evermore or would you be brave enough to peek?
Buy the book.
It’s a Book, Lane Smith
This is a story which Smith himself describes, rather straightforwardly, as being “about a book loving monkey, a tech savvy jackass and a straight talking little mouse.” But is that really all it’s about? With a muted colour palette, a striking use of repeated imagery, and a dry, understated sense of humour, this is a witty – and quite adult – paean to good old-fashioned reading.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Another book with illustrations by Smith, this is an absolutely, bona fide HILARIOUS collection of re-told fairy tale classics (which, I will concede, sort of breaks my “no fractured fairytales rule”, but I could not bear not to mention it), including “The Really Ugly Duckling” (spoiler alert: he grows up to become a Really Ugly Duck), “Cinderumplestiltskin” and “The Tortoise and the Hair”. It’s very dark, very clever, and very, very funny.
Wolves, Emily Gravett
An absolutely extraordinary picture book debut (and winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal), this is the story of a rabbit who borrows a book about wolves from the library… and ends up with a bit more than he originally bargained for.
The Incredible Book Eating Boy, Oliver Jeffers
Henry LOVES books – but unlike the rest of us, he loves eating them. And the more he eats, the cleverer he gets. Written and illustrated in Jeffers’ inimitable style, this is a stylish, charming and offbeat story.
But Excuse Me That Is My Book, Lauren Child
Lola is distraught to find that her favourite book in the world, Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies, is missing from the library. She’s absolutely inconsolable… until her brother Charlie finds her Chimps and Chimpanzees, and she has a new favourite book.
Books Always Everywhere, Jane Blatt and Sarah Massini
A joyful celebration of the physical book in all its glory! For the very young, books can be anything – from a chair, to a tower, to a hat – but the best thing they can be… is a book. And it’s never too soon to share a good book with your little ones.
Buy the book.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce
This final choice is a sort of un-conventional one – Morris Lessmore began life as an animated short film, and then an iPad app, before being published as a print picture book – a lovely, beautiful, uplifting story.
What do you think we’ve missed? What are your favourite picture books about books and stories? Do let us know in the comments!