More Po-Mo picture books (Picture book roundup 10)


I’ve been fascinated with postmodern picture books ever since I took a course in children’s books back in college. Since then I’ve been building up my collection of po-mo picture books, and I’ve now got over 20 of them, mostly from rummaging through bargain bins.

I love how po-mo picture books challenge the reader to look at things in a different way, offering an enjoyable experience to both the young reader, the parent reading to the child, and even an older reader randomly picking up the book and flicking through the pages.

The multiplicity of meanings also encourages creativity and imagination in constructing the meaning of the text or illustrations, as well as the interest to reread a book.

I also marvel at the writers and illustrators’ creativity in taking the craft of picture books one step further,  defying convention and structure

I have several books in this picture book roundup: The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book by Monique Felix; Wolves by Emily Gravett; Zoom and Re-Zoom by Istvan Banyai; Bamboozled by David Legge; and Pinocchio the Boy, or Incognito in Collodi by Lane Smith (books 175-180 for 2009).

(In case you missed it, I previously discussed the characteristics of po-mo picture books in the post I did on The Three Little Pigs.)

pm1Some post-modern picture books play with the actual structure of the book.

In the wordless The Story of A Little Mouse Trapped in a Book, we have a bewildered little mouse trying to find a his way out of a book. He can’t push at the pages so he decides to gnaw through them instead, and when he lifts up a corner of the chewed portion, it reveals a golden wheatfield.

The mouse ends up making a paper airplane out of the page (a similar device is used in David Wiesner’s Three Pigs) and he rides the plane out of the book. He is last seen having a grand time gnawing at a chaff of wheat.

Here are some photos:



pm2-1Wolves is currently one of my favorite picture books, and I was ecstatic to have found it at a bargain sale in one of the local bookstores for P99 (roughly $2)!

A briefly-worded picture book (and the  mixed media illustrations are A-W-E-S-O-M-E!), it features a rabbit who checks out a library book about wolves. The rabbit meanders along while reading the book, totally engrossed in it, and unaware that the wolf has gotten out of the pages.

So you have a big bad wolf and a small rabbit, and you can probably imagine the scenario that takes place. It may terrify very young children, so the book gives an alternate ending, and you can choose which of the two you believe (*evil cackle*)

It’s a very clever book that was obviously well thought out — the “Wolves” book that the rabbit reads resembles the actual book (without the dust jacket), and Gravett even makes up a lot of rabbit ephemera — reviews from “The Daily Carrot,” “The Hare-old” and “Rabbit Review,” rabbit corrrespondence, a rabbit library (the West Bucks Public “Burrowing” Library”) and a lot of rabbit puns (“Burrow” WOLVES and many other rip-roaring tails at your local library now!).

Here’s the visual showcase from Wolves:





I won’t show the ending so you can look it up yourself!

Some books challenge traditional ways of reading a book,  allowing the reader to become involved in creating meaning out of the material.

pm3-1Istvan Banyai’s Zoom and Re-Zoom are wordless picture books that feature black lefthand pages, while the righthand pages feature an illustration, which links to another illustration on the next spread.

With each page, the scene zooms out, revealing it to be part of a big picture. You can read the books forwards or backwards, and you can even attempt to create stories out of the seemingly plotless series of illustrations!

The pictures will probably do a better job of explaining what the books are about, so here is a preview from each book, Zoom on the left and Re-Zoom on the right. Look at each column downwards and you’ll see what I mean.


pm4-1David Legge’s Bamboozled is a picture book where the text and illustrations tell a different story, introducing a conflicting discourse.

The story features a girl on her weekly visit to her grandfather. She thinks that something is odd about her visit but she can’t put a finger on it, and she puzzles and puzzles over it while her grandfather goes about the regular motions around the house — pouring tea, telling stories about his photo albums, feeding the cat, gardening, etc.

On the other hand, the pictures tell a thousand different stories, with each spread looking like one of those what’s -wrong-with-this-picture puzzles –there’s a hopscotch diagram on the foyer floor, the coffee table is  balanced on a skateboard, people are coming out of paintings, the cat is a huge tiger, a baby kangaroo and an elephant are doing the dishes, and so on.

In the end, the girl concludes that grandpa’s socks don’t match, and they have a good laugh about it until it’s time for her to go home, and they appear oblivious to the topsy-turvy world around them.

It’s a great exercise in perception, and the highly detailed illustrations offer hours of puzzle fun.

Here’s a peek inside:




pm5Meanwhile, some picture books require some previously existing knowledge to create meaning out of the text and illustrations, such as in the final book for this roundup is Pinocchio the Boy, or Incognito in Collodi. I’m a big fan of Lane Smith, and this is one of his solo books.

This book proposes a continuation of the classic Pinocchio story by Carlo Collodi, after the blue fairy has turned Pinocchio into a real live boy (in case the reader isn’t familiar with the original story, it is summarized in one spread, in Lane-Smith way, of course!). The problem is that Pinocchio doesn’t realize that he is already human, and this leads to several wild and wacky scenarios.

The book also uses unusual layout that breaks conventional left to right reading, with panels similar to comic book layouts, resulting in another visual extravaganza from Lane Smith!

Feast your eyes on some spreads:




That’s it for this picture book roundup (yes, there is a reason why I only do this about once a month — it takes a lot of time to put these roundups together!). I’ll have a couple more before the year ends, hopefully!


My copies: The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book, hardcover; Wolves, hardcover with dust jacket; Zoom, hardcover; Re-Zoom, permabound; Bamboozled, paperback; Pinocchio, hardcover with dustjacket.

My ratings: The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book, 3/5 stars; Wolves, 5/5 stars; Zoom, 5/5 stars; Re-Zoom, 5/5 stars; Bamboozled 3/5 stars; Pinocchio 4/5 stars.

3 thoughts on “More Po-Mo picture books (Picture book roundup 10)”

  1. Pingback: Halloween Roundup!
  2. Hello again. This is what brought me to your page as I was trying to find images for istvan banyai’s zoom/rezoom – and i am glad it did. I’ve also done an extensive review of emily gravett’s books – wolves, meerkat mail, spells and little mouse’s big book of fears – you might want to check it out here:

    I’ve also used the shel silverstein introduction to my first peer-reviewed publication on “tales gifted children tell” – just goes to show that academic writing can be infused with flax-golden tales and magic-bean-buyers.

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