*A nearly wordless picture book presents the “I can read” moment.
A small boy with a determined, mischievous expression enters a library in the company of his mother. The look on the boy’s face, perfectly rendered by Kolar (as are all the expressions), alarms the library books, and they run for their lives. The boy captures a blue-bound book and begins manhandling it as he would any toy, in the process ripping and creasing the pages. The other books look on, horrified. The boy’s mother (who, unsettlingly, seems to care not a whit that the boy has mistreated a book) comes to get him. He tosses the book to the floor as he leaves. The other books lovingly glue and tape the battered book back together. A new day, and—horrors!—the boy returns. Again, the books scatter. But then the blue-bound book sees the boy’s forlorn expression and suddenly understands. The book leaps from its safe perch to the boy, the boy opens the book, and it is here that the four words of text make their powerful statement—”Once upon a time.” For the boy has learned to read, and now books are cherished and library manners learned.
Presented as a grand adventure, the moment when a child first learns to read is powerfully rendered in this well-made story. –Kirkus Reviews, *starred review
Slater’s (The Bored Book) wordless story seems headed toward a lesson about mistreating library books, but the lesson turns out to be one of surprising compassion. The book abuser is a young library visitor with a mop of black hair who grabs a blue book while the others flee (all of the books have expressive faces and sticklike appendages). A question mark above the boy’s head as he opens the book signals his non-reader status. Instead, he holds it upside down, rips it, tosses it, and folds the pages, accompanied by anguished looks from the book itself. On a return visit, the book’s efforts to avoid the boy are futile, and he strikes again. But then something wonderful happens: the boy learns to read, and he and the book are reconciled. Kolar’s (Stomp, Stomp!) digitally made figures are crisp and flat, and the expressions on the books’ faces do their comic work effectively. Library champions don’t usually tolerate the ill-treatment of books, but sometimes, Slater implies, what looks like bad behavior is just boundless eagerness.