Open This Little Book
written by Jesse Klausmeier
illustrated by Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books, 2013
In a world where meta is everywhere, a book turning in on itself might come across as trendy or superficial. Indeed, many such books do. But the overuse of a particular approach to storytelling does not make such an approach necessarily obsolete. It does, however, raise the storytelling bar. To transcend the dangers of gimmickry, a meta picture book needs to weave together its plot, text and illustration into a tight and cohesive package, in service of a reverberant message. Fixing meta’s self reflection in some meaningful purpose grounds it, rescuing the by-definition disconnectedness of the narrative from flapping in the literary breeze. When done right, this kind of circular storytelling packs a real wallop, and such is the case with Open This Little Book.
The book is literally a number of books inside one another, each smaller than the last, each identified by a different colored cover (purple, red, green, orange, yellow, blue), each “opened” in succession by a different character (reader, ladybug, frog, rabbit, bear, giant), and then consumed and read in reverse order, arriving at the end with a compelling case for more. More books. More reading. More community. The clarity of Klausmeier’s text, clean and simple and exact, and the way she establishes and then breaks the patterned structure, shows more than tells us about the seductive sway of a well-written book. Suzy Lee’s careful illustrations begin in monochrome with the singular color of the little books’ titles. With each successive opening we have more colors in which to delight, and by the time we arrive at the final scene, with all of our friends, plus many more, luxuriating beneath and within a polychrome tree full of books, the remarkably appealing rainbow of variety stands as an immediate, resonant symbol of the endless glories of books and reading.
This is a book you need to find and experience with your own hands and eyes (and spirit). I include the book trailer below to give you a sense of the mechanics and the mood, but there is no substitute for opening this little book yourself.