Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite

Nick Bromley, illus. by Nicola O’Byrne. Candlewick/Nosy Crow, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6163-2
This metafictional attempted telling of “The Ugly Duckling” gets derailed when a louche crocodile intrudes and starts consuming the narrative from the inside (“Now he’s gobbling up... whole words and sentences!”). Aided by the mousy gray duckling, the alarmed narrator tries to save the story, even enlisting readers’ help to lull the crocodile to sleep or shake him from the book’s pages. This is a lively read with many prompts for interactivity and a format that makes it a good choice for both lap reads and preschool circle time (it’s hard to imagine the child that won’t laugh when a giant pink crayon swoops in to give the sleeping croc a tutu and ballet slippers). Debut author Bromley stumbles with the wrapup to his self-referential story, closing with a weak “Where do you think he’ll turn up next?” Regardless, O’Byrne’s crocodile is a personable antihero—she underscores his disruptive nature by drawing him in a brash, aggressive style that contrasts mischievously with her soft, storybook duckling—and her integration of typography and action is consistently ingenious. Ages 3–up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 02/12/2013
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