cover image A Story with Pictures

A Story with Pictures

Barbara Kanninen, , illus. by Lynn Rowe Reed. . Holiday, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-2049-0

Kanninen's first children's book confidently serves up metafiction to the picture-book crowd. “Hi there,” says the narrator. “I am the author of A Story with Pictures. ” But the author has made a mistake: “Ack! Where are the pictures?” she groans when a turn of the page reveals an empty square labeled “picture.” Alas, she has forgotten to give her manuscript to the illustrator, who seems to have created her own story and painted the author right into it. “She painted a duck. There are no ducks in this story,” the author objects as she meets a oversize quacker (the backpack it wears reads “What's supposed to be in this book?”). Reed's (Punctuation Takes a Vacation ) mixed-media compositions expertly contain the antic action—not only the duck but cows and trolls run amok, and the narrator slips on a banana peel, all on the same page. The artist renders the characters in a childlike style, painting them with skewered proportions and in gumdrop-colored clothes, and enhances her spreads with collage elements (googly eyes, a doll troll's tresses, digitally manipulated photos). She paints the author, for example, with a distinctly carrot-like nose and a thin rectangle for a neck, and later outfits her in a ballerina's tulle skirt borrowed from a photograph. Solid-color full-bleed backgrounds unify the look and add to the visual energy. Readers will enjoy the wild ride as Kanninen and Reed entertain various outlandish possibilities for the author's fate, and they'll learn a thing or two about terms like author, setting and plot in the process. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)