The Worst Book Ever

Elise Gravel. Enfant, $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-77046-363-9
What makes “the worst book”? The latest from Gravel (You Can Be) is a fourth-wall-breaking showcase of picture book “don’t”s. Three critters rendered in Gravel’s signature comics style introduce an intentionally dull fairy tale with great skepticism (“Interesting title choice, isn’t it?” “I don’t think people are going to read this”), then criticize the story, illustrated in a less polished, childlike art style. Misspelled words, clichés, a lack of character diversity, sexist attitudes, and even what appears to be sponsored content (“Kiki-Cola! The drink of true heroes”) are all called out by the veritable Greek chorus of creatures before they lose interest and, in a narrative lull (one finger up her nose, “the prinsess rested”), nap and play a game of chess. At one point the book’s creator seems to react to the reviewers’ disapproval of repetitive vocabulary by overcompensating with $10 words (“The ambidextrous reptilian scurrilously gained entree into the haberdashery”); perhaps confusingly, this is the only time the creator seems aware of the running commentary. Adult readers will find the book a fine informal educational resource; younger readers are likely to enjoy both its up-tempo humor and being in on the meta take. Ages 6–10. Agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/27/2019
Release date: 06/18/2019
Genre: Children's
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