In this wordless story, a library book tries desperately to evade the destructive clutches of a little boy. What drives the Boy, however, is enthusiasm and love—not malice—and the Book eventually responds in kind, accepting his rough but worthy fate.
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Colorado Libraries: Shortlisted for 2016 CLEL Picture Book Award
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.
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.
Midwest Book Review
The Boy & the Book is an original tale told entirely with brightly colored pictures. A young boy loves to read, but he doesn’t understand how to handle books – he wantonly tosses library books around and tears their pages. Poor, innocent books! The anthropomorphic books of the library help the boy’s literary victim recover with tape and care, but what will they do when the boy comes back? Will the boy ever learn not to be so rough with books? A simple tale about learning to respect the things one loves, The Boy & the Book is highly recommended.
BAY VIEWS (The Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California: July 2015 vol. 24 no. 10)
Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California
A wordless romp shows the havoc that ensues when a pre-reader has marvelous fun playing with a book with no clue of its intended use or any regard for the book’s safety. As the boy leaves a library, one blue book is left with its pages in tatters. Its companion picture books swoop in with tape and glue to put it back together again. When the boy returns some time later, the books react with terror, scrambling to hide and get out of his reach. But the boy’s tears stoke the courage of the now-battered blue picture book, who cautiously decides to rejoin him and discovers a marvelous change—the boy can now read! Young readers will enjoy the panicky reaction of the books, the various bits of Scotch tape and scribbling that show up on the actual book’s covers, as well as in the story, and pick up a gentle lesson on book care along the way. Computer-rendered illustrations are predominantly blue, red, and orange and show plenty of action and a convincing range of expressions on the faces of both humans and books.
Elizabeth Overmyer, Independent