Most of you do not know me so you wouldn’t be aware of the fact that I work as a children’s bookseller, and this means that I have the pleasure to read a lot of picture books every day. And let me tell you there aren’t that many picture books out there that challenge our reading preconception by throwing in a lot of metafiction in as funny and engaging a way as This is Not a Book by Kellie Byrnes and Aska.
This is Not a Book basically does what its name suggests – it challenges us to think outside of the box. We open the page, and we are faced with a young character who is adamant about how real they are – as real as us – believing that they are not inside a picture book but indeed, living in the real, physical world that we know. Metafiction is a great way to challenge your reader, and I have always been a fan of it. Giving full consciousness to a character, defying the realness of your own creation and planting doubt in the mind of the reader is a great way to test the boundaries of literature and seeing this done in a picture book is brilliant. For the length of Byrnes’ picture book, the young protagonist defies us and tries to show us time and again that they are in fact a living and breathing child rather than a fictional character.
What is great about This is Not a Book is the way that it shows us how magical reading truly is. In a few pages, we see the young, fictional child use their imagination to go to space, fight pirates and tame lions. The child explains to us how books really work (hence why they are not a part of a book) and by doing so, they show us, the reader, how amazing opening a book is, how our imaginations can conquer anything, can conjure up new places and people just by opening a book and spending some time with it.
As a whole, This is Not a Book is a truly enjoyable picture book. I am not convinced as to how well its message will be understood by its intended audience; I am an adult and even this picture book was difficult to process simply because of its insistence that it is not a book. However, we should never underestimate the young, reading minds, so I hope that a lot of young readers get the chance to crack open the spine of This is Not a Book and experience it for themselves.
This Is Not a Book is available on 16th June, published by Exisle Publishing