Book Flight: Go Inside a Book

Books!  There is nothing a good reader loves as much as losing themselves in a great book.  In a typical work of fiction, the characters remain blissfully unaware that they are works of fiction, and they don’t interact with either their authors or audience.  But when the 4th wall is broken, we can enter the world of the book in an entirely different way.

This book flight lists books that allow (force!) you to lose yourself  by getting inside the book.  In some instances the characters become aware of us (the reader) and pull us in by speaking directly to us.  In others, the authors have chosen to treat their own fictional beings as real people who become dragged (wittingly or not) into books or book worlds.  In either case, everyone in the family can go lose themselves in a great book!

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Family Readaloud:

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

The perfect “go inside a book” fantasy  novel to entice readers of all ages.  Bastian visits an old bookstore and picks up a magical book and embarks on his fabulous adventure.  As he begins to read, the story shifts back and forth between a hero’s quest to save the dying world of Fantastica and Bastian’s own world and feelings.  Beautifully written and perfect for reading aloud, this book will intrigue your family with the imaginative lands in Fantastica like the Lake of Tears and the Desert of Colors.  Wonderful characters and rich themes invite conversations. You’ll want to make sure your readers see the print, with the alternating purple  text (for Bastian)  and green (for the events within the story itself).  Truly a remarkable adventure in reading.

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For Toddlers through Early Readers

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems

This is one of our favorite books from the last year – all three generations in our family.  Everyone’s favorite worried elephant and upbeat pig are back in another book, but in this book, something is different.  They notice something new – someone is watching them.  Is it a monster?  No, it’s a READER!  They play tricks on the reader, and are thrilled to be read, until they realize something terrible… books end!  Yet in a lovely twist (that works every time, at our house) they come up with a wonderful solution…

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There are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

What a playful interactive book!  Children get to open flaps and frolic with three frisky kittens: Tiny, Andre, and Moonpie.  And these cats let you know how they want to play with you, the readers.  On each page they instruct you in what’s to come on the next page–or let you know they want to go back a page and play with that yarn again! Bold bright colors and sturdy flaps make this a practical and  inviting book that readers will want to read again and again.  In fact, the cats beg you come and play another day.

Don’t miss the sequel  There are No Cats in This Book, which I (Ruth here) like just as much and maybe just a titch better.  Andre, Tiny, and Moonpie want the reader  (you!) to help them play outside of the book this time and enlist your help.  The good news is, you help them succeed and they even send you a postcard from outside the book to share their adventures.  I love the ongoing dialogue between the cats and the readers, which is even more pronounced in this follow-up book.

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The Monster at the End of the Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin

Many children are introduced, unwittingly, to the study of metaphysics by Grover, in this Golden Book classic.  Grover has heard that there’s a monster at the end of the book, and asks the reader not to turn any pages, getting us all closer to the monster (he is afraid of monsters, of course).  He cajoles, hampers and begs, but all to no avail, and children gleefully turn page after page until…  we get to the end of the book to find: GROVER!  A furry, lovable and thoroughly embarrassed little monster.

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For  Early Readers

A Book by Mordecai Gernstein

A little girl and her family live in a book–but she doesn’t know what kind of story she is in; there are so many already in the book.  Her mom is a firefighter, her dad a circus clown, and her brother is a boy who is going to grow up to be an astronaut.  Even the pets have their own story!  But what is hers?   When she goes off in search of her story, she brings us along;  when she recognizes we are there with her, she lets out a big Eeek! “What is that huge… blobby thing that looks something like a face?” It feels a bit creepy to her.   On her travels, she encounters fairy tale characters, including The Three Bears, but she’s pretty sure she isn’t in a fairy tale.  She meets a detective, who thinks her story may have been stolen. . . (guess who the famous literary detective is!).  A very original book  toddlers would enjoy, yet with enough humor and fun that even 3rd or 4th graders would enjoy reading it on their own.

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For Tweens

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Many children feel that their parents make characters come alive when they read aloud.  Meggie is perhaps the only little girl with a father who can actually read a character from the pages of a book and into real life, and because he knows it can cause as much tragedy as delight, he refuses to read aloud.  When Mo (Meggie’s father) is kidnapped by the evil Capricorn, she learns about her own unique reading talents.  This is the first in a trilogy, and an ingenious & intriguing idea for a fantasy series.  Unfortunately, the execution falls a little flat, but the characters and idea of traveling in and out of books are such fun that we do recommend giving it read.  (We don’t recommend, however, watching the dreadfully boring film, based on the first book!)

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For Young Adults and Older Adults, too!

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Describing this book makes is sound impossible: mix a little bit Douglas Adams, a little bit of 1984, a little bit of Monty Python, a little bit of Dr. Who, a whole lot of remarkable literature, and a kick-ass heroine, and you’d get The Eyre Affair.  It’s an alternate 1985, where “the book is the thing.”  Literally, literature (and mega-corp Goliath) is one of the driving forces of the society where Will-Speak machines quote Shakespeare, Richard III is performed a la Rocky Horror with audience participation and books are protected by the secret service division Spec-Ops 27 (the Literary Detectives).  Thursday Next is a Spec-Ops detective, and when super-villain Acheron Hades begins changing the history of literature by attacking original manuscripts and sets his sights on her favorite novel (Jane Eyre), she’s on the case.  You can’t begin to do justice to these hilarious novels (there are now 5,with a 6th coming out this year) in a paragraph, so just go get the first book and experience it for yourself!

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For Adults

The Magicians:  A Novel by Lev Grossman

When you were a kid, did you love escaping into another world–like Narnia, or Earthsea?  If your answer is yes,  this grown-up ( adult themed)  version may be for you.  In tones of Harry Potter,  Quentin is admitted to a secret University for an education in magic:  Brakebills Academy.  There he meets a cohort of young adults who are in college together in a sort of post Hogwarts school, with darker shades of magic.  As children, they had all enjoyed the magical land of Fillory–turns out it’s real and quite a dangerous place when they enter it to make things right.   Though the novel is entertaining on some levels, it’s also a deeply serious book, with complex characters, some fatally flawed.  This book definitely has the feel of a classic in the making.

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Once everyone in the family (or classroom) has read one of these, it’s time for a fantastic metaphysical discussion.  What if we are really characters in someone’s book?  Would you live differently?  What would you do?  Is there a book world you’d like to read yourself into?  Which one?  Why?  Can you write a short story about meeting some of your favorite characters?

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3 Responses to Book Flight: Go Inside a Book

  1. famillejt says:

    The Viviane Schwarz books are great – and just in case you’ve got a stash of money you’d like to spend the original illustrations have just gone on sale here: http://www.childrensbookillustration.com/view_artist.php?id=35
    Wouldn’t it be lovely to own an original!

  2. The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, is another “inside the book” book, with some really fun twists.

  3. ruthlit says:

    Thanks, Karla! I’m going to seek it out today!

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