Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: A Book by Mordicai Gerstein

Review: A Book by Mordicai Gerstein
Pages: 48
Published by Roaring Book, 2009
Read for my Children’s Literature class project

Goodreads Description:
A CHILD IN SEARCH OF HER STORY Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein looks at books from a whole new angle. 
Once upon a time there was a family who lived in a book. All but the youngest had stories they belonged to--fighting fires, exploring space, entertaining in the circus--but she didn't have one yet. Walking through all the possibilities of story types Mordicai Gerstein presents her quest in unique and changing perspectives: readers look down into the books below at the characters in their worlds. A funny and touching celebration of books, stories, and finding yourself

My Review:
Want to read a book that titled “A Book?” I mean, who wouldn’t? Here is a picture book that breaks the fourth wall. It is clever, artistic, and fun.

Gerstein gets creative with this delightful book. It is the story of a girl who wishes to know her place in the current story. Everyone else in her family knows what people are reading about them, but where does she fit in?

This is an intelligent picture book in which readers are actually looking down on the pages as if they are watching a play with actors from a high balcony. It is fun for children, while adults can appreciate the art and logic as well. It may be a bit confusing at times since the story becomes itself in the end. The girls story becomes the one the readers are reading. For children, this circular reading may not be followed too closely, but there are still pleasing adventures on each page that are spread with color and detail.

As for the art and writing of the novel, adults can even appreciate this book for certain qualities that may not exist in a 500 page, picture-less novel. This book uses color, space, and dialogue to emphasize the search for meaning and sense in one’s life. It accomplishes this by journeying through a seemingly blank story until its character has an important epiphany.

The color of this novel is very unique. First, the end pages are blue which suggest a sense of curiosity to the reader. Also, it is a vibrant blue that promises excitement.
Second, the first page is black, a mysterious beginning that will actually become an important theme throughout the novel. My favorite color technique used by Gerstein however is the not-quite-white background used on many pages. This blankness represents possibilities, it exists for the things that are unsaid and unseen, but are still important to the story. Also, it invokes the reader’s imagination. The color scheme is clearly well thought out to help create the story.

Gerstein also makes a wonderful use of space on his novel’s pages. Everything is oddly spaced and a bit chaotic. Especially when the girl is in someone else’s story, the spaces tighten and constrict. I believe this is the author’s portrayal of the girl trying to fit in a place she does not belong – someone else’s story.

A Book also has the most unique dialogue in any book I’ve ever read. First, nearly every sentence is an exclamatory or an interrogative sentence. This helped show that stories are exciting, but also that questions need to be asked in order to progress throughout the story. It is by questioning things around her that the girl comes to her important epiphany. Second, the dialogue addresses the reader directly. Throughout the story it emphasized the outward perspective of the reader. The language reiterates the fact, that we readers are just strangers in this story. We don’t even get to know the girls name.

I think Gerstein is saying to his readers, “your story is exciting; you just have to discover it.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a modern read. It may be a picture book, and you may feel silly reading a book designed for children, but this book has some clever designs that are worth discovering. There is so much beneath this story that you should really read it more than once.

I give this book a four out of five foxes. It is very artistic and clever in its design. However, as far as it being a children’s book, it may be slightly confusing. Not that a child couldn’t understand or enjoy it, but for the book to be fully enjoyed, the “circularness” (for complete lack of a better word) ought to be understood.

Note: these insights are completely my own. They were prompted by an assignment for class, but in no way have these ideas been copied from anything that I used for the assignment. Any connection to outside materials is unrelated. Please contact me if you believe these views may have been expressed elsewhere.


  1. I also took a children's lit class in school. Never read (or heard of) this book though. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

    SIK Book Reviews

  2. Hey Sam,

    My children's lit class was probably my favorite class so far. A Book is certainly a unique book. I encourage you to check it out. It's only 48 pages anyway.



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