Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite, written by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne joins a fine tradition of picture books that subvert the (sometimes well known) story and engage the reader. I'm sure this kind of book can be traced back farther, but my memory starts with the 1971 Little Golden Book The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Mike Smollin. David Wiesner's wonderful 2001 Caldecot winner The Three Pigs also came to mind, as did Hervé Tullet's brilliant Press Here. I love these kinds of books, and what I love best about Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite is that fact that it is perfect for the littlest listeners with just a touch of suspense, a lot of humor and some literal writing over of the story and the illustrations.
Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite begins with an uninvited guest interrupting the story of The Ugly Duckling.
The intruder is a sneaky one, hiding from our narrator, the ugly little duckling who is really a cute little cygnet in a red knit cap.
The beast even eats some of the letters from the story! But, our hero is a clever little bird and he has some ideas about how to get rid of the croc that include having readers rock the book from side to side, lulling the croc to sleep, drawing on the croc while he sleeps and shaking the book to see if it's possible to shake the croc right off the page!
I hate to give away the ending, but it is one of the coolest parts of this book. The croc begins to EAT his way out of the book leaving a hole on the final page of this book and a matching one on the back cover that leaves the red capped cygnet peeking out at the reader.
Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite is a very fun book, the kind of book that, like The Monster at the End of this Book, will be remembered well into adulthood.
Source: Review Copy