Since the debut of David Wiesner's The Three Pigs (2001), the world of picture books has never been the same. The opportunity to play with the "meta" level of stories and invite the reader behind the scenes has been gleefully accepted by many authors. But even before that, there was The Monster at the End of this Book (1971), with the narrator blithely breaking the fourth wall to directly address the reader. Shelley Moore Thomas has created a book that shares features of those beloved favorites with her title, This Book Is Not About Dragons.
The narrator (a mouse with a very dashing bow-tie), assures us that there are no dragons in this book. We are not so sure, since we see claws here, a tail over there, and ominous shadows swooping across the pages. But the mouse blithely saunters through page after page, pointing out rabbits, trucks, pizza, and baby chicks without ever seeming to notice the flames and destruction that follow close behind him. When he finally does clue in, he tries to talk us out of turning the page, but we don't listen. (Did he really think we would?)
As if the story-line were not funny enough on its own, the illustrations add even more hilarity to each page. Illustrator Fred Koehler used "crumpled paper and various incendiary devices including bombs, firecrackers, and blow torches. The resulting detritus was photographed and assembled digitally with digitally rendered drawings." That is a direct quote from the copyright page. And if you can't believe that, what can you trust? (I was also very relieved to hear that no dragons or mice were harmed while creating the book.)
For readers of any age who enjoy the humor of Jon Klassen, Mac Barnett, Jon Scieszka, and Mo Willems, here is a book that will be right at home on their bookshelf. Highly recommended.
I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.