Book Lists Book Reviews Picture Books

Summer Unplugged: Books Off the Page

I have a soft spot in my heart for books where a character or object breaks that fourth wall and starts interacting directly with either the story or the audience. 
Sometimes, you just want to imagine your book could talk back to you or react to the story, or everything you knew about a familiar story could be tossed on its head. 
Here are some of my favorite books that do just that.

Picture Books

  • Chester by Melanie Watt. When I was a library intern, we did a mock Caldecott, and this was the winner by a LANDSLIDE. Chester won’t let Melanie Watt tell her story because he’s sure his story is the best of them all, and he and his red marker are going to make sure it’s shared. 
  • The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. I know, I know. Another David Wiesner. It’s not my fault the man is a genius. In this book, it starts out as the Three Little Pigs story as you know it, but then the wolf accidentally blows them right off the page and into the backside of fairy tale stories. 
  • Doodleday by Ross Collins. His mother warns him not to draw on Doodleday, but he does anyway and everything he draws comes to life. 
  • The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. The pencil starts off drawing a nice little town, but pretty soon everyone has complaints (“my nose is too big!” and “this hat is ugly!”) and so the pencil draws an eraser to fix some details. And then the eraser takes matters into his own hands.  
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. Crayons have feelings too, you know. And they are here to announce that they are NOT happy about how they’ve been treated. 
  • Press Here by Herve Tullet. Is there anyone who doesn’t know this brilliant little book? Press the dots, shake the pages, and watch the book change before your eyes (with just the flip of a page). 
  • Jumangi by Chris Val Allsburg. So much better than the movie, here’s the classic Caldecott book about a board game come to life. 

Single Bonus Chapter Book Because I Could Only Think of One

  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Maggie’s father has a special power; he can read characters right out of a book. Which sounds fantastic until he reads out some very bad characters who come to get Maggie and her father. 

A Few Crafts, Activities, and Recipes:

  • Make Pigs in a Blanket to eat while you read The Three Little Pigs
  • Buy some picture books at the thrift store for cheap, and let your kids rewrite the stories to their liking, a la Chester (or like Battle Bunny, which I think is a super clever concept but I didn’t include on this list because I find actually reading it to be kind of burdensome). 
  • Dip pretzels in melted colored candies to make your own edible crayons
  • Start out with a classic fairy tale and then take turns coming up with twists in the story. 

And now a giveaway. Happy times!

Have you heard of Chatbooks? It’s a super simple (and inexpensive! $6 for a 60-page book, with free shipping) way to print off your Instagram photos into a beautiful little book. I love, love, love looking through my old Instagram photos, and having them printed is a lot easier than loading the whole stream through your phone.

Chatbooks is giving away 5 sets of 2 books – I wish I could win! Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Reply kelsey July 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I love your book recommendations. Keep them coming!

  • Reply Kimberly July 21, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I enjoyed The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. It's YA fantasy. I don't think the 4th wall is ever broken, but there are chalk drawings that come to life.

  • Reply Bobbles09 July 21, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Don't push the button by Bill Cotter was one of my favorites when I was nannying. Love these too!

  • Reply laura July 21, 2014 at 11:51 am

    We love Press Here. Great pick!

  • Reply Amy July 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I agree with you about Battle Bunny–my husband read it by himself and loved it, but I found it really difficult to read out loud.

  • Reply Lauren and Joe O'Brien July 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Love "press here"…just got it from the library last Tuesday. Will have to try these other books too.

  • Reply Elaine July 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Some Coloring sites for you:, Pinky Dinky Doo is kind of fun for making stories; and try My StoryMaker

  • Reply Patrick&Selena Pallas July 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Can't wait to pick some if these up at our library!

  • Reply Kayris July 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    My kids got a kick out of "We Are In A Book" by Mo Willems, where elephant and piggy discover they can make the reader say whatever they want. "Banana."

  • Reply Nicole July 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I really appreciate you putting together these book lists. It's so easy to get stuck in a rut, taking out the same books over and over. I love having some fun "new" options at my fingertips

  • Reply Jessica July 21, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    The Lemony Snicket books, Series of Unfortunate Events, also break the fourth wall all the time warning the reader to turn back now, things aren't going to get any better. That cracked my daughter up so much that I credit that series with making a self-directed reader out of her. I think she started reading them when she was 8.

  • Reply Elizabeth W July 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Press here is one of our favorites and the day the crayons quit is waiting for us at the library,

  • Reply Caitlyn July 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I love your books lists! And chatbooks looks awsome, I'd love to win!

  • Reply Christine July 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I love the book lists you put together!

  • Reply Jessica July 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    My kids now ask to read the books mommy checked out instead of whatever they find:)

  • Reply Ciera Street July 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Great book recommendations!

  • Reply Audrey July 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for this ~ there are some new ones here that I didn't know and we'll definitely be checking those out! And I didn't know about the Cornelia Funke book but Pirate Girl is definitely one of my favorite picture books like ever. (Smile!)

  • Reply wtiger9 July 21, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    My wishlist if full of books your recommend. I want to check out DoodleDay now!

  • Reply sheree*lynne July 21, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    What a smart concept! I would love to win and get a head start on y IG feed!

  • Reply Maren T. July 21, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Your book reviews are why I read! Thanks lady!

  • Reply D and B's Mommy July 22, 2014 at 12:18 am

    We will definitely be checking these out! My boys also like the Elephant & Piggie "We are in a Book". They think the banana part is hilarious!

  • Reply Janet July 22, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Well, now I would like to buy 1 million chatbooks! Never heard of them before. And Janssen, thank you for all your kid book recs. Our library haul has been AMAZING lately!

  • Reply Léanne :) July 22, 2014 at 6:18 am

    I love your recommendations! Thank you! 🙂

  • Reply Nicolealina July 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Well I thought I left comment, huh. Anyways, thank you so much for putting up these reading lists! Ever since finding your blog I've found a new appreciation for our library and everything it offers. I love your suggestions and I know my daughter does too. Keep them coming!

  • Reply Ari July 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I check out at least one book a week from your recommendations. My kids always love them!

  • Reply Cristina David July 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Love the Chatbooks concept! What an easy way to document the beautiful parts of life.

  • Reply Living on Love July 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    So cool! I want to do this for each of the girls at the end of the year!

  • Reply Jillian July 22, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Love this idea!

  • Reply aray117607 July 22, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Such a great gift idea!

  • Reply Katie F July 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    My daughter looooves Press Here. And I've been wanting to get her The Day the Crayons Quit – great list!

  • Reply Jessica July 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendations!

  • Reply Katherine July 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    I was just talking to my sister about these! I love this idea!

  • Reply The Apron Gal July 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    These seems so cool! Fun!

  • Reply Brit July 23, 2014 at 1:18 am

    Sounds likes a fun giveaway and the book suggestions are great.

  • Reply Andrea Smith July 23, 2014 at 4:21 am

    Oh I have heard of some companies that do this, but not this inexpensive! I love the concept, I think I need to do this!

  • Reply Jodi July 23, 2014 at 5:25 am

    I'll have to try it out!

  • Reply Rachel July 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Oh, Inkheart is a favorite. I love children's books…I am particularly excited about these picture books, I'll need to look into them.

  • Reply Annastacia July 24, 2014 at 5:41 am

    I love when you recommend childrens books. You have high standards so I know they'll always be good!!

  • Reply home to enjoy July 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations! We love the library!

  • Reply Sarah Barshop July 25, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Can't wait to try Chatbooks out — looks awesome!

  • Reply JoLee July 25, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Here's another: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear. I was reading this the other night to my son and realized it fits perfectly in this category. In this case, you, the reader, are another character warning the little mouse about the big hungry bear.

  • Reply G July 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Glad to learn about Chatbooks, looks cool. I've been using My Social Book to print out Facebook stuff, so now I should do the same thing for Instagram!

  • Reply Camille July 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I love this series you've been doing this summer and Chatbooks looks very cool!

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