A Book

( 3 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Gerstein’s characteristic pen-and-paint-on-vellum technique creates a vivid depth, accentuated by use of shadows, that makes the reader feel as if they could literally drop into the scene.” Horn Book

“Humorous.” —Starred, School Library Journal

“More seasoned readers will be inspired to rethink what a book is (pun intended), how it works, and their own part in bringing it to life. This is A Book to savor.” —Shelf Awareness

“This charming story follows a young girl and her family who live in a book, though she doesn’t know what kind of story her book is.” —Starred, Booklist

Readers will particularly giggle at the characters importuning the young protagonist to join their various genres.”—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Clever.” —Kirkus Reviews

One of the more innovative picture books I've read in quite a while.” Eclectica

“Fresh, clever, surprising, and great fun.” —Kidslit.menashsalibrary.org

“A thoroughly fascinating adventure about a family who lives inside a book.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Publishers Weekly

Living in a book is a bummer if you're the only character in the family who doesn't have a story. That's the problem facing Caldecott Medalist Gerstein's (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers) pigtailed protagonist-even her family's pets have stories ("It's the story of a dog who seeks interesting odors," says the dachshund. "Goodbye. I'm off to sniff!"). The girl never does find a story she can drop into, but in the funny, freewheeling pages that follow, she discovers what a reader is ("EEEEK!" she exclaims, as she looks up and spots you-know-who peering down at her) and how the universe is filled with story possibilities, from historical fiction to Alice in Wonderland. Gerstein is playing at meta-fiction at a higher level than most authors do for this target group, and it's possible that younger audiences will be beguiled by the spunky heroine and the comics-style dialogue balloons and mystified by everything else. (Why do the family members have individual stories instead of one collective story?) Aspiring writers may be the most receptive: they'll see their own creative ambitions mirrored in the girl's wily willingness to find her narrative voice. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"Once, in a book…" Gerstein begins on the title page. He tells, on a mostly black double page, of a family that slept while that book was closed. When the book opens, across the pages we see vignettes of all the family members waking up in the morning. These are quite detailed, from the cereal floating in the bowls of milk on the checkered tablecloth to the goldfish swimming in a tiny bowl. As they sit around the breakfast table, the young girl of the family asks what the story is, if they live in the book. The father, dancing in costume, says it is the story of a loving father who is a hardworking circus clown. As he leaves, the mother, also suitably attired, declares it is the story of a devoted mother who is a fearless firefighter. After she leaves, the brother states that it is really the story of a boy growing up to be an astronaut and off he goes. The cat, fish, and dog leave on their own story business as well. Alone, the girl wonders, "What's my story?" After passing by all the famous fairy tales with Ms. Goose, searching detective and mystery stories, encountering Alice's white rabbit, pirates, and even astronauts, what she realizes is that she must write her own story, and so she does. Racing across from the back jacket/cover to the front are several of the book characters chasing the girl who asks, "What's my story?" on the jacket flap. The text is presented mainly in speech balloons, offering capsule scenarios of the lives of the characters. There is a constant flow of hurly-burly action, perhaps slowed a bit by the reader's reflections on all that is occurring, as page designs range from those with much empty space to ones filled with action. This is a book to read,reread, and ponder before contemplating one's own story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4

If you live inside a book, then a reader can follow your every word and deed-"EEK!"-as the heroine in this multilayered fantasy soon discovers. Every one of her family members, including the pets, has a story: dad is a clown, mom a firefighter, brother an astronaut. The goldfish seeks the sea while the dog is off to investigate odors. Only the girl is without a story, and she proceeds to travel through fairy tales, mysteries, adventure yarns, and historical novels in search of one. Each person and creature she encounters offers the pigtailed child in striped socks a story, but none suits her until she comes up with one of her very own. Humorous dialogue appears in parallelogram-shaped boxes. Aerial views dominate as different guides, one a Sherlock Holmes look-alike, lead the girl on her search. While young children may have difficulty following the many twists of this story, they will certainly enjoy some of the jokes and the humorous illustrations. They may also challenge themselves to identify some of the fairy tales and stories in which the girl becomes involved. And the starring role given to writing will appeal to their teachers.-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT

Kirkus Reviews
A family wakes up when you open this book, yawning and stretching and looking up at you. They live right there between the two covers, and now their hyper-metafictive day has begun. Everyone but the little girl has a different story: The father works as a juggling clown, the mother is a fire fighter, the brother plans to explore space-even the cat's off to hunt mice. The little girl dashes across the succeeding pages in search of her own story, led by a motherly goose. Gerstein's awkward aerial perspective forces readers to look mostly at the tops of the foreshortened characters' heads and crane their necks to assess busy page spreads. Moments when characters gaze up and connect with the reading audience offer brief thrills, but allusions to nursery rhymes, folktales, mystery and adventure genres as possible stories for the girl hit readers in such fast succession they may well dizzy. The girl's ultimate decision to write her own story until bedtime provides an ending to this disorienting and undeniably clever novelty, for whom the natural audience is unclear. (Picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596432512
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2009
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 331,162
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mordicai Gerstein

Mordicai Gerstein is the author and illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and has had four books named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Gerstein was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He remembers being inspired as a child by images of fine art, which his mother cut out of Life magazine, and by children’s books from the library: “I looked at Rembrandt and Superman, Matisse and Bugs Bunny, and began to make my own pictures.”

 

He attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and then got a job in an animated cartoon studio that sent him to New York, where he designed characters and thought up ideas for TV commercials. When a writer named Elizabeth Levy asked him to illustrate a humorous mystery story about two girls and a dog, his book career began, and soon he moved on to writing as well as illustrating. “I’m still surprised to be an author,” he says. “I wonder what I’ll write next?” Gerstein lives in Westhampton, Massachusetts.

Biography

Mordicai Gerstein has always been an artist. As a child, he enjoyed painting and eventually graduated from art school in Los Angeles. He continued painting in New York City and supported himself and his family for 25 years by designing and directing animated television commercials. He says, "I had always loved cartoons, especially Bugs Bunny, and I found I enjoyed making animated films. Even a 30-second commercial involved drawing and painting, storytelling, not to mention actors, music, and sound effects."

During the 1960s, Gerstein made several films that received critical acclaim. In 1966, The Room won the Award of the Film Clubs of France at the International Festival for Experimental Film, and in 1968, The Magic Ring won a CINE Golden Eagle.

His career took a dramatic turn when he met children's author Elizabeth Levy in 1970. He has illustrated her Something Queer Is Going On chapter books ever since, and it was Levy and her editor who encouraged Gerstein to write a book on his own. His debut came in 1983 with Arnold of the Ducks, the story of a young boy who gets lost in the wild and is raised by ducks. The New York Times hailed Gerstein's freshman effort as one of the year's best children's books, and he went on to write two more volumes exploring the theme of feral childhood. In 1998 he released The Wild Boy, a picture book based on the true story of a young 18th-century French boy who was found living in the woods and was put on display as an oddity, only to escape and be captured again years later. That same year, Gerstein released Victor, a young adult novel about the same boy.

Gerstein tells the story is of a Tibetan woodcutter who is given a choice between reincarnation or heaven in The Mountains of Tibet, which received the distinction of being one of 1987's ten best illustrated books of the year, according to The New York Times. Although the book is written for kids around age seven, Gerstein approaches the subject of death with a bold, sensitive plot and elegant illustrations. Spirituality is a major theme in many of Gerstein's books. He has interpreted tales from the Bible in Jonah and the Two Great Fish (1997), Noah and the Great Flood (1999), and Queen Esther the Morning Star (2001). Other titles such as The Seal Mother (1986), The Story of May (1993), and The Shadow of a Flying Bird (1994) also express Gerstein's reverential awe for the world.

Young readers can also stretch their imaginations with Gerstein's more playful books. Vocabulary is fun in The Absolutely Awful Alphabet (1999), where the letter P is actually a particularly putrid predator! Bedtime Everybody! (1996) has a young girl's stuffed animals planning a bedtime picnic. Behind the Couch (1996) takes readers on an exciting caper into an unknown world of grazing dust balls, Lost Coin Hill and the Valley of the Stuffed Animals. In Stop Those Pants (1998), a boy is forced to play hide-and-seek with his clothes as he gets ready for the day. Gerstein pays tribute to American composer Charles Ives in What Charlie Heard (2002), the story of a boy's unique talent for interpreting all the sounds of daily life.

Another biographical picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003) tells the story of Philippe Petit, the daredevil who walked across a tightrope suspended between New York City's World Trade Center towers in 1974. The book won the Caldecott Medal in 2004, and parents have praised the book as an invaluable tool for talking to their children about the events of 9/11.

Many of Gerstein's children's books are destined to be classics. His style of writing and illustration brings each of his stories to life, shows a passion for adventure, and relishes the joy that comes from understanding the mysteries of the world.

Good To Know

Despite a successful career illustrating children's books, the first book Gerstein wrote, Arnold of the Ducks, was turned down by seven publishers. Eventually, The New York Times called it one of the best children's books of the year.

Gerstein was inspired to write The Mountains of Tibet after reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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    1. Hometown:
      Northhampton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 25, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      Chouinard Institute of Art
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 4, 2012

    Want to read a book that titled “A Book?” I mean,



    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2011

    So much fun

    It's a fun meta-book where the main character is appalled to see the reader and must plow through the pages to discover her own story. Great fun.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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