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Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite
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Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite

5.0 1
by Nick Bromley, Nicola O'Byrne (Illustrator)

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What would you do if you were settling down for a quiet bedtime story and you realized that a crocodile had fallen into your storybook and was — not to put too fine a point on it — wreaking havoc? Would you slam that book shut and cram it back onto the bookshelf? Or would you be brave enough to peek?


What would you do if you were settling down for a quiet bedtime story and you realized that a crocodile had fallen into your storybook and was — not to put too fine a point on it — wreaking havoc? Would you slam that book shut and cram it back onto the bookshelf? Or would you be brave enough to peek?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This metafictional attempted telling of “The Ugly Duckling” gets derailed when a louche crocodile intrudes and starts consuming the narrative from the inside (“Now he’s gobbling up... whole words and sentences!”). Aided by the mousy gray duckling, the alarmed narrator tries to save the story, even enlisting readers’ help to lull the crocodile to sleep or shake him from the book’s pages. This is a lively read with many prompts for interactivity and a format that makes it a good choice for both lap reads and preschool circle time (it’s hard to imagine the child that won’t laugh when a giant pink crayon swoops in to give the sleeping croc a tutu and ballet slippers). Debut author Bromley stumbles with the wrapup to his self-referential story, closing with a weak “Where do you think he’ll turn up next?” Regardless, O’Byrne’s crocodile is a personable antihero—she underscores his disruptive nature by drawing him in a brash, aggressive style that contrasts mischievously with her soft, storybook duckling—and her integration of typography and action is consistently ingenious. Ages 3–up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Our narrator is trying to read us "The Ugly Duckling" when our attention is called to something in the book that should not be there. It is a tail belonging to a crocodile that has escaped into the book, a "really big scary one!" He begins eating letters, then whole words and sentences of the text. We must stop him. How we readers manage to rid the book of the invader, with the help of a red-hatted duckling, makes for great fun and a surprise ending. The fierce but attractive crocodile shows up early to stop the original story telling. The adventure is then set to begin between the huge reptile and the quite small duck, quietly introduced on the cover and the first page. What spare text there is uses extremely large type and such graphic devices as thick red arrows to show us where to look. The frustrated crocodile finally chews a real hole in a page; we see his rear exiting the book through the back cover. There's fun for all readers in this comic mixed media fairy tale. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—While readers can detect a degree of rowdiness from the gaping crocodile snout on the cover, the book opens with a gentle, if flippant, start to "The Ugly Duckling" and a pat illustration to match. But barely one sentence in, the story is interrupted by the tail of a crocodile who breaks down barriers between readers and the story as he tears through the pages and makes short work of the text, "I think his favorite letters to eat are O and S. St p! Mr. Cr c dile! Y u can't eat the letter!" The narrator, the odd duckling, tries to keep things under control and asks readers to help until the crocodile finally finds his own way out by munching a hole in the back pages and cover. Bright reds and yellows, active line work, and plenty of white space create high energy and allow for the croc to interact with text and with the audience. This bold book will be effective as a group read-aloud, but some of the jokes will work well one-on-one, allowing children time to explore what the crocodile does with story and text. While there are many interactive books like this available and some are more notable, kids will enjoy this lively, fast-paced story.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
A crocodile doesn't belong in "The Ugly Duckling"! But how to get it out? A scribble over Hans Christian Andersen's name on the title page is only the first sign that the classic tale's been hijacked. A few page turns later, the cozy scenes of ducklings have been replaced by a smiling croc, who gleefully proceeds to chow down on favorite letters ("St p! Mr. Cr c dile!") and even sentences. Maybe shaking the book or pulling out that ever-handy purple crayon to draw a tutu on him will make him leave? A little red-capped gray cygnet acts as narrator, guiding readers through the story. Along with providing interactive opportunities, Bromley and O'Byrne dial down the danger--"He might bite your finger or scratch your nose! Crocodiles like to do that"--and at last let their comical croc escape by chewing a hole (die cut into the last page and back cover) in the last page. But: "Where do you think he'll turn up next?" A blandly nonthreatening alternative to Emily Gravett's Wolves (2006) and like encounters with metafictional characters. (Picture book. 5-7)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.28(w) x 11.48(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
3 - 5 Years

Meet the Author

Nick Bromley works in educational publishing. His collaboration with Nicola O’Byrne and Nosy Crow on the words for Open Very Carefully is his publishing debut.

Nicola O’Byrne was banned from watching Saturday morning television by her parents and she has been drawing ever since. She grew up in Singapore surrounded by the vibrant colors of the tropics and had not even heard of illustration as a career before she discovered the Illustration course at Edinburgh College of Art. She has a masters in printmaking from Camberwell College of Art. Nicola O’Byrne gets most of her ideas for children’s books when she should be working on something else, and bases all of her characters on people she knows. She lives in England.

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Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Went to local book shop this morning with my 3 year old grandson to hear Nicola read her tale. It was amazing... Jack love the story, though he did suggest (in the shop ) that w could get rid of the croc with a hammer...Not normally a violent child I don't know where he got that idea from....Having purchased the book and having it signed he wanted it read TWICE when we got home and now has taken it home with daddy for mum to see when she gets back from work later. Definitely recommend this book, it's fantastic and very descriptive and all the children there seemed to enjoy hearing the story