The Worst Book Ever
Elise Gravel wants to write a totally drab book; her characters want to let loos. Who's gonna win?
Don’t take the title as a metaphor: it really is the worst book ever. Governor General Literary Award winning children’s book author and illustrator Elise Gravel takes readers on an unexpected journey through the world’s most boring book. The story’s characters and omniscient readers alike quickly become annoyed by the author’s bland imagination and rebel against her tired tropes and stale character choices, spouting sass in an attempt to get her attention and steer the narrative in a more interesting direction. After all, you don’t even have to buy the book, but the characters? They’re stuck in there for an eternity, and they’re going to do their best to make the most of it, or at least have a little fun where they can.
As the charming and bizarre true nature of the characters overpowers the dry attributes given to them by the author, this once blasé story quickly picks up speed, transforming the story into something much more unique than originally promised. With Gravel’s signature goofy characters behind the wheel, no silly twist or rude body function is off the table!
What makes "the worst book"? The latest from Gravel (You Can Be) is a fourth-wall-breaking showcase of picture book "don't"s. Three critters rendered in Gravel's signature comics style introduce an intentionally dull fairy tale with great skepticism ("Interesting title choice, isn't it?" "I don't think people are going to read this"), then criticize the story, illustrated in a less polished, childlike art style. Misspelled words, clich s, a lack of character diversity, sexist attitudes, and even what appears to be sponsored content ("Kiki-Cola! The drink of true heroes") are all called out by the veritable Greek chorus of creatures before they lose interest and, in a narrative lull (one finger up her nose, "the prinsess rested"), nap and play a game of chess. At one point the book's creator seems to react to the reviewers' disapproval of repetitive vocabulary by overcompensating with $10 words ("The ambidextrous reptilian scurrilously gained entree into the haberdashery"); perhaps confusingly, this is the only time the creator seems aware of the running commentary. Adult readers will find the book a fine informal educational resource; younger readers are likely to enjoy both its up-tempo humor and being in on the meta take. Ages 6 10.