cover image Once upon a Book

Once upon a Book

Grace Lin and Kate Messner, illus. by Grace Lin. Little, Brown, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-54107-7

In this meta collaboration by Lin (A Big Mooncake for Little Star) and Messner (Only the Best), immersive gouache spreads convey the way books can carry readers into new worlds. Stranded inside by winter weather, Alice, who wears pink glasses, rummages through a drawer for a favorite sleeveless dress—it’s covered with print words—then spies a book on the floor and, curious, begins to read. “Once upon a time, there was a girl... She went to a place alive with colors, where even the morning dew was warm.” A flamingo and other tropical birds break the book’s fourth wall to beckon Alice into its pages, and she climbs right in. Now tiny amid riotous tropical growth in a dress that takes on the green of the page’s background, she’s seen perched on a tree limb, part of a brilliant tapestry of forest birdlife. As the pages turn, Alice, tiring of each setting’s environs, travels by book with a rabbit companion. From desert to ocean to sky to the black void of space, her dress blends magically and invisibly into each background, until a new desire—companionship—sees her turning home to a celebratory meal. It’s a warm, Sendakian view of books’ cinematic and transportive powers that ends with a “place of coziness and warmth.” Context cues suggest Chinese or Taiwanese heritage for Alice’s family. Ages 4–8. Agents: (for Messner) Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency; (for Lin) Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Feb.)