Quill and Quire

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The World That Loved Books

by Stephen Parlato

Welcome to a world where everyone reads, and everyone becomes what they read. A man reading a book about flowers turns into blooms, and a rabbit reading a book on turtles suddenly finds his body composed of turtles. When these characters finish reading their books, they pass them on to their friends, who are delighted in their turn.

This is a very unusual book, one that seems particularly directed at art lovers of all ages. Those expecting a narrative will be disappointed, but those who appreciate highly detailed pictures will find Parlato’s colourful collage illustrations fascinating. Parlato combines photographed body parts of animals, birds, fish, insects, and flowers to make up the shapes of the characters who are reading; so, for instance, the tail of the rabbit becomes a sea turtle’s flipper and the rest of his body is artfully composed of turtle body parts. Younger readers will enjoy speculating whether a cat whose body is now made of mice will want to eat his own tail!

The book is beautifully designed, with an elegant die-cut cover and high-contrast illustrations. Parlato’s spare text is somewhat less successful; it occasionally seems to attempt rhyme, but then abandons the pattern. The abrupt ending left me wondering if I’d missed a joke. Nevertheless, this book does celebrate both the human imagination and the beauty of the natural world, and particularly the power of reading to transform us in magical ways.