Books That Break the Fourth Wall…


All books are interactive – there’s the author and the reader. But novels usually work like a theater performance with an imaginary “wall” between the action on the stage and the people in the audience.  For example, when a child reads Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, they see Mrs. Mallard and Michael (the police officer) safely guide the eight ducks across the busy street. It’s wonderful, but the reader is not part of the action.

I’m not usually a fan of “novelty” books. Books are perfect just the way they are.  But the number of fun and interactive picture books is increasing, and kids love them. These are books that invite participation and make the reader part of the story.  An added bonus of interactive picture books is that they can draw reluctant listeners in. If you’re reading to an especially restless group of young children, try one of these interactive books, and then a few weeks later, they will be ready to hear if Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack make it to the other side.

Herve Tullet is the master of the interactive book, and his work has clearly inspired some of the books listed below.  His three magical books are Press Here, Mix It Up, and Let’s Play.  It’s nearly impossible to resist playing along with Tullet’s masterful books.  In Let’s Play, he asks the reader to follow a yellow dot.  On the opening pages, the dot is in the center of the page, and the text reads: “Press the top corner to get me started.”  Of course, I did- and on the next page, the dot had moved to the top right corner. Tullet’s books are better than an iPad!!

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda (Bunny is ready to go, but needs help from the reader to get down the hill.  The best page is when you are asked to “tilt” the book so that Bunny can go down the bunny slope!)

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (Matheson’s book follows an apple tree through its seasonal changes.  I like the page where you “shake the tree” and then on the following page, the apples are on the ground.)

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (As the title announces, there are no illustrations in Novak’s book.  But the text explains exactly how books work.  When the page tells you to read the word “blork,” you do it of course because it’s the next word on the page.  Hard to explain, but brilliant!)

We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems  (“I think someone is looking at us,” Gerald says to Piggie in this episode of the popular duo’s adventures. Similar to Novak’s book, the power of this book comes from the realization that the reader has to say what’s on the page.  Really fun.)

Stretch, Wiggle, and Bounce by Doreen Cronin (Perfect for active toddlers, Cronin’s popular series gets kids to touch their toes, bounce, and “wake up with a wiggle.”)

Life on Mars by Jon Agee  (A new book by one of my favorite authors and illustrators. At first glance, this book does not seem to fit into this list of books that invite a child to participate, but the reader is absolutely essential to the clever premise of this story.  It only works with the barrier between author and reader broken. )

Some other interactive picture books to explore….

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehraupt

Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehraupt

Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley

Don’t Touch This Book and Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter

We’re In the Wrong Book by Richard Byrne

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

This Book Is Out of Control! by Richard Byrne

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Mathewson

Have Fun!


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