Not Quite Ready for Prime Time?: Help! We Need A Title! by Herve' Tullett
HEY! SOMEONE IS WATCHING US!
LOOK AT THIS. THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE AND THEY HAVE OPENED OUR BOOK!
It's not really even a book. To be generous, we might call it a collection of preliminary sketches, a hastily crayoned pink pig, a scraggly sorceress-princess, a one-eyed giant green worm bordering on the bizarre, and a stick-man which looks as if it was drawn by a four-year-old on a bad day, all surrounded by random squiggle-doodles in different colors!
But the princess and pig playing together inside are proprietary about their pages and don't quite know what to make of the peeping Tom people peering at them. But these would-be "readers" seem innocuous enough, if a bit intrusive.
"WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DO YOU WANT?"
The interlopers seem sweet, but they have caught Pig and Princess quite by surprise.
"I THINK THEY WOULD LIKE A STORY."
"WE'RE NOT QUITE READY YET!"
Giant Green Worm suggests adding a backdrop to the page, and Stick-man, who has wandered into the scene from page right, conjures up a bland tropical beach scene that looks like a cheap 1920s postcard. It doesn't help much. How about a monster? A red crayoned monster with fangs appears. He's not very scary. And he has no idea what he's supposed to do. Princess laments:
"WE'RE BORING, AREN'T WE?"
What they need, the characters decide, is someone to organize these pages--AN AUTHOR! And they actually know one!
In the follow-up to his best-selling, groundbreaking hit, Press Here, Herve' Tullett's newest, Help! We Need a Title! (Candlewick Press, 2014) takes the metafiction picture book to a whole new level. Author-illustrator Tullett is summoned from behind his studio door, appearing in comic snapshots pasted on a hastily-drawn body, protesting that he's barely started work on this book. After listening impatiently to the protests, he throws a crumb to the visiting "readers," a hackneyed paste-up in which a kind fairy vanquishes a evil monster. Even his characters pronounce it, at best, only so-so. Tullet-head loses his patience.
LOOK! IF YOU'RE NOT HAPPY, GO LOOK FOR A STORY SOMEWHERE ELSE. THERE ARE LOTS OF BOOKS...!
Of course, Tullett's "readers" aren't going anywhere in this joyous fourth-wall-fracturing spoof of the interaction between books, authors, characters, and their "dear readers." Tullett again turns the whole author-reader relationship inside out and upside down as he invites kids to interact with his story, encouraging them to "Press This Button" and turn off the lights on the whole fiasco. In the dark, the characters, only their eyes visible, beg the readers to turn the lights back on, but, that done, find themselves still without a premise or plot to go on. But as they grow anxious, Stick-man notices a way out of this altogether awkward situation--there are only a few pages left! With a little luck, they can fill them out with a l-o-o-n-g Goodbye! CIAO!
Herve' Tullett and a growing group of other author-illustrators have taken on the challenge of interactive computer games for kids and shown that there is plenty of life left in the old picture book format yet. He captures the kidlike joy of filling the page with untidy, unconventional open-ended possibilities with eye-and mind-opening potential. For some other promising ventures into to the meta-book for preschool and primary students, begin with Mo Willems' We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) and Barney Saltzberg's Beautiful Oops!
From there, well..."There are lots of books...."