The Incredible Book Eating Boy is written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The story follows Henry, a young boy, who has a love for books… he loves to eat them.
At first, this new diet goes well for Henry. Henry retains the information from each book he eats and begins to get smarter and smarter. Henry thinks he may eventually become the smartest person in the entire world. However, things take a turn for a worse as Henry’s literal appetite for literature grows. Letters, sentences, and phrases begin to get all jumbled up in Henry’s head and spill out of his month in embarrassingly nonsensical ways: “2 + 6 = elephant?” Henry’s mind and body are overloaded by his rapid consumption of the written word.
“So, Henry gave up eating book, and sat sadly for a long time. What was he to do?”
Of course, Henry eventually discovers a love of reading and his habit of devouring books can resume in a safe, metaphorical way.
This book is very cute. The text itself isn’t amazing but it amicably plods along in the convincing tone of a young boy, despite the third person omniscient narrator. The illustrations are far superior to the text. The panel illustrations create a comic book-like effect which propels the text forward. The illustrations encompass whole pages, with the text on top in either an old-school type writer font or written by Jeffers in a childlike hand. The backgrounds of the illustrations are quite impressive. Some seem to be done on old index cards or even on the pages of books themselves. There is very much a cut and paste collage effect happening here. It’s as if this book was created and layered over top of other mediums. The Incredible Book Eating Boy is, like its character, consuming literature for its own agenda; conveying a story to its readers.
My one complaint is how moralistic this book is. It’s important to remember: BOOKS DON’T NEED TO HAVE MORALS. That being said; the moral works well with the story, this isn’t a serious text with a stuffy moral, and the lesson the Jeffers purports is “read more” and who am I to argue with that?
All in all I give this book a fairly warm recommendation, especially for the illustrations.
Even the cover is adorable:
Coming up next: some children and young adult graphic novel recommendations and reviews!