More Metafiction for Children

Since “Metafiction for Children: A User’s Guide” went up yesterday (as the final entry on In Media Res“Children’s Culture” week), I’ve been pleased by people’s kind response to my amateur video.  Thanks, everyone!

There are far more books than I could include in the film, and there were several I had not thought of. So, I thought I’d expand the field of inquiry here with a more complete bibliography of metafictional works for young readers.

First, the titles included in the film clip:

  • Lane Smith, It’s a Book (2010)
  • Art Spiegelman, Open Me… I’m a Dog! (1997)
  • Winsor McCay, Little Nemo In Slumberland of May 2, 1909.  From The Best of Little Nemo in Slumberland (1997), edited and with an introduction by Richard Marschall, and including appreciations by Maurice Sendak, Ron Goulart, Art Spiegelman, Charles M. Schulz, Chuck Jones, and Bill Watterson.
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (Part 1, 1605; Part 2, 1615).  Not a children’s book.  Obviously.
  • Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (1999).  The two-page spread is from this book.
  • Dav Pilkey, the above title, and: The Adventures of Captain Underpants (1997), Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (1999), Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants (2000).
  • Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992)
  • Walter Dean Myers, Monster (1999)
  • David Macaulay, Black and White (1990)
  • Ann Jonas, Round Trip (1983)
  • D.W. Johnson, Palazzo Inverso (2010)
  • Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, Duck! Rabbit! (2009)
  • Charley Bowers, The Bowers Mother Goose Movie Book (1923)
  • David A. Carter, One Red Dot (2004)
  • Peter Newell, Topys & Turvys (1902)
  • David Wiesner, The Three Pigs (2001)
  • Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955)

Over on In Media Res, I list the titles behind me:

  • Jon Agee’s The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau (1988)
  • Barbara Lehman’s The Red Book (2004)
  • Roderick Townley’s The Great Good Thing (2001)
  • Johnson’s A Picture for Harold’s Room (1960)
  • Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile (2010)
  • Deborah Freedman’s Scribble (2007)
  • Laurie Keller’s The Scrambled States of America (1998)

And there are even a few back there that you can’t see (because my body blocks them from the shot):

  • Donald Barthelme, The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine (1971)
  • Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf (1989)

More picture books:

  • Ahlberg and Ingman, The PencilAllan Ahlberg, The Bravest Bear Ever (2000)
  • Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman. The Pencil (2008)
  • Janet and Allen Ahlberg, The Jolly Postman (1986)
  • Anthony Browne, Bear Hunt (1979)
  • Remy Charlip and Jerry Joyner, Thirteen (1975)
  • Nicole Claveloux, Go, Go, Go, Grabote! (1973)
  • Michael Garland, Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook (2003) and sequels
  • Mordicai Gerstein, A Book (2009)
  • Shirley Glaser, The Alphazeds.  Pictures by Milton Glaser (2003)
  • Emily Gravett, Wolves (2005)
  • Emily Gravett, Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears (2007)
  • Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (2008)
  • Roberto Innocenti and J. Patrick Lewis, The Last Resort (2002)
  • Tove Jansson, The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My (1952; English, 1996)
  • Crockett Johnson, the Harold series (1955-1963)
  • Barbara Kanninen, A Story with Pictures (2007)
  • Julius Lester, Ackamarackus. Illustrated by Emilie Chollat (2001)
  • Mike Lester, A Is for Salad (2000)
  • Patrick McDonnell, Art (2006)
  • Richard McGuire, What’s Wrong with This Book? (1996)
  • Peter Newell, The Hole Book (1908), The Slant Book (1910), and The Rocket Book (1912)
  • Margie Palatini, Piggie Pie. Illustrated by Howard Fine (1995)
  • Terry Pratchett, Where’s My Cow? Illustrated by Melvyn Grant (2005)
  • Jon Scieszka and Steve Johnson, The Frog Prince Continued (1991)
  • Shel Silverstein, Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book (1961)
  • William Steig, Yellow & Pink (1984)
  • Jon Stone and Mike Smollin, The Monster at the End of This Book (1971)
  • Chris Van Allsburg, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984)
  • Chris Van Allsburg, Bad Day at Riverbend (1995)
  • Mo Willems, We Are in a Book! (2010)

More chapter books:

  • Janet and Allan Ahlberg, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (1993)
  • Mary Amato, Please Write in This Book. Illustrated by Eric Brace (2006)
  • Avi, Nothing But the Truth (1991)
  • Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010)
  • Clement Freud, Grimble (1968)
  • Cornelia Funke, Inkheart (2003), Inkspell (2005), and Inkdeath (2008)
  • Linda Sue Park, Project MulberryLois Lowry, The Willoughbys (2008)
  • Geraldine McCaughrean, A Pack of Lies: Twelve Stories in One (1988)
  • E. Nesbit, The Story of the Treasure-Seekers (1899)
  • E. Nesbit, “The Town in the Library, in the Town in the Library” in Nine Unlikely Tales for Children (1901)
  • Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)
  • Linda Sue Park, Project Mulberry (2005)
  • Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999-2006)
  • Scott Westerfield, Extras (2009)
  • The Choose Your Own Adventure books (1979-1998)

More Comics: George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, G. B. Trudeau’s Doonesbury, Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County.

Some Graphic Novels:

  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (the graphic novel)Lynda Barry, 100 Demons (2002)
  • Daniel Clowes, Ice Haven (2005)
  • Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen (1987)
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley, the Scott Pilgrim series (2004-2010)
  • Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus (1986 & 1991)
  • Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan (2000)
  • Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese (2006)

Thanks to the child_lit community (especially Tracy Barrett, Pat Bartoshesky, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Sarah Blake Johnson, Deborah Hopkinson, Kate Wooddell), Deborah Freedman (via Twitter), and to Eric Carpenter (via In Media Res) for their suggestions.

And, of course, this list is incomplete!  Please add your own favorites in the comments section, below.


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  3. Reply

    I love this video and plan to show my children’s lit. class. I especially like Roald Dahl’s metafiction in “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,” one of the poems in Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.

  4. Pat Bartoshesky


    I thought of another picture book (also made into a movie), The Pagemaster, by David Kirschner.

  5. Reply

    I love this video, and this conversation!

    We had an interesting one that dovetails with it on Fuse #8, about “show don’t tell” versus intrusive (sometimes meta-commenting) narrators. The link is here:

    Finally, I’d like to add Roald Dahl’s The BFG. In the last chapter, it is, of course, revealed that the BFG is the author of The BFG. I always loved that. I’m not sure why. I think because it said that a happy ending is not just becoming a princess or making a lot of money or being loved by your parents, but that it could be telling a story, your own story. Also, it was thrilling because it threw the narration, the telling of the story, into a whole new light (though there are no hints during the novel that it the BFG is in fact writing it, implying that Dahl came up with this coup de grace at the end; which is absolutely fine with me). Finally, I love the ending because it is a great triumph for the BFG: it serves as resounding proof that he learns how to speak English, without losing his ear for that charming giant language that endeared him to us in the first place.

    Thanks for the great topic of conversation. Can’t wait to hear more!

  6. Diane


    Great video! Another picture book for your list is Have I Got a Book for You! (2009) by Melanie Watt.

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  8. Poushali Bhadury


    The Neverending Story — Michael Ende: one of the best examples of metafictional/metatextual chapter books ever written.

  9. Reply

    Thanks, everyone, for the comments, suggestions, and links! Tina: Yeah! “He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes, / (Of course he hadn’t eaten those.)” Kay: can’t believe I forgot to mention Zusak! Monica: Thanks for your Huffington Post piece today! Very cool. Adam: I’d completely forgotten about The BFG‘s metafictional elements. Diane and Pat: Didn’t know those books. Thanks! Poushali: Seen the film (and remember Limahl‘s theme!), but never read the book… which I realize is a deficit I need to correct… soon! Debbie & Deborah: thanks for deepening this resource with your pages.

  10. Poushali Bhadury


    The film was actually an adaptation of only the first half of the book, and a narrativisation of its intensely metatextual basis, rather than an actual adaptation/representation of it. I would highly recommend the book indeed — esp. the mise-en-abyme sequence right in the middle. It’s interesting even from a typographical angle, because the two main textual (diegetic) levels are printed in varying typescripts.

    I hope you do get to read it soon :)

  11. Ariel Zeitlin Cooke


    Philip, I love this! Don’t forget
    Let’s Make Rabbits by Leo Lionni

  12. Genevieve


    What a terrific list! Thanks so much, from our family of metafiction lovers.

    One note: the first book on your additions should be The Bravest Ever Bear, not The Bravest Bear Ever. A household favorite of ours since our son was small, we still quote from it. “Once upon a time, there was a bear. The End.” “Huh?” “Once upon a time, there was another bear.” “Wait, wait, it’s still me!” “The End.”

  13. Reply

    A fascinating conversation, and great video. Really interesting. Not something I’d really thought about before (being a recent “serious” reader of kids lit, but doing it just for the fun of it). I have read a number of these books. I read The Neverending Story a few months ago (had never seen the movie really, although my son used to watch it). It’s rather amazing. So imaginative. Even the chapter set up. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.

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  15. Clementine B


    What a fantastic video! I’ll show it to everyone I know who still says that children’s literature is simplistic or unsubtle.

    I’d add: Colin Thompson, How to live forever.
    Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
    Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
    Many picturebooks by French picturebook artist Claude Ponti: L’écoute-aux-portes, L’arbre sans fin in particular

    Will try and think of more.

    Love your blog!


  16. Clementine B


    oops sorry I hadn’t read the discussion about the Neverending Story above :)

  17. Kaethe


    More suggestions:

    The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity Mac Barnett
    Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude Kevin O’Malley
    Interrupting Chicken David Ezra Stein

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