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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > May 2019 > Don’t read this book

Don’t read this book

Elise Gravel makes something special out of intentionally bad illustrations, a boring story, and egregious spelling mistakes

The Worst Book Ever Elise Gravel Drawn & Quarterly, Ages 6–12

ELISE GRAVEL’S wildly creative new picture book purports to have no imagination at all. Called The Worst Book Ever, it’s a fairy-tale story of a prince and princess who lead exceptionally boring lives until one day a monster arrives and the prince must save the princess.

A plot like this is shockingly retrograde. That’s why there are three bonus characters – a spider, a blob, and a star-like creature – who live outside of the story and are reading and commenting on it as it progresses. Like Statler and Waldorf or the robot characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000, they provide biting humour and judgment, calling out the off-putting title, the fact that “Prinse” and “Prinsess” are continually spelled wrong, and how “ugly” the illustrations are. It’s an early lesson in meta-narratives for young readers – and it’s a riot for the whole family.

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