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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday 10 am - 4 pm
  • Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 5 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Picture Books We Love

Wreck This Picture Book!

Guest Post by Literacy Educator David Feinstein

At The Carle we believe picture books depend on readers to make them come alive. Meaning doesn’t reside solely within the book or in the reader, but in the space between the two. The unique design elements of Eric Carle’s books – from the use of folds (Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me), cut pages (The Secret Birthday Message), and die-cut holes (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) to lights (The Very Lonely Firefly) and sounds (The Very Quiet Cricket and 10 Little Rubber Ducks) - serve to enhance the interactive experience for readers. 

With this love of play and imagination in mind, we were excited to discover the just-released Wreck This Picture Book: How to Make A Book Come to Life by Keri Smith, creator of Wreck This Journal (a Shop favorite). As Smith acknowledges in the opening pages, the idea of “wrecking” a book might make some readers nervous; one of the first reading rules we’re taught is to respect books. As a young child I remember rows of books growing dust on the shelves of our den: the idea of picking up one of those books, let alone damaging one, seemed sacrilegious! 

But as Smith reminds us, Wrecking isn't always a bad thing. Books like to be read and used - the more actively the better.

Pages of Wreck This Picture Book show "The Rules of Book Reading" and why this book contradicts all of those "rules"  

And how true this seems now that I have a child of my own; the most “wrecked” books in our home are the ones my 20-month-old reads and loves the most! If you need evidence, you should see the numerous tape jobs on the binding and pages of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go

Encouraging us to bring our experiences, ideas, and imagination, Wreck This Picture Book generously invites open-ended, multisensory exploration. If you or your young readers have trouble sitting still to read, have no fear! It turns out play is not only fun, it’s also the most age-appropriate way young children learn. Curious what families with young kids would think, we shared copies with colleagues and our neighboring early learning center (thanks, Penguin Young Readers!). Check out what they discovered!

Some kiddos enjoyed touching the pages with their toes:

 Photograph shows a parent and two children seated on a couch. The parent holds the book open and the two children place their feet on the book while smiling.

While others enjoyed making sounds by touching the book with their fingers - great for developing the fine motor skills toddlers need when learning to read and write!

Left photo shows a close up of collage materials from the book and the right photo show a young child touching one of the found materials on that page.  

Young readers also enjoyed smelling the book. Mmmm...nothing like the smell of a well-loved book!

The left photo shows the page of the book encourage readers to smell the book. The right photo shows a child with its nose to the page smelling the book.   

While others loved the invitation to play with the pages and practice the time-honored tradition of “dog-earing” the pages by folding down its corners.

Left photo show a child with the book open on their lap. The right photo shows two children's hands folding the corners of the book's pages.  

The book’s open-ended questions and provocations for play are really fun ways to encourage creative thinking and problem-solving, important skills for kids of all ages! Readers enjoyed creating stylish outfits for their book to wear...

The left photo show an illustration from the book of a book wearing a felt plaid jacket. The center photo shows a child holding up the book wearing a pair of underwear. The right photo shows a child wrapping a scarf around the book.

...and figuring out ways to wear the book themselves!

Two photos showing children wearing the open book on their head and smiling.

Others were excited to take the book on an outdoor adventure!

Three photos show children interacting with the book on a playground. The left photo shows a child holding the book's dust jacket walking up a ramp. The center photo shows a child sitting in a blue plastic slide with the book propped in front of them. The right photo shows a child holding teh book while sitting at the bottom of the slide.

The books' open-ended invitations for imaginative play clearly had an impact. Unprompted, some kids took it upon themselves to incorporate the book into their building projects and car play:

Left photo shows a child using the book on the floor as a structure to hold blocks. The center photo shows a child driving a toy car along the lines of an open page. The right photo shows a child driving a toy car through the propped book on the floor like a tunnel.

And the creativity doesn’t stop there! To create the book’s beautifully textured illustrations, Smith makes use of various found materials – newspapers, cardboard, discarded books, and figural sculptures made from used corks. The books’ dust jacket features instructions for creating your own cork dolls at home!

Left image shows illustration from the book shows collage cork people creations and the right image shows a child on the floor looking at instructions on how to make cork dolls printed on the book's dust jacket interior.

And if cork sculptures aren’t your jam, the collage illustrations in Wreck This Picture Book inspire a host of other art projects using found materials around the home: cardboard box machines, toilet paper roll binoculars, and more!

If you’re interested in exploring ideas for at home art projects like these, please visit The Carle’s Art Studio blog Making Art Together. And to explore more interactive, tactile books check out our blog post all about Design Surprises.


by Eliza Brown

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 at 12:39 pm and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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