Candlewick

Meta Children's Books For Tiny Intellectuals

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Some books are about eggs and ham. Some are about mice and cookies. And some are about the human condition: you, sitting on a couch reading a book as a toddler spills milk on the work clothes you were hoping to just re-wear tomorrow. The rapidly-growing genre of meta children's books is all the way awake and aware of its own existence in the literary canon. These books have theory of self! And they are super duper fun to read for kids who love a smart joke.

These books still have some fun characters, but these characters know you're reading a book about them. And the reader themselves get to be a character. Little geniuses will realize that the book they are holding is part of the story. It's empowering for young readers. Like saying "Hey! You! You're reading this book! You're a part of it now!" It's so much more active than, say, your kid watching a video of someone else opening toys and playing with them. Bonus point for meta books: they're pretty darn entertaining to the adults that might be reading them, too.

Check out these 11 kids' books that take the fourth wall and smash it to pieces.

'Chester' by Mélanie Watt

Chester by Mélanie Watt ($8.95, IndieBound)

Fat cat Chester will not settle for being a supporting character. And somehow he's found a red marker and is "fixing" the book and writing a new story all about him.

'We Are In A Book (An Elephant & Piggie Book)' by Mo Willems

We Are In A Book by Mo Willems ($9.99, IndieBound)

Find a kid who doesn't like Gerald and Piggie, I dare you. Up to their usual antics with delightful banter and general silliness, this book adds another self-aware twist to what kids love.

'Chapter Two Is Missing' by Josh Lieb, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Courtesy of Razorbill

Chapter Two Is Missing by Josh Lieb ($17.99, IndieBound)

OK. Nobody panic, but Chapter Two is missing and you have to help the characters find it. It's a mystery. And solving it is crucial. But it turns out that the missing chapter is just one facet of what makes this book so super meta and so super funny. This book came out on October 29 and makes a perfect gift for the holidays.

'Circle' by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Courtesy of Candlewick

Circle by Mac Barnett ($15.99, IndieBound)

If there's anyone who can do clever, it's Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. This book is the third and final installment of books about three shapes, Square, Triangle, and Circle. This book is more subtly meta in the way it's pared down, sparse, and super self-aware.

'Here And Now' by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale

Courtesy of HMH

Here And Now by Julia Denos ($17.99, IndieBound)

This book is a meditative journey through mindfulness. And to keep you perfectly in the moment, it acknowledges that you are currently reading a book — this book. Kids will delight when they flip the page and see the child holding this very book.

'There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Book' by Jomike Tejido

Courtesy of Jimmy Patterson

There Was An Old Lady Who Lived In A Book by Jomike Tejido ($17.99, IndieBound)

The old woman can't find her kids anywhere! She searches high and low in all the books on the bottom shelf. And within the pages of these books, she finds a whole cast of fairytale characters. Books are everywhere in these illustrations.

'Bearnard's Book' by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Misa Saburi

Courtesy of Henry Holt

Bearnard's Book by Deborah Underwood ($17.99, IndieBound)

Cute bear Bearnard is invited to be in a book, but he's a little unsure that he can carry his own story. (Spoiler: his journey is the book!) And check out that tiny book on the cover!

'Dragons Eat Noodles On Tuesday' by Jon Stahl, illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

Courtesy of Scholastic

Dragons Eat Noodles On Tuesday by Jon Stahl ($17.99, IndieBound)

Two little monsters are telling a story, and they consult each other on the best way to do that. Writing the line "dragons eat noodles on tuesday" ends up saving some characters from the hungry dragon in the story.

'Be Quiet!' by Ryan T. Higgins

Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Be Quiet by Ryan T. Higgins ($17.99, IndieBound)

Everyone knows that wordless picture books are the most artistic (see the next item on this list), but the mouse who's writing this book just can't get the other critters to be quiet!

'The Red Book' by Barbara Lehman

Courtesy of HMH

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman ($16.99, IndieBound)

The book is already a classic. It's wordless and the kids who find the red book in the book see pictures of other kids holding the same book and they are able to travel to the places in the book. Did you follow that? You really just need to read it to get it. It's a fun trip. And this is just the first of many mind-bending wordless picture books by Lehman.

'My Book With No Pictures' by B.J. Novak

Dial Books

My T̶h̶e̶ Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak ($9.99 from Target)

If cult classic The Book With No Pictures wasn't enough of an uprising by the children who made us read A HIPPO NAMED BOO BOO BUTT out loud, *My* Book With No Pictures gives your kid even more power, with fill-in-the-blanks and a page of hilaz stickers to force you to say even sillier things than in the original.

Out November 18!