Nick Bromley (text) & Nicola O’Byrne (illustrations)
(Nosy Crow)

If you think you are settling down for a lovely quiet storytime reading The Ugly Duckling, think again. The book and its tale has been invaded by a crocodile and he is not very happy about being stuck inside! It is up to reader and the little cygnet to help the crocodile find a way out, which is no plain sailing.

Reminiscent of Emily Gravett’s Wolves and Mélanie Watt’s Chester which also have characters highjacking a story that does not belong to them,  Open Very Carefully has the added bonus that it draws the reader in for a fully interactive tale. The narrator talks directly to the reader throughout the book and he is even asked to actively participate in the story, such as shake the book to try to make the crocodile fall out. The text is witty and fun, building up tension yet always playing it down eventually, allowing the tale to have a pinch of peril without being too threatening. The cygnet echoes the readers’ potential worries: “I wasn’t scared. Were you?”; like him children often play down their own fears when seeking reassurance.

The artwork helps support this engaging text wonderfully – O’Byrne showcases two distinctive illustrative styles which help discern the characters and their nature: the crocodile is all bold lines and colours which match his grumpiness and slight aggression, while the cygnet is all soft lines and muted colours which help convey his good nature and kind personality. When alongside each other, the two characters really look like they belong to different books. The artwork is dynamic which helps support the overall brisk and action-packed feel of the tale.
The resolution of the story will delight little readers and is aesthetically perfectly accomplished. Though the ending remains resolutely open-ended; is that naughty crocodile going to turn up in other story books?

Open Very Carefully is a great story which lends itself to dynamic and interactive storytelling. It will hopefully encourage little readers to “play” with stories and urge adult readers to look beyond the page when reading stories.

A great read for World Book Day (which is on Thursday, in case you did not know)!