What better in the week of World Book Day but to read about a little girl’s journey from book hater to book lover? In I Hate Love Books by Mariajo Illustrajo (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) , a little girl is forced to face her misgivings about reading after her teacher sets her class a holiday reading assignment. This heart-warming tale about the journey to become a reader (or a “story adventurer” as she is described in the story) is joyful and vibrant, and anyone who is familiar with Mariajo Illustrajo’s other books (Lost and Flooded) will know they are in for a visual treat.

There are many picturebooks about the transformative effect of reading, with the transformation often conveyed as much visually as it is in the text. In I Hate Love Books , this particularly evident through colour choices and peritext (covers and endpapers).

Colour is a great communicator of emotion, and one that is easily grasped by the youngest of readers. Here, the progress from sepia toned spreads to full colour spreads expresses the journey towards fulfilment as a reader, how reading literally brings colour to one’s life, but also to how reading can open a reader’s eyes to new worlds and experiences. The full colour spreads signal when she is inside the story, highlighting how story affects her as a reader.

The fluorescent orange is particularly important as it is used consistently throughout as part of the little girl’s identity, a visual signifier. To begin with, it only appears as her socks/boots in the otherwise sepia toned spreads. But the book that finally hooks her into reading is of the same colour, conveying that this is the book for her, that sometimes it is all about finding the one that grabs you (and that is also conveyed visually, with vines twisting around her arms as she begins to read). The colour takes more prominence in her outfit when she is “inside” the story. Post-reading, her outfit returns to normal, apart from an added fluorescent orange bow in her hair, a small evidence of her transformation.

The use of colour as an indicator of transformation is also present in the front and back covers, mirroring the narrative and framing it. The front cover is the entry point into a narrative, especially for picturebooks where the intended audience is not able to decode text yet. The clues are plentiful in the cover. Her chucking the book over her shoulder in disgust, a magic dust escaping from each tome and the fluorescent orange book, with fauna seeping out, identified as a “special” book even before the story begins. The word hate is scored out and replaced by the word love using that same fluorescent orange colour, indicating change is afoot. The back cover shows the girl inside the story, running towards the right of the cover, which is always a signifier of positivity and adventure. This could also be why the book is thrown towards the left on the front cover, as this is the position of uncertainty.

Like the covers, dissimilar endpapers often mirror the changes that have occurred during the story, and frequently focus on changes that affect characters. Here the socially transformative effect of reading is also reflected in those endpapers – the front endpapers show the little girl, alone, using an array of electronic devices. Most are solitary activities (though gaming can be a social activity of course).

The endpapers at the end, however, a little friend has appeared, showing that reading is associated with making friends, whereas it is to act out stories, or to share the same book. The end endpapers are also much more colourful, with the colours seemingly mirroring the stories she is reading. In the front endpapers, the little girl wears the same monotonous outfit in each occurrence.

Interestingly, the one thing that is constant in both endpapers is the girl’s mood; she is happy doing both. Using electronic devices isn’t vilified here, there can be joy found in both.

There is also an inclusion of visiting the local library, so what’s not to love about this wonderful ode to power of books? I Hate Love Books is an absolute treat!

Source: Review copy kindly provided by the publisher

I Hate Love Books is available now to buy from all good bookshops or can be purchased via our partner bookshop, Storytellers, Inc.:

Mariajo Illustrajo has also created the artwork for another book on a similar theme, Help, We Need a Story, which is written by James Harries and published by Little Tiger Press, It is out on 14th March.