humor, middle grade

Middle Grade Must-Read: The Book That No One Wanted To Read

The Book That No One Wanted To Read (Candlewick)
Written by Richard Ayoade
Illustrated by Tor Freeman

I first saw Richard Ayoade as Moss on the British sitcom The IT Crowd and immediately knew this guy’s sense of humor was in my wheelhouse. Since then, I’ve followed him across multiple projects, from television acting to hosting and even writing & directing feature films. However, I was unaware he had penned a children’s book until I came across this title in the Candlewick catalog, and I had to read it. This book met all my expectations, but I can also understand if it is not every young reader’s cup of tea. Ayoade has a very dry, British sense of humor, and this book is less about a cohesive narrative than the wit of the writing. The child that will love this book will adore it, and the ones who don’t like it will abhor it.

The “story” is told in the second person as the titular Book speaks to the reader. It’s a setup where the reader enters a library looking for something to read and finds an unusual tome among the stacks. This is the Book which claims to be the first ever written, though these are dubious. The book opens with a quote from renowned author & humorist P.G. Wodehouse who wrote the Jeeves & Wooster series. That is a clue that this book is less concerned with telling a story than finding joy in writing and reading. Additionally, the Book spouts an endless parade of facts & opinions, complete with infographics & illustrations delivered by the great Tor Freeman. 

The Book That No One Wanted To Read exists in a particular place all its own. It’s the type of book your diehard bookworms could love but also reluctant readers. It delivers an experience that only some middle-grade books do. There’s a wealth of metafictional texts in the picture book scene, but once you get to the upper elementary/middle school realm, everything is either realistic fiction or fantasy series these days. And while those may sell well, which explains their prolific nature, there is a subset of readers out there that experience a famine of choices. I know because I was one of those little “weirdos,” always searching for obscure and strange tales that possessed a balance of craft & novelty. This would also make a fantastic read-aloud for the teacher/parent/storyteller who loves a strong personality & voice in their books.

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

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