What if…? by Anthony Browne (2013)

[Published by Doubleday]

what if high resIn general I try to avoid reading reviews of the books in my to-review pile. I like to come to my own conclusions without the influence of others. Just occasionally if I’m not sure how I feel about a book I’ll have a wee peek at Goodreads to see what the general consensus is. So far I have done this just three times. The first two books I decided not to review, but today’s feature survived the added scrutiny.

The reviews for What if…? vary wildly. I found the story unsettling and a little slippery, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s the point. People who hated it couldn’t get past this, and didn’t like the perceived weirdness.

Joe and his mum are walking to Tom’s house to attend a birthday party. A lost birthday invitation and uncertainty about the house number means they have to carefully examine each building on the street. Joe really isn’t too sure if he wants to make it at all. Mum offers reassurances along the way. “What if there’s someone at the2015-02-21 12.24.58 party I don’t know?” “That’s fine, it’s nice to meet new people.”

As they pass each house and peer into its window, the inhabitants appear to personify Joe’s fears. There are trolls, a huge elephant and some fighting schoolboys who look very Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Where I think this book would be perfect is for sharing with an older school class to stimulate discussion about fear, or even for a high school class who are looking at visual imagery. There is so much going on in the illustrations, they are worth examining and discussing in depth. I would love to hear from anyone who has used this in the classroom. What did the kids think? I will be working with older kids later in the year, I’ll be sure to take What if…? along for the ride.

Check out What if…? at Auckland Libraries. (The catalogue suggests an audience of 3+ which I’m not convinced is right, as always I’m happy to be persuaded otherwise!)

Or buy What if…? from Fishpond.

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