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The Meta of Children's Fiction

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I've long been a fan of metafiction --- those weird and witty books that make us aware of the artifice of story-creation. The best tickle my funny bone, are fun to read aloud to my students, and occasionally help in surprising ways. Say the year I had a class relentlessly begging me for a pet and I was able to satisfy them with Art Spiegleman's Open Me ... I'm a Dog! complete with leash and wagging tail. In a Horn Book Magazine essay I described the class's response:

Hallelujah! The class was charmed. They loved their new pet. The clever idea of a book-dog delighted them more than any real pet. (A tree frog? How pedestrian.) He was immediately named Fred, provided a doghouse made out of a box, and fed daily (with paper bowls of dog food and water). The children loved taking Fred on walks around the room, down the hall, and even to visit the tree frog (at which, of course, Fred never barked). Fred absolutely was the very best classroom pet I ever had. No one was allergic to him, he didn't make a sound (other than a slight bumping noise when he was dragged around by his leash for his walks), he didn't eat anything disgusting, would never die, and smelled quite nice. Fred lived in my classroom all year, enjoyed equally as pet and book.

These books are surefire hits with kids. Once I've introduced them my students reread them on their own and often beg me to read them again to the whole class. Here are a few fun fairy tale wolf titles from my classroom library to give you a taste:

But that is just a start. To learn more watch children's lit scholar Philip Nel's fiendishly clever Metafiction for Children: A User's Guide below (which begins with Open Me...I'm a Dog!) and check out his blog for the titles in the video and many more suggestions.

A slightly different version of this post is at educating alice.