Crossing Boundaries: Exploring Metaleptic Transgressions in Contemporary Picturebooks

Abstract

The use of metafictive devices in children's literature, in particular contemporary picturebooks, has been explored by numerous scholars working from different theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds. In particular, metafiction is often described as oppositional to traditional children's literature which often produces stable, knowable, readable texts which set out to seduce the child reader. Unlike traditional, linear narratives, metafiction highlights the constructed nature of fictional texts and calls attention to the distinction between fictional storyworlds and the real world of the reader. The purpose of this article is to share the results of a variation of qualitative content analysis, what we are calling multimodal content analysis (MMCA), to systematically investigate the ways authors, illustrators, and publishers use various metaleptic transgressions, or the devices used for breaching, disrupting, or transgressing of narrative, rhetorical, and ontological boundaries in the rendering of a fictional narrative in contemporary narrative picturebooks.

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Correspondence to Frank Serafini.

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Frank Serafini is a Professor of Literacy Education and Children’s Literature in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.

Stephanie F. Reid is a doctoral student in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.

Appendices

Appendix A

Metabooks Data Corpus

Baker, Alan. (1983). Benjamin’s Book: Story and Pictures. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.

Barnett, Mac, and Rex, Adam. (2012). Chloe and the Lion. New York: Disney-Hyperion.

Barnett, Mac, and Rex, Adam. (2016). How This Book was Made. New York: Disney-Hyperion.

Bromley, Nick, and O’Byrne, Nicola. (2013). Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite. London: Nosy Crow.

Browne, Anthony. (2014). Willy’s Stories. Somerville: Candlewick.

Burleigh, Robert, and Yaccarino, Dan. (2001). I Love Going Through This Book. New York: Joanna Cotler Books.

Byrne, Richard. (2014). This Book Just Ate My Dog! New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Byrne, Richard. (2014). We’re in the Wrong Book! New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Child, Lauren. (2001). Beware of the Storybook Wolves. London: Orchard Books.

Child, Lauren. (2003). Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book? London: Hodder Children’s Books.

Chin, Jason. (2011). Coral Reefs. New York: Macmillan Publishers.

Cleminson, Katie. (2012). Otto the Book Bear. New York: Hyperion Book CH.

Cotter, Bill. (2016). Don’t Touch This Book! Naperville: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Czekaj, Jef. (2011). Cat Secrets. New York: Balzer and Bray.

Drescher, Henrik. (2006). Simon’s Book. San Francisco: MacAdam/Cage Publishing.

Dunlap, Cirocco, and Tallec, Olivier. (2017). This Book Will Not Be Fun. New York: Random House Books for Young Readers.

Falatko, Julie, and Miller, Tim. (2016). Snappsy the Alligator. New York: Viking Books for Young Readers.

Felix, Monique. (1980). The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book. Seattle: Green Tiger Press.

Garland, Michael. (2003). Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook. New York: Puffin Books.

Gay, Mary-Louise. (2014). Any Questions? Toronto: Groundwood Books.

Gerstein, Mordicai. (2009). A Book. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

Gravett, Emily. (2013). Again! New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Gravett, Emily. (2007). Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Gravett, Emily. (2005). Wolves. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Hall, Kirsten, and Tolstikova, Dasha. (2014). The Jacket. Brooklyn: Enchanted Lion Books.

Hopkinson, Deborah, and Hendrix, John. (2008). Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale. New York: Dragonfly Books.

John, Jory, and Shea, Bob. (2015). I Will Chomp You! New York: Random House Books for Young Readers.

Joyce, William. (2015). Billy’s Booger. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Kanninen, Barbara, and Read, Lynn Rowe. (2007). A Story with Pictures. New York: Holiday House.

Klausmeier, Jesse, and Lee, Suzy. (2013). Open This Little Book. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Lamm, C. Drew, and Schuett, Stacey. (2001). Pirates. New York: Disney-Hyperion.

Lazar, Tara, and Davies, Benji. (2015). I Thought This was a Bear Book. New York: Aladdin.

Lehman, Barbara. (2004). The Red Book. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

Lehrhaupt, Adam, and Forsythe, Matthew. (2016). Please, Open This Book! New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Lehrhaupt, Adam, and Forsythe, Matthew. (2013). Warning: Do Not Open This Book! New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Lendler, Ian, and Martin, Whitney. (2005). An Undone Fairy Tale. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Lewis, Jill, and Allwright, Deborah. (2010). Don’t Read This Book! Copenhagen: Egmont Books Limited.

Lionni, Leo. (1993). Let’s Make Rabbits. New York: Dragonfly Books.

McDonnell, Patrick. (2014). A Perfectly Messed-up Story. New York: Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers.

McGuire, Richard. (1997). What’s Wrong with This Book? New York: Viking Books for Young Readers.

McKinlay, Meg, and Rudge, Leila. (2012). No Bears. Somerville: Candlewick Press.

McPhail, David. (1997). Edward and the Pirates. New York: Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers.

Merola, Caroline. (2014). The Story Starts Here! Toronto: Owlkids Books.

Muntean, Michaela, and Lemaitre, Pascal. (2006). Do Not Open This Book. New York: Scholastic Press.

Patschke, Steve, and McElligott, Matthew. (2006). The Spooky Book. London: Walker Books.

Pawagi, Manjusha, and Franson, Leanne. (1998). The Girl Who Hated Books. Toronto: Second Story Press.

Perry, John, and Fearing, Mark. (2009). The Book That Eats People. Berkeley: Tricycle Press.

Priestly, Alice. (1998). Someone is Reading This Book. Toronto: Annick Press.

Rowe, John A. (2002). Tommy DoLittle. New York: North-South Books.

Saltzberg, Barney. (2015). Inside This Book: (Are Three Books). New York: Abrams Appleseed.

Schwarz, Viviane. (2014). Is There a Dog in This Book? Somerville: Candlewick Press.

Schwarz, Viviane. (2008). There Are Cats in This Book. Somerville: Candlewick Press.

Scieszka, Jon, and Barnett, Mac. (2013). Battle Bunny. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Scieszka, Jon, and Smith, Lane. (1992). The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. New York: Viking Books for Young Readers.

Stein, David Ezra. (2010). Interrupting Chicken. Somerville: Candlewick Press.

Stevenson, James. (1999). Don’t Make Me Laugh. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Stone, Jon, and Smollin, Michael. (1999). The Monster at the End of This Book. New York: Golden Books.

Tullet, Hervé. (2014). Help! We Need a Title! Somerville: Candlewick Press.

Van Allsburg, Chris. (1995). Bad Day at Riverbend. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

Watt, Mélanie. (2007). Chester. Toronto: Kids Can Press.

Watt, Mélanie. (2008). Chester’s Back! Toronto: Kids Can Press.

Watt, Mélanie. (2009). Have I Got a Book for You! Toronto: Kids Can Press.

Watt, Mélanie. (2010). Chester’s Masterpiece. Toronto: Kids Can Press.

Watts, Frances, and Legge, David. (2007). Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books. Springfield: ABC Books.

Whatley, Bruce. (2005). Wait! No Paint! New York: HarperCollins.

Wiesner, David. (2001). The Three Pigs. New York: Clarion Books.

Willems, Mo. (2010). We Are in a Book! New York: Disney-Hyperion.

Yarlett, Emma. (2016). Nibbles: The Book Monster. London: Little Tiger Press.

Zemach, Kaethe. (1998). The Character in the Book. New York: HarperCollins.

Appendix B

The Metabooks Analytical Template

  1. 1.

    Author, publication date, title, publisher

  2. 2.

    Illustrator’s name

  3. 3.

    Are there transgressions within the peritext?

  4. 4.

    Who narrates the story and what narrative voice is used?

    1. a.

      1st person?

    2. b.

      3rd person?

  5. 5.

    What story takes place on the primary diegetic level? Provide brief summary.

  6. 6.

    How are other story worlds acknowledged?

  7. 7.

    Do the characters directly address the reader during the narrative?

  8. 8.

    Do the characters know they are in a book?

  9. 9.

    What disrupting events / catalysts / portals result in metaleptic transgressions?

  10. 10.

    What kinds of metaleptic transgressions are observed?

    1. a.

      Horizontal (or rhetorical)

    2. b.

      Vertical (or ontological)

  11. 11.

    How does the story conclude? How are the transgressions resolved?

  12. 12.

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Serafini, F., Reid, S.F. Crossing Boundaries: Exploring Metaleptic Transgressions in Contemporary Picturebooks. Child Lit Educ 51, 261–284 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-019-09382-9

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Keywords

  • Metafiction
  • Postmodern picturebooks
  • Qualitative content analysis
  • Narrative theory