When storytellers break the fourth wall, whether in film, plays, or books, it means that they break the imaginary wall between the storyteller or actors and the audience. On a theater stage, the invisible fourth wall is the invisible boundary at the front of the stage between the actors and the audience. In books, it’s the imaginary wall between the fictional world and the reader’s life.
When authors break the fourth wall in children’s books, it’s highly engaging to readers. It invites kids into direct involvement in the story.
In this list of books, you’ll find characters speaking directly to readers and narrators asking readers to do or believe something.
Picture books that break the fourth wall, connect readers to the stories in a unique way and entertain growing readers because the narrator invites readers to participate in the story.
Picture Books that Break the Fourth Wall
The Cutest Thing Ever by Amy Ignatow, illustrated by Hsinping Pan
An enthusiastic narrator speaks to readers directly in hopes that we will agree that everything in this book (two kittens wearing hats, inside another hat that a cute monster is wearing all riding a unicorn up a rainbow road…) is the cutest thing ever! (Also, there are bunnies and koalas.) I think you’ll agree! Especially when you see the grand finale cutest thing ever!!
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin
This is SUCH a funny book that you’ll read multiple times through and laugh every time. Grover tries EVERYTHING to stop you from turning the page — because of the monster at the end of the book!!!!!! Are you getting nervous? You’ll be surprised when you meet the actual monster. (Don’t worry, parents, there is nothing scary at the end — it is Grover all along.)
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
A Taylor FAVORITE!! Meet Chloe. Every week, she collects loose change so she can buy tickets to ride the merry-go-round. But one fateful day, she gets lost in the woods on her way home, and a large dragon leaps out from—”Wait! It’s supposed to be a lion,” interrupts the author of this book. But Adam Rex, the illustrator, thinks a dragon would be so much cooler. As the author and illustrator bicker, kids are invited into the behind-the-scenes of the storytelling process.
This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne
Bella was taking her dog for a stroll across the page when her dog disappears into the book. Help comes but everyone gets sucked into the book, too! Will the reader be able to rescue everyone? Your kids will laugh through this entire story — it’s quite funny!
Don’t Wake the Dragon by Bianca Schulze, illustrated by Samara Hardy
Engage the readers on your lap with a playful, interactive romp around the castle. But be very careful…You don’t want to wake the dragon. Read about the castle’s noisy people like the knights and the cook, then check to see if the dragon is still sleeping. If she is, keep her asleep by stroking her back or rocking the book. What will you do when the dragon wakes up? (Sing her a lullaby, of course!) A charming adventure with captivating illustrations, this is sure to capture young readers’ attention from beginning to end.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Both the bus driver and Pigeon speaks directly to readers. When the bus driver goes on break, he asks you to remember — don’t let the pigeon drive the bus. But the pigeon begs you with many compelling arguments and even a tantrum and sulking. What will your child say to the pigeon? Absolutely engaging and hilarious.
The Panda Problem by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Hanah Marks
Do you love books that break the fourth wall, when the narrator talks to the main character? If so, you’ll want to read this humorous story. Because the narrator needs the panda main character to have a problem. But, the panda doesn’t have any problems — no matter what the narrator wants. In fact, it seems like the narrator might have a problem. That’s when Panda gets really silly and suggests crazy, funny ideas. Kids will be cracking up through this entire meta-story about story elements.
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Press Here by Herve Tullet
You, the reader, make magic with the dots. If you follow the directions and press, rub, shake, tilt, blow, clap, watch what happens to the dots! Rub the yellow dot and it turns blue! Shake the book and the dots spread out over the page. Tilt the book and the dots slide down the page. Clap and the dots grow. You’re in charge of this book’s story.
Tap the Maic Tree by Christie Matheson
Who doesn’t love an interactive picture book that asks you to get involved? The tree is bare, tap it four times, and turn the page to see what happens — now it has leaves! Tap it again for more leaves. Rub, jiggle, shake, knock, clap, and pat your way through the four seasons of an apple tree’s growth cycle. Impossible to resist.
Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O’Byne
What could be a very sweet story about the Ugly Duckling quickly turns very silly, er, scary when a CROCODILE sneaks onto the pages. Gasp. Watch out! First, he eats the letters, then whole words, then sentences. It’s up to you, the reader, to get rid of him. (You might even need to draw a tutu on him!)
I Say OOH, You Say AAAH by John Kane
Help! We Need a Title! by Herve Tullet
Yikes! The characters are surprised to see you, the reader. So what should they do? They need a story. For a story, they need an author. The group finds an author and convinces him to write a story. But the characters don’t think it’s very good. So they want me to tell you NOT to read this book. The End.
The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
The knight tells readers that he’s glad there is a wall in the middle of the book because of the Ogre on the other side. Children will notice in the illustrations that the soldier is not as safe as he thinks– and that the danger isn’t from Ogre. When a crocodile tries to eat the soldier, the “scary” Ogre from the other side saves the soldier’s life. The lesson? What we think is scary (the unknown or different) ends up not being scary at all.
Something Stinks by Jonathan Fenske
Speaking directly to the reader, skunk asks YOU if you can smell that bad smell. Because it’s really stinky! But if it’s not the clean underpants or you (you smell wonderful), what could it be? Why are you shouting? Skunk can’t quite hear you. Silly fun sure to entertain the readers on your lap.
*Grownups and teens, if you’re looking for books that break the fourth wall for older readers, I recommend The Princess Bride by William Goldman.