When is a book more than just a book?

The answer, of course, is when it is a portal to the universe.

I could stop there, but that wouldn’t do justice to this as a book review, my first of several promised for 2021. I’ve chosen to review “I am a book. I am a portal to the universe” for many reasons. Firstly, it’s an easy, light-hearted read, a perfect candidate to ensure that I hit my book review resolution running in early January. Secondly, it’s from the wonderful imaginations of Miriam Quick and Stefanie Posavec, whose work I have admired and tried to emulate many times before. And thirdly because many people have told me the book is delightful. I already knew enough about the book and the authors to know that it would be just that, so I began reading with confidence that I’d enjoy the experience.

And that’s exactly what happened from start to finish! It’s important to put the book into context – it’s an easy book of 112 pages weighing 450 grams. I know that because it tells me so on the back cover. And that sets the scene for a book full of facts and figures, from the prosaic to the fantastical. The Stefanie Posavec designed front cover is a sneak preview of the colour, vibrancy and tone used on every page.

Anyone reading the book should do exactly what the book asks you to do – to avoid doing so, however childlike you might think the requests are, is to miss out on the experience. The whole book takes the form of a friendly conversation with the book itself. The book told me to stick out my tongue, so I did. It told me to snap the cover shut as loudly as I could, to drop the book, to wear it as a hat, to stand it up, to hold it to the sky … I did all these things. And when the request wasn’t do to something physical with the book, it became a task of imagination, so I imagined the book was made of water, or chocolate, or … well I’ll leave it up to you to discover. It’s clear that the book works as a great source of inspiration and imagination for children of different ages. But the key thing is, it did exactly the same for me, a fully-grown man reading it by myself.

If the book asks you to do something – you should do it …
… even if it doesn’t go immediately to plan!

From almost the first page, the book had me thinking about colour theory, how its four constituent colours could lead to an infinite range of colours. I learned about animals, single-cell creatures, sounds, gravity, the Big Bang, neutrinos, climate change and more. And that’s the key thing, I’m a fairly nerdy and well-educated man, but I genuinely did learn things – the example of time being relative on the page about gravity was one of the simplest explanations I’ve seen (and that within seconds of wearing the book as a hat!). We shouldn’t doubt the amount of research that has gone into finding some fascinating facts backed up with data, all of which are seamlessly and cleverly linked back to different dimensions of the book.

I was sad when the book was over, but not until poring over the last ten pages or so, labelled as the “small print”. The additional explanation of every fact and figure from the previous pages is the perfect accompaniment and validation of the previous journey through the universe. I was also instantly inspired. Inspired in two ways – to review and blog about the book so others can share in the delight, and inspired to visualise data. I don’t know what my visualisation will be yet, but I know my topic is out there somewhere in this universe!

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