When you open a children’s book, it’s not fair to expect the characters to be ready every time. This is especially true if it’s by Hervé Tullet, the New York Times best-selling author of Press Here. When you open the equally inventive Help! We Need a Title!, you find a princess and a pig tossing a ball together until they notice that you, the reader, have arrived. “Hey! Someone’s watching us! . . . And they’ve opened our book!” The full cast of characters appear and realize that—of course—you would like a story.
Fluid, childlike multimedia illustrations with plenty of doodles, marks, cross-outs and splashes of color, all set against a white background, depict this band of merrymakers as they try to introduce a beautiful landscape backdrop and even a villain to the book. But it takes an author to make a story! The characters call out to Tullet, who greets everyone (including you) from his studio. Portrayed with a photographic snapshot head and an illustrated body, Tullet, who’s not finished writing yet, offers “one teeny, tiny story” featuring all the characters.
When the characters display their disappointment, Tullet suggests finding more stories in the books around us. While adult readers will recognize this picture book as brilliant metafiction, children will simply enjoy their interactive role with the characters and the author. But first, we need to give it a title!