Picture Book Review: Book or Bell?


Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Ashley Spires
ISBN: 9781681197296
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (2017)
Age Range: 4-8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2

Amazon Synopsis
The first page has Henry hooked. The second page has him captivated. The third page. . .BBBBRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG!. . . will have to wait.

That is, unless Henry ignores the bell, stays put, and keeps on reading the most awesome book. By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry sets off a chain reaction unlike anything his school or town has ever seen. Luckily, Mayor Wise, Governor Bright, and Senator Brilliant know exactly what the situation calls for:

A louder bell. MUCH louder.

My Review

Okay, let me just start by saying Book or Bell? is my new all-time favorite picture book.  Henry finds a good book and just wants to read, but life (or school in his case), just keeps getting in the way. We can all relate to that, right?

An Argument for Independent Thinking

Now, Henry always does what he is supposed to do but, this book is so good he finally makes a decision that he is not going to jump up every time the bell rings and chooses instead to quench his need to read. Nothing gets in the way of his reading because he has found “the most awesome book!”  

The adults in the story don’t quite know what to make of Henry just staying put and the carefully constructed routine of the school day is thrown entirely off-kilter because of this. The only thing they come up with is a louder and louder bell, but this doesn’t deter Henry at all!

A True Bibliophile

Henry is a true hero to bibliophiles everywhere and book lovers of all ages will love this brilliant story. What a great character! I love how totally absorbed he gets with his book in spite of the chaos surrounding him.  Hey, we readers have to do whatever it takes! Hopefully it won’t persuade kids that it’s okay to do whatever you want, but you’ve got to admire his determination!

The writing is absorbing, captivating and builds suspense.  Young readers will get a big kick out of the single-minded way the adults try to take control of the situation! Anticipation builds as the story progresses – what is to be done about Henry? The pictures are so funny and dramatic, providing a deeper dynamic to the written words – great team effort!


Book or Bell? is a fabulous story that will genuinely excite young readers!  I laughed out loud several times.  Of particular interest is the ending and what Henry learns from the book he reads – reading becomes much more than entertainment – this book teaches him a new skill!  Love it!

About the Author

Chris Barton is the author of picture books including bestseller Shark Vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, and Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, included on 19 state reading lists. His newest books include Dazzle Ships, the Mighty Truck early-reader series, and What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Chris and his wife, YA/middle-grade novelist Jennifer Ziegler, live in Austin, Texas, where Chris has advocated for greater diversity in children’s literature by cofounding the Modern First Library program with BookPeople.

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m reading and blogging my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!