Helen Yoon’s Off-Limits

h1 October 19th, 2021 by jules

“Hello! I’m just looking.
There’s nothing wrong with just looking …”

(Click spread to enlarge)


I absolutely cannot read Helen Yoon’s very entertaining Off-Limits (Candlewick, November 2021) without thinking of Patricia Lee Gauch’s lecture, “The Picture Book as an Act of Mischief” (which you can read here at the Horn Book). “In a picture book, mischief is a badge of honor,” Gauch said. “Mischief affects everything in a book.”

Mischief. Controlled chaos. That’s what we have here, not to mention a story that will utterly please a particular kind of person — that is, people who looooove office supplies. (You know who you are.)

“OFF-LIMITS” says the sign that a parent tapes to the office door before strolling down the hallway in slippers with a coffee mug in hand. This is the title page spread, and on the recto we see a head pop out. Someone is watching! And someone is curious. It’s a child who opens the office door anyway and peeks into the room. “There’s nothing wrong with just looking,” right?

The child grabs a small piece of tape but enthusiastically loses control, covering a desk lamp in it. Next up are the paper clips and binders (which provide an extra special layer of joy for lovers of office supplies). Oh, and then sticky notes! In various colors! In one exceedingly riotous spread, we see that the child has placed them all over the room — in swirling, colorful patterns that accompany rows of binders and paper clips — and merrily sings, while making snow-angel movements on the paper-covered floor: “Good night and joy be to you all.”

I mean, right? So funny and so authentic to the delight children get out of such objects.

What Yoon does here with color, shapes, perspective, and pacing, as the chaos builds, is brilliant. Please find a copy of this one, if you can, and see for yourself. The parent’s office becomes a festively decorated space that bursts with color, patterns, and geometric shapes. When the child finally realizes how far things have gone, worry sets in. But after tiptoeing away from the office and back to the bedroom, a happy surprise awaits.

Immensely satisfying. Expect rereads when sharing with your favorite children. Here are some spreads. …



(Click spread to enlarge)



(Two images above: Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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OFF-LIMITS. Copyright © 2021 by Helen Yoon. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

One comment to “Helen Yoon’s Off-Limits

  1. LOL. It all starts so… innocently. I love that little round face!!!

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