The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers: a meditation on the importance of books for intellectual development and the need to filter the everyday information

Oliver Jeffers, The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Published 2006 by Harper Collins, 32 p


Following Oliver Jeffers’s literary activity I understood one significant thing – no matter what he writes about, at a certain point he will return to writing about books, about their essential significance in our lives and about the way they shape humanity.

After How to Catch a Star and Lost and Found, Jeffers wrote The Incredible Book Eating Boy, a crazy story about Henry, a boy that has an excessive appetite for books. Abnormally, Henry devours the books literally.

It all began quite by mistake one afternoon when he wasn’t paying attention. He wasn’t sure at first, and tried eating a single word, just to test. Next, he tried a whole sentence and then the whole page. Yes, Henry definitely liked them. By Wednesday, he had eaten a WHOLE book. And by the end of the month he could eat a whole book in one go.

Henry loved eating all sorts of books: Story books, dictionaries, Atlases, joke books, books of facts, even maths books. But red ones were his favourite.


Like in a science book, Jeffers sketches the effects of books eating: the brain stocks the information, increasing its size, while the stomach gets the undigested pages. The boy’s intelligence is fantastic and his capacity to eat books has an irrational development. But his dream of becoming the smartest boy on Earth is ended by an illness caused by his overloaded brain. In an impossibility to speak, embarrassed of mixing things up, Henry needs to stop eating books and rest.



Eventually the boy will overcome his anxiety and nightmares and understand that there is a healthier way to become the smartest boy on Earth: by reading the books and by selecting the information sent to the brain.


The Incredible Book Eating Boy is a suggestive reading experience that insists on reading for intellectual progress and recommends the development of immunity to unimportant information that bombards us from everywhere nowadays. Reading is sometimes a slow process but it is a sure path to becoming smart.

The artwork in the book is exceptional; there are abounding details that make the story fascinating. Complement it with A Child of Books, a wonderful invitation to explore literature and discover or rediscover the classic books of childhood



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