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  • The Exquisite Corpse Adventure: An Episodic Story Game
  • Karen Coats
The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. The Exquisite Corpse Adventure: An Episodic Story Game. Candlewick, 2011. [288p]. illus. ISBN 978-0-7636-5149-7 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4–7.

Twenty children’s fiction luminaries, beginning with Jon Scieszka and ending with Katherine Paterson, contribute their considerable talents to this exquisite corpse storytelling game, with the writing changing hands chapter by chapter. The story begins with twins Nancy and Joe traveling on a train rushing toward a bridge that has been wired with dynamite. The children, who have been reared in a circus, think themselves to be orphans until they receive a birthday card from their parents instructing them to follow the clues and piece together something called the exquisite corpse, which they presume to be a robot of some kind. As the story is picked up by different authors, an array of stereotypically hyperbolic but inept villains and unlikely helpers appear to either assist or thwart their quest, which involves harrowing escapes, daring feats that make use of their circus training, and time travel. Such round-robin storytelling seems threatened from the outset by the risk of one-upsmanship, and the limits of the game are evident here as the piling on of odd, grotesque characters and the whiplash effect of new devices and plot twists result in a forced feeling of zaniness. However, the undeniable skill of the authors keeps the narrative mostly coherent from beginning to end, and the only really noticeable stylistic shift comes from Lemony Snicket’s arch, world-weary tone that is distinctly and jarringly different from headlong eagerness of the other authorial voices. Likewise, most of the illustrators providing compact black-and-white images faithfully illuminate their chapter authors’ prose, but a few veer off into surreal fantasies of their own. The literalized metaphor of using the exquisite-corpse method to piece together a story about a robot that needs to be pieced together was surely a conceit the authors enjoyed, perhaps even more than their audience will, but this may have appeal for readers who like stories jam-packed with bizarre creatures behaving in unaccountable ways to achieve a strange goal. [End Page 97]

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-6766
Print ISSN
0008-9036
Pages
p. 97
Launched on MUSE
2011-09-18
Open Access
No
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