The Whole Within the “Hole”
By Rachel Wang Yung-Hsin
Jan 16, 2024

In everyday life, there are all types of holes – big ones, little ones, round ones, and long ones. Pay close attention as you join this boy to observe what each hole reveals! – cover introduction

Along with this picture book’s curious title, Whats This Hole?, the keyhole and question mark illustrated on its cover suggest exploration and discovery. Smiling through the portal, the young protagonist probes and inspects his surroundings at every turn, sharing his close-up perspectives with the reader. Together, we witness ants ferrying biscuits to their colony, mice chewing on cheese, bats dangling upside-down in a cave, rain sloshing through a street grate, Mama feeding a piggy bank, and steam puffing from a kettle on full boil.

These otherwise random, prosaic moments are nonetheless remarkable for the child, and his enthusiasm is captured through Baba’s camera lens, which happens to be another “hole” identified in the story. The penultimate spread shows accumulated snapshots that are records of the child’s encounters, and the exuberant joy is evident as he revisits these memories and recounts the details, asking aloud what might have been in a particular hole. In this light, it becomes apparent that each of the prior spreads is a story unto itself, adding a new dimension to the reading experience.

The colorful and endearing illustrations are reminiscent of childhood drawings that center each young creator’s unique point of view, which is key in this picture book. While this work is literally about holes, its underlying theme deals with apertures and the ways in which individual focal points – factual or fantastical – shape narratives in storytelling. Readers might wonder, for instance: Who left out the cheese? Where did the mice come from? Did this really happen? Such playful questions may encourage conversations about what is possible and promote novel ways to engage with one’s environment.

Designed as a read-aloud and for emerging readers, this picture book’s text is simple and the recurring prompt: “Hey, what’s this hole?” is an invitation not only to examine the opening in question, but also to imagine to what or where it may lead. The intriguing final spread advances this spirit of inquiry and adventure by depicting numerous round holes and showing the child inside one of them, destination and surroundings unknown.