The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty


  • The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty
  • by Karla Strambini
  • published by Candlewick Press (2014)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Books about the imagination are almost a surefire win in my house. Kids usually don’t need much encouragement to use and get lost in their imaginations, but I’m still a sucker for books that embrace the imagination as the wondrous playground it is.

The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty runs with this idea but presents a conundrum for the reader: What if you were embarrassed by your imagination?

What if you had exceedingly “strange” ideas? What if they were so strange that you thought other people would laugh at you for even thinking them in the first place? Would people then think that you, too, were strange?

Would you, like Mr. Qwerty, end up feeling alone?

Extraordinary Mr Qwerty

Through Mr. Qwerty, kids consider what they would do in a similar situation. Would they keep their strange ideas secret, as Mr. Qwerty does? Or might they instead embrace who they are and what they think, no matter how “strange” it might at first seem?

Even if they tried to bury those ideas deep down, ideas tend to escape. They want to be known.

The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty presents a world of big ideas packed into only a few words. Likewise, Strambini’s illustrations portray an incredibly deep world with only two colors. (It’s mostly black and white with splashes of orange and blue highlights.) For a book about the beauty and power of the imagination, Strambini uses a remarkably limited palette—in both words and color.

The illustrations are images young eyes will want to linger over. The details are incredible, and the humor is irresistible. Strambini also risks using her illustrations to propel the story in ways that are left to the imagination (ironically) in the text.

Bravo to her for using this often-neglected technique (in picture books, at least) to actively involve young readers and lure them deeper into the text.

For a debut book, Karla Strambini has knocked it out of the park. The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty was previously published in Strambini’s native Australia, but this U.S. version is published by Candlewick Press.

This one is highly recommended for young dreamers, especially the unsure, shy, or timid variety.

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.