15 Years of “If…”

If by Sarah Perry - cover art


Can you handle this book? It’s one of the most challenging we’ve ever published. Not in the words—it has only 97 of them—but in what it does to your mind.

Featuring beautiful surrealist-inspired paintings by artist Sarah Perry, If… imagines what the world would be like if toothpaste were caterpillars, tarantulas read braille, and toes grew where our teeth should be.

Many adults just don’t get it. I don’t like spiders. I’m sorry, why would I want a giant caterpillar on my toothbrush? Toes in your mouth? Eww.

If caterpillars were toothpaste - illustration from If... by Sarah Perry

If… just turned 15, and with 100,000 copies sold, it’s Getty Publications’ most popular children’s title ever. How can this be? Just show the book to any child. My four-year-old nephew was completely entranced. Every image started conversations—weird, unexpected, creative ones.

If mice were hair? “They’d eat ears!”

If clothing were butterflies? “They’d fly away and then you’d be naked! NAKED, hee hee!”

If mice were ears - illustration from If... by Sarah Perry

And, since every page started with the same word, he enjoyed the double triumph of successful reading. The chance to practice fun words every kid should know—like hummingbirds and lightning—was an added bonus.

The book brings the magical into the everyday, making you believe that a dog-shaped mountain might just be out there somewhere, or whales in outer space.

Artists and art teachers appreciate If…, as shown by the 24 five-star reviews on Amazon:

The best illustrations of any book I’ve seen in a 30-year teaching career.

I’m planning to use this book in art lessons to encourage students to see more than what they expect to be there.

But with illustrations so vivid, not everyone can handle it.

If toes were teeth - illustration from If... by Sarah Perry

The mice-were-hair and teeth-were-toes pictures are going to give me nightmares, and I’m an adult! Maybe if I were a child, I would like them?


When I was leaving my sister’s house—I had to surrender the book, by the way—my nephew was rushing to brush his teeth, a task he normally hates. He was gleefully checking to see if his teeth had been replaced by toes.

If spiders could read braille - illustration from If... by Sarah Perry


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  1. MatrixMistake
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Nice project… but i think that this book isnt for children, is more like for adults with the ability to imagine, dream, build & create

  2. Elena
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I have used this book more times than I can count in my teaching career with all ages ranging from 4-15. It is always well received. I think that this is one of the best books to help students understand the power of imagination. My favorite page is “if music could be held”: ) Congratulations of 15 years of publishing an amazing book!

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted February 17, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Elena, thanks so much for your comment and sharing this experience! I love the fact that teenagers in your classes have enjoyed the book too.

  3. Shirley Boyd
    Posted July 25, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Years ago I purchased “IF” and read it to my 5 year old nephew. He loved the book so much it became part of his personal library. Funny how that happens.
    Last week I made a presentation to elementary teachers at a Conference in Denton Texas. I presented IF… by Sarah Perry, as retold by students. The creations were done in Kid Pix 3D and featured videos, text to speech and 3D drawings. Of course I shared this digitally and also printed a foldable book to share the possibilities for the classroom. Teachers loved it and asked for links and information about the books I shared as examples for literature that definitely “sparks” the imagination.

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      The Queen Who Wasn’t

      Louis XIV clandestinely wed his mistress, Madame de Maintenon, at Versailles on October 9 or 10, 1683. The marriage was much gossiped about but never openly acknowledged. She was never queen.

      Madame de Maintenon had been the {judgy} governess to Louis XIV’s children by his previous mistress, Madame de Montespan. Louis gave these children moneyed titles—such as the comte de Toulouse, who ordered the tapestries shown here for his residence outside Paris.

      Louis’s secret marriage ushered in a period of religious fervor, in sharp contrast to the light-hearted character of his early reign. Madame de Maintenon was known for her Catholic piety, and founded a school for the education of impoverished noble girls at Saint-Cyr in 1686 that stayed in operation until 1793. This engraving of the Virgin and Child was dedicated to her by the king.

      Virgin and Child, late 1600s, Jean-Louis Roullet after Pierre Mignard; Johann Ulrich Stapf, engraver. The Getty Research Institute. Tapestries from the Emperor of China series. The J. Paul Getty Museum


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