Read the back of the book first,
for the back of the book is your map,
and a traveller without a map may find
herself lost in the wrong world. You were looking
for a land of fairies and pirates but
took a left turn when you should have taken a right
and here you are, in a city at night, and
there is a strange man with prowling eyes
who crosses the street towards the heroine,
and this place is much too dark for you.
You are looking for light bedtime reading,
with a mug of Peppermint tea, and the darkness
is too bitter on your tongue, too bitter to swallow.
Smell the book. Is it dank, odious, fraught with the
sorts of notions that will not sit well in your sensitive stomach?
Is it dusty and pretentious? Does it reek of Cheetos, and
does orange powder erupt from the spine
when you crack it open, a gift from the last explorer?
Ideally, the book will be perfumed with strawberry shampoo,
a hint of the slumber parties and birthday cake which
the plot will circumnavigate
on a lazy river tube.
Feel the smoothness of the words with your eyes:
are they coarse and overgrown, like the garden of a witch’s shanty,
with words, ugly words, unfurling their hideous flowers
in the place where the roses belong, untended
by a meticulous hand? If so, you may be scratched
by the wild and dense brambles. Always beware of thorns.