The Onion’s Great Escape

The story of one vegetable's survival in an interactive children's book

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As a cross between illustration, philosophy and paper engineering, Sara Fanelli‘s most recent children’s book “The Onion’s Great Escape” challenges the limitations of reading as an interactive experience. Following the quest of an onion as it attempts to escape its apparent fate of death by frying, the book’s perforated core is removed page-by-page until, at the end, the onion is literally freed from the book. The innovative fusion of tactile activity and illustration is taken a step further by a call-and-response method of asking children difficult questions with room for a written answer.


Throughout the die-cut, 68-page work, questions range from the categorical “What is your name?” to the metaphysical “What is the longest minute you can remember?” Rather than dumbing down the experience, each page challenges young minds to come up with a creative response. Fanelli’s illustrations show an impressive range, and she is able to freeze moments of delight and despair as the onion flies through obstacles on its journey to save himself.

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Each page of “The Onion’s Great Escape” offers a new look and experience, and the diversity of styles is enhanced by the perforated core, which can be mixed and matched with different pages in the book. As the onion gradually breaks free from the pages, it emerges to stand alone as a 3D entity—the remainder of the book’s content staying intact.

“The Onion’s Great Escape” is available for pre-order from Phaidon and on Amazon. See more images of the book in our slideshow and check out this video of the book in action.

Images by James Thorne