Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview #6: Adam Rex

We recently had a chat with family-favorite Author-Illustrator Adam Rex!  We love his picture books -- love 'em, love 'em!  You might remember we reviewed his great book "Pssst!" last year (wow - by random chance, exactly one year ago).  Last week Mr. Rex was kind enough to spend some time video chatting with the kids over Skype.  Face to face!  (Or face to... faces).  It's something I'm sure we'll remember forever, and we're excited to share the conversation now with you.  Thanks again to Adam Rex for a great interview!

(Portrait of Mr. Rex by Gracie)

Dad:  Before the interview, why don't we highlight some of Adam Rex's books.  I think the "Frankenstein" books are probably his most well-known.
Lily (age 7):  There are a whole bunch of Frankenstein books.
Dad:  A whole bunch?
Lily:  Well, actually there are two.
Isaac (age 11):  "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich" and "Frankenstein Takes the Cake."
Gracie (age 9):  Actually, it's called "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Other Stories You're Sure to Like, Because They are All About Monsters, and Some of Them are Also About Food - You Like Food, Don't You - Well, All Right Then."
Dad:  So the titles of his books are even funny.  To the opposite extreme, one of his other books is called "Pssst!" which has to be the shortest sound you can make.  It doesn't even have any vowels in it.
Isaac:  Or it could be the longest sound if you go, "Pssssssssssssssssssssssssssss..."
Dad:  I guess it all depends on how many S's you put in there.
Gracie:  The Frankenstein books have a whole bunch of different little poems, and they are all funny.
Lily:  The first Frankenstein book is poems about monsters.  And food.
Gracie:  The second one is about monsters getting married.
Isaac:  And food.
Lily:  It is a book of funny-ness-es.
Dad:  Did anyone have a favorite poem from these books?
Gracie:  I like the one about Frankenstein and his wife-to-be.  They are meeting the wife-to-be's parents and making all the preparations for the wedding.
Isaac:  My favorite story is "Off the Top of My Head."  It looks like a blog of the Headless Horseman.  He tells about what is going on in his life.  He's trying to find a new head because his pumpkin head is getting old and moldy.
Lily:  I like "Zombie Samba."  The zombies are chatting.  But they can't really talk.  So they just say "Mambo."  They get all excited by a word sometimes.  They freak out.  And sometimes they just dance all over.
Isaac:  And the pictures that go with the poems are all in different styles, even though they are in the same book.  One looks like comic strips.  One is black and white like it was done on scratchboard.  One looks like cut paper collage.  And it's funny because there are even little poems in the pictures.  Like, if someone is holding a newspaper, he even writes tiny funny poems on the newspaper in the illustration.
Dad:  Thanks guys!  And now it's time to share your interview with Mr. Adam Rex:

Dad:  Hello, sir!
Adam Rex:  Hi guys.  How are you doing?
Isaac:  We've been waiting for a long time!
Dad:  They've been really excited all day.  You have some big fans over here.
Adam Rex:  That's really nice.  I'm honored.
Gracie:  I'm wondering... do you really have jet skiing giraffes in your backyard?  Because in "Frankenstein Takes the Cake" you said you had a track in your backyard where jet skiers race giraffes.
Adam Rex:  Actually, we had to move them off site because our pool is really messy right now.  We had to move the giraffes to a home... for wayward giraffes... and jet skiers... while we get the pool cleaned.
Gracie:  Hee hee hee...
Dad:  It's nice they have a home for that.
Gracie:  HA ha hah ha!
Adam Rex:  It's weird, right?  Strange, I agree.  But, lucky me.
Lily:  Do you have a special studio place where you write or draw?
Adam Rex:  One of the bedrooms in my house is a studio.  I have my drawing table in there, and a huge bookcase full of books and models I've made.  It's a real mess too.
Isaac:  I made a teeny studio in my bedroom.  It's really just a desk, and all my paints are around the edges.  But the desk is too covered to actually use anymore.
Gracie:  He's got paints there, and he took apart a digital camera, a hairdryer, and an umbrella.
Adam Rex:  Do you like taking stuff apart to see how it works?
Isaac:  I like to take the parts out of things so I can use them.
Adam Rex:  You're not making some kind of digital-blowdryer-umbrella are you?
Gracie:  Hah ha ha!
Adam Rex:  Actually that would be cool!  An umbrella that blows hot air down on you while you are walking around.  So it dries your hair.  And it takes pictures of the top of your head.
Dad:  Get cracking on that Isaac!
Adam Rex:  I can't do stuff like that.  My wife is the one that can build things.  She's an astrophysicist.
Dad:  We just read about her on your blog.
Gracie:  Dad said she goes all the way into the North Pole and sets balloons off to make observations, and does cool stuff like that.
Adam Rex:  That's right.  She's got all these amazing pictures of really far away.  Like a billion light years away.
Gracie:  With a balloon?
Adam Rex:  It was a telescope that hung from a balloon.  But it went really high, all the way to the edge of space.
Lily:  Wouldn't it pop?
Adam Rex:  It was a really big strong balloon.
Isaac:  That's cool.
Dad:  Gracie, didn't you have a question about Mr. Rex and his wife... ha ha ha...
Gracie: (embarrassed silence)
Isaac:  Yeah, ask it!
Adam Rex:  Do you have an interesting question to ask me, Gracie?  You should ask!
Gracie:  Um.  Which job do you think is better?  Sitting at home making awesome books, or going to the North Pole to send up telescope balloons?
Isaac:  That's not how you said it before!
Dad:  Ha ha ha...  She's rephrased it now.  Her original question was going to be, "Who is cooler, you or your wife."
Adam Rex:  I think my wife is definitely cooler than I am.  I think it's pretty amazing what she's done.  I'm not smart in that way.  I think she and I are both pretty smart people, but we are smart in different ways.  Which is great -- we don't step on each other's toes.
Dad:  I wouldn't be able to do my wife's job either.  Taking care of 5 kids from morning to night...  and homeschooling them...  running the show.
Adam Rex:  Do you guys both do the homeschooling, or is it just Mom?
Dad:  One year I tried to take over just one subject, Math.  And it was horrible.  Their education suffered as a result of me trying to help out.  I don't have the skills to juggle multiple responsibilities the way my amazing wife can.  We learned quickly that school works better if she handles it all.
Adam Rex:  What is your homeschooling schedule every day?  Do you guys get up at the same time that school kids get up?
Gracie:  We get to sleep in laaaaaate.
Isaac:  And we only have to work on school until we are done.
Adam Rex:  I bet it doesn't take you guys as long as it would other school kids.
Dad:  And that frees them up for all these other creative endeavors... things they wouldn't be able to do stuck in a classroom setting.
Isaac:  Like, we wouldn't be able to do this interview.
Adam Rex:  Well I'm glad you have time to do those things.  Because a lot of people depend on your blogs for comfort every day.
Dad:  I consider that part of their education too... studying illustrations and writing... and studying books each week for Bookie Woogie.  So I am involved in their education that way.
Gracie:  Which one is your favorite, writing or illustrating?
Adam Rex:  Right now it's actually writing.  I have a bunch of illustration work to do, and I don't want to do it.  I keep putting it off and trying to work on a new book instead.  I think writing is harder for me than illustrating, so that makes it more exciting too.  It's a little more thrilling.
(Lily raises her hand)
Adam Rex:  Yes, Lily?
Lily:  What did you draw when you were a kid?
Adam Rex:  I liked to draw dragons and unicorns.  I drew a lot of fantasy stuff.
Isaac:  I like to draw dragons too.
Gracie:  Oh yeah, Isaac loves dragons.
Adam Rex:  I have a brother who is 3 years older than me.  And when I was 5 years old I overheard him complaining to my mom, "It's not fair -- Adam's only 5 and he can draw better than me."
Gracie:  Ah hah ha!
Adam Rex:  So when I heard that, I decided I was going to be an artist, just to annoy my brother.  I had a problem as a kid...  I thought I should be able to do everything my brother could -- which was ridiculous because he was 3 years older than me.  He was smarter, he was better at sports, he was better at everything.  But I could draw better than him, so I decided at the age of 5 to be an artist.
Isaac:  What is your favorite way to make art?
Adam Rex:  I started oil painting when I was 11 or 12.  And I still really love to oil paint.
Isaac:  I'm 11, and I like to oil paint too.  I just started to do it a little bit.
Gracie:  Oil paintings take forever to dry.
Adam Rex:  Yeah, they do.  I've been painting a lot more on the computer now.  I'm able to paint a little faster that way, and it's nice to hit that "undo button" when I make a mistake.  But I still like using actual oil paints better.
Dad:  Did you have someone teaching you oils as a kid, or did you just teach yourself?
Adam Rex:  I signed up for an evening class taught at a framing store.  Not only was I the only boy, but I was also the only person under the age of 40.  So there was me and a bunch of middle aged ladies all in a class together learning how to oil paint.
Gracie:  Ahh hah ha!
Lily:  I have another question.  Why do you do all the different styles in your books.
Adam Rex:  I have a certain way I naturally draw.  But I love other illustrators' work so much.  So sometimes I see an artist and I think, boy, it would be great to try to draw like that - I've got to give that a try.
Dad:  We do that with Bookie Woogie, don't we...  Each week we try to draw and take inspiration from a different illustrator.
Gracie:  Your pictures in "Pssst" look totally different than the pictures in "Small Beauties."
Adam Rex:  That's a really good example, thank-you -- a perfect example of something that needed to have a different style.  "Small Beauties" was more of a serious story, and it was based on true events, so I really wanted it to have realistic beauty to it.  I think I would have insulted the story if had made it look too cartoonish.
Lily:  How do you get out of drawing backgrounds?
Adam Rex:  Ha ha!
Gracie:  You paint no backgrounds in "Pssst!"
Isaac:  But it still looks awesome!
Gracie:  You even get out of making backgrounds in the Frankenstein books.
Adam Rex:  That's tricky of me, isn't it.  And you are right...  I'll admit it...  that's on purpose.  I try to get out of doing backgrounds.  I thought, man, if I have to paint a detailed zoo in the background of every one of these pages I'm going to go crazy.  But the important thing is whatever you do, you just make it look like that's what you meant to do.  Even if you make a mistake, you go back and make that same mistake a couple more times so it looks like you planned it.
Dad:  Do you have an example of that?
Adam Rex:  In college if I was inking something and I accidentally dropped a spot of ink where it wasn't supposed to be, I'd drop a couple more spots of ink so it looked like it was my style.  You can get away with anything if you make it look like you meant to do it that way.
Gracie:  In "Tree Ring Circus," we thought you printed out the tree each time and then just painted the characters over top.  Because the details on the tree are exactly identical on each page.
Adam Rex:  Yep.  That's right.  That's another good example of how I cheat on my backgrounds.
Gracie:  HA HA ha ha ha!
Isaac:  It's a smart idea though!
Adam Rex:  I did one pen and ink drawing of the tree.  I scanned it into my computer and had that printed out really big -- 25 or 30 inches tall -- over and over and over again.  I thought I would go nuts if I had to paint that tree over and over.
Dad:  Now, these kids here are aspiring oil painters.  But I know nothing about paint.  I'm a drawer.  Even my color work is colored pencil.  So do you have any painting tips for them?  Can we pick your brain?
Adam Rex:  One thing is to be really aware of the warm and cool colors.  Obviously reds and yellow and oranges are warm colors, right.  And cool colors are--
Gracie: Blues and purples.
Adam Rex:  Yeah.  But you can also have warm blues and cold blues.  And warm reds and cold reds.  The best way to mix colors is to always mix the warm version of things with other warm versions.  And cold with cold.  Otherwise if you mix warm and cold together, everything immediately turns to this brown goopy mud.
Isaac:  That's good to know.  I've had colors turn the opposite of what I wanted them to be.
Adam Rex:  And I started out painting pretty thin too.  I didn't goop it on all that much.  When I got too thick I started having problems with things getting muddy and ugly.
Isaac:  I have one more question.  How do you get your drawings to have good shading?  I've been having trouble with that.
Gracie:  Yeah, you have perfect shading.
Adam Rex:  Well thank-you.  I always try to make the lines of the shading follow the contours of the object that I'm drawing.  I don't go in there and just start scribbling in shading.  I almost act like I'm sculpting the thing.  So if I'm shading a ball, then I'm making the shading follow the curves of the ball.
Isaac:  Oh I see.
Adam Rex:  I'm trying to make every single line not only tell you whether something is light or dark, but also make every single line tell you what shape that thing is.  That's something I learned as I got older.
Dad:  Well what do you guys tell Mr. Rex?
Kids:  Thank yooooooou!
Adam Rex:  Thanks guys -- Lily, Gracie, Isaac.  It's been really good talking to you.
Dad:  Any last words, or are we all wrapped up?
Lily:  Wzeeeeeeeeeee.....
Dad:  We're very thankful that you took the time to talk to us.
Adam Rex:  That's a pretty good last word -- that scream of Lily's there.  I like that.
Dad:  Lily usually dissolves into incomprehensible noises when she's done.
Lily:  Ha haw ha!
Adam Rex:  Yes, I'm like that too.

zombies at the zoo, by Lily

a crow carries away the headless horseman's
pumpkin head
, by Isaac

Frankenstein and his bride, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Adam Rex
"Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich" published 2006: Harcourt
Like it?  Find it

Monday, April 19, 2010

Review #66: Bunny Days

Gracie (age 9):  Bunny Days!  Ha hah ha!
Dad:  And Gracie is already laughing...  just thinking about the book makes her laugh...
Lily (age 7):  It was hilarious.  It was Bunny-Funny.
Gracie:  The person who made it is Tao Nyeu.
Isaac (age 11):  There are three stories in this book.
Lily:  Each story is about bunnies.  And "Bear."  And a goat.
Dad:  We've got three stories and three Z-Kids.  How about you each tell me about one of the stories.
Lily:  Okay.
Dad:  The first one is called "Muddy Bunnies."
Gracie:  Nnnnah ha haa!
Dad:  And there she goes again.  Why are you laughing already?
Gracie:  The bunnies are so cute!
Dad:  What happens in this one, Lily?
Lily:  Mr. Goat was driving his tractor, and he splatters a whole bunch of mud all over the bunnies.
Dad:  Is there a way to fix the bunnies up?
Isaac:  Yes.  A funny way.
Lily:  They went to Bear and he stuck them in a washing machine!!!
Isaac:  Look at that bunny's face - he's covered in suds.  I think they are happy in there.
Lily:  Then Bear hangs them on a wire to dry for a day and a night.
Gracie:  He snapped them up by their foreheads.
Dad:  So who is going to tell me about story number 2: "Dusty Bunnies?"
Gracie:  Me.  There's this goat-lady -- Mrs. Goat.
Lily:  See - another goat!
Gracie:  She's vacuuming the grass.  And the bunnies are all sleeping in their holes.  And then she sucks them right out of the ground!  And you can see their little heads getting clunked together!  Ha ha ha!  They are so cute!
Isaac:  Look at that bunny's head - it's getting pulled!
Gracie:  He's got his little bunny buns hanging out.
Isaac:  Their eyes are huge and their heads are stretched extremely long.
Dad:  And who knows how to fix everything?
Isaac:  Bear.
Gracie:  He has a gi-normous fan.  Just so happens to have a gi-norous fan right then.  And he dusts them off.
Dad:  And Isaac, tell me about story 3, "Bunny Tails."
Isaac:  The bunnies are playing Hide and Go Seek.  They are hiding in the bushes and their tails look like flowers.  Mr. Goat is trimming the bushes, and he doesn't realize it but he -- snip, snip -- cuts off all their little tails!  Then they are all really sad...  just looking at their tails.
Gracie:  You snipped our buns off!
Isaac:  So they walk over to Bear who is sitting on a log with some tea and a sewing machine.
Dad:  Good news!
Gracie:  Ha ha!
Isaac:  Bear just sews them back on.
Gracie:  That bunny looks horrified!
Isaac:  He does!
Dad:  So, what is so funny about this book?
Gracie:  The bunnies!  Their feelings!  Their expressions are hilarious.
Lily:  And the bear put them in a washing machine!
Gracie:  And where would a bear even get a washing machine?
Isaac:  I know - it's so convenient.
Gracie:  A convenient comedy.
Dad:  So if we took our neighbor Gina's pet bunny and put it in a washing machine, would it be funny?
Isaac:  No way!
Dad:  So why is the book funny?  Why isn't it a horrible book?
Gracie:  Because the bunnies are so cute!
Isaac:  The bunnies are funny.  They don't talk and their expressions are funny.
Gracie:  You just know that the bunnies don't talk.  Here in the picture when the goat is snipping off their buns, this one bunny is looking at him really freaked out, and you KNOW that if he could talk, he would scream for him to stop.
Lily:  But the bunnies don't have any mouths.
Isaac:  And it is also funny because Bear always happens to have some big machine - sitting right next to him - and it's the one thing they need.
Gracie:  What are the chances!
Lily:  It's funny.
Gracie:  It's awesome!  A washing machine!  Where would he even plug it in?  It's part of the funny.
Isaac:  Maybe he has millions and millions of extension cords.
Gracie:  Something horrible always happens to the poor little innocent bunnies.
Dad:  Now, you guys each have your own sewing machines.
Gracie:  Me and Isaac.
Dad:  Would you know how to sew a tail back onto a bunny?
Isaac:  No - but I could figure it out.
Dad:  Tell me a little bit about what Tao Nyeu's illustrations look like.
Gracie:  Simple shapes.
Isaac:  But she has to have everything filled with all these lines and designs.  The hills are not just green hills -- they look like big green quilts.
Gracie:  And she makes stinkin' awesome trees.
Isaac:  Is this book made with watercolor?  I can't tell...
Gracie:  What is it done with, Dad?
Dad:  Let's see if the book tells us...  Oh, it's silkscreen.  I don't know much about how silkscreen works.  We'll have look later to see if she has any information on her website.  I think you print each color one at a time.
Isaac:  Yeah -- Remember when we looked at the video of that guy who was making CD covers...
Dad:  Oh yeah - Michael Wertz!  From when we reviewed "A Curious Collection of Cats."  Good memory.
Isaac:  I saw a whole video clip about silkscreen.
Dad:  That's one reason why these pages have a limited palette.  She had to make a different layer for each color.
Isaac:  That must have taken a long time.
Dad:  Can you imagine any more mishaps for the bunnies?  What do you think happens next?
Lily:  Look on the back cover!  A goat with a lawn mower!  Be careful!  Be careful when you are mowing the lawn!
Dad:  Ooo...  I envision another episode coming along...  "Bunny Slices..."
Gracie:  Oh!  I just hope Bear has super glue.
Dad:  Would bunnies find this story funny?
Gracie:  No!
Isaac:  Danger!  Bunnies, do not look at this book!

Mrs. Goat has a lawnmower!  Bunnies lose some ears!  Good thing Bear has some glue...  - by Lily

Mr. Goat's carrot picker picks up bunnies too...  - by Isaac

Mrs. Goat's freezer accidentally turns bunnies into cubes of ice.  It's a good thing Bear has a microwave to thaw them out...  - by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Tao Nyeu
Published, 2010: Dial Books
Like it?  Find it

(or watch Michael Wertz silkscreen)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Review #65: Grover-palooza

Dad:  Today Lily wanted to look at a bunch of our "Grover" books.  Why did you pick these, Lily?
Lily (age 7):  They are hilarious-es of hilarious-es.  I love them.
Dad:  What is so funny about them?
Isaac (age 11):  He is funny -- Grover is funny.
Dad:  Here's the book I think most people are familiar with... "The Monster at the End of This Book, Starring Lovable Furry Old Grover."  That is a long title.
Lily:  Grover sees the title, and he freaks out.
Gracie (age 9):  He tries to keep us from turning the pages.
Lily:  Because of the monster at the end of the book.
Gracie:  He makes a brick wall... and nails the pages together.  It's hilarious!  All these Grover books are hilarious.
Elijah (age 4):  Buh-larious.  Huh-larious, buh-larious.
Dad:  So, it's not just about Grover...
Isaac:  Grover is actually living IN the book.
Gracie:  What is that thing called when they know they are in a book?
Dad:  Yeah!  Can you remember???
Gracie:  Arrg - no!
Dad:  What is the special word?
Isaac:  "Adramadoo?"
Dad:  Not adramadoo.  We talked about it when we reviewed "The Three Pigs..."  Remember, you thought it sounded like a superhero name.
Gracie:  Megatron?
Dad:  Close... "metafiction."
Gracie:  Metafiction!  It's when the characters know they are in a book.
Lily:  Like Grover!
Dad:  How do you feel about the fact that it's a character from television?  Would it be better with some randomly invented new guy, like "Bob the Cat"?
Isaac:  I like that it's Grover because of his personality.
Gracie:  It wouldn't be as funny if it wasn't Grover.
Isaac:  Like, if it was Big Bird instead of Grover, it wouldn't be as funny.  Grover's personality helps it.
Gracie:  He always gets frustrated.
Dad:  What about Elmo?  Usually people my age love Grover, while kids love Elmo.
Isaac:  I like Grover better.
Gracie:  I like Grover better too.
Dad:  A lot of people know this book, and a lot of people love it.  But they might not know that there are more Grover books by the same people who made this book... Jon Stone and Mike Smollin.
Isaac:  These books are great.  They are hilarious.  They are so funny.
Gracie:  You do awesome with Grover's voice, Dad.
Dad:  This one has an even longer title!  "Would You Like to Play Hide and Seek in This Book with Lovable Furry Old Grover? Please Say Yes!"
Gracie:  That whole thing is the title!
Dad:  And actually, I like this book even better than "Monster at the End..."
Gracie:  Me too.  It's even funnier.
Isaac:  It's so funny.  Grover is playing Hide and Go Seek with us.
Lily:  He knows that he's in the book.  He's like, "I'll hide in the crack between the pages!  AHH! - No, no, no that won't work!"  We could still see him.
Isaac:  You can't really hide in a book.
Dad:  Especially if it's just full of blank white pages.
Isaac:  And Grover read my thoughts!  I was thinking, it's too bad the page is just white... he can't blend in...  But right then Grover said, "I'll get my finger paints and turn the book blue so you can't see me!"
Dad:  Did it work?
Elijah:  It would work if you colored his eyes blue.
Isaac:  Grover would have to close his eyes and paint his lips.
Gracie:  So far, in both of these stories, Grover destroys the books.  All the pages get wrecked.
Isaac:  You destroyed our book, Grover!
Dad:  So how about this next book?  "Lovable Furry Old Grover's Resting Places."
Lily:  This one is also metafiction.
Gracie:  Here's another cool thing about these Grover books...  In most books the characters just talk to each other.  But in these, he's not talking to somebody else -- he's talking to us.
Dad:  So it's almost like we are a part of the story too.
Gracie:  In this one, he shows you all these "resting places" for parts of your body.
Dad:  Your elbow...  your ear...  your hands...
Gracie:  My favorite was the belly button resting place!  And Grover didn't destroy the book in this one, but he did destroy his room.
Lily:  Those guys should make more of these books.  There should be more.
Dad:  These books came out quite a while ago.  One was made in 1971 -- that's before I was born.
Lily:  Hmmm... those guys probably are not alive.  But maybe their kids could make more.
Dad:  We have one more here: "Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum."
Gracie:  All of these book have the longest titles ever.
Dad:  This one was made by some different people, but I think it fits well with these other three Grover books.  What makes these four a good set?
Gracie:  They are all hilarious!
Lily:  The drawings look exactly the same.
Gracie:  And Grover is still talking out to us.  He's interacting, and he knows he's in a book, and he's funny.
Dad:  So tell us what this one is about...
Gracie:  It's about Grover going to a museum to see everything in the whole wide world.  There's a "Things-that-can-tickle-you Room."  "The Things-that-you-can-trip-over Room."  "The Tall Hall."  "The Small Hall."  "The Things-you-see-on-the-ground Room."
Dad:  What was your favorite room?
Lily:  "The Cute and Furry and Cuddly Room."
Dad:  You would belong in there, Lily.  You're cute and cuddly.
Lily:  But I'm not furry.
Dad:  When I cut my hair, maybe I can glue the clippings all over your body.
Lily:  But then I wouldn't be cute any more.
Dad:  Ha ha haha....  Then I guess we're stuck.
Lily:  Maybe I could get a cute furry sweater.
Dad:  I wonder if there are any more Grover books like these that we don't know about?
Gracie:  I hope there are.  We could go online and check it out.
Dad:  Maybe people could leave a comment if they know of more.
Lily:  Sweet!

Grover, by Elijah

Grover making a stone wall so we can't turn the page, by Lily

Gracie drawn by Grover, drawn by Gracie

Grover, by Isaac

Author: Jon Stone
Illustrator: Mike Smollin
"Monster at the End" published 1971, Golden Books
"Hide and Seek" published 1976, Random House
"Resting Places" published 1984, Random House

Authors: Norman Stiles and Daniel Wilcox
Illustrator: Joe Mathieu
"Everything Museum" published 1974, Random House

Like 'em?  Find 'em

Monday, April 5, 2010

Review #64: The Wonder Book

Dad:  Today we are taking a look at "The Wonder Book," written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Paul Schmid.  What did you guys think of it?
Lily (age 7):  Kids should pick this book up.  They would like it.
Gracie (age 9):  Any kid would like this.  It's hilarious.
Lily:  I want everyone to know the hilarious-ness-es of this book.
Isaac (age 11):  This is a poem book.
Dad:  Did you have a favorite poem in there, Lily?
Lily:  I don't know which is my favorite.  But the one I remember most is with the boy in the water, and he says: "Tinkle / Tinkle / In the sea / Don't look under / While I pee."
Dad:  Ah, so sophisticated...
Isaac:  It's funny!
Dad:  How about you, Gracie?
Gracie:  I like the Various Friends of Mary Mack.  You know that rhyme that goes "Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack / All dressed in black black black..."  Well, these are the Less Famous Friends of Mary Mack.  So there is "Miss Mary Fred Fred Fred / All dressed in red red red..." and stuff like that.
Dad:  And many of these poems involve wordplay...  Making a pun...  Or making a palindrome...
Lily:  A whatty-what?
Gracie:  A palindrome is a word that is the same spelled both backward and forward.
Dad:  And Isaac, tell us about puns.
Isaac:  This is an example from the book...  If you said, "Puns of the Week," then "Sun" Day would be hot.  And "Twos" Day would be a girl and her reflection.  And "Fry" Day would be french fry day.
Gracie: (flipping through the book)  I like this poem too...
Dad:  It's a funny list of names...
Gracie:  The illustrator could have drawn anything, but he drew all these kids piled on top of a camel, and the camel is the one named Bob.
Dad:  So the poem is funny by itself.  And even the picture is funny by itself.  But what happens when you put the two together?
Gracie:  It explodes into little nuggets of laughing goodness.
Dad:  So what did the illustrator bring to the book?
Gracie:  Hilariousness.
Isaac:  I don't think it would have been as good without the words, and I don't think it would have been as good without the pictures.
Dad:  So the book needed both Mrs. Rosenthal and Mr. Schmid.
Gracie:  Paul Schmid makes skinny, little, stick ears on his guys.  Look at them!  Bumpy, stick ears.
Isaac:  And they have little, teeny legs and little, teeny arms.
Elijah (age 4):  They look like little moosh-kins.
Dad:  What is a mooshkin?  You mean munchkins?
Elijah:  Moosh-kin.
Isaac:  The drawings look like they were done really fast.  They are really good though.  I really like his drawings.
Gracie:  Loose doodley black and white.
Dad:  Did you have a favorite drawing?
Gracie:  At the very beginning of the book where everybody is standing in a line, there is this hilarious bunny.  He's freaky!  A fat monster bunny!  He's got big eyebrows and he's the freakiest bunny in the world.  And standing in line there is also a little teeny short dude in a superman costume that we all thought looks like Grandpa!
Isaac:  Ha hah!
Dad:  Does "The Wonder Book" remind you of any other books we have?
Isaac:  Yes!  Those other two poem books.  "The End of the Sidewalk..."
Gracie:  It's called "The Edge of the World."
Dad:  Actually, it's "Where the Sidewalk Ends."
Isaac:  And the other one is called something like "I Have a House on My Head."
Dad:  Ha ha -- "A Light in the Attic."  Those are both by Shel Silverstein.
Gracie:  Those books have a whole bunch of poems in them too.  And look at these pictures!  They are very much the same style as the pictures in the Freaky-guy books.
Dad:  Freaky-guy?  You mean Shel Silverstein?
Gracie: (running to get the Silverstein books)  There are really freaky photographs of him on the backs of the books.  This one has a picture of his foot.  And this one... is... Eeeeea!  They are all freaky, freaky pictures of him, his face, and his feet.
Dad:  So should they have taken a really scary, horrifying picture of Amy Krouse Rosenthal for the back of The Wonder Book?
Isaac:  Ha hah ha... No...  Ha ha...
Dad: (turning to the jacket flap/author bio in The Wonder Book)  See, this is what she looks like in real life...
Gracie:  Oh, she's cute!
Dad:  What about this picture of Paul Schmidt?
Gracie:  He's... not as cute...
Isaac:  Ha ha!
Gracie:  Um.
Lily:  He's got cool hair.
Gracie:  Yeah!  He's got REALLY cool hair!

monster bunnies attacking grandpa boy, by Gracie

Miss Mary Bean Bean Bean
All dressed in green green green
Had the cutest kitten kitten kitten
You've ever seen seen seen

- poem and picture by Lily

And some "Month Puns" by Isaac:
Ape Rule

Jewel Lie

Sup' Timber

Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Paul Schmid
Published, 2010: Harper Collins
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