I know it would be very lazy of me to direct you first and foremost to the book trailer for Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, but it so perfectly captures the spirit of their new picture book, the slightly subversive sense of humor that the two share and the depths of creativity that they bring to all their projects, that I am going to do just that. If you just can't stand giving up a 96 seconds of your life to this, please scroll down for a proper review.
Actually, I am going to be lazy again and defer to the superlative Betsy Bird, children's librarian, soon-to-be-author and longtime reviewer, who has written an extensive, in depth, thoughtful review of Chloe and the Lion for School Library Journal. Bird delves into the meta-ness of the book as well as the author-artist tug-of-war that the two play with, bringing her experiences reading to kids and talking about books to her review. While I definitely appreciated all of Bird's insights, I just want to have fun and read this book, which I think will make kids smirk and laugh the way John Klassen's smash hit (if there can be such a thing in the world of picture books) I Want My Hat Back does.
The book begins by asking, "Whose Book Is This?" where the usual "This Book Belongs To..." box can be found. The story beings by introducing us to Chloe, a cute, feisty little kid, the kind Rex has exhibited his skill at illustrating in his books Pssst! and The True Meaning of Smekday. Chloe loves to ride the merry-go-round in the park and saves up her money to go around and around every weekend. One weekend, she has more change than usual and it's dark by the time she has spent all her money on tickets. She becomes lost in the forest and is about to be confronted by a ferocious lion when a dragon jumps out at her instead. A argument erupts between Mac and Adam over who has control of the story, the author or the artist? I was immediately reminded of the Looney Toons short, "Duck Amuck" (click here if you have forgotten how great it is) in which the animator, revealed to be Bugs Bunny in the final shot, messes endlessly with Daffy by changing his scenery and even appearance. Adam does this a bit with Mac, that is until Mac fires Adam and brings in artist Hank Blowfeather, who actually gets a credit on the jacket flap along with Rex and Barnett and is listed as the "host of Oregon Public Television's Indescribbable! as well as the author of Solar Bear: The Polar Bear Who Wanted a Tan and Zounds! a collection of wacky poems. Hank lives, and grows flaxseed, near Portland." Blowfeather looks a lot like a balding Bob Ross, host of the PBS show, The Joy of Painting. Mac narrates Hank to draw a lion that swallows Adam whole, however, Hank's lion is not quite what Mac is looking for either. Mac ends up trying to illustrate the book himself and does a shabby but funny job of illustrating Chloe. Finally, a "ring ring" sound comes from the belly of the lion and Mac makes a lovely apology then proceeds to narrate Adam out of the lion by having Chloe hunt him down and convince him to burp up Adam in the interest of better illustrations.
I could not find ANY artwork from the book to share with you, but Adam Rex was generous enough to share some of his character sketches on his blog, which I have included. Rex is also pretty good with a slab of Sculpey and often makes character sculptures as well.
|Zooey from Psst!|
|Monsters from Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich|
|Billy Twitter and His Blue Whale|
|Adam and Mac with the stage and characters from the book|
Besides Chloe and the Lion, Barnett and Rex have teamed up for two other picture books, Guess Again! and Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem and Rex has provided the fantastic illustrations for all three (soon to be four) of Barnett's Brixton Brothers Mysteries. A review of book one in the series, The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity and a brief look at the picture books can be enjoyed by clicking here.
Although most kids will not get the humor of this clip, adults will. As witnessed by everything else they have done, Barnett and Rex are very funny and creative. This seems to really come out when they get in front of a video camera as well. First, the two came up with a hilarious infomercial in support of Rex's YA book, Fat Vampire, and, below, the two take their discord into the therapist's office with some interesting results...