Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, April 30, 2012

Whose Book Is This?

Many hands make light work. (John Heywood, English playwright and poet)

If I had a dime for every time I heard my mother utter that phrase, my house would be paid for and I would not be driving a rusty but reliable Subaru.  One outcome of hearing this however, besides getting whatever project was at hand completed, was learning the value of teamwork, the true spirit of cooperation.  Annoying as it was, sometimes one or two were slow to appreciate the worth of another.

Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Adam Rex struggle with that very dilemma in Chloe and the Lion (Disney, Hyperion Books).  In creating a picture book who is more important?  Does the work of the author outweigh that of the illustrator?  What about the characters?

As the book opens Mac positioned in the corner of the title page waves a greeting at the readers proclaiming he is the author.  On the back of the page he introduces his friend, Adam, as the illustrator, who, pencil in hand, is completing the writing of the dedication.  Continuing to the right Adam is drawing as Chloe, the main character of the book is presented.

Sharp-eyed Chloe collects coins all week wherever she finds them, keeping them in a glass jar.  Come Saturday she walks, jar in hand, to the park eager to ride the merry-go-round.  One week she has so much change she is able to buy ticket after ticket. 

So many rides leaves our gal a bit disoriented. On the way home through the forest she becomes lost, walking in circles.  Readers next read:

a huge lion leapt out from behind an oak tree

But what they see creeping up behind the feisty Chloe is a rather large dragon. 

Illustrator Rex disagrees with author Barnett believing that a dragon would be cooler. In the middle of the narration, after a heated exchange and hilarious alterations of Barnett's appearance by Rex, Barnett fires Rex.  The storyline continues with a "new" friend walking in, an illustrator, Hank.

Hank's artistic talents are not quite up to par with Barnett's expectations.  Figuring he might as well be the author and illustrator leads to unfortunate results.  A dejected Barnett listens to the wise-for-her-years Chloe.

Three magic words and a phone call later changes are in the works. Tracking through a fairy tale and a couple of classics Chloe hits upon the perfect solution to the picture book problem with some help from the not-such-a good-drawer, Barnett.  Reunited pals proceed, providing readers and Chloe with an ending that coughs up rewards enough for all. 

Mac Barnett has a singular style of manipulating words.  Striking the right balance between storyline and his characters' personalities, imperfections and strengths, readers are lead exactly where they need to go.  Done with generous helpings of humor and attitude with a plus, entertainment is assured but a lesson will be learned.

In reading the title verso,

The art in this book was made with basswood, balsa wood, oil and acrylic paints, pencil, Sculpey clay, modified doll clothing, toilet paper, photography and Photoshop.  ...  Hand lettering by Adam Rex.

you have to deeply admire the versatile talent of author/illustrator, Adam Rex.  He, author, Mac Barnett and the additional illustrator, Hank, are portrayed as clay figures with lifelike detailing.  Chloe and the other characters are done as cartoons with definite pizazz.  These creations are set upon a stage with carefully placed free-standing props for scenery or for the sake of emphasis, on white space.

Blending these various media into a cohesive, engaging whole in tandem with the narration has marvelous results under the hand and eye of Rex.  Posture and facial expressions translate any given mood of the moment.  Color choice and page layout indicate a master of design.

As in earlier collaborations, Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, clearly demonstrate with Chloe and the Lion they are dynamic as a duo; two peas in the perfect picture book pod.

These book trailers regarding Chloe and the Lion are prime examples of the chemistry between these two, a combination with imagination and loads of laughter.

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