Written by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney Hyperion Books, 2012
This is me, Mac. I’m the author of this book.
The plot in a nutshell: The book’s author and artist disagree
Chloe is introduced as the main character and the story begins with her collecting loose change, which she uses to buy tickets to ride the merry-go-round. When Chloe finds a whole jar full of change, she buys a lot of rides and gets dizzy, which leads to her getting lost in the forest. A huge lion jumps out at her, but it’s actually a dragon, which causes the author (Mac) and illustrator (Adam) to quarrel about which would be better. Adam draws Mac in some funny costumes and Mac fires him. A new artist, Hank, enters the story and draws a lion that eats Adam. Mac isn’t happy with the way Hank draws the lion, so he fires him as well. Mac tries to do the artwork, but it doesn’t look right, so he gives up. Chloe and the lion tell Mac that he can’t just stop telling the story. So he calls Adam (in the lion’s belly) to apologize. Chloe tries to find someone to help save Adam and finally convinces the lion to cough him up. He also coughs up a bunch of change, so all the characters can have a ride on the merry go-round.
Author Mac Barnett has a lot of fun with this book, breaking the fourth wall along with lots of other picture book conventions. He is an active character in this book from the first page and talks to the reader, the illustrator(s) and the book characters, both human and animal. This unique and irreverent approach to storytelling may not appeal to everyone, but I loved this book. It’s original, interesting, creative and very, very funny. I got the idea that these two guys had a blast creating this book. For those of my generation, you may find yourself reminded of the Daffy Duck cartoon, Duck Amuck.
Illustrator Adam Rex probably had even more fun than Mr. Barnett, with such a wide variety of art media – basswood, balsa wood, oil and acrylic paints, pencil, clay, modified doll clothing, toilet paper, photography and Photoshop. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve seen toilet paper listed as part of a picture book. The majority of the book’s central story (the one about Chloe, that kind of gets lost in the peripheral story about Mac and Adam) takes place on a stage, which is a neat touch that helps sell the secondary plot, in my opinion. The fun even continues on the book’s jacket, where Mac’s bio is long and self-promotional, while Adam’s is one sentence. A fake credit is even given to Hank, the fictional artist who shows up partway. This one’s a real treat for those who like their humor a little on the sly side.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone involved in the creation of a good book has an important part to play.