Saturday, November 18, 2006

In the Coop with Aaron Reynolds

Aaron Reynolds is the author of one of our favorite funny picture books, Chicks and Salsa (Bloomsbury), and the upcoming sequel, Buffalo Wings. Both are illustrated by Paulette Bogan. Aaron is also the author of the Tiger Moth graphic novel series (Stone Arch Books) and many fabulous and funny future picture books.

Break out the chips and salsa and let's Cha Cha!

How do you know when what you write is funny?

Well, there’s four kinds of funny. There’s funny-but-not-funny-enough-to-actually-laugh funny, there’s laugh-inside-my-head funny, there’s laugh-out-loud funny, and there’s laugh-so-hard-that-you-accidentally-fart funny. If my writing makes me do one of the last two, then I figure I’m on the right track.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

Extremes are funny. I have to constantly push myself to take a funny idea further. In Chicks and Salsa, I started out with gourmet chickens who make salsa. But it wasn’t until I added connoisseur ducks making guacamole and pigs whipping up nachos that the story started getting funny. And the ending wasn’t working until I took the whole thing the next level with the foodie farm animals. When the rooster ditches the whole thing to cook French crepes…that’s when humor finally felt like it paid off. When you come up with a funny idea, imagine the farthest you could possibly take it…and then take it one step farther. Chances are, that’s when you’ll have something really worth laughing at.

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?

I remember at Boy Scout camp once, I was the ring-leader in tying our Scout Master to his cot while he was sleeping in it (we did it with belts, by the way). Then we bodily lifted his cot, with his prone sleeping form still in it, and dumped him in the lake. Seemed like a funny idea at the time. He didn’t think so. I may have lost a merit badge or two over that incident.

What are some of your favorite funny books?

There’s books that are “ha-ha” funny like The Day the Babies Crawled Away by Peggy Rathman, the Babymouse books by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler, Ka-Pow by George O’Connor, and anything by Jon Scieszka. Then there’s books that are dark and weird and goofy funny, like Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders, Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales, and The Day I Traded my Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman. I’m a huge fan of both.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

I’d probably pick my newest book, a graphic novel series called Tiger Moth, Insect Ninja. Eric Lervold, who illustrated it, has created a weird and wonderful world where the bugs are very humanized, yet very buggy, and the colors are wild and vivid. Not to mention, there’s no shortage of humor, action, and a whole lot of HI-YAH! Every boy’s dream.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

I have to confess, I’m really too young to like either. Sorry about that. Even The Little Rascals, I only saw in re-runs. In lieu of that, I’ll pick Ginger as my favorite Gilligan’s Island castaway, Marcia as my favorite Brady Bunch member, Daisy as my favorite Duke of Hazzard, (see a pattern anywhere in my hormone-induced adolescence?) and The Donny and Marie show over Sonny and Cher as my favorite lame variety show.

What was your best Halloween costume?

Has to be the year I went as Ponch from CHiPs. It was cold out that year, so my mom made me wear my coat over my plastic jump-suit-with-the-outfit-printed-on-the-front costume. Luckily, I had a bomber jacket that year, so I looked even more Ponch-esque than I would’ve without it. But, bummer of bummers, the elastic band from my mask came loose from it’s staple halfway through the night, so I had to hold it in place with my hand. This limited maximum candy-scoring-potential significantly. But still…who was cooler than Ponch?

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

I’m doin’ it, you silly chicks.

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