Sunday, April 29, 2007

In the Coop with Kara and Jenna LaReau

In the Coop with Kara and Jenna LaReau

Hurray! Hurray! It's a very special day! We are celebrating with two of our favorite talented chicks--who also happen to be sisters!

Kara and Jenna LaReau are the uber-talented writing & illustrating team who brought us the Rocko and Spanky series of picture books. Really folks! What could be cooler than a sock monkey on a Vespa? NOTHING!

Kara is also the author of UGLY FISH which is one of our favorite funny picture books. These chicks are funny, smart, and obviously photogenic as you can see by their lovely photo!!! Welcome Sisters LaReau!

How do you know when what you write is funny?
K: When Jenna tells me. Seriously, she is my comedy barometer, and often, my inspiration.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?
It's all about rhythm and word choice, and being willing to make unexpected decisions to catch your audience off-guard. With Rocko and Spanky, their names alone elicit chuckles; the legwarmers and roller skates and maracas are just the icing. And most of the reason we think Ugly Fish is funny is the page turns (and of course, Scott's illustrations).

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?
Kara spent most of her elementary school career sitting in the corner; those old-school teachers just couldn't tolerate a female class clown. As Jenna followed Kara in school, she had to face all those teachers with bad memories of the OTHER LaReau sister, so Jenna learned how to turn on the charm from an early age. Though we came to it in different ways (one getting into trouble, one getting out of it), we both realized we had a knack for entertaining.

What are some of your favorite funny books?
Honestly, it's hard to know where to start. As kids, we loved Shel Silverstein, Edward Gorey, Roald Dahl, Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children, Dr. Seuss, and Beverly Cleary. And there was a book about how to become a competitive rollerskater that Kara read zealously when she was 7-8 years old, but that's only funny in retrospect. And it's funny-sad, not funny-ha-ha.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?
Definitely Rocko and Spanky's crib. Ugly Fish's tank is too wet and briny, Snowbaby's is too chilly, and the world of Top Secret isn't exactly relaxing. Sock monkeys really know how to entertain, and they have a flair for decor.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges
Neither. We're not so much into the slapping and poking and drawn-on, bushy eyebrows. We'd rather watch old episodes of the Carol Burnett Show.

What was your best Halloween costume?
Kara's "best" was when she went out as a tube of toothpaste. She wore a white pleated lampshade on her head and a long T-shirt on which she drew the Aim logo. Unfortunately, just about everyone thought she was a lamp; it was her first experience as a misunderstood artist, though certainly not her last.

Jenna's best was when she went as Superman, because our mother allowed her to get a storebought costume. It was one of those with the mask and plastic onesie that tied in the back. Not surprisingly, Jenna kept the cape and wore it for some time afterwards; she displayed a panache for accessorizing even then.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?
For Jenna, a magician (a la Houdini, not Doug Henning). For Kara, a seat-filler at the Academy Awards. Or a professional rollerskater.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch. Pick your winner.
Though clowns might appear the obvious choice (they're vicious with a seltzer bottle), mimes have street smarts and stealth on their side. Also, when in danger, they can always box themselves in.

Funniest dead person you?d like to meet?
Dean Martin or Gilda Radner.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bad Bears Go Visiting

Bad Bears Go Visiting
by Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN: 978-0-618-43126-7

Irving and Muktuk are the kind of bad bears kids love to love. They cheat at cards, escape from the zoo, and generally make mischief every chance they get. When their friend Larry introduces them to the concept of "Visiting," these Bad Bears have to try it for themselves. They visit the Beachball family. Of course, they bring a present (the bush from the front lawn makes a lovely gift), snack on doughnuts with sardines, and play indoor volleyball until the zoo keeper and police arrive to take them back to the zoo. (Again.)

Irving and Muktuk are wry, playful, and silly. But best of all, they are sneaky. As Daniel Pinkwater writes, "Though polar bears are very large, they are among the best sneakers in the animal kingdom." Who knew? Jill Pinkwater! That's who! With the simplest of lines, she captures the mischievous heart of this daring duo and makes us want to join the fun! And there's plenty of fun to be had. BAD BEARS GO VISITING is fun, plain and simple.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Where is the Cake?

Where is the Cake?
by T.T. Khing
Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0-8109-1798-9

It's sad but true. Sometimes, Silly Chicks have short attention sp . . .

Every now and then, we enjoy a super fast read. And what could be faster than reading a book without words? As it turns out, reading a book with words! At least that's the case when the book without words is the newly translated picture book called WHERE IS THE CAKE? by T.T. Khing. This title was originally published in Dutch as "Waar is de Taart?" (You don't really need to know that. We just like saying, "Waar is de Taart?")

This book contains two of our favorite things: Cake and looking for cake. Two very odd, possum-like creatures steal a cake from the dog family and high-tail it through an ever-changing landscape of dense forests, bamboo jungles, strange rock formations and mountains. Readers must track the mischievous marsupials and, of course, the cake. Easier said than done! Each maze-like page is filled with tiny exotic creatures, each on their own adventure. Why is the baby bunny wailing? Is that snake stalking the young piglet? Is that a chameleon sitting in the wet paint? Each frame introduces new characters and clues that will have kids (and adults) flipping pages back and forth with delight trying to figure out what is going on! It's enough to make you forget all about cake! Well . . . almost. WHERE IS THE CAKE? is simply a treat for book lovers of any age.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Peep Patrol

A few ground rules concerning tomorrow's festivities:

1. Do not put all your chocolate eggs in one basket. Put some in ours, too!

2. Anyone caught microwaving a peep will immediately be reported to the SPCP (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Peeps) and placed in the coop's time-out corner with either a clown or a mime, whichever one you loathe more.

3. No bunny ear jokes. No. Bunny. Ear. Jokes. We mean it. We are not wearing these headache-inducing ears for your amusement. Oh...wait a minute. Yes we are. Yes indeed. Oops. Nevermind.

Happy Easter!

(Thanks to children's librarian Lori McCarter for the chick pic!)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Perfect Nest

The Perfect Nest

Written by Catherine Friend
Illustrated by John Manders
Candlewick Press
ISBN-10: 0763624306

Oh how we love Spring here in the coop! Everywhere we look we see chicks and eggs! We feel the love. We get especially light-headed whenever we see a new chick-and-egg book, which is why we practically passed out when we saw The Perfect Nest.

In this hilarious tale, Jack the Cat, who's hungry for an omelet, decides to build the perfect nest to attract the perfect chicken who would lay the perfect egg. A perfect plan! Things turn out even better than Jack imagined when his cozy nest attracts a chicken, a duck, and a goose, all of whom lay eggs. Jack drools in anticipation. Now he has breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in one nest. But the frisky fowl don't want to leave. After lots of failed attempts, Jack is finally able to trick them into leaving by telling them there's an even better nest at the next farm. They fly the coop, leaving their eggs behind. Alone at last, Jack is just about to crack open his glorious eggs when suddenly out pops a baby chick, a baby duck, and a baby goose. All three think the wily feline is their mama and proceed to follow him around the farm, much to Jack's dismay. How can he eat something that calls him mama? He can't, of course, and after a snuggle fest with his new brood he realizes that he has made the perfect nest after all.

Tight writing and lively illustrations make this book a chick magnet. We love the idea of pairing it with An Egg is Quiet by Dianne Aston for an absolutely eggcellent storytime. And that's no yolk! (Oh, geez, sorry 'bout that. It couldn't be helped.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Detective Small in the Amazing Banana Caper

Detective Small in the Amazing Banana Caper
Written & Illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN: 978-0-618-47285-7

Fireman Small fans rejoice! The little guy with the big schnoz is back, only this time, he's a detective on the trail of a banana thief. A slippery criminal to be sure! "From Chinatown to Little Havana/Uptown, downtown--not ONE banana!"

It's up to Detective Small to find the villain and he doesn't waste a moment. Small zips around town on his Vespa collecting clues which lead him to one suspect: an ape in a zoot suit. But when Detective Small nabs his ape, he begins to suspect that the big ape has been framed. It's up to Detective Small to peel back the layers of this case to find the real banana thief.

With tight, rhyming text, Wong Herbert Yee creates a fast, fun adventure for Detective Small. Visual jokes abound in Yee's charcoal and watercolor illustrations making each page a treat. Our favorite is the police lineup of yellow-clad suspects which includes a Tour de France leader, a dog in a banana suit and Curious George's pal. (We always thought that man in the yellow hat was a little cheesy.) Detective Small in the Amazing Banana Caper is simply great fun. Case closed.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Very Serious Matter

We are quite concerned here in the coop. It has come to our attention that the books by Dav Pilkey are often on the bestseller's list. We don't approve of this at all. His books are juvenile and distasteful. While reading them we often find ourselves asking, "Why underpants?" If Captain Underpants is indeed a captain, shouldn't he wear a captain's hat? Or maybe a nice pair of brown oxfords? We just don't get it. We'd like to encourage you to stop reading Dav Pilkey's books altogether. Ask your friends, teachers and librarians to take them off the shelves, put them in a box, and bury them in the woods.

Ha ha! April Fool's! Did you really think we'd diss The Great Guru of Goofiness? The man who embodies the very essence of threesillychickness? No way! In fact, in honor of The Sultan of Silly we have decided to wear our underpants on our heads all day.

In case you were wondering, they are definitely NOT thongs.

Happy April Fool's Day! We hope you have a very silly day! For a good laugh, visit Dav's website--