Saturday, October 27, 2007

In the Coop with Wong Herbert Yee

Some writers and illustrators have the remarkable ability to create characters who become friends at first glance. Wong Herbert Yee is exactly that kind of artist!

We fell in love with Fireman Small the first time we met him. And who could resist the gentle charm of Mouse and Mole? (That delightful pair is back in a new title, by the way. It's called Abracadabra! Magic with Mouse and Mole chick it out!)

So who is the genius behind these and so many other wonderful characters, you ask? In case you don't already know--because perhaps you live in a chicken coop and don't get out very much--we shall tell!

It's the amazing Wong Herbert Yee and we are pleased to have him in the coop! Welcome!

When you create a book, do the pictures or story come to you first?
Story, always. Even though I was an artist before becoming a writer.

How do you know when what you write is funny??
Mostly during school visits. Kids react more to the illustrations, though. They'll point, stare open mouthed and giggle. Such natural responses are the most rewarding.

What other careers would you like to see the intrepid Mr. Small pursue?
The Smalls are actually two different characters. Fireman Small and Detective Small are twin brothers. There could be another Small in the future, possibly a sister.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?
I'm not sure that you can or should teach funny.

Do you have any tips for illustrating funny books?
Underwear is always good for a chuckle. Situations, the more absurd the better.

What are some of your favorite funny books?????
I'm a big fan of George and Martha, Frog and Toad . . . I guess the kind of humor I like involves how two characters react and respond to one another. It allows the reader to laugh at and with. It is what inspired my Mouse and Mole books.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?
Definitely Mouse and Mole, nature stuff. I like the idea of living in a tree, probably upstairs rather than downstairs. I'm always wondering what those two are up to.

Do you prefer The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?
Three Stooges! I watched them even while in college.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?
I couldn't think of anything better than what I'm currently doing, except maybe having my studio in a tree house.

What's next?
My next book will be out in the fall of 08. It's called A Brand New Day another in the Mouse and Mole series. On my drawing board are the rough sketches for Summer Days, Summer Nights. The 3rd book of a seasonal quartet that began with Tracks in the Snow (Holt 2003), and was followed by Who Likes Rain? this past spring.

If I'm dreaming, please don't wake me. Let sleeping dogs lie!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Halloween Quick Chick Picks

We recently decided that we don't feel like limiting our reviews to just three a month. Sometimes we feel the need to squawk about books that may not be new but are still noteworthy. Interestingly enough, we got this urge to review many books at once after eating roughly four pounds of candy corn.

Once we emerge from our sugar coma we will be happy to go back to our usual three reviews a month, but in the meantime, here goes:

Boris and Bella, by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Gris Grimly, Harcourt Books, ISBN-10: 0152025286. Boris Kleanitoff and Bella Legrossi must learn to get along in this fiendishly fun Odd Couple tale.

Happy Halloween, Stinky Face!, by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore, Cartwheel Books, ISBN 9780439779777. A playful, reassuring take on Halloween for young worriers everywhere.

Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Puffin Books, ISBN-10: 0142501122. A kindhearted witch finds room on her broom for three lucky animals. Perfect rhyme makes this a winner year after year.

Spider and the Fly, by Tony DiTerlizzi, based on the cautionary tale by Mary Howitt, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0689852893. Not a Halloween book per se, but a creepy delight nonetheless with its eerie mansion, ghostly guests, and tragic ending -- perfect for older kids who like their comedy dark.

Ten Little Mummies, by Philip Yates, illustrated by Brian G. Karas, Puffin Books. ISBN:
9780142403679. Ten little mummies who are bored stiff get into all kinds of trouble!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy Bird-Day, Andrea!

5 Things You Should Know about Andrea Beaty

1. Andrea's birthday was actually 10 days ago.

2. Andrea shares this coop with Carolyn and Julia, two chicks prone to random bouts of procrastination, sloth, flu, fluff-head, bed-head, weak knees, loose feathers, technical difficulties, hiccups and forgetfulness (see #1). Andrea pretends not to notice these things about them.

3. That is why we love her.

4. We also love her because she is the A#1 chick who makes things happen here in the coop with her boundless creativity and wit and egg-stra large brain.

5. As if that weren't enough - BONUS! - she writes fabulously fun books like Iggy Peck, Architect, When Giants Come to Play and many more to come!

We hope you'll join us in wishing her good books, good times, and much good cheer in the year ahead...

Happy Bird-Day, dear A!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hound from the Pound

The Hound from the Pound
by Jessica Swaim

illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Candlewick Press

ISBN 9780763623302

It is often said that dog is a man's best friend. It is also said that a cheesy crock of bean dip is a chick's best friend. But we chicks take umbrage at such crass generalizations, and we're here to say that we love both dogs and bean dip equally, although we don't advise mixing the two under any circumstances. But let's just focus on chicks and their pooches for a moment....

In Manchester Square, in a cottage of stone,

Miss Mary Lynn MacIntosh lived all alone.

The bedroom was cozy, the kitchen was clean,

but the days were too dreary, too doggone routine.

So begins Jessica Swaim's Hound from the Pound, a delightful wag of a tale about a lonely woman who finds companionship (and LOTS of it) from Blue, the titular hound from the pound, who invites all his friends over to hang at Miss Mary's:

Retrievers lined up at the toilet to drink.
Chihuahuas swam laps (muy bien!) in the sink.
A bloodhound got gummy bears stuck in his snout.
Shar-peis used the shower to steam wrinkles out.

Mary continues to be overrun by eager pound pups until Sam the Dog Trainer arrives just in time to save the day. The final spreads reveal a yappy ending for everyone (although Jill McElmurry's fashionista poodle bridesmaids do tend to steal the show!). Don't be surprised when kids holler AH-ROOooo and hound you for repeated readings of this fun romp!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the Coop with Adam Rex

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich is one of our all-time favorite funny books. It's the brainchild of (dare we say?) evil genius and artist extraordinaire, Adam Rex. Adam's talents run the gamut from fun and funky to evocative and poetic as in his beautifully detailed illustrations for Ste-e-e-e-e-amboat A'comin! by Jill Esbaum and Small Beauties by Elvira Woodruff.

We never quite know what to expect from Adam. So we were very excited to learn about his brand-spanking new novel, The True Meaning of Smekday. Check it out!
Adam's Blog

When you create a book, do the pictures or story come to you first?

The story is written first, but I can't help but think about the visuals as I write, so I'm making a lot of early illustration decisions as I go. I'm currently working on a story that started out as a dream, so we'll see how that goes.

How do you know when what you write is funny??
I don't, I suppose, but I know whether or not it's funny to me. Then I just sort of assume it'll work for some people. I'm not trying to throw the net too wide–burping and getting hit in the crotch is always at least sort of funny, but I'm usually trying for something a little less obvious. Of course, your reader will probably point out that I wrote a poem about big Japanese monster poo, which kind of undercuts what I just got through typing.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?
Not a one.

Do you have any tips for illustrating funny books?
Watch the collected cartoons of Chuck Jones. Rent Buster Keaton movies. The General is a favorite of mine. I tend to think less is more, visually. Of course, your reader will probably point out that I wrote a poem about big Japanese monster poo, which kind of undercuts what I just got through typing.

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?
It got me married. You can decide for yourself if I was in more trouble before or now.

What are some of your favorite funny books?????
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, especially the first one. Books by David Rakoff, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell. The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman. Anything by George Saunders.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?
I have to change this to plain text. I don't know how it was originally formatted, but it's playing hell with my answers– generating duplicate numerals whenever I hit return, making my cursor jump to random places when I begin's like it's trying to compose some kind of Fluxus stream-of-consciousness thing. I'm sorry, what was the question?

Do you prefer The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?
Marx Brothers. Ironically, I prefer Iggy and the Stooges to Richard Marx, however.

What was your best Halloween costume ever?
Last year I shaved my head and wore a Charlie Brown t-shirt. Several years ago I made a full-body robot costume that weighed fifteen pounds and lit up. The year I was working on Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A- Comin'! by Jill Esbaum I went as Steamboat Head. Take your pick.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?
The same job I have now, but astride a unicorn.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch.? Pick your winner.
Clowns. Meaner. But it's a moot point, as clowns live at the south pole and mimes at the north. Wait–no. I'm thinking of penguins and polar bears.

Funniest dead person you'd like to meet??
Oh, they're all funny. I couldn't choose.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Bounty of Bloggers at the Kidlitosphere Conference

On Saturday, a very exciting thing happened. A veritable bounty of bloggers descended upon Chicago. They came from all over just to meet and talk about kid-lit and blogging. One of the Three Silly Chicks was there.

Sadly, the other two had to stay in the coop and keep the bean dip chilled. Or warmed. Or something.

While Andrea was a bit sad to venture from the coop without Julia and Carolyn, she was mighty glad to meet so many cool and very funny folk.

And, best of all, beause they are bloggers, so many of them posted about their adventures in Chicagoland! Here are only a few of the posts about the weekend.

Thanks especially to Robin Brande for organizing this wonderful weekend! And to Esme Raji Codell for bringing together some of Chicago's authors to meet and greet folks.

It was so much fun. We wish the coop was bigger so we could have everybody over for salsa at our place. Oh boy! The feathers would fly (with fun) for sure!

These are just some of the great blogs represented at the conference. Hope you enjoy some of these great posts and pics!

Just One More Book - check out their podcast for Carolyn's DON'T NEED FRIENDS, too!

Check it out

Read Write Believe

Jimbo Jabber

Grow Wings

Got Art?

Gotta Book


Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - Can you find the picture of the Silly Chick with the two fabulous blogging goddesses?

Planet Esme

Pictures from Just One More Book's Mark Blevis! Thanks, Mark!

Book Buds

Jen Robinson's Book Page

Big A Little A

A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy

Fuse #8 Production

Miss Rumphius Effect
Publish Post
Confessions of a Bibliovore

I know I'm missing some of you who attended and posted, but I'm all tuckered out!!! Thanks for a great event! Hope to meet you all again soon!

Perhaps we'll add a second story to the coop and have a party!!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What Will Fat Cat Sit On?

What Will Fat Cat Sit On?
Written and illustrated by Jan Thomas
Harcourt Children's Books

ISBN 0152060510

There have been many deep and philosophical questions asked in literature. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? But we think the question Jan Thomas poses tops them all. What, Dear Readers, will Fat Cat sit on?

It is most definitely a question worth pondering. Will Fat Cat sit on the cow? The pig? Certainly not
the chicken! (If that had happened we would not be reviewing this book--no siree!) Finally the wise mouse comes up with a solution that pleases everyone. In this rollicking book, the reader gets in on the fun as the narrator asks what Fat Cat will sit on with every spread. Each animal is hoping it's someone else, and their witty asides make this book a pleasure to read out loud. We think it's perfect for threes and fours, but older kids (and adults!) will also love the irreverent humor.

Simple, whimsical illustrations complete this perfect package. This is Jan Thomas's first book. We can't wait to see what's next!