Saturday, March 29, 2008

In the Coop with Jon Scieszka

<--- Jon and friend, David Shannon! Sometimes, you just know an author is destined for greatness the very first time you read one of their books. We knew that about Jon Scieszka when we read The Stinky Cheese Man so long ago and blew lemonade out our beaks. Lesson learned: Lemonade hurts when you blow it out your beak. Other lesson learned: Jon Scieszka rocks! We were thrilled earlier this year when Jon was named the first ever National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! He is simply the perfect choice for this award.

So, Everyone, cover your beaks, raise your lemonades high and let's all welcome Jon to the Coop!

Congratulations on being named the first ever National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Why is this role important?

Someone needs to be wearing the crown and sash and epaulettes! It is also spectacular that we finally got a little more national attention for kids' books. We get stuck in the back pages too often.

When your term as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature ends, would you like to become ambassador (or President for Life) of a real country? If so, which one?

What do you mean, "ends"? As I understand it, I maintain my Ambassadorial privileges for life. Though it might be more fun to rule my charges from Monaco, or maybe Tahiti.

How do you know when what you write is funny??

You never know for sure. Plenty of things I've written have amused me, but no one else. And it's always interesting to see what makes different audiences laugh. Something like SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS is a great test of what kids find funny . . . or not at all. Some kids tell me that is their favorite. Other kids say they didn't "get" any of it.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

It's all in the rewriting. And in the timing. The best test is to go out and read what you've written to a couple different groups of kids. You will know right away if it's funny or not.

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

Both. I went to catholic schools for elementary. And the nuns were not to thrilled with the guys (me and my friends) who sat in the back of the class telling jokes. The first laughs would get me in trouble with the teacher. But then when I told the joke to everyone else on the playground -- I was a hero.

What are some of your favorite funny books?????

I love the old New Yorker guys like S.J. Perleman, Thurber, Benchley, Will Cuppy. Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are some of the funniest things out there too.

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

Wow. That's a scary thought. Hanging out with a storytelling wolf? A little man made of bad smelling cheese? Talking squids? That's a nightmare. I think I would choose to live in someone else's book. How about the Swiss Family Robinson? I always loved how they found absolutely everything on that island and on their ship that got wrecked. And living in a tree! Spectacular. Though Father was a bit of a preachy kind of guy. Now that's sounding kind of hellish too. Okay, never mind. I want to live in Go, Dog Go!

Do you prefer The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

Both. For different reasons. Groucho and company for their snappy patter. Mo and the boys for smack-you-on-the-head funny.

What was your best Halloween costume ever?

Bum. I was a pretty good witch. And a scary bunny rabbit. But I was an excellent bum -- I had the black marker whisker stubble, baggy suitcoat, and no mask. Beauty.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

I've already got it. I sit around and think up funny stories for kids.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch.? Pick your winner.

Total clown. The mime is all about thinking he is a fine artist. The clown has been in situations and seen things you don't want to know. He is ripping through the white-faced silent guy in the first round, then celebrating with a shot of bourbon and a quick cigar before his next birthday party gig.

Funniest dead person you'd like to meet??

I have to agree with Mo Willems -- dead people are not all that funny. Mostly stiff, in fact. But a guy I would have liked to joke around with when he was alive? Robert Benchley.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Monkey with a Tool Belt

Monkey with a Tool Belt
by Chris Monroe

Carolrhoda Books

ISBN: 978-0-8225-7631-0

We love monkeys. We especially love funky monkeys. But give us a funky monkey with a tool belt, and we go ape!
Enter Chico Bon Bon--an extra cool funky monkey with a tool belt. Here are some of Chico's tools: Screwdriver, nut driver, nutcracker, squeegee, ouija, planer, strainer, grease container, bungee hammer, scrunchy hammer, monkey wrench, turkey wrench, and donkey wrench. And what's more, Chico Bon Bon doesn't just have these tools, he knows how to use them, too.

Every day, he fixes something or creates something for his friends. Until one day, he is trapped by a nefarious organ-grinder whose old monkey, Bobo, had run away with the help of several circus tigers. Hey! Tigers are sneakier than they look!

Fortunately for Chico (and us), the organ-grinder doesn't notice Chico's tool belt. The clever monkey uses all his wits (and tools) to escape and save the day. Otherwise, how could he live to have another adventure, which we certainly hope he does. (Hint, hint, Mr. Publisher!)
We love the very detailed but cartoonish illustrations which reveal new jokes and silliness at every viewing. We especially love the maze-like scene in which the organ-grinder takes Chico on a long-long ride over hill and dale and through the city. (Think of a funky-monkey-Richard-Scarry kind of trip.)

Monkey with a Tool Belt is a book kids will enjoy mightily. It's all that and a banana hammer!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Beware the Ides of March

We know what people say, "Beware! Beware! Beware the Ides of March!"

But we say, Poppycock and wish a Happy Ides of March to one and all. (Even tu, Brute.)

Why, you ask? Because--we answer--it's Julia's birthday! Happy, Happy birthday, Chickie! May you have many, many, many, many more!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!

You're a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!
by Andy Stanton
ISBN: 978-0061152405

Mr. Gum really is a bad man. He's slimy and gross and mean to children. But there's this little fairy who whacks him on the head with a frying pan whenever he neglects his garden. As a result, Mr. Gum's garden is the "prettiest, greeniest, floweriest, gardeniest garden in the whole of Lamonic Bibber." Lamonic Bibber is a town. (This book takes place in England, you see, where pan-whacking fairies and strange town names are the norm.) Anyhoo, enter Jake, "a massive whopper of a dog," who wreaks havoc on Mr. Gum's garden with a conga line of moles in party hats. Needless to say, Mr. Gum is not pleased. In fact, he is mightily bruised from the enormous pan-whacking that ensues. So our scowling villain decides to do away with Jake in a most heinous, hideous way. Fortunately, along comes Polly, a "girl worth liking," who's determined to foil Mr. Gum's plan even if she has to team up with a questionable old hero named Friday O'Leary.

And you know what? We think we'll just stop here and let you read it for yourself. You really should. It's a whopper and a half. And then pass it on to any kid you know who enjoys books by Bruce Hale, Jim Benton, or Jon Scieszka. Or any a kid you know who needs a laugh. Or any adult, for that matter. Wafflemongers especially.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Big Bad Bunny

Big Bad Bunny
By Franny Billingsley
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13 9781416906018

If you didn't at least smile when you read the title Big Bad Bunny then perhaps you should take your pulse, because it's possible you are dead. Or you've broken your funny bone. Or both. Please call your doctor right away.

Award-winning novelist Franny Billingsley has put on her playful, picture-book writing hat here to write a story that is both funny and suspenseful. On the very first page readers meet Big Bad Bunny, a fearsome creature with long sharp claws and pointy yellow teeth. Big Bad Bunny ka-sploshes through rushing streams! She crashes through thick, tangly brush! Nothing can stop Big Bad Bunny!

Meanwhile Mama Mouse, who is pretty fierce herself, searches for her little Baby Boo Boo. (How much do you love the name Baby Boo Boo?) She rushes through the same rushing streams and tangly brush to find her sweet baby. Will she find Baby Boo Boo before Big Bad Bunny does?

Readers will be happily surprised to find out the true identity of Big Bad Bunny. And teachers everywhere will love making Big Bad Bunny masks with their students. G. Brian Karas's fun, whimsical style is the perfect match for this tightly-written, lively tale. Watch out, Easter Bunny! There's a Big Bad Bunny in town, and she is oh-so-funny!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Three Angry Chicks

As those of you who have met us know, we are mild-mannered chicks. We are silly and full of good cheer . . . and bean dip . . . and a little salsa . . . and some really yummy cupcakes we got on sale at Trader Joe's. But mostly, we are silly.

However, today, we are not feeling silly. Why? Why, you ask?

It's because someone--some Rotten No-Goodnick Nere-do-well has done us wrong. They hijacked our e-mail address and used it to send horrible spam to unsuspecting people. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of unsuspecting people.

Now, we like spam when we go camping as much as the next chicken, but we do not think it is appropriate to send cans of spam with nasty, nasty messages through the interwebs to complete strangers. No, WE DO NOT!

We apologize to anyone who might have received such horrible messages with our name attached and want to suggest that you ignore any recommendations contained within those spam cans. We are pretty sure that following the instructions contained within them will NOT increase any of your body parts and will not help any Nigerian Princes out of catastrophic circumstances. We are sure, however, that they will annoy you and make you angry much as they have made us.

To illustrate how angry we are, we are including the following movie to show how we feel. Imagine, if you will, Three Angry Chicks pursuing a spammer. It would take more than fancy shoes for him to get away! Yeah! That'd show 'em!