Monday, June 08, 2009

Tumtum and Nutmeg

Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall
Written by Emily Bearn, illustrated by Nick Price
Little, Brown and Company

While we hold chickens near and dear to our hearts, we also have a special fondness for mice. Okay, not real mice that scamper around our feet and make nests in our basements and leave droppings in our silverware drawers. No, not those mice. Storybook mice, like Stuart Little and Despereaux. We like our mice dressed up in little suits and drinking tea, and we just wish that the ones leaving droppings in our silverware drawer would at least leave us cute handwritten notes or perhaps a pair of tiny hand stitched gloves, or something.

We suspect that many children have the same fondness for storybook mice that we do, or else why would mice books be so darned popular? And this particular book, with its British tone, old-fashioned pen and ink drawings, and high adventure is bound to be one of the more popular ones. Poor Tumtum and Nutmeg are quiet mice, and yet they never get a moment of peace in this funny middle-grade novel. They are either battling spinster aunts, fighting pirate rats or freeing wild gerbils. And while the two main characters are endearing, the real star of the show is General Marchmouse, a foolish, impetuous chap who spends most of his time in his underwear. We love, especially, the scene in which his army of mice, dressed in fluorescent orange, battle against the evil, mouse-fearing Aunt Ivy. It was one of the funniest scenes we've read in quite a while.

This is a book to be shared with a classroom of children one chapter at a time. Fans of The Poppy series by Avi and The Redwall series by Brian Jacques will gobble up this series, too. Fast-paced and funny, this book has it all!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In the Coop with Adam Rubin

Those Darn Squirrels!
by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Clarion Books
ISBN: 978-0-547-00703-8

We Three Silly Chicks have a confession to make. Yes, we are silly. We are also friendly and kind and fluffy and yellow. But sometimes, we get grumpy. Wait. That's not the confession. Everyone gets grumpy. The confession is that we enjoy it! It feels good to get cranky. In fact, sometimes we put on our house frocks, roll our feathers in curlers and don on our rattiest slippers and practice saying things like "Get off our coop!" and "You come back here and we'll tell you what we really think!" just because it feels so good. Then, we eat some dry toast and prunes after which we find the mood (among other things) passes.

So imagine our delight at meeting Old Man Fookwire, the main character in Adam Rubin's delightful picture book, Those Darn Squirrels! First of all, we love his name. But even more, we love that he is a cranky, curmudgeonly, crusty old geezer! He's so old he sneezes dust. He hates pie and he hates puppies. However, he loves birds and spends his summers painting pictures of them.

Enter the squirrels. Those darn squirrels also love birds. Well, more acurately, they love bird seed and they are ingenious at getting it. What follows is a battle of wits between the crusty Old Man Fookwire and the Einsteins of the wild kingdom. Our money is on the squirrels.

Illustrated with a funky, playful style, this book is refreshingly offbeat and truly funny. In fact, we loved it so much, we wanted to know more about the author. So we invited him into the coop which made us very happy (and not the least bit cranky)!

Here's what Adam had to say.

The main character of your book, Old Man Fookwire, hated pies and hated puppies. How would he feel about puppy pie?
I imagine he would double hate it.
How do you know when what you write is funny??
I guess I’m never sure that what I write is funny until other people tell me so. I write what I think is amusing or fun and then hope that other people share a similar sense of humor.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?
I got a good piece of advice from Larry Day. He said, “Create things that you like. If you worry about pleasing other people, you’ll always be disappointed.”

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?
I used to carry a clown nose in my pocket. I also stuck a small piece of red felt onto the nose of my driver’s license picture. When people asked to see my ID, I would put on the clown nose while they looked down at the picture. They would wonder what the red felt was all about, then look up at my face and burst out laughing. It got me out of a speeding ticket twice.

What are some of your favorite funny books?????
The Far Side collections were extremely influential to my sense of humor as a kid. I think Gary Larson is a genius. I also love Calvin and Hobbes, there is a magnificent sense of wonder and imagination throughout all of Bill Watterson’s work. I’m also a fan of Dave Eggers’ Haggis on Whey series.

Do you prefer The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?
I’m more of a Buster Keaton guy but given the choice, I’ll go with the Marx Brothers.

What was your best Halloween costume ever?
In sixth grade, our math teacher held a “Mathquerade” for all the students. Everyone had to dress up as something math related. One girl dressed like a car and she was an “infinity,” my teacher was pregnant so she was “multiplying,” I put a rope around my neck and tied it to a small toilet which I held above my head. I was a “High-potty-noose.”
What is your Dream Job for a Day?
I have always wanted to work as a host on the home shopping channel.

How do you really feel about squirrels?
I like squirrels. They are fast, clever and agile which are qualities I admire in both animals and humans.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch.? Pick your winner.
If there is one less clown and mime on the planet, everyone’s a winner.
Funniest dead person you'd like to meet??
I’d like to meet Mark Twain. He had a cool mustache and a cool pseudonym.

Your resume on your website says that you were an intern at the Daily Show for a summer. How would you describe that experience?
Ugh, that reminds me of how badly I need to update my website… My time at the Daily Show was a blast. Mostly, I answered phones and bought cereal for the writers but I had an opportunity to go on a few shoots and sit in on edit sessions from time to time. Everyone there was extremely nice, especially Ed Helms and Rob Corrdry.