Once in a while, I see a book that makes me think, “I sure would like to hear the committee discuss this one!” This is one of those books.
I think the committee will appreciate the sly meta-picture book details–the direct address of the narrator, the comic schtick when author Mac fires illustrator Adam, the clever way the illustrations change depending on who is drawing them and the rapport between illustrator and author. The plasticine main characters are carefully photographed (I like those shadows) and the hipster illustrator and buttoned-up author interact well with each other on the page, providing a high number of giggles per page. The speech bubbles are color coded with different typeface for each character. Both Chloe and the lion are humorously yet poorly drawn by Mac after he fires the second illustrator, allowing the reader to see the value of a talented illustrator. I was fascinated by the diorama/set of the story. It reminded me of puppet theaters, and it was easy to imagine the parts sliding back and forth to create the setting.
Sometimes a story’s cleverness is too much–too much winking at the reader, especially the adult reader. Will it be more comfortable on a college children’s lit syllabus or in a stack of sly books by Sendak and Klassen? The committee will have to decide if this is one of those books. They will also have to decide if all the different styles of art (plasticine, painting sets, cartoony Chloe, good and bad illustration) work together well. The other question I have about this one is how well it stands up to multiple readings for children. My students have left it on the shelf, despite my enthusiastic reading of it.