Poetry Thursday and Friday:
Rhyming with Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

h1 November 12th, 2009 by jules

“Who’s furry, scurries, and has fleas?
Who climbs our counters and eats our cheese?
We’ve set up traps all through the house
But still can’t catch that pesky…
{page turn, of course}

(Click to enlarge spread.)

I was going to post a poem for grown-ups today, but then Mac Barnett and Adam Rex had to up and make one of the funniest books I’ve seen all year and foiled my plans. (This is a book-in-verse, so voila: Poetry Friday post for this week.)

I contacted Adam in my ongoing attempt to check in with the Men of Children’s Lit Who Have Previously Visited 7-Imp and showcase what they’re up to now. (See Sean Qualls here and Lane Smith and David Ezra Stein here.) Adam is one of my top-five, y’all — as in, the We Can Thank Our Lucky Stars They’re Making Books for Children list. Like, der. Regular readers know this, as I often bug him to come stop by 7-Imp and share some art. But, ah well, I’m pointing this out for any new readers who may be out there. And Mac? Thank goodness he’s come along, too.

And here’s the thing: Adam’s never let me down. Mac, too. (Okay, so I haven’t read Adam’s Smekday yet; you’ll note in this 2007 post that it was Eisha who read it, and I still haven’t gotten to it. I’m slow like that sometimes. And Barnett’s The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, with illustrations from Adam, is in my to-be-read pile now.) I had read about Mac and Adam’s new title in advance at Adam’s blog before I got a copy of it this week. And remember how they both stopped by in July in this very funny post and briefly discussed this book, Mac describing it as a “demented guessing book” and Adam adding, “That book is going to make your head bleed rainbows”? It’s called Guess Again! (Simon & Schuster, September 2009). I saw previews for the book like this and thought, in the words of Liz Lemon, I want to go to there:

He steals carrots from the neighbor’s yard.
His hair is soft, his teeth are hard.
His floppy ears are long and funny.
Can you guess who? That’s right! My

Grandpa Ned.

Ah, I thought, Mac and Adam subverting expectations for young picture book readers. (And Adam’s working in gouache!) Sweet. I mean, just look at that. Grandpa Ned is whacked-out funny is what he is. But, it turns out, the book is way funnier than I even initially thought. As in, it gets even. better.

I feel like at 7-Imp I am this broken record in terms of what I want to see in a children’s book, like every post (arguably, I suppose) is a variation on the same theme: I want to see books that do not condescend to child readers, books that treat them with respect (too many books for children don’t do this), ones that acknowledge that, in the words of Marla Frazee here at 7-Imp (I told you all I loved this quote so much that I’d be repeating it a lot), “{children} still have the remarkable gift of being an expert picture-reader…It makes the picture book audience the most discerning, observant, critical, and appreciative group that…illustrators will ever have the privilege of serving.” Well, Mac and Adam have that goin’ on in Guess Again!

You know how it goes in children’s lit: There are those books that call themselves children’s books but really have a grown-up sensibility about them. I still say that the talented Peter H. Reynolds’ So Few of Me is one of them. (What wee child has a problem with multi-tasking?) Sometimes it’s hard to tell: Roger Sutton saw Wabi Sabi as a coffee table book for adults, but I think that one can resonate with kids. There are also those titles that you, as the grown-up, personally cannot stand but your wee child or story-time visitors want to hear repeatedly. (In contrast and to make my point clearer, most adults I know never get tired of reading Where the Wild Things Are aloud; that book is, quite simply, tiiight. Yo.) What we have with Guess Again! is a book that treats the child reader (we’re talkin’ ages 4 to 8 as the prime audience, and you’ll see here why this is important to note) with tremendous respect and is funny as all get-out. It’s funny for children. But it’s also funny for the parent. (Or teacher or librarian reading it.) Arguable, I know, as it depends on whether or not your sense of humor is sufficiently warped (a good thing, in my book). Guess Again! also subverts expectations for all of us, no matter what age. Just when you think you’re going to see Grandpa Ned again…well, I can’t spoil for you one of my favorite parts of the book.

Here’s another moment below, which actually includes a flap on the page for lifting up and surprising wee readers. (The book also includes cut-outs, including prominently on the cover, and a fold-out spread.) And, since I haven’t said it yet, you guessed it: This book is simply a series of these demented rhymes, challenging the reader and surprising at each turn. It’s a “funny, absurdist take on guessing game books…rhymes {that} avoid easy answers,” writes Publishers Weekly. Kirkus writes, “Rex’s straightforward gouache-and-mixed-media illustrations downplay the mischief of the premise, appropriately lobbing visual softballs at an audience disoriented by the goof on a tried-and-true formula they’ve encountered over and over.”

Who’s on Captain Gluebeard’s shoulder?
Gold is gold. That feather’s golder.
Got a guess? It’s time to share it.
It’s Polly! She’s the pirate’s


I can’t tell you about the parts that make me laugh outloud each time, or I’ll give away too many of the jokes. Publishers Weekly also wrote that “knowing the answers to the amusing visual/linguistic jokes may limit the book’s potential for rereadings.” I see their point, but that’s not been the case with my own wee children, who have wanted repeated readings. Lucky for me, I don’t tire of it either.

Yeah. It’s one of those winners. Don’t miss this one.

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This week’s Poetry Friday host is the one and only Gregory at GottaBook.

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GUESS AGAIN! Copyright © 2009 by Mac Barnett. Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Adam Rex. Published by Simon & Schuster, New York, NY. Illustrations reproduced with permission of the illustrator. All rights reserved.

11 comments to “Poetry Thursday and Friday:
Rhyming with Mac Barnett and Adam Rex”

  1. I climb on counters and eat cheese. They are my own counters and it’s my own cheese, though. I’m not a thief. 🙂

  2. I know my kids are going to giggle over this one. My son will be getting this from Santa! He loved Billy Twitters! Mac and Adam are one dynamic duo!

  3. I can’t wait to see this! I, too, am a huge Billy Twitters fan!

  4. (I’m cracking up at Little Willow. I have to admit to both the counter and cheese thing, but usually not at the same time.)

    One of the funniest things I found about little church-going kids is that they learn quick that the right answer is always “JESUS!” in a bright, happy tone. They love to chorus the “right” answer, and all the adults nod and think, “aren’t they sweet?”

    Yeah. And, I can just imagine the paroxysms of giggling when they all scream what they just KNOW is the right answer in these… and it’s not. This will screw with the brains of some of the stodgier adults, too.

    *subversive snicker*

  5. What fun. Getting this one for Christmas gifts. Thanks!

    P.S. I do not climb on counters. I climb on cheese.

  6. When I first read GUESS AGAIN I posted it on my FACEBOOK page.
    I literally laugh in the middle of the night thinking about Grandpa
    What a funny, funny book.

  7. I just saw this book at a conference this weekend – absolutely hilarious! What genius.

  8. I am short and so am fairly practiced at climbing on counters myself.

    I haven’t seen this one yet, but I put it on hold.

  9. This one has been a constant hit read-aloud here at the library and has had a near permanent spot on display (it only leaves when checked out…which is often). I just read it this morning to a group of reluctant 3rd grader readers and they loved it.

  10. Xmas gift list for the elementary school teachers this year:

    How do you wokka wokka? Elizabeth Bluemle – for the K teacher
    Guess Again! for the Grade 1 teacher
    All the World by by Liz Garton Scanlon – for the school librarian

  11. […] the self-referential, deconstructed Stinky Cheese collection of stories; and the brain-bending Guess Again! reader […]

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