7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #266: Featuring Peter McCarty
January 29th, 2012 by jules
and Why This Was a Great Week to
Be a Fan of Children’s Literature
Bottom spread from McCarty’s Chloe
(Click bottom image to enlarge and see in detail)
I’m having a McCarty Party today.
I love his picture books. You never quite know what he’s going to do next. (The soft-focus art of Hondo and Fabian? Or the spikier-lined art of Jeremy Draws a Monster, featured here at 7-Imp in ‘09?) And he can go from quiet to funny in one second flat. The books he’s illustrated or both written and illustrated are smart, never talking down to children, and with each new book, he seems to get more inventive in his artwork. I always look forward to a new McCarty title.
Booklist called the aforementioned Jeremy Draws a Monster, which was released in 2009, a “topnotch Harold and the Purple Crayon for a new generation.” This week, Henry Holt releases The Monster Returns, which Publishers Weekly describes as “Hitchcockian in its suspense” (love that). Yes, Jeremy thought he’d rid his life of the monster at the end of the first book. He sent him off with a one-way-only bus ticket, after all. But, once again, he’s drawing in his room when, lo and behold, a paper-airplane note flies through the window: “Draw a Compass and a Telescope. Look out your window North by Northwest.” He does so and spies the monster. Then, his phone rings. The monster (complete with his bright pink hat) exclaims, “I’m bored. And I’m coming back!”
I don’t want to give it all away, but Jeremy devises a smart solution to his problem, the problem being that he expects the monster will very well occupy all his time, showing up to make demands, as he did last time. The monster he had created with his own pen nearly drove him up the wall, and his quick thinking this time, which I won’t give away, is clever fun. And involves more creativity and art, not to mention a little help from his friends.
And, just as with the last book, the endpages alone make this worth your time. It’s just full to bursting with good art, I tell you.
And, for those who remember McCarty’s wonderful 2010 title, Henry in Love (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year), you may be happy to know about Chloe, to be released by Balzer + Bray in May. (I’ve got an F&G of this one.) Chloe returns in this book, all about the joys of sibling play (an abundant thing when you’re a rabbit with twenty brothers and sisters, not to mention a fun thing when you have bubble wrap and an empty cardboard box) and, to be precise, its ability to trump staring all slack-jawed at a television, even when a show about a blue pound cake attacking a city is on. (This extreme quirkiness is one of the things I love about McCarty’s books.)
On display in Chloe are McCarty’s cream-colored pages, uncluttered backgrounds, finely-drawn creatures (I feel like I could count the furs on their heads), and soft pastels. (At the close of the book, he draws some trees that, alone, are fun to pore over — that is, if you really dig finely-drawn art, as I do.) Overall, he brings us, once again, the “atmosphere of warmth” that the New York Times noted in Henry in Love.
For all I know, he’s got more titles coming out in 2012. Who knows. Let’s hope!
THE MONSTER RETURNS. Copyright © 2012 by Peter McCarty. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Henry Holt, New York.
CHLOE. Copyright © 2012 by Peter McCarty. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, New York.
Photo of Jack is copyright © 2011 Jack Gantos and re-printed from this 2011 interview.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
Well, it’s hard to get any kickier than the psychedelic and very funny cover of The Monster Returns, but I do have more ….
This was a tremendously good week to be a fan of children’s literature. Here’s why:
1) The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced Monday. (Robin Smith over at the Horn Book composed a great write-up on what it’s like to be in the room when awards are announced, something I’ve yet to experience, though I know what it’s like to be jumping up and down like a fool in front of your own desk while watching the live webcast.)
JAAAAACCCCKKKKK! (Gantos, pictured below, got the Newbery!) Yes, I changed into my “Jack for Ambassador” shirt later that morning. I was also happy with the Caldecott winner and Honor awards. So many folks who got recognition on Monday have visited this year, and I was happy to hear their names called, seeing as how those folks who visited were a) talented and b) ever-so friendly, each and every one of them. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking John Rocco (Caldecott Honor), who visited in May; Rafael López (Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor), who visited in November; Lane Smith (Caldecott Honor), who shared early sketches from Grandpa Green in September; Melissa Sweet (Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award), who shared early sketches from Balloons Over Broadway on Thanksgiving Day; and Jon Klassen (Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor), who visited in August.
It was such a good day to be a fan of children’s lit. That day for me is like the Oscars and the Tonys and the Emmys and the Superbowl all rolled into one (if I actually watched the Superbowl, which I don’t, ’cause haven’t I gone over how you won’t want me in the same room when I’m rooting for a team? I get obnoxious and too excited, and so I just avoid it altogether) … My throat was hurting from screaming, post-awards — mostly ’cause Jack won the Newbery. (And look! He visited in July. Remember what he said there about reading slowly? Ah, so smart, that man.)
2) Sendak being interviewed by Stephen Colbert (parts one and two, embedded below).
Many people have emailed me to ask if I’ve seen it, simply due to my fan-dom. (I didn’t bother posting about it on Facebook, ’cause everyone was already.) Yes, I had heard the night before that he’d be on Colbert’s show, and I woke up the very next morning (since I don’t have cable channels) and cancelled my plans—no, really—just to watch it online AS SOON AS MY EYES WERE OPEN. ‘Cause, you see, I adore Maurice Sendak. I really do. I have spent years reading about him and his thoughts on children’s books.
It was comedy gold is what it was. But it also was simply fascinating, as a children’s lit fan, to sit back and watch everyone’s reactions this week — particularly the general public. And that’s because, of everyone in this field today, Sendak goes the farthest, I think, in turning the perceptions people have of children’s book authors and illustrators on their very heads. In some ways, portions of the part-one interview were just … well, odd to see. If you know Sendak’s thoughts on children and books and then you hear the general public laughing and gasping slightly at them (without a lot of context), it’s simply bizarre. Was for me anyway. (I want to give an example here, but I’m afraid this post is long enough.)
But mostly it was just a hoot, and it’s great to see Sendak laughing and having fun.
Also, my favorite moment? It’s hard to top the bag of penises (penii?), but my favorite part is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo moment in part two of the interview, how—even though Colbert’s way of going about it is ridiculous (OF COURSE we’re not going to read stories of sadomasochism to our children)—he manages to tell THE Maurice Sendak that he has double standards. And THE Maurice Sendak, who totally got Colbert’s fake persona, just smiles and nods and says, you got me.
Isn’t it a blast to watch two sharp minds at work here, Colbert meeting his match in many ways? Also, Colbert is a comic genius: “Idiot” [as he’s jotting it down] … “How do you spell that?”
Also, in the way of a postscript, this news is just funny. “But although Colbert is a complete unknown in the children’s book world, he comes with some good blurbs, so we thought what the hell. We don’t know anything about kids’ books either.”
3) And then yesterday Jack was on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, further taking the perceptions the general public has about children’s book authors and turning them on their heads some more. (Jack spent time in jail for drug-smuggling, but this is something the general public hardly knows. Till now, that is.)
(Other good children’s-lit news this week, Anita Silvey and Philip Nel remind us all over in Facebook-land: This NPR piece on The Snowy Day and this NPR piece on The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963. Also, Chris Raschka visited NPR, and Publishers Weekly visited several award winners. There’s even more, I’m sure, from this week, but I’ll stop there!)
4) The 2012 Children’s Book Week poster by David Wiesner:
5) This 15-minute short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, is good stuff.
I highly recommend hitting pause to read Morris’ journals toward the end there: “If life is enjoyed, does it have to make sense?” and “Why does the weasel go pop? Does it matter?”
6) This very short clip (embedded below) from Aardman Animations made me laugh. (”I’m not really a sporty person.”)
7) By the Hammer of Thor, this made me laugh. Pure, unadulterated goof-ballery. I love Liz Lemon.
What are YOUR kicks this week?