Co-Review: Punk Farm on Tour and Punk Farm’s
September 18th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules
New PunkFarmSpace Site, a 7-Imp Exclusive . . .
(we’ve always wanted to say that)
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers
(via author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka) which will make you Punk Farm fans really squealy-happy . . .
Jules: They’re back! Cow, Sheep, Pig, Goat, and Chicken, that is. When we met the gang in 2005 in Punk Farm (Knopf Books for Young Readers), Eisha and I were both impressed with the droll humor of the book and the explosive, dynamic, all-around rockin’ illustrations by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. In that title, the gang rocks out with “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” while Farmer Joe sleeps. This time, Farmer Joe heads out for the Tractor Society Conference in Reno, but meanwhile, back at the farm . . . well, the gang sneaks out on a cross-country Punk Farm concert tour, no less. Unfortunately, their beat-up, worn-down old tour van is threatening to ruin their plans, and Krosoczka uses this premise to give us a glimpse into Punk Farm’s current tour hit, “The Wheels on the Van” (thanks to some quick thinking on the part of Sheep).
Eisha, you told me in an email that Punk Farm on Tour=awesome, and I’d have to agree. Would you like to elaborate?
eisha: Happy to, Jules . . .
PFOT is made of awesome. It’s like popping the top on a can of awesome. It’s like orbiting my spacecraft around Planet Awesome. It’s like sitting down to a big bowl of chocolate-covered awesome with an awesome ripple and sprinkles of awesomettes.
To be more specific… Punk Farm on Tour does exactly what a good sequel is supposed to do. It fleshes out the established characters a little more, and takes the themes and conflicts of the first book to a new, deeper level. We see more behind-the-scenes interactions between the band members, and find out more about their individual personalities: Sheep is very take-charge, Chicken is a little panic-prone, Cow is (pardon the pun) a workhorse, Pig is a bit vain and subject to the trappings of fame. And Goat is utterly chill*.
Is it weird that I have a bit of a crush on Goat?
I think if he were human, he’d look a little like Tom Morello. Just me? Hm?
Yeah, just me.
Anyway… I loved getting to know the band better, and I especially loved seeing the indigenously-appropriate, tattoo-ed and earring-ed audiences they attracted for their different shows. In Maine their fans are owls, moose, beavers and deer. In Florida, there are flamingos, alligators, crabs and dolphins. And in Colorado they’ve got mountain goats, mountain lions and bison. Plus, if you look closely, that little white rabbit duo from the first book are following them to every show, and one or two animals from each show also trail along to the next ones. I love this kind of attention to detail.
I haven’t had a chance to read this one out loud to any kids yet. Have you road-tested it, Jules? How’d it go?
Jules: Have I road-tested it? By the power of Greyskull (you know I’ve been just waiting to use that phrase this week, since I finally saw “Hot Fuzz”), I’ve read it precisely one bajillion times. Now, you know I’m taking a temporary break from librarianship to do that thing with the name I hate (stay-at-home mom: There. I said it), so I haven’t road-tested it on a group of children — no major highways, if you will. Just the little side road that is my two girls. The 3.5 year old runs around doing a very loud, very shrill “waooooaaoooaoaoooaaaa” sound (wait, it’d be “ray roo” and “ray ree,” according to the first book), as she imaginary-wails on her imaginary electric guitar, as if she’s Pig; the nearly-two year old lights up like the sun whenever she sees the book; and, generally, they could probably sit around and listen to it all. day. It’s very safe to say this. They flippin’ love it. Kid appeal: Check. Parent appeal: Check.
Very good points you made about the strengths of this one and how it delivers as a sequel. I’d say, just like you were saying for Mo’s Knuffle Bunny Too, that this one delivers as a stand-alone title, too. What do you think? I think the whole docile-animals-by-day but punk-stars-by-night, complete with the expert poker faces when they next see Farmer Joe, is even funnier in this title, seeing as how they actually embark on a cross-country tour. Heh. And those mock publicity photos get me every time; this time, it’s the endpages with those maps and the animals’ dark shades and extra-cool, we’re-so-tough stances. And Jarrett’s use of that distinctive, larger, more supersonic typeface when they’re rockin’ out . . . it’s all here again and oh-so funny. Won’t it be great if he does a book for each state (“THANK YOU, WISCONSIN!” and “PEACE OUT, COLORADO!” — how about “PUNKABILLY, TENNESSEE!” . . . whaddya think?)? I jest. I’m sure Jarrett has enough to do, but hey, that shout-out for Tennessee’s not too bad . . .
And I noticed that white rabbit duo, too. So funny! I’ve read it so. many. times. that I start to imagine things that probably aren’t even really there. Such as, is that woman sitting in the seat in front of Farmer Joe on the plane Jarrett’s lovely new fiancée? Did he paint her into the book? Aw. (If you read his blog, as I do, it’s no secret he’s about to get married. Congrats to Jarrett!). And, since I’m a Sendak Worshipper and probably read Sendak into everything, I wondered: Is that Sendak he painted there sitting right next to Farmer Joe? Hey, it could be. One never knows.
Nah, I’ve just read it too many times. But this is not a bad problem to have.
Speaking of his blog, he posted this way back in January of this year:
I actually pitched this book to my publisher just before the first Punk Farm was released, so it’s been in the works for a while. I spent many hours in nature labs drawing and redrawing various animals to prepare for this book and I am really proud of how all of the finished paintings came out. Revisiting these characters was like dropping by on old friends.
It’s really fun to just pore over these animals — the woodland creatures of Maine and the dolphins and flamingoes of Florida (at that rawking Spring Break concert) and etc., as you pointed out. And JJK and Punk Farm fans may be happy to know we’ll be featuring illustrations from that book this Sunday.
What did you think of his art work here, E.? It seems even more vibrant, even more colorful than the first, if that’s possible — ’cause of things like the pinks, for example, in the Spring Break Florida spread. And I love what fun he has with perspective, especially in the spreads when they’re performing. That first wheels-on-the-van spread rock-and-freakin’-rolls, don’t you agree?
(Did I just say “rock-and-freakin’-rolls”? I’m such an old, one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old, punk-hole nerd).
eisha: “Punk-hole”??? Did you make that up? I kind of like it.
Anyway, yeah, the art totally delivers. As in the first Punk Farm, and really all of JJK’s work, the rich saturation of color he gets with his acrylic paint is a treat for the eyes. And I love the way he plays with perspective, like the fish-eye-lens effect in that first performance scene, and of course the spreads where the reader is on stage with the band. The characters’ expressions are so vivid, you can practically hear their voices. I love Sheep’s cocked eyebrow when they’re racing to beat Farmer Joe home. And I love how my beloved ever-mellow Goat’s facial expression never changes (you never see him with his mouth open), but when he’s onstage his physicality gets all fierce. *sigh* Ah, Goat…
I’m not sure if that’s an image of JJK’s fiance, but I think her name is Gina, and Farmer Joe is eating a bag of “Gina’s Pretzels” in that scene. And you’re right, that dude next to him looks suspiciously like Sendak. Other easter eggs: in the dressing room before their Maine gig, there are lots of kidlit-inspired band name stickers on the walls: “The Ugly Veggies,” “Polar Express,” “Lilly,” “Cats in Hats,” “Ferdinand,” something that might be “Toot and the Puddles,” and of course, “Wild Thing.” I think there’s even an image of the Slug. And of course, the ubiquitous Andre the Giant “Obey” sticker.
One thing, though: there was a steady build-up of tension between Pig and the rest of the band (mainly Sheep) over Pig’s reluctance to leave his adoring fans after each gig, but it was never resolved. I thought that was a little weird, but maybe it’ll be addressed in the next sequel? Or maybe in their VH1 Behind the Music special? Did this bother you at all, or was it just me?
Jules: Yes, “punk hole” is a word, and I just found it online in an effort to show I didn’t fabricate it, but that link/site isn’t for those easily offended by, ahem, strong language.
Nah, I didn’t feel like Pig’s growing arrogance needed to be resolved, but I see your point. Perhaps it will be addressed in another Punk Farm title.
And, yes, Jarrett’s art work just seems to get better with each book. Another thing I always keep in the back of my mind when I see his titles was a comment Betsy Bird made in a review of one of his books (can’t remember which, and a search at her old template brings me nothing. Ack), in which she said that his style is so similar to Joe Cepeda’s. And I hadn’t realized that ’til then, but with each JJK book, it’s as if the JJK-stamp gets stronger and stronger (and maybe one day he’ll take over the world . . . mwahahahahahaha) . . . . I jest. Really, what I mean is that his signature style just gets more signature (and less Joe Cepeda) with each title. I guess I’m saying that you can really rather chart his growth as an illustrator. Does that make sense?
Well, I think I’m done with my Punk Farm on Tour commentary, except to say that there is a pretty amusing post at JJK’s blog about the making of the author photo, all very “Zoolanderish,” in his words. Thanks for talkin’ punk rock on the farm (or, in this case, across the country) with me, E. I’ll let you wrap up.
eisha: Yeah, okay, I can see the Joe Cepeda thing. They both tend to favor boldly-colored, textured acrylics, and there’s a similarity in the style of their human characters. But you’re right, JJK is getting better – and more distinctively JJK – with each book, as an illustrator and as a storyteller, and I personally can’t wait for Punk Farm 3: Revenge of Farmer Joe.
Jules: Farmer Joe: The Last Crusade? Nah, not as funny.
Punk Farm would like to announce their new PunkFarmSpace site, which can be found here at www.punkfarmspace.com. And just what are some of the highlights of this wonderful, new site?
* There are 41 “friend” profiles (including Punk Farm’s);
* Each profile picture is an original painting by Krosoczka, not ones lifted from the book;
* Each character is somewhere in the book at a show;
* If the character had his/her photo taken at the show, that is the profile image shown, a new painting made from the perspective of where the camera would be . . .
. . . and even more secrets you can uncover yourself.
Isn’t this great? As we mentioned in our March interview with Jarrett, we think he can be commended for all the online, interactive, multi-media efforts he goes to in order to reach out to his readers. You can even hear and/or download the gang’s current cover of “The Wheels on the Van” at this PunkFarmSpace site (and if you missed their “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” it’s now there, too).
Thanks to Jarrett for this exciting bit ‘o news and for letting us share it with our readers . . .
Note: All illustrations/images in this co-review used with permission from Jarrett J. Krosoczka.
* “The rain is beautiful, man.”