7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #284: Featuring Jeff Mack

h1 June 17th, 2012 by jules

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers and father-type people out there. I don’t have Father’s Day-esque art today, but author/illustrator Jeff Mack is visiting and sharing illustrations, and I’m happy he’s stopped by.

So, here’s the thing … About a couple of months ago, I guess it was, I read Jeff’s Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories (Philomel Books, March 2012) and enjoyed it. (Some spreads and the book’s cover are featured below.) These are funny stories, rendered in big cartoon art, for so-called emerging readers, involving a slightly macabre, straight-talk-about-the-food-chain kind of humor. (The frog manages to catch and consume a fly in each story, since that’s how the good ‘ol-fashioned food web tends to work, though in the end, he just might get his comeuppance.)

“Newly fledged readers should be amused by the early-Muppet–style humor,” wrote the Kirkus review. “The comic-book pacing keeps each separate ‘chapter’ fresh and funny, and the sunny palette keeps the tone light, even as the fly gets snaggled, over and over.”

And I had decided back then, when first reading the book, to see if Jeff wanted to visit the blog and share images.

And then, as often happens, I got busy and never asked him directly.

But then, just last week, I read his other new title, pictured here, and my eight-year-old and I laughed our fool heads off. It’s called Good News, Bad News (Chronicle Books), and I think it’s scheduled for an early July release. With just five words (“good news” and “bad news” on each spread — and a “very” thrown in for good measure at the end), Jeff tells the mighty funny and briskly-paced story of two friends, one half-glass-full and one glass-mostly-empty. Rabbit’s cheery nature and spontaneous naïveté, paired with Mouse’s sour disposition, make for some hearty laughs. There’s some slapstick humor to boot, and this one also serves as a great title for emerging readers. (They will read these five words with great confidence, as Jeff relays the dramatic action via the energetic artwork.)

Right after I read this one, I contacted Jeff immediately. Finally. So, he’s here today to share some images from those books, as well as a couple of others that I haven’t seen yet that are forthcoming titles.

First up: Some more spreads from Good News, Bad News and some from Frog and Fly. Both were rendered, Jeff tells me, with a combination of pen and ink, collage, and digital tools, “but each has a different final look.”


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Next up is a book I haven’t seen yet, but here’s what Jeff had to say about it:

The Things I Can Do is a picture book that I wrote and illustrated to be published by Roaring Brook in Spring 2013. It’s a meta-book about a young boy who makes his own book in order to demonstrate all of the things he can (and perhaps can’t quite) do. In fact, this is meant to be the book that he has made. To make this book, I limited myself to just the materials found in a six-year-old’s craft bin (except for one 2×4 piece of wood and one stick of bubble gum that got jammed in my scanner).


* * *


Clueless McGee,” said Jeff, “is the first in a series of chapter books that I’m writing and illustrating to be published by Philomel this August. This 240-page book is told through the collected letters and drawings of PJ McGee, a sensitive but bumbling 5th grader searching for his absent father. PJ imagines that his father is working as a private eye on a secret mission, and he is determined to follow in his footsteps. PJ’s a misguided hero and a self-proclaimed expert in many fields: musician, songwriter, martial artist, crime-buster, comedian. In this first book, he’s on the case to figure out who hid the school mac and cheese in his band teacher’s tuba. Some would say he overestimates his ability to save the day. They’d be right.”

Jeff’s got even more going on this year. “Cindy Moo,” he added, “was published by HarperCollins last month. It was written by Lori Mortensen, and I illustrated it using old-fashioned acrylic paint on watercolor paper.”

I haven’t seen that one either. I’ve got some reading to do.

Many thanks to Jeff for visiting!

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS. Copyright © 2012 by Jeff Mack. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

FROG AND FLY: SIX SLURPY STORIES. Copyright © 2012 by Jeff Mack. Published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin, New York.

All images reproduced with permission of Jeff Mack.

* * * * * * *

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. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) The reading I did with my girls this week. We’re finally reading Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. I also read them Ray Bradbury’s science fiction short story “All Summer in a Day,” which I had been meaning to do when I first heard about Bradbury’s death. I remember that story from my own childhood (though, really, I had just been familiar with the short film).

The eight-year-old gave me This Look She Gives Me when I’ve read her something so intense that she isn’t so sure about it. The story is, indeed, intense.

(And people go on and on about bullying today. Just read children this story. Thaaaaat’ll do it.)

2) I take each and every opportunity to hear my Rufus sing. Did you know gum jingles are his greatest inspiration?

“The greatest musical form of the 20th century … the perfect composition, the human emotion … THE MINT.” That made me laugh, as well as the look on his face when he sings “take a sniff, pull it out …”

I always find that it’s nice to discover someone so immensely talented is also not afraid to be a goofball.

3) Speaking of Rufus (I know, I know, I went on about his new CD last week), just when I had decided I’d save up my pennies to buy all of his previous CDs (since I didn’t own them all), my girls and I found ourselves at a used bookstore/CD shop this week, and lo and behold, they had all of them. One was scratched (doh!), so no thanks. But I did get all the others for a most excellent price.

4) Because I’m reading this book now, I started watching Season One episodes of Saturday Night Live on Netflix. On the second episode ever, Paul Simon hosted*, and right before he introduced a song from Randy Newman, he sang the first verse of Newman’s “Marie” on his guitar. And I was all, Oh Paul Simon, keep going KEEP GOING, because I love “Marie.” It’s a wonderful song. But he stopped after that first verse to introduce Newman, who sang something else entirely.

But here’s Newman singing it live, circa 1979, ’cause it’s such a great song.

* Paul Simon hosted, yes. But he mostly sang. A LOT. And often with Art Garfunkel. They looked like this:

I love it. I was only three years old then. And they sounded GREAT on the show. I wonder if my parents had it on and I heard it when I was three. (And the skit where Simon goes one-on-one with Connie Hawkins on the basketball court was pretty funny.)

5) I really like this profile of musician Blake Mills. (Blake Mills-sightings are rare.) I didn’t realize his CD, Break Mirrors, was considered one with a “small cult following.” It’s really good. I listened to it about 7,000 times last year. I guess I belong to a cult, and I didn’t even know.

6) It’s the halfway mark! So much good music at that link.

7) Last night, I saw The Graduate on the big screen, thanks to Nashville’s kickin’ Belcourt Theatre. God, I love that movie, and it was particularly great on a ginormous screen in a dark theater. Seeing it once again, years since the last time I did, I’m reminded how much film directors and screenwriters such as Wes Anderson owe to this film.

I was also reminded how funny this line from Elaine is (in reference to her med-student boyfriend proposing to her): “He said he thought we’d make a pretty good team.”

In honor:

(Everything’s comin’ up very Simon & Garfunkel this week, isn’t it?)

I saw the film with a good friend. We belatedly celebrated our birthdays and mostly talked about the challenges of parenthood. We also had really good sushi. And really good vegetarian sushi is one of life’s good kicks.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

21 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #284: Featuring Jeff Mack”

  1. Jeff Mack’s art makes me smile! Thanks for another generous post, Jules. I need to check out that SNL book you mentioned.

    Here’s a new poem:

    One of my first pets was a cat named Muffin who lived 22 years, most of them outdoors. She died years ago, but I’m happy to remember her in this poem. A friend challenged me to play with the meter in this.

    Maine Coon Calico
    By Steven Withrow

    If I wondered how each night you’d held your ground,
    Forepaws declawed,
    Among the other huntresses—the tufted owl
    Who snuffed the breaths of moles,
    She-snake slinking rabbits from their holes—
    The cello sound
    Of your E-minor yowl
    Lauded you a murderess, marauder.

    Your morning gifts of mouse heads on the mat,
    These too were proof
    Of pride and preternatural toughness of your breed,
    Famous for your shag,
    Snowshoe pads and raccoon’s shrub-tail flag,
    Long for a cat,
    Stalking through the weeds,
    Aloof from the sharp-shinned hawk that hooked the roof.

    © 2012 by Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  2. So Jeff Mack’s art and sense of humor seems like GOOD NEWS and GOOD NEWS (even though I began to feel a little sorry for the poor dim fly; slurp.)

    Jules – thanks for all the music and the powerful short story (and vid.) Always a bounty to be found here.

    Steven — my favorite childhood cat was a Maine Coon named “Baby”. He would jump off the roof into my arms. Your poem reminded me of him. THX

    RE: The Graduate. A friend of mine got married in that exact church – where Dustin Hoffman pounded on the upper tier’s glass and interrupted Elaine’s vows? During the real-life wedding, it was funny: when the minister got to the line “speak now or forever hold your peace”, I swear more than half of the guests turned around and checked that window glass looking for Ben. Ha!

    My kicks for June (I’missed a few Sundays):

    1 – gourmet birthday cupcakes.
    2 – my cousin Susanna getting her PhD in Religious Studies at Stanford today.
    3 – the stunning visuals in Snow White and the Huntsman
    esp: Queen Charlize on her wedding day, the milk bath, the enchanted forest (oh those fairies riding rabbits and all), the various dissolves into crows, the winter castle. Dark film, not for little ones. Uneven, still… new director Rupert Sanders has a great visual style and deep sense of wonder. Someone to watch.
    4 – school’s out for the summer!
    5 – writer friend’s newborn, Tabitha, has become an honorary member of our GOYA critique group (so cute) and another of our writer/illustrators is overdue (so I expect her infant son will join us soon as well.)
    6 – finding the right quote that truly resonates.
    7 – remembering my father.

    Happy Father’s Day to the dads and to those who love them. Have a good week.

  3. Jeff Mack has such fun pics. Thanks for sharing them.
    Jules, I saw Simon And Garfunkel at the Hollywood Bowl when I was in 7th grade. Love them.
    Stephen, such a wonderful tribute to Muffin.
    Denise, can’t wait to see Snow White and the Huntsman.
    My kicks:
    1. The staff flashmob at the talent show orchestrated be the PE teacher. It’s on my FB page.
    2. The hand written note from a brother and sister telling me how I provide such good books to them and then this from their parents…
    3.A check for $100 for the library to get books because their oldest is leaving for middle school.
    4. Bringing four Junie B. Jones books to oldest grandgirl

  4. Well, iPad mistake and pushed wrong button. Anyway, the books were a hit to grand girl. We took turns reading.
    Have a great week.

  5. Jeff Mack- This book looks great. We love twisted sense of humor in this house.
    Jules- S&G so appropriate for Father’s Day. I also love Paul Simon’s Father Daughter.

    Steve- You’ve got me thinking of my cat, Maggie.
    Denise-Happy Summer!

    I have so many kicks this week, I am overwhelmed.

    Here is a sampling:

    1. Regular season Little League is over. The Red Sox are in first place. On to the playoffs.
    2. Middle School music recital was great. I love to see all the different sizes, shapes and skintones of these kids at this age, beautiful.
    3. My baby boy (don’t tell him I called him that) “graduated” from elementary school. He wore a black shirt with a red satin tie.
    4. I went to Providence to catch a tiny bit of the ICON illustrator’s conference and to have dinner with some illo friends.
    5. On the walk to the restaurant we could hear the Delta Spirit doing a live outdoor concert in a nearby park. This is the song they were playing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJsGHAwwZ4g
    6. Book Club Cookout at my house. I love those ladies and their families.
    7. I am lucky to have so many great dads in my life especially my own. http://atlanticmo.blogspot.com/2011/04/special.html

    Have a great week everyone!

  6. Hail and good morning/afternoon/whatever-the-hey, fellow Kickers.

    Jeff Mack’s books seem wonderful! You know I love a good twisted-sly sense of humor, especially in a kids’ book. (If I’d had kids of my own, I’m sure they would even now, as adults, be constantly looking over their shoulders, with worried expressions on their adorable faces.) He’s got a great Web site, too, and on the (pinball-machine-obsessed) About Me page he’s got a line which should be imprinted on, well, on a lot of writers’ minds (as well as some readers’):

    It bugged me when other kids would say, “But that can’t really happen” because I thought, “I know it can’t really happen. That’s why I’m writing a story about it.”

    Oh, those Duuuuuh! moments…

    Great kicks this week, Jules. (Well, every week. But you know what I mean — I haven’t seen exactly these kicks of yours before.) We’ve had The Graduate burned on our DVR for ages now; you’ve reminded me that we need to rewatch it sooner rather than later.

    Oh, and we also recently watched a documentary, The Harmony Game, about the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water. (Lots of trailers and clips online.) Well, they say it’s about the album — but actually, it’s much more about THEM. I loved the way they (and others, like their engineers + producers) talked about the quality of their voices together.

    (Huh. The way I went on there, maybe I should make that my own Kick #1, even though it’s weeks old.)

    Great Bradbury story choice, that. (And I always, always appreciate the way you describe what’s going on inside the girls’ heads when they give you a certain look.)

    Steven, I really liked that poem. I don’t know what metrical challenge you’d set yourself, but to me it reads exactly like the loose-jointed obsessiveness of a cat’s mind.

    Denise, we saw Snow White and the Huntsman last week and LOVED it. (Despite some sound/projection problems at the very end — the last 15 minutes we saw were in complete silence, and they just completely stopped the movie at some point right after the climactic action but before whatever happened last.) You’re right: that director will be worth keeping an eye on. One of the things which surprised me — although I was pretty sure I’d love the look-and-feel of it, just from the trailers — was how, well, stirring it all was. A great retelling, with just enough new elements to make it interesting and wonderful performances (by crew as well as cast) to refresh the familiar bits.

    Ah, jone — surely that check was nice to receive, but the note from the kids would’ve made me weep. Great kick.

    Moira: loved the breakfasts-with-Dad post you linked to. On Sunday mornings, I take The Pooch for a long, unstructured, purposeless ramble around the neighborhood streets (which I guess is sort of her breakfast-with-Dad experience), and The Missus sleeps in or reads just the way you describe yourself doing.

    (But wow, I’ve gotta say — wouldn’t mind AT ALL hearing Delta Spirit live during one of those walks!)

    Quick kicks from here:

    1. Already mentioned the new Snow White
    2. …and The Harmony Game (from a few weeks back, previously (I think) unKicked).
    3. Weaving a new story.
    4. …and wrapping up an old one.
    5. The GOOD kind of busy at work.
    6. Just about finished up the Steig Larsson Girl Who…/Millennium trilogy. A Kick in the sense of: what a satisfying ride. (Assuming I don’t get fantastically let down in the last few pages.) Have also seen the first two Swedish films and am greatly looking forward to the third.
    7. The awareness that you’re falling asleep, in the split-second before you actually do.

    Have a great week, everyone!

  7. Steven, I love what John said about that poem’s meter. What is the particular meter there? What was your meter challenge?

    Denise, I love that story about the church! I also read the other day that Dustin Hoffman was super nervous about banging on that window, ’cause evidently the pastor of the church was watching the filming and very apprehensive about his church being used and such.

    Do you know what moment I love so much in that film? When he’s trying to find Elaine at the end, and he’s in the gas station and he’s ripping apart the phone book, looking for the number for the priest, and he finally finds out where the church is. And then he’s rushing out of the gas station and he runs back in to ask the attendant where that road is, and he is SO anxious to get out and he’s waiting for attendant dude to answer and the great Simon & Garfunkel music is going, and he slaps his hand down on the counter next to him out of frustration and at that exact moment, Paul Simon plays a more strident, louder note on his guitar. I LOVE THIS VERY SPECIFIC MOMENT, but blast it, I can’t find it online.

    Denise, if those cupcakes were for you, happy belated birthday! I’m eager to see the Snow White film. And congrats to your cousin!

    Jone, what a great 7th-grade memory! Jealous. I can say I saw Barry Manilow when I was little, but that’s just not the same. I love your hand-written note and the check to your library.

    Moira, congrats to your grad! He sound as if he was sartorially stylin’ that day, too. Also, that is not only one of my favorite Delta Spirit songs (LOVE that band), but it’s one of my favorite-songs-ever songs. …. And I love your post!

    John, thanks for that documentary tip. It’s so totally gonna get added to the ‘ol queueueueueueueueueue. Congrats on weaving a new story and also enjoying the Larsson books. I’ve never read those, but I’d like to. Also, long, unstructured, purposeless rambles are good. So good. Also, good for one’s soul (whether human or canine).

  8. Fly-by posting! Good day, Imps (and adorably animated white rabbits and friends!)

    1) Rehearsals
    2) Auditions
    3) Future opportunities
    4) Attempts
    5) Gratitude
    6) Muddling through
    7) Music

  9. Jes, it did make me weep. The fifth grade boy was one of three boys that challenged me about reading Goosebumps as first graders. I had this silly request that they have parent permission to read them at first grade.

  10. Thanks, all, for the kind words.

    The poem’s rhyme scheme is ABCDDACB. The lines are loose iambic pentameter (A), dimeter (B), hexameter (C), trimeter (D), pentameter (D), dimeter (A), trimeter (C), pentameter (B).

  11. Little Willow, music and gratitude help me on muddling-through days. Break a leg, as always, with auditions this week. What music are you listening to now? Do tell.

    Steven: How … just … just … HOW does one’s brain work in such a manner that you can take THAT and create that amazing poem? Jealous.

  12. Thanks, Jules. I don’t like to think too much about how my brain works. 🙂

    All through college and grad school I heard how metrical poetry is confining and rhyme is out of date. But I have found meter to be incredibly freeing and rhyme entirely natural. I love the challenge of bringing a persistent pattern to life through artful variation.

    Some would say the art is in the irregularity, but I think the metronomic pulse is equally important.

  13. As always, just love, love, love reading these.
    My kick is the niecelet JUST commenced with commencement today – I was on the road at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday, and all went off without a hitch – though I need a nap! ☺ We did a big extended family brunch at IHOP after, and our waitress – Strawberry – was AMAZING. That girl earned her tips. So, a great day for the niece, really proud of her… Now if we can just figure out how she’s going to pay for grad school…

  14. Just LOVE the ‘Good News Bad News’ – hilarious! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I think my 6 year old will enjoy the humor.

    I love the song ‘Marie’ and haven’t heard it in years. A wisp of a memory of the song in some movie or somewhere is keeping just out of reach. Thanks for bringing that back to the fore.

    Amazing poem, as always, Steven. And I agree with Jules – mind boggling. Thank you.

    Great music, everyone – thank you also.

    1. re-energizing gospel singing workshop in Los Angeles followed by concert.

    2. Father’s Day dinner with my little and his dad – my AWESOME husband at an Indian restaurant. We had a great time and the garlic nan was very good. Unfortunately, the rest of the food was extremely bland!

    3. next round of edits and great meeting with the author on Friday night after fabulous dinner.

    4. beach party last Thursday celebrating my little’s completion of preschool.

    5. washing and packing baby boy clothes to send to my sister-in-law who is expecting a boy in August! It is hard to believe the 6 year old ever wore them.

    Wishing everyone a productive week!

  15. Jules! Here’s the moment:


    : – ) You’re right… absolute great soundtrack/action marriage.

  16. Steven, that makes sense.

    Tanita, congrats to the niecelet. Was talking to my 16-year-old nephew about college this past weekend. Hardly seems real.

    Allison: Garglic nan. Mmm. Congrats to your little one!

    Denise: THANK YOU. You found it. Could not find it, for the LIFE of me. I love that moment right at second nine.

  17. Arrrrgh–I wrote a long post, praising my neighbor Jeff Mack and sending him love and doing my kicks and it was eaten by the Ether Gods. So take it as given.

    Jane Yolen

  18. Jules, have you heard about Tove Janson’s comics published by Drawn and Quarterly? http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shopCatalogLong.php?st=art&art=a43cd43019761a

  19. Hi, Lisa! Yes, a friend loaned me one of those, though I didn’t realize Drawn and Quarterly had published them.

  20. I own the first ever signed copy of Good News Bad News! (long story how that came about, but I made Jeff write this fact down in the book, and date it, as I plan to get rich off it in the future). It is a great book, and although some have said three, and some have said five, I believe it has a grand total of FOUR words only.

  21. […] Pom and Pim was originally published in 2012, and this first American edition (which I think will be on bookshelves in March) comes from Gecko Press. (Yes, Gecko published last Sunday’s book as well, but hey, on the whole they make really entertaining books.) It tells the story of a young boy with his favorite toy, who head out on a warm day to explore and play. What follows is a series of good-luck / bad-luck moments, ending with one moment that could be seen as either good or back luck, depending on how full or empty one’s glass is. (This book would be great paired with either Linda Ashman’s Rain!, illustrated by Christian Robinson, or Jeff Mack’s Good News, Bad News.) […]

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