Chloe and the Lion
Publication Date: April 2012
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Meet Chloe: Every week, she collects loose change so she can buy tickets to ride the merry-go-round. But one fateful day, she gets lost in the woods on her way home, and a large dragon leaps out from-"Wait! It's supposed to be a lion," says Mac Barnett, the author of this book. But Adam Rex, the illustrator, thinks a dragon would be so much cooler (don't you agree?).
Mac's power of the pen is at odds with Adam's brush, and Chloe's story hangs in the balance. Can she help them out of this quandary to be the heroine of her own story?
Mac Barnett and Adam Rex are a dynamic duo, and two of the strongest contemporary voices in picture books today. In an accessible and funny way, Chloe and the Lion talks about the creative process and the joys and trials of collaboration.
Mac Barnett (www.macbarnett.com) is the author of two books with Disney Hyperion: Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem and Oh No!(Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World), and the forthcoming Mustache!, Oh No! Not Again!, and How This Book Was Made. He is on the board of 826LA, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center, and a founder of the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, a convenience store for time travelers (seriously). Mac lives in California.
Adam Rex (www.adamrex.com) is The New York Times best-selling author and illustrator of Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich. His other books include Pssst!, The True Meaning of Smekday, The Dirty Cowboy (written by Amy Timberlake) and the Lucy Rose series (written by Katy Kelly). He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Take a vaudeville stage with some flimsy painted scenery, two clay figures that represent Barnett and Rex (Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem), a brash and bespectacled heroine named Chloe (hand-drawn), a lion (also drawn), and some walk-on characters, and you've got a comedy sketch in picture-book form about the chaos involved in collaborative storytelling. The action plays out in photos of a small, makeshift stage on which Chloe gets lost in the forest and meets-a lion? Or should it be a dragon? "Mac" and "Adam" disagree vehemently about which would be cooler, and Adam ends up being eaten by the lion. Chloe tries to enlist the help of passersby to save him ("I only go after wolves dressed as old ladies," says a strapping man felling trees) and eventually comes up with a solution of her own, one that allows for even more meta-comedy. As befits its work-in-progress nature, the story gets a little lost in the middle, but rat-a-tat dialogue and fresh visuals should keep it at the top of the bedtime pile.—PW
The fourth wall is broken to bits in this meta-musing on the creation of a picture book. The fun begins with the author introducing himself and his illustrator (cast as fimo figurines) and their protagonist, Chloe, a blue-haired, bespectacled slip of a sketch with red cowboy boots and a Texas-shaped belt buckle. Chloe sets off on a three-dimensional stage to begin her story, but almost immediately author and illustrator experience creative differences. A replacement illustrator is hired, and fired, the author tries drawing his own pictures (not a good idea), and it finally falls to Chloe to save her day. Storytelling tropes abound, skewered one after another by Chloe's infallible wherewithal, until she secures her just reward. As entertainment the story functions well, combining twisty plotting, irreverent dialogue, visual hilarity, and sophisticated book design into an arch package. But beneath the silly surface, children will find a meaningful exposition of just what goes into a successful picture book, and how author, illustrator, and character must collaborate and compromise. - Thom Barthelmess—Booklist
This meta-picture book offers plenty of sly giggles (and knows it). On first read, the droll surprises in Barnett and Rex's project are endearing. "This is me, Mac. I'm the author of this book," explains a waving man, who next introduces "Adam . the illustrator" and "Chloe . the main character." Conservatively dressed Mac (collared shirt and tie under sweater) and hipster Adam (thick-rimmed glasses, big-cuffed, darkwash jeans) resemble stringless Plasticine marionettes. Chloe is more cartoony, with wide-leg pants, indigo pigtails and huge purple eyes under enormous glasses. Initially, Chloe's plot is mild-a walk, a merry-go-round. But Adam draws a dragon where Mac's text specifies a lion, and, after a power struggle, Mac fires Adam. Mac hires a substitute, then makes the (badly-drawn-because-not-drawn-by-Adam) lion swallow Adam. Without Adam, things go badly. Mac needs Chloe's help. As cool as Chloe is, her arc's mostly a vehicle for the Mac/Adam conflict and for excellent inter-media interactions such as a flatly drawn lion swallowing a 3-D looking figure. Nobody explains why Chloe's plot occurs on a theater stage, nor how new characters appear during a phase when-supposedly-nobody's illustrating. One terrific scene echoes the old Looney Tunes cartoon about a cartoonist briskly altering Daffy Duck's costumes and scenery, to Daffy's great consternation. Clever and funny, though it's possible that only a niche audience will want repeat readings. (Picture book. 4-8)—Kirkus
K-Gr 3 After Barnett and Rex introduce themselves, readers meet Chloe, the main character. The story progresses smoothly until Mac writes that a huge lion leapt out at Chloe, and Adam draws a dragon instead (he "just thought a dragon would be cooler"). A fight erupts over artistic vision, with the author firing the illustrator and having the lion swallow him whole. He then introduces a new artist who can "illustrate a brilliant story written by a true genius." The new illustrator does not work out as hoped, though, and nor do Mac's attempts to illustrate the book himself. Finally Chloe takes command and sets off on a fairy-tale-inspired quest to save the story and Adam. The illustrations are pitch-perfect: claymation for the author and illustrators and cartoon for the story characters, who act out their parts on a proscenium stage. The result is an elaborate prank on the picture-book genre, and it comes together in playful harmony. Chloe is an engaging youngster, sporting blue braids, owlish glasses, and a pith helmet. Children old enough to understand the constructs of a book will delight in the comedic deconstruction, and adults will enjoy the references to traditional tales, from King Arthur to Frankenstein. Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR—SLJ