Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
You know this book is going to be unique when you get introduced to the author and illustrator before the book begins. Then you meet Chloe, a little girl, who is the main character in the book. The story begins and Chloe is collecting loose change that she would use to ride the merry-go-round in the park as many times as she could. When she headed home, dizzy from the ride, she got lost in the forest. Then a huge lion jumped out at her! Except Adam Rex, the illustrator, did not draw a lion. He thought a dragon would be a much better choice. Mac Barnett, the author, doesn’t like that idea at all and insists that this is HIS book because he is the author. The fight goes on from there, until Mac feeds Adam to the lion that a new stand-in illustrator drew for him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really like the art of the new illustrator and also finds that he can’t draw well enough himself to fill in for Adam. What is an author to do?!
I love books that break that fourth wall and take a look at the inner workings of the author/illustrator or involve the audience in an interesting way. The book’s art and writing are so closely integrated together that it is almost impossible to review them separately. The tone here is clean and clear until the fight scene where it becomes comically fraught with emotion. There are running gags, funny comments and lots of humor throughout the story that make it all the more fun to read.
The illustrations are inventive and add real dimension to the book. There are several elements at play. There are the figures done in clay that represent the author and illustrator. There are the flat drawings of Chloe and the lion. Then there is a stage where the book story takes place. It’s a wonderful mix of theater, reading, and art.
The silliness doesn’t stop at the end of the book, make sure to check out the author blurb at the back, along with the very short illustrator blurb. This book will thrill children with its silliness, dynamic illustrations, and its clever look behind the curtain of making a picture book. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.