Tonight I headed to Once Upon a Time in Montrose with Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy and our 8yo buddy KK. We had dinner and a scoop of ice cream at Black Cow Café, then headed over to the bookstore to see the hilarious Mac Barnett. He read and signed some of his previous books, as well as his latest title, Telephone!
If you're a picture book groupie like me (I'm going to use that term from now on--it's officially a thing), you'll recognize his name from Extra Yarn (illustrated by Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen) or maybe the middle grade mystery series The Brixton Brothers. You may also recognize Jen Corace's gorgeous watercolor work from such hits as Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Little (Pea, Hoot, Oink) series.
Anyway, Mac read us a couple of his books, including Extra Yarn and Guess Again. He's a great reader even with kids talking over him. He's also very, very funny. I took an audio recording and you can hear us giggling all over the place.
I don't think you have to be a knitter to appreciate Extra Yarn, a magical story of giving, greed, and yarnbombing. It's still my favorite. (You can click here to check out our totally awesome event from a few years ago at Unwind in Burbank.)
We were supposed to play a game of Telephone with all the attendees, but we kind of forgot because we were all so excited about Mac coming for a visit.
He told us about his first book tour ever, with Jon Scieszka (who was on his millionth book tour, in comparison), where they found a really old book that inspired the book Battle Bunny, which they ended up writing together. Illustrator Matthew Myers draws over a rather tame and predictable picture book. You can even download the pages and draw your own version at mybirthdaybunny.com. (You can email them the finished book when you are done modifying it, and the best ones will be posted online!)
Mac also said he decided to be a writer sometime in first or second grade, but he didn't really think about becoming a children's author until he was in college. He said no writers came to his school when he was a kid, though he remembers meeting Ed Emberley once and thinking he had a really gigantic beard. His first picture book was Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, illustrated by one of my favorite painter/authors: Adam Rex!
Rex also illustrated Guess Again, so of course I had to add that to my collection. I have quite a few of his books, including the slightly inappropriate and oft-banned The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake. (Mac claims he inspired the titular character's appearance, which I find hard to believe--the cowboy's so goofy-looking! Perhaps I'll get to verify that with Adam someday.)
The kids at the event were really funny, and one girl even correctly guessed an answer in Guess Again! I think the parents had fun, too. One dad with a little girl said it was their first author signing ever, and they were so thrilled that they might come right back to the bookstore tonight (to see Rosemary Wells of Max & Ruby fame).
We also ran into lovely picture book authors-to-be Carter Higgins (from Design of the Picture Book) and Tina & Carson Kugler (whose In Mary's Garden will be out next March from HMHKids). I can't wait to read what they've written, as well!
I hope you enjoy Mac Barnett's books as much as we do. Check your local bookstore or library (or pop by Once Upon a Time!)