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)