Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mac and Matt Rule the House

Mac and Matt recently visited my library and, to no one's surprise, they ruled the house.

Mac, of course, is the inimitable Mac Barnett, superstar picture book author of such Caldecott Honor-winning gems as Sam & Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn. Matt is Matt Myers, illustrator of such books as the What James Said, one of the favorites of my library's mock Caldecott programs last year.

Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Matt Myers (Photo credits: Bruce Guthrie)
A few years ago, Mac and Matt worked together -- along with the great Jon Scieszka - on a wonderful, quirky book called Battle Bunny. If you've never seen it, go check it out. It is a brilliant send-up of the kind of sentimental picture books often beloved by well-meaning adults and loathed by young readers.

Now, the two of them have teamed up again on Rules of the House, the kind of subversive book that kids love. And, as part of my library's partnership with Politics & Prose bookstore, both Mac and Matt recently came to read and discuss Rules of the House to an enthusiastic crowd of kids and adults.

Mac Barnett
In Barnett's text, chronic rule-breaker Jenny scoffs at her younger brother Ian, who believes that rules are made to be followed. When Jenny and Ian's family heads to a cabin in the woods for a get-away, Jenny naturally opens the cabin's red door after reading it should never be opened. The consequences? A bearskin rug, oven and bathtub that want to eat her. Ian at first is inclined to let Jenny just suffer the consequences of her rule-breaking, but then decides that he will come to her rescue -- breaking a few rules himself. Myers's oil-painted illustrations wonderfully exaggerate the emotions in Barnett's text -- both the tension between Jenny and Ian, and the scariness of the creatures who want to devour Jenny. And Myers's depiction of the cabin -- both its natural darkness and its isolation-- is spot on.

Matt Myers
In its review, Publishers Weekly noted that, in Rules of the House, "Barnett focuses his inimitable blend of energy and fiendish imagination on children's fascination with the rules." PW added: "Myers's acrylics revel in horror-movie parody, like the hellish light emitted by the red door and the bearskin rug stalking the siblings in their bunk beds." Overall, said the PW reviewer, in Rules of the House, there's "no solemn moralizing, just a rib-tickling, slightly subversion readaloud."

Matt and Mac with a young fan.

At our event, Mac read the book, then Matt talked about how the illustrations had changed over time. Then it was time for questions. A young boy raised his hand. "Yes?" Mac asked. "What's your question?" "I loved your book!" the little boy said, echoing the opinion of the audience.

Book signing time.

Mac and Matt signed books after that, but then had to dash for a train to Philadelphia. No worries -- it was clear that everyone had a good time while Mac and Matt ruled the house. In fact, a Rule of the House should be: Make sure to ask Mac and Matt to present at your library -- it's a guaranteed good time for all ages.

Mac with 2016 debut picture book author Minh Le, his wife Aimee & their boys.

End Notes: Thanks to Mary Ann Zissimos of Disney for sending Mac and Matt on tour A huge, heartfelt thanks to Kerri Poor of Politics & Prose for doing such a wonderful time as the kids/teen author events coordinator there. This was Kerri's last event before she moves on to a new job-- I will miss her! Thanks to Bruce Guthrie for his fabulous photos, and the permission to use them. And a huge thanks to Mac and Matt -- you're welcome back anytime to the Takoma Park Maryland Library.

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