Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mary had a little lamp by Jack Lechner, illustrated by Bob Staake - review

Mary had a little lamp by Jack Lechner, illustrated by Bob Staake
I always read the front-matter of picture books. My dad used to do that so that we wouldn't ask him to read to us: he'd start with the copyright statement and we'd bitch and moan but he would not desist, and we'd get mom to read to us instead.

So I don't read that stuff out loud to my kids, but when I preview books, I always check it out. Authors and illustrators sometimes leave Easter eggs in there for people like me. Bob Staake left me a message in the front of Mary had a little lamp.

"Art created digitally in Adobe Photoshop using nothing more than a mouse, some imagination, and a reasonable amount of coffee."

And thus were a hundred crappy quickie picture books born. Listen, Bob Staake, don't reveal your methods. Don't make it sound so easy. We all know it's not, that you don't imbue a gooseneck desk lamp with a winsome but insouciant personality without putting in some serious time and effort, but there are a jillion illustrators (and editors) out there reading this cheeky little artist's statement and going, "Hmmm! He doesn't even have a tablet and stylus! Cheap!"

So knock it off. Say that the color palette for your work was sampled from an extensive study of Umbrian frescoes and antique Halloween decorations. Your woodgrain texture is based on the path of woodworms eating through the dead dogwood in your front yard. Say that you developed your arsenal of compositional tricks after spending 5 years in the Himalayas watching ancient cartoons and eating mushrooms.

And be sure to mention that rhyme-smiths such as Jack Lechner just don't fall into a guy's lap.

Lechner, formerly the executive vice president of development and production for Miramax(!) has written an adorable and witty take on "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Mary takes the lamp to school, to the movies, to her cousin Debbie's wedding, and, rather inevitably, to her therapy appointment, thus providing Bob Staake with lots of fun illustration opportunities.

For everyone's Bob Staake collection, and as a fun, silly read-aloud, this book is a winner.

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