Tag Archives: Lane Smith

Squids Will Be Squids – Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith are like those bad boys at the magazine I once worked for who nearly always included jokes about Uruguay and boogers in their copy that you knew were coming but that made you snigger anyway. (I’m talking about you, Dave Barry.)  Squids Will Be Squids is a mad take on Aesop’s Fables that even manages to make fun of poor old Aesop. It’s kind of funny, though.

The art is wonderfully wacky, as it always is in Scieszka/Lane collaborations, and so is the text. Every double spread has a page of instructive parable in multi-sized fonts about creatures like elephants, ants, pigeons, termites, rabbits, duckbilled platypuses (Yes, that is the correct plural. I looked it up.), blowfish, echidnae, pieces of toast, Froot Loops–all the usual protagonists in a fable. There is a cogent moral to sum up each tale. An excellent and cautionary moral, if you are of the feathered persuasion, is: Whatever looks like a pigeon and acts like a pigeon usually makes good pigeon pie. (The particulars of that fable are too appalling to repeat.) Another really pithy reminder is: You should always tell the truth. But if your mom is out having the hair taken off her lip, you might want to forget a few of the details.

One moral involving a beefsnakstick and the aforementioned platypus has a conclusion especially relevant in our carcinogenic consumer culture: Just because you have a lot of stuff, don’t think you’re so special. Not your thing? How about: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Or: It takes one to know one?  I thought there was a moment of undeniable truth in the fable about Skunk, Musk Ox and Cabbage: He who smelt it, dealt it. You can imagine how that story went.

There were a couple of chuckles in Squids Will Be Squids and maybe a hilarity-fest for a small boy who likes fart jokes. Or a grown boy who likes booger humor. Or anyone who just enjoys the very mildly outrageous and slightly goofy and is willing to enter the Scieszka/Lane crazyverse for a while. If  you read this with some kids who think you are stuffy, hopelessly boring and humorless, they will get a marginally better opinion of you. Could be worth it.

Squids Will Be Squids (Picture Puffins)   Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith | Viking  1998

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Seen Art? – Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

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Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith have a raft of wonky, beloved books to their credit, including The Stinky Cheeseman–fabulous!–and Math Curse and Science Verse, two instructive and memorable tales of tricky topics. So, when they tackle art, you can expected something unexpected. Seen Art? is a play on words that plays with your mind. There is plenty of  art to see at the Museum of Modern Art, if that’s what you happen to be looking for. The round-headed little guy with scribbles for hair is actually after a person, not the seen art on the pedestals and walls of the museum. But, language being what it is, the museum’s collection is what he gets.

Guy starts out looking for his friend Art on the corner of fifth and fifty-third. Too bad the friend’s name wasn’t Fred. Helpful New Yorkers steer him to MoMA where he decides MoMA must be some sort of code word and gets himself deeper and deeper into galleries filled with Warhols, Miros, Picassos, Calders, Klees, Duchamps, Moores and Modiglianis. Dali, de Kooning, Dubuffet, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Giacometti–they’re all here. But where is Art? Is he in the eye of the beholder?  Umm, no. That’s Magritte. Is he in one of the smeary, drippy, paint-splashed states on the enormous wall map? Jasper Johns, definitely art, but what about Art?

Everyone has their own ideas but no one has the definitive answer, not even Pablo’s She-Goat, that lovely cartoonish bronze one in the garden.  It’s a confusion of famous images juxtaposed together, perhaps in the way a novice, or a kid, might encounter the actual museum. How to sort it out? How to get one’s bearings? How to find Art? In the end, art/Art finds you, of course. And, after a detailed tour of the MoMA collection, the squiggly guy gets the answer to his question. Seen Art? Absolutely.

A handy illustrated appendix at the back of the book identifies each work for you and the encounter is a lighthearted introduction to a world some grown-ups find intimidating. Not the savvy, amused kids who read this witty book. Art’s that guy with the glasses and the finger-in-the-socket hair waiting at the entrance.  Visit MoMa and take Seen Art? with you. Take a kid, too, just to be safe. Look up for the helicopter and check the garden for the goat. 

Seen Art?   Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith | Viking   2005