Last Wednesday, I had the good fortune to see Jon Klassen and Lemony Snicket (well, actually, Mr. Snicket couldn’t make it, so he sent Daniel Handler in his place) to promote their new picture book, THE DARK (Little, Brown and Company). I had no idea what to expect from this pairing on the stage or on the page.
Great things, people. Dark and hilarious things.
On the Stage…
Jon and Mr. Handler (as Mr. Snicket’s spokesperson) are truly a comedy team. A recent Fuse 8 Production blog by Elizabeth Bird said it was true, but I didn’t believe until I saw it for myself. A presentation contrasting Jon’s lightness and Lemony Snicket’s um, serious contempt for all things frivolous and childlike (Jon loved to swing as a child…waste of time. Jon loved the movie Pinocchio…what horrible father of a wooden boy would own a home with a fireplace?) opened the event. Mr. Handler then divulged Mr. Snicket’s secret fear hidden on the page of Jon’s Caldecott winning THIS IS NOT MY HAT (hint: it is small, red, and will strike you when you least expect it).
But things got very silly when Mr. Klassen and Mr. Handler decided to do a live reading…and live illustrating(!)…of THE DARK. Of course, Mr. Handler had the most challenging of the two jobs as he read all those words all over those pages. Mr. Klassen’s job of illustrating each page on a flip chart in front of the audience in real-time was an absolute breeze. (Or so says Mr. Handler.) While Mr. Klassen’s flip-chart illustrations of THE DARK are most likely not Caldecott winning material (it gave me great pleasure knowing that I can draw a basement and a washing machine on a flip chart that look just like those of a Caldecott winning illustrator!), they were spontaneous and amazing in their own right.
Then, Mr. Handler blindfolded Mr. Klassen and challenged him to illustrate. And it turns out that Mr. Handler is terrified of what Mr. Klassen’s pen can create in the dark. In the end, Mr. Klassen proved that his pen is mighty. Even when drawing blindfolded.
|Daniel Handler, Mr. Snicket's spokesperson, convincing Jon Klassen to illustrate blindfolded for the audience.|
In the Line…
After a long, but lovely wait with two of my critique partners (author/illustrators Lindsay Ward and Betsy Snyder), I had the chance to meet Jon Klassen. He chatted with us as he signed (and doodled) in our books. I love that Jon shared his feelings about writing picture books (“It’s so hard!”) and a bit on his process for working with Lemony Snicket on THE DARK (“I gave Mr. Snicket a picture of a boy and flashlight as a visual and he wrote to that image.” “The illustration process was so smooth for this one.”) He also asked us what we thought of their presentation and told us that he felt this gig was the best they’d done so far. (Yay for us!!!)
|Jon Klassen signing THIS IS NOT MY HAT and THE DARK for a young fan and artist-to-be.|
On the Page…
The words and illustrations of THE DARK show how light and dark can create a beautiful creepiness. The main characters are a flashlight carrying little boy, Laszlo, and the Dark. Laszlo talks to the thing that frightens him most, just like I used to do when I was a kid. But, much to Laszlo’s surprise, the Dark talks back and leads Laszlo on an unexpected (and very helpful) adventure. If you want to see a great review and images from THE DARK, I highly recommend Julie Danielson’s review and interview with THE DARK’s editor at Little, Brown and Company.
If you have the chance to see Jon Klassen and Lemony Snicket promote THE DARK in your town, I have one word of advice: GO. (Here are the dates: http://jonklassen.tumblr.com/)I hope picture book author/illustrator comedy routines are the next big thing. This one was so much fun, I almost climbed in my son’s backpack so I could attend their school visit the following day. (My son reported that Lemony Snicket ran away screaming…which tells me it was a great event!)