The Happy Hocky Family Image: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL9523138M/The_Happy_Hocky_Family! The first book I will look closely at is the Happy Hocky Family . This book is written and illustrated by Lane Smith and designed by Molly Leach. The reason I chose this book for closer examination is for the way that Lane Smith has taken the idea of using retro inspirations from the 1940’s and 50’s to make a book that kids, and adults, can enjoy today. Smith makes use of the traditional method of four plate color printmaking (red, blue, yellow and black). Every design choice, like the paper that the book is printed on, is chosen to create a feeling of this book being printed in another era. During the period that influenced this book minimalism and abstraction ruled the worlds of art and design. Looking at just the cover- with the strong geometric shapes used to build the character’s faces, the amorphous red blob in the background, and the bright, slightly misaligned colors- conjures a feeling of the past, and when you hold this book, it feels more like you are holding an artifact rather than a contemporary book.
The Happy Hocky Family In the article How I Learned To Love the Computer in School Library Journal, Smith states that this book was inspired by the primers of the 1940’s and 50’s. The purpose of a primer would be to teach language in a simple way. Munro Leaf’s Can Be Fun series was the direct influence of The Happy Hocky Family. The style and humor of Munro’s work is very apparent when viewing both illustrators side-by-side. Leaf’s Grammar Can Be Fun http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajourneyroundmyskull/4243229016/ http://www.philnel.com/tag/lane-smith/ Smith’s The Happy Hocky Family
The Happy Hocky Family http://stuartngbooks.com/art-books/artists-a-z/last-name-s/smith-the-happy-hocky-family-en-2.html Even though this book might be off-putting to some children with it’s old appearance, Smith is able to infuse it with page after page of simple, humorous situations. As Smith says in an interview with Litchfield County Mom. Com, “I like books to work on different levels. Maybe they [children] won’t get it right away. They expand their little minds.” The Happy Hocky Family is a book that makes you giggle and appreciate how funny simplicity can be.
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales http://www.overstock.com/Books-Movies-Music-Games/The-Stinky-Cheese-Man-and-Other-Fairly-Stupid-Tales/66303/product.html The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith Designed by Molly Leach I chose to look more closely at this book because this is one of many books that Lane Smith has worked on with the author Jon Scieszka. As the title suggests, this book is anything but normal. From the aggressive and somewhat ominous illustrations, to the bizarre layout of the text, to the craziness of the story, this book does anything and everything to break the norm of a typical children’s picturebook. I must admit that this book is slightly off-putting to me. I go more for the whimsical than the wacky, but I can appreciate what Scieszka, Smith and Leach accomplish with this book. They work to stretch and push the visual and textual boundaries of children’s books. As Eric Carle changed the rules by putting holes in The Very Hungry Caterpillar , this picturebook challenges not only what a book should look like, but also how it reads. Stories start on the end pages, text is up-side-down, pages are blank, the table of contents literally kills a story mid-plot, and Scieszka, Smith and Leach make this not only okay, but wildly entertaining and almost mind-numbing to experience.
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales http://www.madcattoys.com/bk1159vk.html Like I said earlier, I’m not really a huge fan of this work. To me the illustrations are a bit disturbing, and they walk the line of being humorous, yet threatening. The colors are dark and textural, while the shapes of characters are distorted almost beyond the point of caricature to become Frankenstein-esque, and the hodge-podge of collaged images bizarrely interrupts into the composition at times. But what I dislike is probably intentional on Smith’s part, and just not to my aesthetic taste. On Amazon.com there are 147 five star reviews for this book, so needlessly to say, I may be one of the minority who don’t heartily enjoy it. Where my discomfort stems from is the fact that this book is so unconventional, but that’s the point. So I can appreciate, if not love, the work that Scieszka, Smith and Leach put into this picturebook, and the way that they make the readers challenge the traditional cannon of children’s picturebooks.
John, Paul, George & Ben Image: http://www.lanesmithbooks.com/LaneSmithBooks/John_Paul_George_%26_Ben.html John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith Designed by Molly Leach I feel that John, Paul, George & Ben is a good example of Lane Smith’s current work. Published in 2006, this book really highlights how the use of technology has enriched Smith’s work. In Smith’s earlier picturebooks such as Halloween ABC (1995) or Big Pets (1993) his style is very dark, atmospheric and heavy. Definitely this just might have been his style back then, but it’s also true that Smith was tied to more traditional means of making his work and this effected how his work looked. Oil paints and collage have always been Smith’s way of producing illustrations, but once Smith transitioned to using Photoshop and other software, he was able to keep his traditional ways of working and fuse it with digital technology. I feel that this gives his work a cleaner, fresher look, and the technology is able to give him the means to push his ability to really play with composition without the worry that comes along with traditional means of art-making of pushing your medium too far. This book is such a wonderful mish-mash of Colonial era- and contemporary design. The end pages of the picturebook describe it best, “ The illustrations in this book were hand drawn with pen-and-ink. The textures were created by a variety of techniques, among them, oil paint on canvas and sampled surfaces from handmade parchment papers and weathered pulp boards. The collage elements are facsimiles of eighteenth-century ephemera. All were then combined on a twenty-first-century Macintosh computer.”
John, Paul, George & Ben As well as highlighting the growth of Smith’s artistic style , John, Paul, George & Ben shows just how funny Lane Smith’s writing is. Take the example to the right. While the illustrations are funny for the fact that they caricature American historical figures, it is the text that really sets up the tone of the story. First is the obvious allusion to the rock group the Beatles. This first page shows John, Paul, George and Ben walking across the page a la the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. When thinking more deeply about why Smith did this (beyond that it’s witty), it really does highlight how the characters in this book were British subjects, not yet Americans. This would be really interesting to bring up with students to see if they can grasp the connection on their own. Second is Smith’s word choice. Instead of just calling them four boys, he calls them four lads. That in and of itself made me chuckle . All throughout the book, Smith inserts time period specific words or ways of phrasing in a way that makes them humorous, yet smartly exposes children to the vernacular of the Colonial time period. Thirdly, is the use of textual “extras” throughout the book. Looking at the example to the left, the asterisk after Ben draws you outside of the “real” text of the story to give you more information that enriches and connects to the plot later on. Throughout the book, looking for the extra text outside of the story isn’t essential to the plot, but does add a richness to the story and setting. Lastly, on the final page of the book Smith does a fact or fiction check, where readers can learn what was true in the book and what Smith made up. I think this is a smart way to conclude the book and really makes me appreciate the depth of thought, respect and obvious love that Lane Smith has towards history.