In the simplest way with the two words 'Look' and 'Out' Jeff Mack has created a fun story showing the challenge of getting kids away from the TV and into a book. LOOK! was delightful to read as I changed my voice for each character and tone for each emotion. Your kids will be entertained by this lovable Gorilla who tries desperately to steal the boy's attention from the glowing screen. Your kids may start looking for a gorilla to come bouncing through their own door. Speaking of Gorillas, when I was just five my sister (three) woke me in the middle of the night claiming there was a gorilla in our living room. Thanks to our imaginations (fueled by lots of books read to us by our mom) I indeed found and scared off that gorilla. Another really fun touch of this book is the textural looking elements like the library due date and the crinkled and bent looking pages. Read LOOK! to your kids, you won't be disappointed.
Kinley loves this book because she can read it on her own and because of the fun illustrations. Her favorite page is the very last with the mountain of books, the gorilla, and the little boy.
An Interview with Jeff Mack:
Brock: Jeff thanks for agreeing to answer some questions about Look. How did you come up with the idea for LOOK!?
Jeff: The idea for LOOK! came from real life. I visited a school where I saw a student try to show a teacher a picture she had drawn. The teacher was busy with another student, but this girl was determined to get her attention. She tried everything she could think of: tugging on her sweater, standing on a chair, jumping up and down, yelling. The teacher was so patient! In the end, when it was finally the girl's turn, it took just a moment of recognition to satisfy her.
After that, I knew I wanted to write a story about a character who wants attention but feels ignored. I wrote dozens of versions, but none of them clicked for me until I added the tv set. That was something the ignoring character could look at instead of paying attention to his friend. It prevented them from making a meaningful connection. It also presented a problem many readers could relate to.Then I added the books as something else they could look at that would bring them together in the end. It also addressed the debate about books vs. screens in a constructive, upbeat way.
Finally, when I figured out how to tell the entire story using just two words, words with meanings that change depending on their context, I felt like I had invented something fun and interesting that both kids and their parents could identify with.
For me, LOOK! is primarily about who or what you pay attention to and the connections or missed connections that result. That's the idea that started it all.
Brock: I love how you indeed delivered such a meaningful message with just two words. And truly you hit on an issue that exists everywhere. Sadly more often than not this problem occurs between parents and their children. Why did you choose a gorilla?
Jeff: First I tried a bear. Then a big shaggy dog. But the gorilla just seemed the cutest to me. He's like a big baby. I liked the idea of an ape and a boy learning different things from each other. And the sketches I made of them sitting together gave me such a positive feeling, I knew the ape was the right choice. Because of the gorilla, some people have read an evolutionary message into this book, but it wasn't intended. It just had to do with sweetness.
Brock: Interesting that someone reading a children's picture book would go to evolution. Animals are a relatively normal touch of children's picture books. Why did you add the textural elements into LOOK!?
Jeff: Many of us spend so much time looking at screens these days, I wanted to remind readers that books are originally physical objects with a range of sizes, shapes, and textures. So I added textures of pages and covers from old books in the background. That way readers could read a real book about characters that live in a world made of virtual books.
Brock: I appreciated that extra addition to the book. There is something about physical books that technology hasn't been able to completely replace, at least yet. I enjoyed the subtle message of books can be as exciting as television. What are your thoughts on Books versus TV?
Jeff: I enjoy watching TV now and then. It's fun. But reading books is usually a richer experience for me. Movies and television do a good job of appealing to my emotions. Books do a better job of appealing to my thoughts. Since my emotions are fleeting, TV rarely makes a deep, long-lasting impression on me. On the other hand, there are books that have really stuck with me and changed the way I think about the world. I'm lucky to live in an age when we still have both.
Brock: What technique/media did you use for Look?
Jeff: One of the themes of this story is a battle between new technology (screens) and old technology (books). I wanted the art to reflect that. So I used watercolor (an old technology) to render the boy and the ape, and I used digital collage (a new technology) to render all of the backgrounds. I also used crayons to draw the ape's dialogue, and I cut letters from various magazines for the boy's dialogue.
I started exploring collage techniques with a book called "The Things I Can Do". In that book, a five-year-old narrator illustrates his own story with objects he finds around the house. Ironically, it took a lot of technology to make that book look convincingly hand-made. It was so much fun to do, I decided to push those techniques further with LOOK!.
Brock: Jeff thanks for your time and for answering my questions. I hope you had a good time and thanks for LOOK!.
Jeff: These were really good questions! Fun and thought-provoking.
From the Publisher:
This hilarious tale of a friendship that develops over a love of books is the perfect picture book for fans of IT’S A BOOK and OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA!Everyone needs a little attention from time to time. Just ask our gorilla who will stop at nothing to be noticed by the boy with his eyes glued to the TV set. But for the gorilla, it’s going to take more than a quiet nudge to steal away the boy’s attention. When his usual antics fail to catch the boy’s eye—LOOK OUT! The gorilla has some other tricks up his sleeve.Using only two words—LOOK and OUT—Jeff Mack relates an adorably hilarious story about an attention-loving gorilla, a television-loving boy, and a friendship that develops over books. Simple in construct yet richly creative, this interactive and colorful tale will leave children laughing and loving books for years to come.Perfect for fans of It’s a Book and Officer Buckle and Gloria.
Praise for LOOK!:
* “The slapstick action unfolds on linen-textured backgrounds, battered vintage book covers, and the actual pages of a book—hat-tips to the physicality of books that hint at a happy ending for bibliophiles of all ages. Even if audiences miss these winks and nods to the tactile pleasures of reading, they’ll still love that gorilla: hulking, eager-to-please and almost palpably furry, he’ll be welcome in any room.”--Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“The personalities and emotions of the chunky, fluffy ape and the TV-entranced boy nearly vibrate off the page. Look, indeed! An energetic invitation to the joys of books.”--Kirkus Reviews
“This is a fun read-aloud that will have children wanting to look and look again.”--School Library Journal
“Mack’s gentle, cartoonish illustrations are cleverly drawn on old book covers and endpapers, a subtle detail that emphasizes the joy of reading, and with a playful two-word vocabulary, even the littlest readers will be able to get in on the fun.”--Booklist
“Look! treads familiar metafictive ground in celebrating the pleasures of reading, but it manages to feel fresh nonetheless, with inventive use of controlled text, vibrant mixed-media art, and thoughtful design.”--Horn Book