Thursday, August 13, 2009

Punk Farm

About a year ago, I somehow landed on Jarrett Krosoczka's website, liked his art style, and started reading his blog regularly. This was before I had read any of the books he had out. Over the last year I've been slowly collecting his work, from Max For President to Bubble Bath Pirates to Baghead. He has two new graphic novels coming out right now (the Lunch Lady series) and I'm so excited to get my hands on those. But somehow, through all of my adoration of his work, I've managed to not read his most popular story, Punk Farm. So when I was at the library this week, I noticed it was checked in (finally!!) and picked it up.

Punk Farm starts out like any other farm story. We see the hardworking farmer toiling happily amid his farm animals. But when the day is done, the story changes. Farmer Joe goes to his home, and the farm animals whip out guitars, drums, and microphones to put on a great concert. Farm animals from all over come in to see their favorite band play. And of course what song do they play? Old McDonald of course. Pig is on guitar, Cow is on drums, Goat is on bass, Chicken is on keyboards, and Sheep does vocals. These guys are the coolest animals in the barnyard.

It is impossible for me to describe this book without words like high-energy and excitement. Like any good punk song, this book is really high energy with a bit of an edge thrown in. Krosoczka uses a bright palette that makes each illustration pop of the page. The illustrations, which are painted, seem to go from very defined and somewhat subdued, when the farmer is around, to chaotic and blurred during the concert. I love how Krosoczka treats the book as almost a documentary about the band. We see them getting ready for the show and watch the crowd streaming in. The first time I read it, the book seemed almost like an animal homage to "This is Spinal Tap". Cleverly done.

Krosoczka seems to have a ton of fun with the story. The lyrics are creatively changed so that the moos and clucks of the standard song are replaced by keyboard and drum sounds. He throws in a ton of fun little side jokes like the sheep waiting to buy tickets with a hat that says "Obey". I loved the "Thank You Wisconsin" thrown out at the end of the set which just reminds me of "In the Street". Even the little thank you note from the band at the end is a clever dedication from Jarrett.

This would be a great read aloud book for kids, who will particularly like the song. Adults will enjoy the little inside jokes and the general energy of the book. This is one of the more high-octane books I've read in a while. The animals have a celebrity status that adults will chuckle at. Kids will just find the band cool. The band's number one song can be downloaded from Jarrett's website and the book has been optioned as a possible film. I can see why it's so popular. This book was quirky and fun and energizing.

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