Science is far from serious in Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, the first in a new series from Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs. Take one kid genius, add two hilarious robots and an archnemesis with a doomsday plan, and you've got the perfect blend of imagination and invention. But with so much hilarity and adventure, how do you choose a favorite scene? We put Scieszka and Biggs to the test.
Would it be cheating to say I have two favorite scenes from this first Frank Einstein book? Oh, good. I didn't hear anyone say no. So—my first favorite scene is when Frank first meets the self-assembled robots Klink and Klank. Because we, the readers, get to meet the robots with the same realization Frank has—that these two can help figure out/invent almost anything. Then Klank tells a pretty lame knock-knock joke. That drives Klink nuts. And Frank also realizes that these robots are a bit crazy too.
And my other favorite scene is when Frank and his pal Watson meet the evil kid genius, T. Edison, for the first time. They are all in Frank's Grampa Al's Fix It! repair shop. Edison introduces his sidekick and chief financial officer, Mr. Chimp. I don't want to give away too much, but Mr. Chimp's name is a pretty big clue that Mr. Chimp is . . . an actual chimpanzee. Mr. Chimp has taught himself sign language, accounting, jet engine repair and plenty more skills that we’ll find out about in books one through six.
Oh, and my other favorite scene is when Klank attacks Edison’s Antimatter Squirt Gun. This thing is powerful enough to destroy Einstein and Watson and both robots. And though Klank isn't the smartest robot in the world, he does have the biggest robot heart. And Brian's illustrations show exactly what happens.
Ooo ooo oooo and then every scientific diagram is a favorite scene of mine too! As part of the story, Brian and I get to show atomic structure, antimatter, fingerprints, eyeballs, E = mc2 and cows producing methane gas . . .
Being asked to describe my favorite scene from Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is kind of hard. There are about a million really fun scenes in the book, and if Jon does one thing well (and he actually does eleven things well), it’s creating scenes in his stories that are fun to illustrate.
Would it be the scene at the beginning of the book where Frank and Watson are trying to build their first robot during a thunderstorm? The dramatic lighting, the maniacal laughter, the all-important introduction to the world of Frank certainly made this scene a good one.
Hmm. Maybe it was the scene at the end that takes place in a giant factory where one of the robots, Klank, has hugged a huge, pink Antimatter Squirt Gun until he and the Squirt Gun explode in a humongous, colorful BLAM! Or maybe it was the small diagram in chapter seven depicting a cow fart. It was sort of hysterical the day that I had to research this drawing and learn all I could about cow methane.
But actually, my favorite scene in the book, as well as my favorite scene that I got to draw, is none of these. When I read Jon’s description of the moment we meet Frank’s nemesis, T. Edison, as he hides behind the old phonograph (a Thomas Edison invention, natch!), and then his ape cohort, Mr. Chimp, climbs down and joins him, I knew that this scene was going to be a joy to compose and create. I’d done some creepy character sketches for T. Edison showing his shifty eyes, weird mouth, and matted hair, and I’d hoped I’d have a chance to use these, and I did. Mr. Chimp is creepy in his own evil-sneer and barefoot way. He’s actually my favorite character in the series, and I knew that this drawing had to get everything about Mr. Chimp and T. Edison across.
In addition to the characters in this scene, I loved drawing Grampa Al’s Fix It! repair shop in the background. You may not know this about me, but I love details. As Jon wrote the book, I often felt like he was writing it only for me to draw. Frank’s science lab and Grampa Al’s shop are full of old musical instruments, unused appliances, broken clocks, funny contraptions, nuts, bolts and unusual tools, and it was fun to both draw the stuff that Jon described but also add my own layer. The red fan on the left is actually a fan I have in my studio, for example.
Bringing all these elements together still would not have worked without getting the mood right in this illustration. T. Edison and Mr. Chimp are really mean guys. They’re threatening to repossess Grandpa’s shop here. The light is coming in from behind, casting a dark shadow across both characters. I hadn’t had the chance to work with light and shadow much before Frank Einstein, and it was a lot of fun to bring this into the drawings, setting the tone for these two characters and their conflict with Frank that will take place over the six books in the series.
Illustrations © 2014 by Brian Biggs. Reprinted by permission of Abrams Books for Young Readers.