The Exquisite Corpse Adventure


Take twenty top kids? authors and illustrators. Give them free rein to take turns creating a zany progressive story. What could possibly happen next?

It all starts with a train rushing through the night. . . . Well, actually, it starts when Jon Scieszka, former National Ambassador for Young People?s Literature, writes a cliff-hanger episode and passes it on to the next member of a cast of celebrated writers and illustrators, who continues the story and passes it on. And what ...

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Take twenty top kids’ authors and illustrators. Give them free rein to take turns creating a zany progressive story. What could possibly happen next?

It all starts with a train rushing through the night. . . . Well, actually, it starts when Jon Scieszka, former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, writes a cliff-hanger episode and passes it on to the next member of a cast of celebrated writers and illustrators, who continues the story and passes it on. And what happens between episodes one and twenty-seven? Think werewolves and mad scientists, a talking pig, plenty of explosions, a blue Star Wars lunchbox, two meatballs, a whole army of villains and varmints, and one just plain bad egg. Not to mention our heroes, eleven-year-old twins Nancy and Joe, raised in a circus, who must find the pieces of a Top-Secret Robot in order to rescue their parents before . . . tick, tick, tick!

A collaboration between the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance and the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, THE EXQUISITE CORPSE ADVENTURE originated as a national literacy project for young people and helped launch the website.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
As gleefully entertaining as it is preposterously ludicrous...Go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
—Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—As their circus train barrels headlong to potential doom, Joe and Nancy receive an urgent plea for help from their long-lost parents. Going on a tip from an Einstein-esque mad scientist, the twins learn that the only way to save their family is to find and piece together a Top Secret Robot whose services are crucial to the success of their mission. What follows is a cross-dimensional, time-warping adventure that has the heroes making unusual new friends, enduring bad knock-knock jokes, and battling villains most evil-including a narcoleptic clown and some very rotten eggs. Twenty well-known children's authors and illustrators, including Natalie Babbitt, Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Jack Gantos, and Steven Kellogg, collaborated to create this story, each penning a chapter and passing it on to the next. This concept is exceptionally creative. Unfortunately, the overall effect is that of too many cooks working over a single pot. The idea might have worked better spread over several books, as with "The 39 Clues" (Scholastic), or with fewer writers wielding the pen. As is, the effort has a disjointed feel and reads more like a series of randomly related vignettes than one continuous story. Even avid readers may have trouble following the multiple threads.—Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI
Publishers Weekly
As gleefully entertaining as it is preposterously ludicrous, this serial adventure features an all-star cast of authors and illustrators, including Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Gregory McGuire, Katherine Paterson, Jon Scieszka, and Lemony Snicket. Inspired by classic storytelling games and literary experiments (and originally published online at, each chapter is penned by one of 16 authors, brought to a cliffhanger, and passed to the next contributor (Calef Brown, Timothy Basil Ering, and others provide spot art). The end result defies rhyme and reason, with increasingly bizarre twists, a general disregard for logic, and a narrative that barely makes sense. The core story line revolves around a pair of circus-raised 11-year-old orphans, Joe and Nancy, who embark on a madcap quest across time and space to reunite the pieces of a robot known as the Exquisite Corpse, in an effort to thwart evil aliens. Talking elephants, a malevolent clown, an extra-dimensional pig, pirates, and a misfortune-teller all have their parts as this adventure winds its way to a satisfying conclusion. No reason to look for deep meaning—readers should just go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Candace Deisley
This is a chapter book in the true sense: different chapters are written by different authors! It was originally published online by the Library of Congress, and is made up of twenty-seven episodes by nineteen authors and pictures by five illustrators. Twins Joe and Nancy were raised in the circus, and believed themselves to be orphans until they received a card celebrating their eleventh birthday. The card includes a cry for help from their parents, who are stuck somehow in another time zone. Fantastical creatures, both good and bad, await the children as they proceed with their travels, but ultimately it is the wisdom of Joe and Nancy which saves the day. There IS an exquisite corpse: a robot ally that has been deconstructed, and the children must find all the pieces in order for her to unlock the magical door that will reunite the family. This is a great deal of fun; I found myself smiling throughout. It has something for everyone: mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and, above all humor. Reviewer: Candace Deisley
Kirkus Reviews

An all-star tag team of 20 well-known children's authors and illustrators offers an unsurprisingly episodic tale featuring two young circus performers fending off interdimensional invaders while discovering that they have parents in need of rescue.

With some contributors weighing in more than once, the 27 chapters (each with a different author and at least one illustration) take 11-year-old twins Nancy and Joe from a train racing toward a sabotaged trestle to a faceoff with an army of glutinous Eggy-Things and a happy reunion with parents trapped in the eggy dimension. In droll contrast to the relatively (and miraculously) coherent plotline, the large cast has a surreal flavor. The twins encounter in their travels an evil but narcoleptic clown, a "misfortune teller," a talking pig, the parts of a dismembered robot, a forest outlaw with a butt where his face should be and like allies or enemies. First run in installments on the Web, the pro bono project shifts tone and atmosphere with the author, from Lemony Snicket to Natalie Babbitt, from Linda Sue Park to Nikki Grimes, from Jon Scieszka to Jack Gantos—and who would have guessed that Katherine Paterson would be such a dab hand at egg puns?—but never goes off on self-indulgent tangents.

In other hands probably a labored writing exercise; here, plainly a game, making pleasant entertainment even for non-participants.(Science fantasy. 10-13)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763657734
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 696,859
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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