Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of How This Book Was Made: Based on a True Story

barnett_how this book was madeHow This Book Was Made: Based on a True Story
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Adam Rex
Primary    Disney-Hyperion    48 pp.
9/16    978-1-4231-5220-0    $17.99    g

Barnett and Rex, no strangers to metafiction (Chloe and the Lion), have outdone themselves in terms of tongue-in-cheekiness as they describe the process of creating a book. “Ideas can come at funny times,” muses Barnett, shown as a cartoon character arm-wrestling a tiger. It only gets wackier from there, as the book that Mac is developing takes quite a journey. First there’s the back-and-forth among Barnett, Rex, and their editor in the pre-publication phase. Later, once it’s been printed, the volume encounters book-stealing pirates, opportunistic eagles, a toad, and a poker-playing dog before it finally reaches its destination. “Because a book…isn’t a book, not really,” observes Barnett, “until it has a reader.” Rex’s multidimensional art is, as usual, full of detail and sly visual humor. When Barnett describes sending his manuscript to their editor (“She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches”), Rex depicts her sitting at a table on a terrace high up in the Chrysler Building, wearing a tiara and lifting a delicate-looking pink rose to her mouth. Readers will get a kick out of numerous Easter eggs: for example, the aforementioned tiger shows up at several key moments, and check out those endpapers. And while it may perhaps go a bit long for some adult readers-aloud, young audience members will love every over-the-top moment.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind