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.
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.

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