Cindy: Metafiction for young children can be hit or miss, but Mac Barnett and Adam Rex have a solid hit with How This Book Was Made. They take a humorous look at the bookmaking process, from the inspiration, which can come at odd times (see the illustration of Barnett arm-wrestling a tiger) to the moment when the book is complete and in the hands of the reader.
After 21 drafts, Mac sent the book to his editor, whom he describes as “like a teacher [who] works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches. The editor read the manuscript, proclaimed it “perfect,” then sent Mac a long list of changes he needed to make. When it came time for an illustrator, Adam Rex enters stage right, and, eventually a printing press and a delivery system. You get the idea.
The fun is in the hyperbolic storytelling and the creative illustrations. I’ll let Lynn tell you about those. I’ve got a big tiger to wrestle today. It’s called “Middle School Book Fair.”
Lynn: It’s clear Adam Rex had as much fun as Mac Barnett in making this book, and all that fun spills over to the readers. Even if some of the jokes go over the youngest readers’ heads, there’s still lots to love. Particularly the art, which we learn from the verso page was “mostly made with black Prismacolor pencil on colored paper, acrylic paint on a globe, photography and Photoshop.” This translates to a brightly comic visual playtime that begins with end papers that look like the fur of the tiger Barnett wrestled, who shows up throughout the book. The painted globe shows up several times all from different perspectives, adding a terrific three-dimensional feel. Gorillas and Ben Franklin climb skyscrapers, pirates romp around the pages, and even those poker-playing dogs from that ubiquitous oil painting make an appearance. I’d love to ask Adam Rex about his skyscraper—is that a model or what? However he did it, I love it. Now, I’m off to complete another part of the book-making process: sharing it with kids.