Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Story About a Book

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time at the library. I don’t remember where I thought books came from. I knew about the printing press. I probably imagined books rolling off the press and arriving at the library in neatly packed boxes, but I don’t think I ever wondered about how books were created before they went to press.  I just assumed there were people sitting in a room somewhere who had a special talent for making books. I suppose I was both right and wrong.


How This Book Was Made, a picture book written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex, brings the art of book-making to life starting with the idea and walking us all the way through to the hearts of the reader. He covers where ideas come from (out of the blue), the hard, lonely work of writing, and the back and forth struggle of editing. Eventually, he gets to the final draft, but this is not the end. The book still has a long journey involving an illustrator, a ship and some pirates


The first time I read How This Book Was Made I thought it would be best for older kids because the subject of the book, the craft of turning an idea into a real life document that other people can read requires a certain mastery of writing. I have read the book many times while preparing to write this review and I have changed my mind. I still think older children will grasp more of the nuance of the story like negotiating with the editor in New York or the illustrator’s creative process, but younger children will enjoy the humor and the tiger and the pirates. Along the way, they will also learn about how the books they read are made.


For me, the real magic of this book is that it makes book-making seem both ordinary and extraordinary. There isn’t a room somewhere where only book specialists make books. Anyone can do it, or at least try it. Anyone with an idea, a lot of dedication, and a vivid imagination can help put a book in the hands of a reader. This book might even inspire a young writer or illustrator to pursue their passion. Who knows…

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