#961 – How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

howthisbookwasmadecover How This Book Was Made:  Based on a True Story
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney • Hyperion  9/06/2016
48 pages   Ages 4—8

“The people who made this
book had to be brave

“dangerous animals
an angry mob
unreasonable editorial demands
high-seas adventure

“and a tense game of chance
where EVERYTHING was
On the line.

“You might even call them
American heroes.

“But they were just doing
their jobs. It’s how this book
was made.”
[inside jacket]

Do you know How This Book Was Made? I thought I knew, but I did not. How This Book Was Made is actually an amazing story, one that deserves its own picture book. Making a picture book involves time, lots and lots of time. It takes time to write the story. It takes time to edit the story. It takes more time to illustrate the story. And finally, it takes time to print and deliver the stories in book form, one of which I read.

Barnett bravely details the steps involved in making a picture book—this picture book. This involved many words, on many drafts, one tiger, and, as previously stated, lots of time. But first, there must be an idea. Barnett wrestles with the idea—against the tiger. The recurring tiger is Barnett’s self-doubt. Okay, maybe it’s simply a tiger, a tiger that wandered into Barnett’s office, at the right time, and knew how to arm wrestle. Did you believe this? Me neither. The tiger is definitely Barnett.


Writers know it takes many drafts to write a book, even a picture book, like this picture book, which took many, many drafts. Barnett explains why writing dozens of drafts is important. Writers also know writing a book involves a dedicated editor, which Barnett had for this book. The editor reads the manuscript then sends the writer a detailed outline of what needs changed. The writer either accepts those changes or not. This is one of the funniest parts of How This Book Was Made:

“My editor called me and said, ‘I love this! This is perfect! Now, here are all the things you need to change.’ And she sent the story back to me. I took some of her advice. And I ignore some of her advice. And then I sent the story back to her.

“She sent the story right back and asked why I had ignored some of her advice. And I said I didn’t think they were good advice. And she said I thought they were great ideas. And I said well let’s agree to disagree. And she said let’s agree with me. And I said you’re not the boss of me.

”And it went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth . . .”

With the story settled, it was time for an illustrator to work his magic. Barnett does a one-page set on why he thinks Adam Rex took so long to finished his illustrations and send them to New York. As Barnett waits, he grows older. I love the next page. The mixed medium* illustrations are in New York and the top image is of Barnett growing older, an exact copy of the previous page. Rex has always cared about details, mood, color, and humor. (He’s one of my favorite illustrators, but don’t tell him—ego expanding and all that.)

Barnett has many funny moments in How This Book Was Made, but then he goes and tops them all—he explains the printing process—choice of printers—and the delivery. A series of mishaps occur, including pirates, a book-swiping eagle, and the tiger. This particular book—my book—was in a poker game, found by a dog, and used by a toad. At some point, all the books make it to the bookseller’s shelves for you and I to find.


Barnett has waited several times during the process of How This Book Was Made, and he would wait one last time, because, as he explains, “a book still isn’t a book, not really, until it has a reader.”

I love How This Book Was Made, but not necessarily, how this book was made. Confusing? Contradictory? Not really. Once you read How This Book Was Made, you will understand how hilarious the process—and Barnett’s story—can become. Add Adam Rex’s detailed, equally delightful illustrations, and How This Book Was Made will tickle your funny bone—in both arms.

How This Book Was Made probably has more words than any other picture book by Barnett. Each word is worth your time to read. While intended for age four to eight, adults will love it, especially if said adult is a writer. Children will enjoy all the goofy illustrations and the story—with some explanations from you, which is okay. Read it to your child—probably many times by request—and then read it to yourself.

How This Book Was Made is possibly the perfect picture book—children love it and parents will not mind multiple readings (some just to themselves).

HOW THIS WAS MADE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Text copyright © 2016 by Mac Barnett. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Adam Rex. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Disney • Hyperion, New York, NY.

AmazonIndie BooksDisney • Hyperion

Find How This Book Was Made on Goodreads HERE.

Mac Barnett:  http://www.macbarnett.com/
Follow on Twitter             @macbarnett

Adam Rex:  http://adamrex.com/
Follow on Twitter           @MrAdamRex

Disney • Hyperion:  http://books.disney.com/
Follow on Twitter           @DisneyHyperion

Disney • Hyperion is an imprint of Disney Book Group.

Reprinted with permission from HOW THIS BOOK WAS MADE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY © 2016 by Mac Barnett, Disney • Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group, Illustrations © 2016 by Adam Rex.

Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

How This Book Was Made: Based on a True Story
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney • Hyperion 9/06/2016


2 thoughts on “#961 – How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

    • Honesty you’ll find. how much it will really help you with submission, beyond a funny bone, is doubtful. But you will enjoy Barnett’s humor. He has had an armload or more of books published. He just may know what he’s doing. 🙂


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