How This Book Was Made

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
How This Book Was Made Book Poster Image
Hilarious look at writing a book -- with pirates and tigers!

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of solid information on writing process and publishing. Inspiration can strike at odd times. Writing is rewriting and requires drafts. Function of editors. How editors and writers work together. Sending a book to an illustrator and time frame of that process. Printing of book overseas. Books are transported by ship and truck. Importance of readers. Geography includes maps of the United States and Asia.

Positive Messages

Writing a book is a long, sometimes trying process but worth it. Expect to write drafts. Editors help writers. You might agree or disagree with advice others give you about your story. Collaboration takes time. "A book still isn't a book, not really, until it has a reader."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Author Mac Barnett displays focus and persistence in writing drafts, working with editor and waiting for illustration. He maintains a sense of humor throughout the process.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex takes a very funny look at how a book is made, imparting real information and plenty of jokes -- some visual, some via the text -- in a hilarious mix. For kids absorbing the writing process, the book is reassuring and counsels patience, explaining that even successful writers write many, many drafts and have to work on revisions with their editors. Kids may be familiar with this idea from working on drafts and revisions with teachers and peer editors in school. The message is clear: Here's a peek at the process, and you can do this, too. Just beware of tigers and pirates. And don’t stress out by taking writing too seriously.

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What's the story?

HOW THIS BOOK WAS MADE breaks down the process of writing a book from initial idea to finished copies. The writer gets an idea, writes a first draft, and revises multiple times with the input of an editor who sends the finished manuscript to illustrator. The editor then sends the art and text overseas -- to Malaysia! -- to be printed, and the book is shipped back to the United States. And maybe, along the way, a tiger arm-wrestles the writer and pirates overrun the ship, searching for treasure. Alas, they find no booty, just books, and pirates don't read. But finally the book arrives in the hands of you -- the reader! And that's what makes it a book!

Is it any good?

For kids curious about how a book is made, this sets the record straight, taking the reader from idea to finished book, delivering real information and serious laughs -- tigers! pirates! -- in equal measure. In How This Book Was Made, practiced comedy duo Barnett and Rex know when to let the art deliver the punch line. When the text says, "Ideas can come at funny times," we see Barnett arm-wrestling a tiger, who returns strategically throughout the story. And if comedy genius isn't enough, these two also hit their emotional mark, directly involving the reader at the end by making the point that a book isn't a book until it has a reader: "And then you came along." Awww.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how a book is really made vs. the process in How This Book Was Made. Which details are real, and which are included for humor? Which are both real and funny?

  • The book says, "Ideas can come at funny times." How and when do you get ideas?

  • The author says he wrote 21 drafts of this story. Do you ever work with someone who helps you refine and rewrite your ideas, the way an editor does? Are those ideas helpful to you or not?

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