Sunday, September 4, 2016

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett

How This Books Was Made by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex. unpgd. Disney-Hyperion, September 6, 2016. 9781423152200. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher)

I've hosted quite a few authors over the years. Most come to us for free for an hour while on tour promoting a new book, a few have been hired for the day to deliver large group presentations and small group writing workshops. One valuable takeaway for students next to seeing a real live author, is learning from each and every one of them that even professional authors are not immune to the often painful process of revising and revising and revising. I will never forget the reaction my students had to the slide Kenneth Oppel showed of a four or five foot high stack of revisions for This Dark Endeavor

Can't host an author? The next best thing is grabbing this book! Metafiction at its very best, How This Book Was Made is a hoot! Let's start with that cover! What a mess! Adam Rex is holding the letter E and Mac Barnett is holding the letter M, but a tiger is front and center, looking askance at a hamburger. Astronauts float up top. There are rainbow and masking tape and lots of cut paper scraps. Ask your students, "What's up with that?"

Endpapers = tiger fur. 

Don't miss the front jacket flap. Hyperbole? Hook?

Use the title page as a geography lesson.

Of course the book began with an idea. "Ideas can come at funny times." Yes, they can and the tiger is a great example of metaphor.

Once Mac's idea was born, he went to a quiet place and wrote. And wrote and wrote.  He wrote 12 drafts! And still the tiger was not done with him.

Oh how I laughed and laughed at the pages depicting Mac's editor wearing a tiara and lunching on the terrace of a fancy New York City skyscraper! 

Don't miss the chance to teach allusion with the lines, "I love this! This is perfect! Now, here are all the things you have to change."

"I took some of her advice. And I ignored some of her advice." Kids will really relate to that. The following pages chronicle the back and forth between editor and author "until most of the United States of America was crossed out."

Once both Mac and his editor loved all his words, enter Adam Rex, the illustrator. He worked very (hilariously) hard while poor Mac sat around and waited and grew a long beard. Once the art was done, the book needed to be printed. It was not printed in the United States. It was sent to Malaysia. We take a detour into space, get waylaid by pirates, deal with an eagle who tries to feed the book to her chicks, who reject it. Then, a toad uses it for cover only to have it picked up by a dog who brought it to his owner, who lost it in a poker game, who...

Looking for a fun, metafictive read-aloud to hammer home some language arts (or art or geography) lessons in a fun, palatable way? Look no further than How This Book Was Made. Your students will love you for it. Highly recommended for all ages. #nevertoooldforpicturebooks!

Want other metafiction treats? Try:

Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett & Adam Rex
Let Me Finish by Minh Le
Frankencrayon by Michael Hall
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier

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