Saturday, May 30, 2020

What Can You Do with An Idea? How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

At first, this book wasn't a book.

It was an idea.

Most kids probably don't give a thought to how books come to be. It's like they've just always been there on shelves in libraries or book stores. But they have a story all their own.

They start with an idea in the mind of a writer--a piece of a story--it could be the middle, or the ending, or the beginning. It could be a mental image of a character, or an appealing event that makes other things happen. It is the author's job to come up with characters, plots, dialog, and a conclusion that satisfies the reader. Sometimes an artist is called on to help the reader visualize the characters and action.

But that's only the beginning of a book.

So... Mac Barnett, the hopeful author, writes a draft of his book.
I had a bunch of words on paper. The words were the first draft.

But a first draft is not a book.
Neither was the second draft. Or the third. Or the twelfth.

With the twentieth draft I was done. So I sent my words to my editor.

Is it a book then? NO. There's many a slip between cup and lip, and Barnett's last draft is not the last one after all. The editor suggests many changes in his draft. Author Barnett is not pleased.
"You're not the boss of me!" he says.

That line hadn't worked with Mac's dad either, but finally author and editor agree on the final draft. Is it a book yet?

NO. It needs an illustrator to make the ideas easy to understand, so artist Adam Rex is called upon to do some drawings. He gets to argue with the editor while Mac gets to forget about this book and work on another one for a while. At last the manuscript and illustrations are approved. Now the book is ready to be printed and bound.
Now, the fastest way would be to print the book nearby in New York or Philadelphia or maybe Miami.

But NO.
The book was printed in Malaysia.

Malaysia is half a world away from New York. All the freshly printed copies have to be loaded on an ocean-going freighter. There are tiger and pirate problems in between. Mac Barnett has time to grow a very long beard while he waits.

And in Mac Barnett's How This Book Was Made (Hyperion Books), the author admits that "a book is not real until it has a reader." Books have come a long way since a story was mostly a storyteller on one end of the log and a listener on the other, but at the heart of it all that's what happens, and what happens in the creation of a book is a story in itself. Barnett's humorous story of how that happens IS the story of this tour de force of a story-within-a-story. Publishers Weekly says,"Barnett and Rex concoct another self-referential story, this one about the process of bookmaking. As in their collaboration, Chloe and the Lion, Barnett and Rex star as writer and illustrator. With the help of an editor (“she is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper”), a tiger, pirates, and a cast of thousands (well, maybe dozens), the manuscript leaves Barnett’s desk, undergoes editing, and arrives at the printer in Malaysia....Rex's artwork features paper models and a painted globe in addition to the pencil-drawn figures, lending the work the three-dimensional texture of a puppet play."

Perfect for Book Week read-alouds for Book Week, this one covers a lot of territory, not all of it on the Road to Mandalay!

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