Monday, September 12

Reviews of the Week 9/12: Picture Book Edition

Actually, it might be better to say "Adam Rex Edition." Or even, "Mac Barnett & Adam Rex Edition." Because these guys are geniuses. I had the awesome opportunity to go to a book event with the two of them this last weekend here in Arizona, and, I must say, if you ever have the chance to see either one of them in person (or the jackpot of seeing them both!), then you should definitely go. Here are the reviews for their most recent book, and some past publications.


How This Book Was Made
Written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1423152200
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: September 6, 2016
Age: 4 - 9 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: books, publishing, authoring, reading

"You may think you know how this book was made, but you don't. Sure, the author wrote many drafts, and the illustrator took a long time creating the art, but then what? How'd it get into your hands? Well, open the cover and read through these pages to find out. Just beware of the pirates and angry tiger."

This is a very unique, quirky, and altogether hilarious book. While some parts are true to life and, as a whole, it's educational about the publishing industry (it is, after all, "based on a true story"), there's also the posse of angry animals. And crossed out Americans. And pirates. And a bald eagle that doesn't read. Can it feel a little crazy and confusing? Maybe. Basically, if you read it in a way to appreciate the random metaphors and hilarious side stories, then you will have a LOT of fun with this one. Kids, I can tell, will love it. Highly recommended, and it'd be a great storytime book.

Mac and Adam are, themselves, the characters in the book (this is the story of their writing it, after all). So to hear them read it was quite the treat. While it's not nearly the same, you should watch the video promo for the book, to get a small taste for the humor involved. It's pretty dang awesome.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Chloe and the Lion
Written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1423113348
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: April 3, 2012
Age: Grades K - 3
Format: author-shared storytime (yeah)

Themes: cooperation, authoring, illustrating, humor

"Meet Chloe: Every week, she collects loose change so she can buy tickets to ride the merry-go-round. But one fateful day, she gets lost in the woods on her way home, and a large dragon leaps out from-"Wait! It's supposed to be a lion," says Mac Barnett, the author of this book. But Adam Rex, the illustrator, thinks a dragon would be so much cooler (don't you agree?).

"Mac's power of the pen is at odds with Adam's brush, and Chloe's story hangs in the balance. Can she help them out of this quandary to be the heroine of her own story?"

Yes, it's true, I didn't even read this one. I listened to Mac and Adam read it. And it was HILARIOUS. And guess what? Library of Congress posted a video of them reading it, so you can understand why I'm raving about it! Or if that's too long, watch the promo video. Or you can just admire the picture I took of them reading it...

Okay, really, watch the video.

But on to the review. Because not only is the book quite funny, but it's a great examination into collaboration. It prompts the question: Who is more important, author or illustrator? And it's just so meta, kids of all ages would have a lot of fun learning about the book-writing process. This is a great book to have in the classroom, but just as fun to read at home. It can get long, but still. Highly recommended.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

School's First Day of School
Written by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1596439641
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date of publication: June 28, 2016
Age: 4 - 8 years
Format: my own purchase

Themes: school, school building, first day, learning

"It's the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone's just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?

"The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he's not the only one going through first-day jitters."

So some background first: this book is actually Adam's first that he didn't illustrate. When I asked him about it, he said that he actually felt that his style of illustration wouldn't fit the story. He didn't quite know how to draw the school as its own character. He did like the more flat, simple work of Christian Robinson, though. And since his agent also reps Robinson...well, the rest is history. They just had to make the editor feel like it was all his idea to put the two of them together (ha!). It was great to hear Adam read the story and talk about its creation.

But on to the review. This is a great book to read at the beginning of school (I'm sorry I didn't review it sooner, before school started!) because it adds just the right amount of humor to a day that can be somewhat stressful. I mean, just imagine how a school would feel having kids running all over itself! It's a clever idea and executed well; Adam was right, Robinson's illustrations are simple, yet just right to convey the character of the school. The story itself was a little long, but I loved the funny parts. Definitely recommended for all school-beginners.

Find it at your library or on Amazon


  1. We read School's First Day of School last week and enjoyed it. It's a nice twist on back to school. I've added How This Book Was Made to my list. :)