PRESTEL Books and The People Who Make Them by Stephanie Vernet and Camille de Cussac Review


Reviewed by Deborah Banasko

This book piqued my interest right away as I have an almost 9-year-old who dreams of being an author, just as I did when I was a child.  It would be lovely if he manages to achieve this goal, and this book arrived at the perfect time as he gets ready to go back to school.

The title of the book is pretty self-explanatory, as it looks at the roles of authors, editors, illustrators, graphic designers, sales representatives, printers, book sellers, critics, librarians and the reader… phew!  Even I had never really considered just how many people and how much work is involved in the production of every book that I read.

The front cover is very colourful and wonderfully chaotic, reflecting the contents well as it depicts the many people involved in the process of creating a book.  The back cover is a lovely juxtaposition to this as we see the calm relaxation of three characters reading the finished product.

When I opened the book I was instantly struck by the fact that it didn’t look “finished” where the cover meets the spine, and started to wonder whether I needed to mention this fault in the review.  Then I read the notes littered around the inside page, explaining that this was Swiss Binding to allow the book to lie flat when reading.  What a simply brilliant idea!  I loved the other notes regarding the font size, paper weight and various other details that a child would potentially never have considered.  

I love the way that the book is presented as it follows the journey from the writers’ initial ideas to the reader, and the contents page depicts a cartoon image of each member of the team involved before we get to know what they actually do later in the book.

I loved the layout; the colour, pictures, small sections of writing arranged creatively around the pages (in some cases depicted as a post in notes on a wall or pages on a desk)… it made it appealing and fun with these little quirks.  My son poured over the pictures and spent a long time studying and taking in each page.

The 48 pages are wonderfully detailed and packed full of interesting information.  Some sections do feel a little disjointed and refer to specific books frequently, so I needed to either be on hand for my son to explain the book or he needed his tablet to look up these books for them to have a real meaning to him.  This was lovely in some ways as it did lead onto some interesting conversations, but it did interrupt the flow of reading.  Perhaps a “book reference” section at the back detailing a little about each one discussed would be useful as it did make it less accessible to him.

My 9 year old son is a strong reader, and this isn’t a book for young children.  It is written clearly and explained well on the whole, but the quirky layout is less accessible to younger children and some of the vocabulary is of a higher level.  There were some words and sections of information that my son asked me to explain as he couldn’t get his head around some of the concepts, as well as some of the mentioned book titles. I would buy this for a child aged between 9-13 (perhaps even slightly older) provided that the 9-year-old was a competent reader as this isn’t an easy read that flows well if you do not have the vocabulary to understand it. His 12-year-old sister found it really interesting as well, and I would say that it was pitched more at her level in terms of being able to understand the book independently.

I have never seen a book like this before, and whilst my son is interested in writing stories I don’t feel that this is an important factor when deciding whether to buy this book.  It really is an interesting read, and makes children aware of all the interesting careers involved in creating a book.  There is a lot of content so my son would read a couple of pages at a time at first, then he has since read the book again.  This makes the £14.99 price tag feel like value for money as it isn’t a “read once” book.

This is a lovely back to school gift to help get children back into the routine and interested in books, writing stories and the creative process. I would award this book 4/5 stars.

Rating:  4/5 

RRP: £14.99 (hardcover)

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