“What It Is” Is an Extraordinary Reading Experience

How do you use words alone to discuss a book that uses printed images, collaged with printed words, fused with original drawings and handwritten words? How can I explain the unique quality of a page the size of a sheet of paper filled with abstract words, thoughts, concepts, ideologies and visual stimuli? Maybe I can share a picture…


Does this help to explain what I am saying? Images and words join together to tell a story and every page in this book is its own story while still being relevant to the other pages. It’s an introduction to and an explanation of  what living a creative life is like. Author and Illustrator Lynda Barry shares her experiences creating from her grade school days, into her inspirational college days to her professional adult life. Some of her pages are titled:

What is Movement?
Time & Place are Always Together? Why?
What is a Self-Consciousness?
What are Thoughts Made of?
Can Images Exist Without Thinking?
What Are Toys?
Where is a Story Before it Becomes Words?
What is An Experience?
What Year is it In Your Imagination?


The book is sectioned off, visible by the colors of paper. The first section is autobiographical and bits of questions, ideas, etc. The second section is called: Adjustable Activity Book. This section gives practical writing tips and step-by-step directions on how to do writing exercises. They are bold and unlike any writing prompts I have seen before. The final section is called Let’s make a Free Writing Kit. This section includes suggestions for writing supplies, more writing prompts and ideas. The last two sections would work well for any frustrated creatives and could be used from teen to adult.


Perhaps the best way that I can describe this book is by saying it is a revelation. It is a cool mist on a hot day. It is just what you need if you need this.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication date: June 2008
ISBN: 978-1-897299-35-7
Page Count: 210
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly


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