The Barnabus Project – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Everything about this picture book screams: ART OBJECT!!

From the cover:

Text/Illustration ©️The Fan Brothers

to the boards hiding under the dust jacket:

Text/Illustration ©️The Fan Brothers

Text/Illustration ©️The Fan Brothers

To the end papers (apologies for the glare on these two spreads):

Text/Illustration ©️The Fan Brothers

To the exquisitely detailed spreads:

Text/Illustration ©️The Fan Brothers

This book is a visual feast.

And the story? It is dream-like science fiction in picture book form.

Barnabus, half mouse-half elephant, is a “failed” perfect pet experiment. (Adults might start thinking here about scientists tendencies to mess with nature, yes?) He is tiny, but his heart is huge. He lives among his friends in solitary bell jars, all “failed” pet experiments.

When it’s rumored that the failed pets are all going to be recycled, Barnabus uses his voice in an ingenious way to free himself and his friends. What a metaphor for our times!!!

The story includes evil green rubber suits (that can be identified as subterranean humans) and a fabulous chase sequence, ending (take a deep breath) in a lovely place. A place that might not always be perfect, but it’s a place where friends stick together and help each other survive.

And as an art object, I will repeat, it is exquisite.

This is a first collaboration for all three Fan brothers. I hope to see many more in their future.


Draw your own pictures of “failed” pets, then adopt them.

Make an origami mouse and origami elephant. How are they alike? How are they different?

Play online pipe-connecting games that resemble the underground pipes below the perfect pet shop.

Title: The Barnabus Project

Author/Illustrators: Terry, Eric, and Devin Fan

Publisher: Tundra, 2020

Themes: nothing is impossible, using your voice, friendship

Ages: Pre-k to adult

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.







17 thoughts on “The Barnabus Project – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. Beth Anderson says:

    I’ve been poring over this book, myself…I love the art – and how radical of a cover! I got it from the library so there was no jacket. 🙂 The story is endearing, engaging and one that kids will connect with.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    I want to read this book to see if my great 6-year-old great grandson would like it. Is there some STEM in it (the end papers?) I really am intrigued by your share today. Thanks. You find such great books!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      I would say that it has more fantastic elements than science, unless thematically, you could say that it may be seen as a cautionary tale about scientists creating new life forms. That said, I really see it being about all kinds of marginalized citizens working together to survive, make it through tough times, and perhaps reach a place where they feel like they belong. But the ending isn’t saccharine.

  3. ptnozell says:

    I’ve been wondering about this one. Now that I’ve read your review I have to find & read it! I really love these thought-provoking picture books (Tundra is a great source for them).

  4. Ste J says:

    This looks like something that I would put on a coffee table and people would gather around (although that’s not allowed at the moment) and have a good thumb through. Nothing beats a story about genetic splicing.

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