Creator Spotlight - Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis
This month we talked to author Mac Barnett and illustrator Carson Ellis about their book What is Love?
What Is Love? is a book about, well, love—about the different things love means to different people, and how hard it is to put a feeling into words. When I was a kid, I heard adults talking love all the time, and I was afraid that I didn’t understand what they meant. So I asked them: What is love? They fumbled to explain, and I got frustrated, and they got frustrated, and ultimately, I had to work it out for myself. In our book, a boy goes through the world asking people—some animals too—what love is. They reply with a series of metaphors. The fisherman say that love is a fish. The carpenter says that love is applause. The farmer says that love is a seed. None of the answers are quite satisfactory to the boy, but ultimately he does find the answer to his question—or at least an answer to his question. And in our book, that answer comes not in the text, but is instead delivered through the beautiful pictures by Carson Ellis. That’s a special thing about picture books: they allow you to write about things mere words cannot describe. -Mac Barnett
I spent 2020 illustrating What Is Love? It was a chaotic year. Plans were always changing. Life was often stressful and disappointing. I spent a lot of my time and energy teaching my kids from home and trying to help them feel safe and stable at a time when so many things in their lives had been upended. It wasn’t easy in the early days of the pandemic to make time to work, but when I did, I worked on this book.
What Is Love? was written by one of my best friends and illustrating it was a ray of light in a sad year. It’s a book about searching for an answer to a difficult question - love is a million different things to a million different people. We each find our own answer, but one thing that the answers probably have in common is certain amount of hopefulness and joy. In 2020, love for me was: keeping my family afloat, recognizing the myriad ways I am so lucky, and making a joyful book with a beloved friend. I hope everyone likes reading this book as much as I liked illustrating it. -Carson Ellis