Cover Reveal: What Is Love? by Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis

Hello, Mac Barnett! Hello, Carson Ellis! I’m writing these questions on World Read Aloud Day! I hope you both read aloud or were read to today. What Is Love?, the reason you are here on Watch. Connect. Read. today, is a WONDERFUL read aloud. 

Carson, please take us on a tour of the cover. 

Carson Ellis: This cover was hard to design! How do you illustrate this question? How do you create a joyful design that asks it without also answering it? We tried a million things and none of them were quite right until we landed here, with two happy companions in a beautiful place. I’m glad we used this type treatment. It was one thing that Mac and I both liked from the beginning.

I love the cover, Carson!

Mac, a bookseller at East Bay Booksellers asks you to fill out a shelftalker about What Is Love? There is enough space for 300 characters.

Mac Barnett: This is a picture book about love and language. It’s also the fulfilment of a decades-long desire to work with Carson Ellis, who is my friend and also my favorite living artist. And unlike a lot of books I write, this one actually answers the question it asks!

Carson, please finish the following sentence starters: 

Mac Barnett’s manuscript for What Is Love?
made me cry when I read it for the first time. And the second and third time. And still now.

Love is a blank canvas.

Mac, please finish the following sentence starters:

Carson Ellis’s illustrations aren’t just beautiful (and they are very very beautiful)—they are also the key to understanding this book: When we finally answer the question “What is love?” the answer does not appear in the text (it is an answer beyond words), but instead exists in the space between text and image, a space Carson crafted very carefully by making just the right picture for every moment in this book, because she’s one of the best to ever do this kind of thing.

Love is... [record scratch sound] Mr. Schu! Like 90% of my manuscript is finishing this exact sentence over and over again! I spent months calibrating the text for this book, and now I’m supposed to do it again for a blog post?!? Nice try, but no dice! You can’t see this happening because this is a blog post, but as I’m typing I’m getting into a sports car and speeding off into the distance, head back, cackling “Not this time, Mr. Schu! NOT THIS TIME!” (My wife is driving because it’s not safe to operate a motor vehicle while doing a blog post.)

Haaaaa!!!! Good point, Mac! 

Look for What Is Love? on October 26, 2021. 

A beautiful fable about the nature of love, from beloved, award-winning picture book creators Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis.

"What is love?" a young boy asks. "I can't answer that," his grandmother says, and so the boy goes out into the world to find out. But while each person he meets—the fisherman, the actor, and others—has an answer to his question, not one seems quite right. Could love really be a fish, or applause, or the night? Or could it actually be something much closer to home? This tender, funny tale is an original take on the "I love you" story, a picture book treasure for all ages to read and cherish.


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