The new picture book, What is Love? (Chronicle Books Dec. 28, 2021), written by Mac Barnett (New York Times bestselling author) and illustrated by Carson Ellis (Caldecott Honor winner), is recommended for children ages 3-5. Personally, I think it’s one of those picture books that both children and adults will thoroughly enjoy.
The boy in What is Love? asks his grandmother an important question, and being wise, she sends him out into the world to find the answer.
On the boy’s journey, he meets many people and asks each person “what is love?” Everyone has a different definition. The fisherman says love is a fish. The actor says love is applause. The cat says love is the night (Maxine and Leon would say love is a Churu treat, preferably salmon!). Love is a sports car, a donut, a lizard, a ring.
While the answers to the question are often quite funny (as are the boy’s reactions!), they are also insightful into each person’s own perception of themselves and the life they live.
The boy eventually returns home after he has grown into a man. When his grandmother, much older, asks whether he found the answer to his question, the boy finally understands his own definition of love.
The text is humorous and entertaining, while maintaining a strong impression of gentle tenderness. The illustrations, rendered in gouache on watercolor paper, are captivating in rich, bright colors.
Even the pages themselves are particularly nice to the touch, as though the book were handmade especially for you. And definitely take the dust jacket off to see the book cover – such a hidden treasure!
In my review of Mac B: Kid Spy, I already shared my love of all things Mac Barnett (and no, he hasn’t sought a restraining order, yet…). So I’ll only say (again), I can hardly wait until The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza (HarperCollins), by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris (yes, I’ve already enthused about Shawn Harris here too!), comes out on May 10th of this year!
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the work of Carson Ellis. I first became familiar with her illustrations from The Mysterious Benedict Society (Little Brown 2007) written by Trenton Lee Stewart, and The Wildwood Chronicles (Balzer + Bray 2012), written by her husband, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists.
But Carson Ellis is also the author and illustrator of Du Iz Tak? (Candlewick 2016), a 2017 Caldecott Honor book and the recipient of an E.B. White Read Aloud Award.
And if you get a chance, check out her lovely shop at buyolympia.com, where you can find books, notecards, prints, and totes with her wonderful artwork.