Hello! Happy, happy Wednesday! I’m excited to celebrate LIKE with Annie Barrows and Leo Espinosa. We chatted about mushrooms, clarity, Leo Espinosa’s illustrations, picture books, Annie Barrow’s words, and more. I wrote the words in purple, Annie wrote the words in blackand Leo wrote the words in orange.
Like is… There are so many was to answer this question! Like is: not waterproof. Like is: only tangentially related to accordions. Yikes, let’s start over. Like is: a book! Yes, that’s it—Like is a book about how much more humans are like one another than, say, tin cans or excavators or mushrooms or hyenas or most of the other stuff on Earth. Like is about the us-ness of us and how much humans share even when we are different (so maybe we should stop getting so mad at each other all the time). For the last few years, I’ve been hanging out with a lot of seven year olds, and one of the best elements is hearing them grapple with questions of morality, because they generally have such amazing clarity. Like was inspired by them.
Leo Espinosa’s illustrations are brilliant! They are big, beautiful, bright, blazing bursts of excitement, and they prove the book’s point better than the words do—because everyone finds them irresistible. Leo’s illustrations are also, incidentally, a great argument for the author having no control over the pictures, as my visual idea of the book as I was writing it was very different and not nearly as good.
Picture books are a unique literary space, the last outpost of the book world where beauty is functional. I love that. Picture books may also be the last literary space where fun is a legal rationale for existing. I love that even more.
Annie Barrow’s manuscript for Like is unlike any other I’ve worked on. I remember reading it for the first time and it felt fresh, personal and unexpected.
Like‘s illustrations were an absolute joy to make. Annie’s manuscript got me to dig deeper into my own work, try different colors and shapes, and that was incredibly exciting.
Picture books are essential and we need more of them!
John Schu, you should have asked us… What did you learn from writing Like? And I would have answered: Mr. Schu! You would not believe what I learned about hyenas when I was writing Like! Get this, I would have said: hyenas are not part of the canine family! They are most closely related to MONGOOSES! I also learned that the thing I’ve been calling a bulldozer all my life is really an excavator. Plus, that there are a lot of online arguments about funguses, and I don’t understand any of them.