An Interview with Mac Barnett


About Becoming an Author of Books for Children

iRead: You have studied literature under David Foster Wallace in Pomona College. David Foster Wallace is a huge name. What was it like studying under him?

Mac: Wallace was an amazing teacher. He was also a very strict teacher, particularly when it came to issues of usage and grammar. Fear of his red pen forced me to strip down my style—I only wrote sentences I knew were grammatically defensible. In a way, I went back to writing at a very basic, very simple grade school level. And I rebuilt my style from there.

iRead: So even though when studying with David Foster Wallace you weren’t specifically thinking about writing for children, it helped you write children’s books later on?

Mac: Absolutely. When I told Wallace I wanted to take his class, he winced and said, “I dont know anything about writing for children.” And I said that it’s OK, I know how to talk to children. I don’t need to learn how to write for children, I just need to learn how to write. The philosophy and practice of writing for children is the same as writing for adults. You want to make great art work. And I think great art tells the truth about the world told in a beautiful way—but a child’s truth is different from an adult’s truth.

iRead: When did you decide that you want to write stories for children?

Mac: When I was twenty years old. In the summer before my senior year of college, I started telling my first stories out loud to kids in a summer camp, and that's when I decided that I want to write books for them.

iRead: I heard some very interesting stories from when you were working in the summer camp you just mentioned, especially with a girl called Riley. Could you share that story with us?

Mac: Yes, sure. I was the camp counselor at a summer camp. One of my campers was named Riley. Her mom would pack fruit in her lunch every day. And Riley would always take the fruit out of the bag and throw it into the bushes. I watched her do that, and I said, “Riley, you can't do that. You gotta eat your fruit. You can’t just throw it in the bushes.”

She looked at me and said, “Why not?”

And instead of saying fruit is good for you, I said, “Well, because if you keep throwing your fruit into the bushes like that, pretty soon those bushes are just going to be overrun with melons. And we can't have that.”

She said, “That won’t happen.” And she threw her melon in the bushes.

So on Friday of that week I got up early, went down to the supermarket, bought a big melon, and put it in the bushes. During lunch time, when Riley was throwing her fruit into the bushes, I said to her, “Why don’t you take a look at those bushes and see what happened.” Then she started digging around there.

Her eyes got really big when she pulled out the melon that was bigger than her head. And all the kids crowded around there and were saying, “I can't believe it! I can't believe that happened!”

And then one kid said, “Why is there a sticker on this melon?”


Then I said to the kids, “That’s also why I’m always telling you kids not to throw your fruit stickers into the bushes. It ruins the nature when you litter.”

Riley carried that melon with her all day and took it everywhere with her. She was so proud. She knew that she had not really grown a giant melon in a few days, but she also knew that she had.

That is fiction. That is art. Art is artifice. It is a constructed thing that we acknowledge is not true, but that we also know carries a deep truth. It’s real and not real at the same time. Kids are so much better at make-believe, at straddling the line between belief and disbelief. It’s really beautiful how receptive kids are to fiction.

iRead: During this summer camp, you decided that you want to write stories for kids. And then how did you start doing it? How was your first book published?

Mac: I wrote my first book the year after I graduated from college. And there was an interesting coincidence involved. When I went back to school one time, I told all my friends about this idea I had for a picture book. And they would say that's too weird to be a picture book. And I said, “Oh, no, no, you don't understand. There is this book that inspired me to write for kids. It’s called the Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.”

When I was telling my friends how amazing the book was, one of my friends said, “You know my dad wrote that book, right?” I had no idea! I never knew how to pronounce the author's last name, Scieszka.

The next day my friend said to me that she told her dad about my book and he thought it was funny and would like to see it when I am done. So when I was finished, I sent it to Jon Scieszka, who is a titan in the field of children's literature in the United States. And he sent it to his agent who became my agent and has been for fifteen years. That’s how it all happened.

iRead: How long did it take you from sending the manuscript to the agent to having the book published?

Mac: We sold it within a couple of weeks, but it didn't come out for another four years. It takes a long time to make a picture book, especially if you are the writer. When you are done, you need to send it to the publishing company, and then wait for an illustrator who may have two, three, or four projects to do before your project. And then it can take six months to a year to illustrate a picture book and then it takes a year to print. So it takes a very long time between selling your story to a publisher and the book coming out.


About Creating Picture Books

iRead: Where do you usually draw your inspirations?

Mac: Inspirations come from all over the place. I think authors are very good at paying attention to things. We all pay attention to different things, but authors are always watching, looking, and when we have a strong feeling about something, we hold onto that feeling, both good feelings and bad feelings.

When I notice something I like, I can't stop thinking about it. When something happens that bothers me, I also can't stop thinking about it. Books I like. Books I don't like. Things people say that make me laugh. Things that make me angry. Things I love about the world or things that I feel are unfair. When I have strong feelings about something, I stick with it.

I think the attitude of always trying to figure things out to understand why you care about them makes your brain a fertile ground for ideas that could grow into a story.

iRead: Is it very hard to develop a story from an idea?

Mac: It depends. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes it's really hard. I think sometimes the more you think about an idea before you start, the harder it can get. It’s easy to build up this perfect thing in your head, and then as soon as you start writing, it’s not that perfect thing anymore. It's flawed.

You have to get over the pain of creating this flawed thing that's not as good as the perfect thing in your head. If you keep a story in your head, you'll never write a book.

iRead: You said The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and Goodnight Moon have particularly influenced you. In what way have they influenced you and your writing?

Mac: The Stinky Cheese Man is sort of twisted take on fairy tales. It’s very funny and very experimental. It's a smart book. It employs all kinds of challenging literary techniques. It’s so sophisticated. And kids get it.

I read that book to four year olds when I worked at a summer camp. Some of the techniques used in the book were the same ones I was studying at university. And I was thinking here I am in college, cultivating the intelligence to understand this kind of post-modern writing, and when I read it to four year olds, they were laughing at all the same jokes I was laughing at. The fact that the kids got all of these jokes helped me understand how smart four, five, six year olds are. I realized that the kinds of stories I like to read and tell children are those a little strange, absurd, funny and challenging.

Children are a great audience for stories like these. Actually children are more likely to embrace a challenging story than an adult. As adults, when we come into contact with something we don't understand, sometimes we'll push that thing aside because it feels like a referendum on our intelligence. When kids don't understand something, they bravely try to understand it, because that’s what being a kid is.

Goodnight Moon is one of the most popular children's books of all time in the United States. It is a very strange and experimental book, too. It is so familiar to so many American children, but it is a really bold, new and provocative book. Strange things happen in the story and the pictures. I think it is a beautiful and poetic meditation on what it means to go to sleep. It has been copied over and over again, but I think nobody gets to the strange places that book goes. It’s nice to see that the books that are the bravest is also the most popular.

iRead: How long does it usually take you to write one picture book?

Mac: That depends. Sometimes it can be very fast. But even when you write a book in a week, you will always come back to it. And it's going be months of fine tuning, changing little things and then changing more things, and when the pictures come in you are changing even more things. You're always working on tightening things up.

Sometimes it can be very slow. There's a picture book that I wrote that took me four years to write. It’s called Chloe and the Lion.

Usually, when I have a picture book idea, before I start writing, I will tell the story out loud to somebody at least once. For the book Leo, I told that story out loud over and over and over again for months before I started writing. Sometimes I would just tell it out loud to myself. When I was walking my dog, I would record sentences of the book while I was walking up a hill. The recording would sound like this: “This is Leo.” [Panting.] “Most people cannot see him.” [More panting.] “Leo is a ghost.”

I'm always trying to feel the story aloud before I set it down into words, because a picture book is usually performed out loud.

iRead: When you are writing, do you know the exact age of the children you are writing for?

Mac: No, because kids are different at all ages. Kids are accelerating at different levels and they become interested in different things at different times in their lives. Sometimes I’ll have a sense like I would really love to read this book to a bunch of four year olds. Or this book’s sweet spot will be for eight year olds. But of course there will be kids who fall on different sides of that.

One thing that is important to me is if I'm writing a book for very young kids, I want to make sure that if an older kid comes in contact with that picture book, there's something there for them too. You want there to be multiple points of access and many levels to a book. I never want to write a book that a nine year old would feel embarrassed to have read to them.

I think that books will sometimes have a floor—an age below which a kid will have trouble understanding it. But I don't want my books to have a ceiling—an age above which a kid feels talked down to by the book.

iRead: Many of your work have very few words. Half of the story if not more is told through the illustrations. How do you convey your ideas to the editor and the illustrator? Do you have notes or something saying what messages should be shown through illustrations?

Mac: Sometimes I will put something in the manuscript, but only when it is absolutely necessary to convey what would be happening in the narrative. Otherwise, if the words I'm including in the manuscript imply an action or an illustration, and an intelligent illustrator would be able to understand this implication, then I will leave the art notes out. At the beginning of my career, my art notes were pretty restrained, and over time they've gotten even more spare. I try to use them only when it’s absolutely necessary.

iRead: When you see the illustrator’s work, have you ever felt they interpreted the story wrong? Or is it usually a pleasant surprise?

Mac: It’s usually a pleasant surprise. And that's the way it should be, because a picture book text is incomplete. If I write a picture book story that makes sense without pictures, then I have failed. A picture book should need pictures for it to make sense.

When the illustrator does something I wasn't expecting or something that I didn't put in the story, that's the most exciting thing. When I’m done writing, there's still so much work to be done before the book is finished. It's fun to give up control and say this isn't my story anymore, you decide what the story looks like, what these characters look like, what their houses look like, what the weather is. The decisions made by illustrators are authorial decisions. The story belongs to both of us.

iRead: You work with Adam Rex for a lot of your picture books, including your first book Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problems. Could you talk a little bit more about working with him?

Mac: Adam was the first person I met who worked on picture books after I started making them. We met when he was still sketching out Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problems. We became friends. He's an illustrator with immense talent. He can draw in any style. His most natural medium, probably, is oil paints. I think if he lived in the 15th century Italy, he’d have a brilliant career making paintings. He is that sort of classically gifted painter. And then he is one of our most gifted children’s book writers. He is just so talented. It’s not fair!

iRead:  Is working with Adam very differently from working with Jon Klassen who you also collaborated many books with?

Mac: It is. Every collaboration is a little different. They each bear the imprint of the individual personalities of people involved. Jon and I collaborate very closely. We talk on the phone almost every day. We try to solve problems that come up together.

With Adam, I may see sketches from him and give notes on them, but I don't expect all my notes to be taken. Once I give up the manuscript, it belongs to the illustrator.

iRead: What illustrations do you think are good illustrations?

Mac: It depends on the book. Good illustrations are simply the right illustrations for the story. I think that we want books to be written in many different styles and illustrated in many different styles. The style of the art should harmonize with the tone of the words.

About The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

iRead: Your book The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse has been selected for iRead 100 Recommended Children’s Books. It really is an original and fascinating story. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Mac: It started with an image. This happens a lot with my picture books, because a picture book story is to be a story that is told in both words and images. Even though I can't draw, often the first thing that I get excited about is a picture.

So The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse started with an image of a duck and a mouse having a meal together inside the belly of another animal. The duck and the mouse had been eaten, and they were also eating. That was where the story started, and everything else spooled out from there.

iRead: So how did you first come up with this picture?

Mac: You never know. You never know how that moment occurs. There is a moment where the idea just comes from outside of your brain to the inside of your brain.

iRead:  And then how did you develop your story from this picture?

Mac: After that point I think it's the characters that take you. So in this book, it’s the relationship between the duck and the mouse that’s important.

On page two the mouse gets eaten and he's afraid. He thinks that everything is over. It's a catastrophe. Then he meets this duck who has a completely different philosophy of life. Their two personalities come together. The duck teaches the mouse how to live, and in the end mouse ends up understanding the duck’s philosophy even better than the duck does.

iRead:  The story ends like a fable. When you started writing this story, is this something you thought about at the beginning?

Mac: No. I wrote that book in a bookstore. At that time, my wife Taylor and I were in New York City together. For the first draft, I wrote up to the page before the last page, and I thought I was done. When I showed it to Taylor, she was the one who said, “I think this needs another moment. You need to push the story further.”

Often the end of the story is hidden in something you’ve already written. In this case, it was the refrain of all of the animals: “Oh woe!” It sounds like a wolf howling. The story was already influenced by traditional animal fables. So this sort of warped pourquoi ending just seemed like the thing this story had been pushing toward.

That book is all about surprises. We try surprise you every time you turn the page. The last page is the last surprise.

iRead:  In the story, all the characters have said “oh woe” at some point. Is it deliberately set up like this?

Mac: It is important that every character has that “oh woe” moment, the moment of ultimate despair. Something that I like about this story is that in a very short span, every character we meet—the wolf, the duck, the mouse, and the hunter—is driven to the very edge. They think everything is over. And we get to see how each of them reacts to these life-and-death stakes.

iRead:  Did you choose Jon Klassen to be the illustrator for this book?

Mac: Every time I’ve worked with Jon, we’ve worked a little bit differently. Our first book together is called Extra Yarn. That book started with a picture that Jon drew in college of a girl and her dog walking through the snow wearing matching sweaters.

When I saw this picture I really loved it and it inspired the story. So I wrote the story based on just that one image from Jon. Then I sent it to Jon, hoping he would like it. At that time we were already friends. Jon did like the story and he made that book.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is our second book together. That book started when we were talking at breakfast about the trim size of the book, and how if you have a tall, skinny book, the story should take advantage of that shape, and move either upwards or downwards. We decided to move downwards. I started writing it, and Jon started drawing it on napkins. We came up with that story together.

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse was a different way again. I wrote that text and sold it to the publishing company with no illustrator attached, which is the way it's supposed to happen, but not always the way it does happen. My editor said she thought Jon would be good for this book. And I also thought Jon would be good for this book. Jon already knew the story, because we always share our work. And, luckily, he also thought he would be good for this book.

iRead:  I read that in the United States, the author and the illustrator are not supposed to talk to each other directly. Why is there a rule like that?

Mac: I think the reason editors often give is that they don't want the author art directing or even abusing the illustrator. You do hear horrible stories about authors who call up illustrators and yell at them and say you ruined my story.

But I do think that by sending everything through the editor, it centralizes control of the story with the editor. And I understand why the editor would want control to be there. But that's not necessarily where the author and illustrator want control to go. My wife Taylor is a children's book editor. When she edits books, often the author, the illustrator and Taylor all talk together. I think that's a much better way to work, but it's not typical.

iRead:  Humor is a very important element in your book and in this one as well. Do you think Jon’s way of illustrating has any influence in the way your humor is presented?

Mac: Yeah, absolutely. Jon is a funny person, and he is such a funny illustrator. His pictures make me laugh so hard and Jon knows it. So when he draws something that he knows is funny, he’ll send me a screen shot. I think the picture that made us laugh the hardest in that book was this scene where they are making the soup and the knives are hanging on the wall and the magnet strip of the wolf’s stomach. That is such a funny joke. That joke is not in the text. It’s a joke that Jon added in. It makes the whole book so much funnier. The picture adds so much to the humor.

About Shape Trilogy

iRead: When did you first conceive the idea for the Shape Trilogy?

Mac: These books started with drawings that Jon did: a triangle with eyes, a square with eyes, and a circle with eyes. And then we started talking together about making books about these characters.

The first thing that we did was to decide on each character’s personality. Triangle is a mischief-maker; he creates chaos and knocks things down. Triangle is naughty.

Square is very dependable, and a little boring. In English if we call somebody a square, it means that they are sort of dull and do the same thing over and over. Square likes to build things.

Circle is our mystic. She floats. She’s the most responsible character, but also a little self-impressed. We decided who these characters were before we started writing stories about how they interact.

iRead: These three books were published at different times separately. Did you write them at the same time?

Mac: We wrote them over the course of a couple years, too. We wrote Triangle first and then Square and then Circle.

iRead: Why did you write Triangle first?

Mac: Triangle is the first character we understood very clearly. And we knew the relationship between Triangle and Square. I think Triangle loves Square. He's obsessed with Square. The first thing he thinks about that morning is how he wants to play a trick on Square. It is a kind of a friendship that Jon and I recognize from our own lives, and from knowing kids. But it is a kind of friendship that we hadn't seen portrayed in books very often.

iRead: So the trilogy is published in the sequence of Triangle, Square and then Circle. Are readers supposed to read them in this order?

Mac: I don't think there's any “supposed to.” If you read them that way there might be a sort of special understanding you get, but we know a kid might find a copy of Square on a bookshelf and not even know that the other two exist. And that's fine. We want readers to be able to read and enjoy these books individually, but also for the trilogy to make sense in a special way when read all together.

iRead: In your Picture Book Proclamation, there is line saying “we condemn glossy paper as default.” I see that many of your picture books do not use coated paper. This Shape Trilogy is the same.

Mac: Yes, that's true. It always depends on the story and illustration style. In a vacuum, I probably like uncoated paper better, but sometimes it makes sense to have glossy paper. That's why it says “glossy paper as default”.

When I first started working, publishers would very often just print the books on glossy paper. The illustrator didn't want it to be glossy and I didn't want it to be glossy, but nobody was ever asked. The decision was never talked about.

That line in the proclamation is both very particularly about paper—because I love how paper feels and it's so important to the experience of a book—but it is about the bigger idea that we should discuss and consider every design decision. Nothing should just be automatic. What size is this book? What kind of paper do we use? What is the binding like? What are we doing on the jacket and the case? What does the flap copy look like? All of these decisions are important and none of them should be made haphazardly.

iRead: So why do you think it's very common to have picture books with glossy paper?

Mac: I think it just changes in trends with the time. I know sometimes that glossy paper can hold up better to fingerprints and spills, which obviously can be a problem with children’s books.

At the same time, fashion also changes. There was a time when most picture books had uncoated paper. And then I think in the 1990s through the early 2000s, the fashion was for coated paper. Now I see a lot more uncoated books than I was seeing five years ago.

Sometimes glossy paper does make sense. But I think it should always be done to make these picture books look best.

iRead: So why do you think your work looks better with uncoated paper?

Mac: I think Jon’s work looks better with uncoated paper. He’s very classic in his tastes and a lot of the books that he draws inspiration from were published in the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s. That was a time of uncoated paper.

Glossy paper can look slick and Jon's work doesn't look slick. It looks warm and nostalgic. I think uncoated paper best shows his work off.

iRead: As you mentioned earlier, trim size is also very important for a picture book. For the Shape Trilogy, the trim size is like a square. Why did you make this choice?

Mac: We wanted to show each character, Triangle, Square and Circle, in a little frame. The square is such an important geometric shape, and one of the underpinnings of this series is geometry. So the square is a perfect frame for each of the shapes, and in fact, in Triangle and Square’s houses they have pictures of shapes in little frames. A square shape just looks like the right frame for these books.


About Writing Series and Childhood

iRead: You write more picture books than novels?

Mac: They are completely different ways to write. A lot of times very talented novelists have trouble writing picture books. Great picture book writers can sometimes struggle to write novels because they require two different philosophies.

iRead: All of your novels are series, do you prefer writing series to stand-alone titles?

Mac: I don't think so. I have a lot of ideas for stand-alone titles, but then I always seem to end up writing series. I’ve promised myself that the next book I write will be a stand-alone novel.

iRead: I really like the characters in your series Brixton Brothers and The Terrible Two. Everything is just so funny, so alive, and so childlike. It can be really hard for adults who themselves are not children anymore to create children characters. What is your “trick”?

Mac: I have a deep connection to my own childhood. I remember what it was like to be a kid, the things that that I loved and the things that bothered me. I also spend a lot of time around kids. Many weeks of the year I travel around the United States and sometimes around the world to talk to kids. I love talking to kids and hearing what's on their minds.

iRead:. In The Terrible Two, the main characters Miles and Niles are prankster. When you were a kid, were you also a prankster?

Mac: I was a little bit of a prankster, but when I was a kid I was really afraid of getting in trouble. So I always had all these ideas in my head that would get me into trouble if I actually did them. So instead I would just think about pranks, and I would read books about pranks.

iRead: Where did you grow up? And what kind of childhood did you have?

Mac: I grew up in northern California, in a town called Castro Valley. I went to school half an hour away from my house. None of my friends lived in the neighborhood. It was just me and my mom in our house. I spent a lot of time by myself, reading books, watching TV, playing video games. And all three of those things are full of stories. I think I was just a kid who was always obsessed with stories. I spent a lot of time reading stories. When I wasn't doing that, I was making up stories in my head.

iRead: Did your mum read to you a lot?

Mac: Yes, a lot. It was an important part of my childhood. She read stories to me every night.

iRead: What were some of your favorite stories?

Mac: My mom bought all of our books at garage sales. They were all second-hand. So I grew up with picture books from the previous generation and the generation before that. I was very lucky because those years--from the 1940s through about 1975—were great years for American picture books.

I loved authors like Maurice Sendak, Margaret Wise Brown, Wanda Gag, James Marshall, Tomi Ungerer.

iRead: You said before Jon is also quite influenced by that era?

Mac: Yeah, Jon read a lot of picture books in his grandparents’ house, books from the same era. Jon and I bonded over our love for the classic stories.


About the Picture Book Proclamation

iRead: Why did you write this proclamation?

Mac: I wrote the proclamation at a time when there was a lot of anxiety over the future of the picture books. An article had come out in the New York Times’ front page that declared picture books a declining genre, one in danger of going extinct.

There was a strong backlash to that article. Many people said that no, the picture book is magic. It will never go extinct. It’s wonderful. I certainly didn't agree with the article that said the picture book was doomed, but I also didn't agree with the blithe defenders of picture books. I don’t think picture books are magic, I think good picture books are magic. So that proclamation set down some thoughts I had about how to make good picture books.

iRead: In which year did you write this?

Mac: October 2011.

iRead: In the proclamation, you said “tidy ending is often dishonest.” Could talk a little bit more about this?

Mac: A lot of the time, a story will be working in a certain direction and then suddenly everything will be wrapped up very neatly. On the second to last page, for no reason, the character will suddenly have a dramatic life change. But wait, why did that happen? Why did the character change? That’s not how life works. If the change is not earned, then that’s narrative structure overtaking the truth. You always want to find the truth. What is the honest result of these characters coming into contact in this place in this time? How do they interact and where do they end up?

I think there's nothing worse than telling kids a comforting lie. We have to give them the truth. And sometimes the truth is uncomfortable. And sometimes the truth is actually very comforting. Either way, must tell the truth.

iRead: Is this also linked to what you said about leaving many holes for children to understand? A lot of your endings are open to many different interpretations.

Mac: They are. That's what's so exciting about books. It is the act of interpretation. Kids are so intelligent and watching them interpret a work, to figure out what that work means is really exciting. I don't have a moral that I'm trying to inscribe on a kid's brain. There's not a secret lesson buried in these books, waiting to be prized out by a kid. Meaning is something much more interesting than morals. Meaning is made in collaboration: when our books come into contact with a child's intelligence, meaning is created between us.

iRead: In the proclamation, you also wrote “even books meant to put kids to sleep should give them strange dreams.” Could you explain a bit more about this?

Mac: The bedtime story is an important genre in children’s books. But we should never bore children. A bedtime story is not an excuse to be dull or unoriginal or unexciting. Even books that are meant to put children to sleep should ignite their imagination.

iRead: You also said “we condemn the term kid-friendly.”

Mac: This may be an issue very centered on America. Kid-friendly is often used to challenge a book when it’s adults who are offended or disturbed, even though kids have no trouble with the story. Books that acknowledge the reality of childhood can make adults uncomfortable. And so in order to preserve their own adult innocence about what children's lives really are, adults say a book is not kid-friendly.

iRead: What did you mean when you said “the line between author and illustrator is irrelevant”?

Mac: That the story is created by authors and illustrators working together. The decisions made by illustrators in a picture book are authorial decisions. If I were writing a novel, I would describe what my characters look like, what the weather is and so on. For picture books, I'm not going to do any of that. The illustrator is making those choices. These are writing choices.

Sometimes on my books, the credit will say “story by Mac Barnett” and “pictures by someone else.” That’s not right. I don't write the story. The story is what happens when my words and somebody's pictures come together. The story happens somewhere in the overlap between words and pictures.

iRead: How did you choose the authors and illustrators to sign the proclamation?

Mac: I asked some of the authors and illustrators I admire, who were making picture books I thought were exciting. Some of them I knew, and some of them I just I met through e-mailing, asking them to sign. They were a group of people, and certainly not the only people, who I thought were making very exciting work.

iRead: What responses did you receive when this proclamation was published?

Mac: It was exciting. Some people really loved it, although I didn't always hear directly from them. Some people didn’t like it too much. But if everybody agreed with the points that I was making, there would have been no need to write a manifesto.

iRead: Do you think it had made some influence on the industry?

Mac: I hope so. It’s impossible for me to measure the impact. When I visit a writer or an illustrator’s studio, or meet with somebody at a publishing office, sometimes I will see the manifesto printed out and hung up by their desks. This certainly means a lot to me.

iRead: Many of your books have been introduced to China. And you had a two-week trip in China.  How was the trip? Is there anything you want to say to Chinese readers?

Mac: I was thrilled about the enthusiasm about picture books in China and the respect for picture book as an art form. I think if you respect picture book, that means you respect children—their intelligence, their creativity and their ability appreciate an artwork. It was wonderful to see how fully China is embracing the picture book as an art form.

So I’d just like to say thank you—to anyone who came to see me or has read one of my books.


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