Mac Barnett reflects on a trio of new projects, which, he says, “represent three different approaches to writing—and three different strains of my personality.”

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Sarah Jacoby (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, May)

Margaret Wise Brown was an important author to me in childhood, and one I remain impressed with. My agent, Steve Malk, and I both have a deep interest in the history of picture books, and one day we were talking about Brown, and the idea came up of doing a picture book biography of her. Biography is not something I gravitate toward, but after reading Leonard Marcus’s 1992 biography of Brown, I thought there might be an opportunity to play with the genre. I decided to alternate between relating episodes of her life and looking at ways to read her work, and the book began to make a lot of sense to me.

Just Because, illus. by Isabelle Arsenault (Candlewick, Sept.)

The idea for this story has been running around in my head for a very long time. In the book, at bedtime a girl asks her father questions like, “What is rain,” and he tells her it’s “the tears of flying fish.” As a child, I was fascinated by scientific questions, but for me the scientific answers stood on equal ground with the more fanciful answers I’d make up. I decided to fill this book with nonscientific answers—all adults have experience answering kids’ questions that we have no answers to. I think Isabelle Arsenault is one of the best illustrators working right now, and I love how she made perfect sense of Just Because, creating surreal scenes that are both intimate and expansive. My jaw dropped when I first saw her sketches—including the flying fish.

Mac B., Kid Spy #3: Top Secret Smackdown (Orchard, Sept.)

Writing the Mac B. series is almost like dessert for me. I have fun writing these books, but I’m always surprised how hard it is to weave together history, mystery, and autobiographical bits into a relatively short novel. It takes a lot of sculpting to make it feel fun and effortless and delightful—again, like a good dessert, but one I don’t get to eat.

Today, 10:30–11:30 a.m. Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault will sign lithos from Just Because at Table 12.

Today, 3:30–4 p.m. Barnett and Sarah Jacoby will sign The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown at Table 9.

Tomorrow, 9:30–10:15 a.m. Barnett and Arsenault will participate in the inaugural “New Picture Book Showcase” on the Choice Stage.