Carson Ellis

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Carson Ellis
Pickles and a human named Carson Ellis
Born (1975-10-05) October 5, 1975 (age 45)
EducationUniversity of Montana
Known forPainting, drawing, printmaking
Spouse(s)Colin Meloy
AwardsCaldecott Honor (2017)
E.B. White Read Aloud Award (2017)
Society of Illustrators Silver Medal (2010 and 2014)
Grammy Nomination for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package (2015 and 2018)

Carson Friedman Ellis (born October 5, 1975) is a Canadian-born American children's book illustrator and artist. She received a Caldecott Honor for her children's book Du Iz Tak? (2016). Her work is inspired by folk art, art history, and mysticism.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Ellis grew up in New York and studied painting at the University of Montana,[2] where she was influenced by art history, particularly Egon Schiele, Max Beckmann, and German Expressionism. She has written poetry since she was a teenager, though she didn't study writing in school.[1]

She began her career as a fine artist in San Francisco and exhibited a solo show of oil paintings at a gallery in San Jose, California.[3] Her first illustration work began when she met Colin Meloy at the University of Montana and designed gig posters for his college band Tarkio.[2]


Ellis is an illustrator of several children's books, including the New York Times bestseller Wildwood, written by Colin Meloy;[4] The Composer is Dead, written by Lemony Snicket;[5] and The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stewart.[6] She received a 2010 Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators for her art in Dillweed's Revenge, by Florence Parry Heide.[7] She collaborated again with Meloy on the second and third novels in the Wildwood Chronicles series, Under Wildwood (2012)[8] and Wildwood Imperium (2014).[9]

She is also well known for her work with the indie folk rock band The Decemberists,[10] for whom she has created album art, T-shirts, websites, posters, and stage sets. Her album and EP artwork for The Decemberists include 5 Songs (2001), Castaways and Cutouts (2002), Her Majesty the Decemberists (2003), The Tain (2004), The Crane Wife (2006), The Hazards of Love (2009), What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (2015),[11] and I'll Be Your Girl (2018). Ellis was nominated twice for Grammy Award for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package (2015 and 2018).[12] She has also created album artwork for other musicians, such as Laura Veirs, Beat Circus, and Weezer.

In 2015, Ellis wrote and illustrated her first solo children's book, Home, which explores different types of domiciles around the world, underwater, and in space. The book has been criticized for the manner in which it glosses over colonization and the stereotyping of various ethnicities.[13][14][3]

Ellis' second solo children's book, Du Iz Tak?, published in 2016, is written entirely in an invented "bug language."[15] The book received a Caldecott Honor Award (2017) and an E.B. White Read Aloud Award (2017).

In 2016, Ellis collaborated with Portland-based wallpaper studio, Juju Papers, on a wallpaper design titled Barn Owls and Hollyhocks. The design was inspired by Ellis' move to a small barn outside of Portland.[16]

Ellis created the cover and interior illustrations for Meloy's 2017 middle grade book The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid, published by HarperCollins.[17]

The board game Illimat, for which Ellis created illustrations, was published in November 2017 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.[18] The game was written and designed by The Decemberists and Keith Baker of Twogether Studios.[19]

Ellis created illustrations for Susan Cooper's The Shortest Day, which will be published in October 2019.

Carson Ellis is also an editorial illustrator and fine artist, having worked for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Poetry.

Wildwood Chronicles[edit]

The Wildwood Chronicles, illustrated by Ellis and written by her husband, musician Colin Meloy, was a bestselling series for middle-grade readers.[20] When creating illustrations for the series, Ellis was inspired by Pauline Baynes, illustrator of The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as drawings in The Wind in the Willows.[10]

List of works[edit]

As author and illustrator[edit]

  • Home (Candlewick Press, 24 February 2015)
  • Du Iz Tak? (Candlewick Press, 18 October 2016)

As illustrator only[edit]

  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series, written by Trenton Lee Stewart (Little, Brown)
    • The Mysterious Benedict Society (1 April 2008)
    • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (1 May 2008)
    • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma (6 October 2009)
    • Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums (11 October 2011)
    • The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (10 April 2012)
  • The Wildwood Chronicles series, written by Colin Meloy (Balzer + Bray, a HarperCollins imprint)
  • The Composer Is Dead, written by Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins, 3 March 2009)
  • The Beautiful Stories of Life, written by Cynthia Rylant (Harcourt Children's, 4 May 2009)
  • Stagecoach Sal, written by Deborah Hopkinson (Hyperion, 4 September 2009)
  • Dillweed's Revenge, written by Florence Parry Heide (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 6 September 2010)
  • Illimat, board game created Keith Baker and The Decemberists (2017)

Personal life[edit]

Carson Ellis is married to Decemberists singer Colin Meloy, whom she met in college while designing posters for his alt-country band Tarkio. She and Meloy have two children, Henry "Hank" Meloy and Milo Cannonball Meloy.[21] Both parents have spoken openly about their son Hank's diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome.[20]

She lives on a farm outside Portland, Oregon with her family.[22]


  1. ^ a b "season 2, episode 3: mac barnett & carson ellis". Number Five Bus presents... 2015-09-14. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  2. ^ a b "Carson Ellis on The Decemberists: "I really did get sick to my stomach when I heard that line"". Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  3. ^ a b "Carson Ellis finds 'Home' with new children's book, art for the Decemberists". Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  4. ^ "Best Sellers: Children's Chapter Books". The New York Times. September 18, 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Dixler, Elsa (April 5, 2009). "Best Sellers: Children's Picture Books". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-19. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Children's Books". The New York Times. August 10, 2008. Retrieved October 21, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "Dillweed's Revenge: A Deadly Dose of Magic". Society of Illustrators. Retrieved 2013-10-19. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Meloy, Colin; Ellis, Carson (2012-01-01). Under Wildwood. The Wildwood chronicles (1st ed.). New York: Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062024718.
  9. ^ Meloy, Colin; Ellis, Carson (2014-01-01). Wildwood imperium. The Wildwood chronicles (First ed.). New York, NY: Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 9780062024749.
  10. ^ a b Ruggieri, Melissa (September 1, 2011). "Q&A Colin Meloy, author, and Carson Ellis, illustrator: Book 'was a true collaboration': Pair to address festival, talk about importance of storytelling". Atlanta Journal-Constitution – via ProQuest News & Newspapers.
  11. ^ "WORK". Carson Ellis. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  12. ^ "Grammy Award for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package". Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  13. ^ Debbie, Reese. "Home by Carson Ellis". American Indians in Children's Literature. Retrieved 3 October 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Home by Carson Ellis". Kirkus. Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.
  15. ^ "Working Out the Bugs: Adventures in Translating Carson Ellis's 'Du Iz Tak?'". Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  16. ^ "JUJU PAPERS X CARSON ELLIS – NEW ARTISANAL WALLPAPERS". Juju Papers. February 23, 2016. Archived from the original on February 29, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid - Colin Meloy - Hardcover". HarperCollins Publishers: World-Leading Book Publisher. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  18. ^ "ILLIMAT". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  19. ^ "Illimat". Illimat. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  20. ^ a b Heyman, Stephen (2011-10-11). "'Wildwood,' a Book by the Decemberists' Colin Meloy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  21. ^ Meloy, Colin (March 15, 2013). "Meloy tweets about new addition to the Ellis & Meloy family". Twitter. Retrieved October 21, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  22. ^ "A Day In The Life of Carson Ellis – Design*Sponge". Retrieved 2019-09-26.

External links[edit]