Description of the book:
As a boy and his mother move quickly through the city, they're drawn to different things. The boy sees a dog, a butterfly, and a hungry duck while his mother rushes them toward the departing train. It's push and pull, but in the end, they both find something to stop for.
Acclaimed author/illustrator Antoinette Portis' signature style conveys feelings of warmth, curiosity, humor and tenderness in this simple, evocative story.
Quick thoughts on the book:
With two words, Portis beautifully captures the daily waltz of a mother and son as they navigate their day.
Brightly illustrated pages and the words "Hurry!" or "Wait!" take readers through an all too familiar experience.
The small twist at the end was charming.
Look for WAIT at your local indie bookstore or community library.
Interview with author/illustrator, Antoinette Portis:
WAIT is a book that is easy to relate to. Was it prompted by a personal experience (backstory)?
It’s based on a little vignette that unfolded in front of me as I was sitting in a café. A toddler and mom walked by, but he broke away from her to come over and peer at a bug on the windowsill right in front of me. His mom came back, grabbed his hand and trotted him off down the street—clearly in a rush. I thought, “That’s a book!” I identified with the little boy, of course, not the mom. I thought how frustrating it would be to walk down the street with never any control over the pace or the destination.
But as I’ve been talking about Wait, I’ve been thinking about my own experience of being a busy working mom with a toddler. The times I slowed down to my daughter’s pace and we noodled around the neighborhood or the park, maybe collecting leaves and interesting seedpods, were some of my favorite times ever. Her curiosity and appreciation of everything around her re-opened my artist’s eyes.
The book’s ending is a tribute to those moments when the child becomes your teacher.
I have been looking at a number of picture books recently that have minimal words and rely heavily on the illustrations to tell the story. Some are written and illustrated by different people. However, in your book, you were able to illustrate the text. Is the process any different in a book such as this vs. one with many more words?
The fewer the words, the more work the pictures have to do. You have to make things clear visually that otherwise would be communicated in the text. That’s a fun puzzle to work out.
In the case of Wait, having a simple text and text structure allowed me to let go of worrying about the words and concentrate on deepening the pictures. Ideas would just pop up, like having the boy pointing to a rainbow popsicle that foreshadows the rainbow at the end. Like little gifts from the muse, these visual connections made the book richer.
The interplay of the words and pictures is the particular art of the picture book. That’s one thing about illustrating your own writing—you can freely hack away at your text. You’re only offending yourself if you delete a line because it duplicates something that the picture is communicating.
Speaking of process, what is your creative process when working on a book? Do you have any daily routines? Where do you like to work?
We turned our den into my studio. It’s a pretty big room, which is lucky, because I have a lot of stuff! Kind of a collector—of picture books, old school children’s dictionaries, rocks, vintage toys, cardboard packaging (little found sculptures!), etc., etc.
This is a small part of my picture book collection. The house is littered with bookcases full of them.
A messy corner with stuff I like to look at.
I have a drafting table for drawing, several work tables, some flat files, and a computer desk with my Mac and Cintiq. I tend to let clutter accumulate till it makes me crazy and then I clean up and start the cycle all over again.
Every book is a little bit different, but I usually start with the text. I take it to my writing group and go through a couple of rounds of revisions. When the story is working (more or less), I storyboard it thumbnail size to see how it paginates.
Next comes a dummy with the text and rough drawings scanned into Photoshop. Here’s where a lot of text cutting happens, because the visuals start claiming their territory. It becomes clear to me where the picture should the lead and the text become a supporting player. (And vice versa.)
Sometimes I skip the thumbnail step, out of impatience, and go straight to making a dummy from a manuscript. Not a good idea, since it's way more efficient to figure out pacing and composition using thumbnails. So I’m trying to be more disciplined about not skipping that step.
I end up, always, making lots and lots of dummies—at least 30 per book. Working on the computer makes it easy to do multiple variations. Here’s a page from the first version of “Wait,”
when the book was called “But…” and the mom had more dialog.
Are there any future projects that you are working on that you can tell us about?
I have a book coming out later this year, the first book I’ve ever illustrated that I didn’t write. It’s a love story called The Red Hat. It was a pleasure to have David Teague’s beautiful and understated text as a launching pad for pictures. And because it wasn’t my manuscript, I didn’t have to do my usual obsessive tinkering with the text. 50% less stress!
I have another book I did with Neal Porter coming out next spring, Best Frints in the Whole Universe, about two cranky alien friends. It’s all about the funny. A completely different vibe than “Wait”—wild and boisterous.
Thank you to Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press for some sneak peaks:
Here is another peak:
And the final peak:
If you could spend the afternoon with four or five authors or illustrators (living or dead), who would you invite and what would you serve?
I had the opportunity to one of the first Sendak Fellows and I miss Maurice like crazy. I would invite him with Winsor McKay (creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland), and William Nicholson, two artists he admired.
Nicholson is the author of The Pirate Twins, a book Maurice called “The first – the best – the most gloriously original modern picture book of all time.” The pirate twins are two dolls (made from black socks) who belong to a little girl. One day they steal a boat and run away, leaving this note: “For Mary We have gone for ever Dont worry Back soon Love form B & A” [spelling mistakes are in the original]. The sudden turn from “gone for ever” to “back soon” was what Maurice loved. The pirates’ note was such a true example of the way kids think. Contradictions aren’t contradictory to them.
You can see it here.
I’d round the party out by inviting Blexbolex (Seasons) and Joohee Yoon (Beastly Verse), because I love their work so much.
Maurice liked a nice pastrami sandwich followed by a vanilla cupcake, so that’s what I’m serving up.
What is your favorite indie bookstore?
I come from a book-loving family and Vroman’s in Pasadena was the place we went. My grandmother often gave books for Christmas or birthdays, and my siblings and I have many well-loved books with small brown Vroman’s stickers inside the back cover. Vroman’s is part of my family history.
This is Margaret Wise Brown’s “Where Have You Been”, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. My grandmother gave it to me when I was three. It’s battered and broken but still stickered.
But I’ve never met an indie I didn’t like. I’m sure that heaven is a bookstore.
Thank you Antoinette for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy to answer a few questions.