On the third spread of this story of a hurrying parent with a curious child, readers see a street scene with a “one way” sign in the background. It’s fitting for this horizontally oriented book of a mother rushing to get someplace on time. “Hurry!” she keeps telling her son, dashing to the next page. But “wait,” he says. There’s a big and endlessly intriguing world to see, and he wants to slow down and take it all in.
There are several surprises from Antoinette Portis in this story about the unexpected joys of the world. For one, don’t rush past the title page spread. The boy stands next to the book’s title in warm, orange letters: Wait. And he stares at the letter “t,” because—look closely now—perched on it is a ladybug. His mother walks off the spread, tugging him along. She has, we already know before the story begins, somewhere to be. And fast.
Portis takes advantage of every available opportunity to tell this quiet, poignant tale. Even the book’s front and back cover cleverly convey the heart of the story, as we see a relaxed family of cats going one way (following the aforementioned ladybug, no less), while the boy—so eager to stop and pet them—is dragged along by his mother, stage left. Readers are invited to read slowly and carefully, just as the boy would have it: Look carefully, because what looks like a blossom on a bush is actually, as seen on the next spread, a butterfly, just waiting to be seen and appreciated.
Using pencil, charcoal and ink with digitally colored spreads and thick outlines, Portis showcases a primarily cool palette that gives way to a vivid, colorful rainbow that the boy insists his mother stop to see. She gives in, mercifully, even forgetting the subway car she had been so diligently heading toward.
This is a story to be savored.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.