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waitIt’s a bit of a theme week here on Calling Caldecott: on Monday, Megan Lambert extolled the gifts found in Kevin Henkes’s Waiting; today, we also Wait.

Antoinette Portis taps so perfectly into that universal tension between adults’ approach to experiencing the world (“Hurry!”) and a child’s (“Wait”). A tension made visually manifest on the cover, as the busy mother is moving forward on her mission while the child resists that forward rush, eager to linger and check out that interesting cat. Sidewalk Flowers, a picture book that’s gotten a lot of acclaim this year but that’s not eligible for the Caldecott because the artist is Canadian, explores a similar theme, but arguably for older readers. This book is aimed squarely at preschoolers.

The text is minimal, to say the least — a point/counterpoint of the same two words — “Hurry!” and “Wait” — with the addition of the affirming word “Yes” at the end.

It’s a simple book (although deceptively so, sometimes), but it works superbly. Here are some of its outstanding features:

  • The extreme horizontality of the double-page spreads allows for a lot of movement from left to right, and allows the pair to cover a lot of ground as they head toward the train station.
  • The media used seem especially well suited to the story. The rough edges of the charcoal, particularly, provide energy and a sense of motion.
  • The angle of the mother’s body: she is always pitched forward as she hurries toward her destination — and how perfect that the typeface for her “Hurry!” is in italics, so that it also slants to the right.
  • The plethora of skin tones — I’m not sure anyone in the book is exactly the same color as anyone else.
  • The child’s reasons to “Wait” truly reflect children’s interests: he wants to pet a dog, watch some street construction, feed the ducks, get an ice cream, look at a tankful of tropical fish, catch a raindrop on his tongue, and … admire a rainbow.
  • Not only that, those “waits” reflect children’s powers of observation and attention to detail. On the title page, the boy observes a tiny ladybug perched on the T of the word Wait; later in the book, he notices that one of the red flowers on a bush is not a flower at all, but a butterfly — and then he notices (and is delighted by) a passing umbrella dotted with a pattern of red butterflies.
  • The culminating rainbow is foreshadowed with a preschooler’s sensibilities in mind.
  • Finally: those fat, silvery raindrops! (on the spread where the boy catches a raindrop on his tongue). They are so tactile, capturing the very essence of rain.

So, here we have yet another successful picture book for the very youngest, joining several others that we’ve discussed this season (hmmm…are we in the midst of a mini golden age?): Two Mice, My Bike, SupertruckWaiting. How will Wait stack up against them on the Caldecott table? We’ll just have to wait and see.



Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. I really do greatly appreciate this book as well. Portis’ It is about appreciating the things we take for granted, having the patience to walk at a more observational pace and the reality of lost opportunities. Ironically enough it is the boy who understands that the jaunt is so much more meaningful than the object of the excursion. Wait is about the appreciation of what we so often take for granted, and the realization that life is too short to always be in a rush. Portis juxtaposes Hurry! and Wait to show there are two school of thought in this world. On one side are the pragmatic people who are concerned about the importance not to waste time, which usually results in a loss of capital. Such people are more inclined to ignore much of which exists around the. On the other side of the spectrum are those who find the trip is so much more worthwhile than the destination. The illustrative minimalism serves this theme well, though there are a few stand out panels.

    Your list of “outstanding features” is superlative!

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    WAIT wasn’t on our shortlist so I couldn’t win, but . . . .

    We just held the San Diego County Library/San Diego County Office of Education Mock Caldecott last night, and FLOAT was our winner with IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA and BIG CHAIR, LITTLE BEAR as Honors! Also considered were WAITING, DROWNED CITY, LEO: A GHOST STORY, SUPERTRUCK, and A FINE DESSERT.

  3. I have listened to people saying this book is not going to make it on the table, because it is a dumb book. I feel like it only says a couple of words, but a three year old isn’t going to want to read a novel. This a little kid friendly book and the text of the book doesn’t matter in the caldecott. The artwork is very creative and the colors clash while still calm and friendly. Please keep it on the table.

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