The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Patricia Toht and Jarvis
I am so excited! Today, I get the extreme pleasure to interview one of my all-time favorite creative duos!
Patricia Toht is a children's author, poet, middle school library associate, reader, and traveler. She once owned a children's bookstore before turning her love of children's books into a love of writing. For most of her life she has lived in the Chicago area, but was lucky to live in England for four years.
Patricia is the author of 6 books, including Dress Like a Girl, illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean (2019), Pick a Pumpkin, illustrated by Jarvis (2019), All Aboard the London Bus, illustrated by Sam Usher (2017), and Pick a Pine Tree, illustrated by Jarvis (2017).
For additional information on Patricia, see our earlier interview (here).
Jarvis is an illustrator/author who previously worked as a Bingo caller, a bouncy castle painter, record sleeve designer, and an animation director before becoming a children’s book maker. About his picture book inspiration, Jarvis says, “The way I work is always visual. I will have an image or character in mind and I pull a story out of it. I doodle and doodle and doodle until I get it right.” Jarvis lives in Manchester UK with his wife and Milo the dog.
Jarvis is the author/illustrator of 12 picture books, including The Boy with Flowers in His Hair (2022), Follow Me, Flo! (2020), This Little Piggy: A Counting Book (2019), Tropical Terry (2019), Mary Had a Little Lamb: A Colors Book (2019), Mrs. Mole, I’m Home! (2018), and Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth (2016) - which won the 2017 V&A Best Illustrated Book. He’s also illustrated 4 picture books, including Scarlet's Tale by Audrey Vernick (2021), Pick a Pumpkin by Patricia Toht (2019), and Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht (2017).
For additional information on Jarvis, see our earlier interview (here).
Their newest picture book, Together with You, was released on February 14th.
What do you both like to do outside?
PATRICIA – I love to get out in nature, and I do a lot of walking. I’ve been blessed to live in areas that have easily accessible walking paths. I especially liked the footpaths in the UK because they often led to pubs. A drink by a fire with a dog at your feet is such a civilized way to end a walk!
JARVIS - I walk my little dog, Milo. I’m lucky enough to have a garden so me and my wife like to do the gardening too, although we never really know what we’re doing!
Definitely sounds like great days to me! Patricia, what was your inspiration for Together with You?
PATRICIA – Like most of my books, Together with You was inspired by family memories. It began as an 8-line poem I wrote for a writing class by Chicago author and mentor Esther Hershenhorn. The poem focused on a sweet nighttime scene between parent and child, doing things that I enjoyed doing with my own children – getting into pajamas, cuddling in fuzzy blankets, sipping hot chocolate. Eventually I expanded it into a full picture book text that covers all four seasons of the year and includes even more favorite activities with my kids.
It is such a touching ode to time spent with loved ones! Jarvis, what about the Together with You manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?
JARVIS - Well, I liked it a lot! It was lyrical, gentle, and relatable.
Patricia has a skill in writing words that give direction to the visuals, but at the same time leaving a lot of space for my creative input, too. So that appealed to me. One of the things I enjoy illustrating is landscapes and I felt there would be lots of opportunities in the book for changing landscapes.
And I love your ability to encapsulate so much of a story in such an open format that you leave the reader room to join in creating the story. What an awesome title page! What's something you want your readers to know about Together with You?
PATRICIA – Something that delights me is that Together with You has two different covers! Walker Books (in the UK) published the book first, in the summer of 2022, with Jarvis’ colorful cover illustration of the two characters in a field of flowers. Candlewick Press (in the US) wouldn't release the book until February 2023, so they opted for a rainy day scene for the cover. Another amazing illustration by Jarvis, each special in their own way.
JARVIS - That Together With You is about the changing seasons, but really, it’s about a loving relationship. And that it took me a very long time to illustrate!
It's cool to see the different covers, Patricia. Thanks for the heads up. And Jarvis, I love the tender intergenerational moments you've captured. Patricia, what did you find most challenging about writing Together with You? How long did it take from the idea to publication?
PATRICIA – The most challenging thing about writing Together with You was how long it took to become a book. The initial idea and first poem date back to 2004! The book nearly found a publishing home a few times. But didn’t make it all the way through the acquisitions process until Walker Books bought it in 2018. And, lucky me – I was paired up with Jarvis as illustrator again! Supply chain issues and other Covid delays then slowed down publication. So, if you count the years, Together with You took 19 years from idea to publication. No one can accuse me of not being persistent!
Wow! Dedicated , determined, and persistent indeed. I am glad that you fought for this special book. Jarvis, what is the hardest or most challenging thing for you about illustrating children’s books? What was the most challenging aspect of Together with You? Why?
JARVIS - When I illustrate books I like to make the creative process quite open. So mid-way through I might change my mind in how trees are illustrated, for example. I think it’s good to be open to changes right up until the end, really, it makes it interesting. However it means consistency is always the thing which challenges me the most! So, keeping the characters visually similar throughout.
Another thing about this book was understanding that, yes, the seasons are important, but the most important thing to communicate was the tender relationship between the two characters. Emotion is always the most important thing to illustrate, and that’s always a challenge.
Interesting. I think you nailed it! Patricia, when you first saw Jarvis’ illustrations for Together with You did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?
Text © Patricia Toht, 2023. Image © Jarvis, 2023.
PATRICIA – Four of my texts have now been illustrated by Jarvis, and every time I’ve seen his illustrations, I’ve shed tears of joy. We’ve never met in person, yet somehow, he has a direct link to my memories and has captured them beautifully. In Together with You, I’m especially fond of the summer spread with the child and grandma licking ice pops and the one of the hot cocoa and peppermint tea. The closeness and coziness is so sweet!
Jarvis, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own elements into the illustrations. Even though it’s nonfiction, did you do this in Together with You? If so, can you share a couple with us? What is your favorite spread or one you are most proud of?
Text © Patricia Toht, 2023. Image © Jarvis, 2023.
JARVIS - With this book, I feel the text was so open I was able to bring lots of myself to it. I think one of the first images I made was the gran helping the kid put on his boots with that rainy landscape beyond the front door. That rainy landscape beyond is not unlike my rainy Manchester where I live. That’s probably one of my favourites. Another one is the cosy winter spread snuggled on the big chair.
I love the black cat you added, who frolics and snuggles throughout the book. Is there any advice that you’ve received along the way either for writing, illustrating, or life that you’d like to share with us?
PATRICIA – A few bits of advice from writing this book:
Mine your own memories.
Add sensory details.
Read your work aloud, and have others read it aloud, too.
For my journey as a writer, I have two quotes posted above my desk:
“Many of life’s failures [happened to] people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~ Thomas Edison
“So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines.”
~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
JARVIS - The publisher, Walker books, has taught me lots in the time I have made books with them. And specifically, working on Patricia’s books I have developed my illustration into whole new areas, which has then pushed me to create books I would never have imagined before. So I would say be open to collaboration. Take risks. I would also say trying to create a ‘feeling’ and ‘atmosphere’ is probably more important than being visually accurate. And with illustration it’s all about making images that feel alive with real emotion.
Wow, thank you both. definitely a few more to add above my computer! Are there any new projects you are working on that you can share a tidbit with us?
PATRICIA – I have another book coming out this September titled Taxi, Go! I wrote the text after hearing author Tammi Sauer talk about her books Truck, Truck, Goose! and Go Fish!. In both of those books, she used a children’s game as the basis of a picture book. So I challenged myself to do the same. This book is inspired by the game red light, green light.
JARVIS - I have another collaboration with Patricia released this year - Pick a Perfect Egg. Then I have an early reader/chapter book series starting this year called Bear and Bird, (releasing May 9th) following the ups, downs, and in betweens of two best friends. After that I am working on illustrating a funny book for author, Bob Shea.
Congratulations to both of you! Those look like such fun books. I can't wait for their releases. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
PATRICIA – I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon! Last September we drove through Utah and got a taste of gorgeous canyons, but I think the Grand Canyon must be like those canyons on steroids. We’re living closer to that park now, so maybe a visit someday soon?
© Maria Marshall
JARVIS - The local park, Stamford park, near my house is where we walk our dog. It has quiet tree canopied walk ways, open fields, manicured flower beds or open bowling greens. And it’s very pretty all through the seasons.
We also love to go to ‘Yorkshire sculpture park’ which is a huge gallery on a landscape, mixing contemporary sculpture into the Yorkshire countryside. © Friends of Stamford Park
Thank you Patricia & Jarvis so much for coming back to talk about your newest picture book.
Be sure to stop back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Together With You.
To find out more about Patricia Toht, or to contact her:
To find out more about Jarvis, or contact him: