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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Patricia Toht and Jarvis

They're back! This amazing duo has created a wonderful third book in their "Pick a..." series. A perfect picture book for Spring (if it ever gets here) and Easter - Pick a Perfect Egg.

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’s the author of 6 books, including Together with You, illustrated by Jarvis (2023), 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 interviews (here) and (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’s 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 5 picture books, including Together with You by Patricia Toht (2023), 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 interviews (here) and (here).

Their newest picture book, Pick A Perfect Egg, released on February 14th.

Patricia, what was your inspiration for Pick A Perfect Egg?

PATRICIA – Jarvis and I had already collaborated on two “Pick a” books – Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin. I was intrigued with completing a trilogy of holiday books. Although Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays in the US, it doesn’t exist in other countries, and co-editions are important to our publisher. So Easter and Easter eggs seemed like an attractive option. (Also, since the “Pick a” books focus on transformation, the iconic things that undergo transformation on Thanksgiving are turkeys – Yikes!– and bellies…)

HA! Thanksgiving transformations could indeed be a tad interesting to capture in a rhyming picture book. 😊 Jarvis, what about the Pick A Perfect Egg manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?

JARVIS - I had enjoyed making Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin and so it was an easy decision to illustrate this one, And when I read it, it felt the most lyrical and bouncy of them all.

That's high praise. What's something you both want your readers to know about Pick A Perfect Egg?

PATRICIA – I wanted to include natural dyes as an option for dyeing Easter eggs, so I did a lot of experimentation to see which vegetables and plants provided nice colors for eggs. Some choices proved to be fantastic options (the spice turmeric dyes eggs a lovely buttery yellow), while others where a total bust (don’t believe those who say parsley turns eggs a lovely green!). Our chickens were happy though – they ate the boiled leftovers! [Sounds like some fun experiments.]

JARVIS - That it’s the third in a series and that they should really buy them all! [Ha! I totally agree!]

Patricia, what did you find most challenging about writing Pick A Perfect Egg? How long did it take from the idea to publication?

PATRICIA – Being the third in a series, I worried that this book wouldn’t feel as special as the other two books. The other two books laid out the pattern for the text, so the text came fairly quickly. And Jarvis’ illustrations with a softer feel to the colors is perfect for Easter and adds so much to the special feel.

One vexing challenge was the title. We wanted another P alliteration in the title, and “egg” obviously doesn’t start with a P. We had to play with the rhythm a bit, adding an adjective to the title to get the alliteration.

*Chuckling* Jarvis, what is the hardest or most challenging aspect of Pick A Perfect Egg? Why?

JARVIS - Every book has its own challenges. For me personally, I always like to progress my work creatively so, it was about finding a new way of working that still fit within the book series. I wanted to almost combine the techniques in the previous 2 books. The other tricky thing was that eggs are very small, and to make a book about them meant I had to bring the world around them alive.

That would be an interesting challenge. Patricia, when you first saw Jarvis’ illustrations for Pick A Perfect Egg did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Patricia Toht, 2023. Image © Jarvis, 2023.

PATRICIA – Two things were especially delightful for me. The first is the cover – a swirl of a nest that draws your eye to the title. The second is a surprise from Jarvis – a little “Easter eggs” in the illustrations. (Especially fitting and clever for this book, right?!) On one of the picking-the-eggs spreads, you’ll see a sign for “Patty’s Farm.” Makes me smile every time!

What a wonderfully, sweet treasure for him to add. Jarvis, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own elements into the illustrations. Did you do this in Pick A Perfect Egg? 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 - I always like a landscape. And usually the first spreads I tackle end up capturing the energy of the book. So my two favourites are the little red car chugging through the greening landscape back from the farm. This has lots of elements I like in illustration. The other one is the close up of the hen on the first spread. I enjoyed the technique I used to create the feathery chicken on that one.

I love this spread. It is so welcoming with the soft colors, animals, & birds. Are there any new projects you both are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

PATRICIA – My next book, Taxi, Go!, releases in September of this year. The inspiration came from PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), now called Storystorm. Author Tara Lazar started this challenge years ago, urging picture book writers to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. A post from author Tammi Sauer suggested looking at children’s games as inspiration for stories, which she did expertly in her books Truck, Truck, Goose and Go Fish! The idea that emerged for me was using the game “Red Light/Green Light” as a template for a taxi’s busy day of shuttling customers from door to door. Illustrator Marie Karipidou’s taxi is the friendliest little car, and I think readers will enjoy following his route.

JARVIS - I currently have a book series called Bear And Bird, and I’m moving on to illustrating book number 4 on that one. The first one came out in march in the UK, it comes out in May in the US.

At the same time I’m working on a new rhyming picture book called Thank You. which I have created with collage. That should be out in spring 2024.

Those are both adorable covers and the books sound so fun. I look forward to seeing them. Congratulations to both of you! As we get back into doing live book events and school visits, do you have any advice for authors or illustrators?

PATRICIA – My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy yourself! Kids come up with the most surprising and heart-felt comments. I also plan for WAY more material than I think I will need, because sometimes the energy of the students is contagious and my pace picks up speed!

JARVIS - I love visiting schools and telling stories. I would always just say be yourself. Bring yourself to it. And I always try to involve the kids in some way.

Excellent advice! Thank you Patricia & Jarvis for coming back to talk about your fun new picture book.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Pick a Perfect Egg.

To find out more about Patricia Toht, or to contact her:

To find out more about Jarvis, or contact him:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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