MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
With the popularity of cell phones and cordless phones, we all spend a lot more time with an earpiece cradled next to our head these days. And if your household happens to include little people, that means you spend a lot more time promising that you'll be off the line in just a minute. `Just a minute.' Well, when you're a kid, just a minute seems just like an eternity. For author Amy Reichert and illustrator Alexandra Boiger, that dilemma seemed just like the perfect start for a children's book. That book is called "While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat." Amy and Alexandra came by our studios to talk chat about the story, which we'll bring to life with some readings in just a minute.
Thanks for being with us.
Ms. AMY REICHERT (Author, "While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat"): Thank you. It's wonderful to be here.
Ms. ALEXANDRA BOIGER (Illustrator, "While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat"): Thank you very much. Hello.
NORRIS: That story is about a plucky little girl named Rose. She's just a little wisp of a thing with this mop of red hair. And when we meet her, it's late in the evening. Tell us what happens in that household.
Ms. REICHERT: Well, Mama tells Rose to get ready for bed. She just is going to have a quick little chat with Uncle Fred. And Rose is a little suspect from the beginning, and asks, `How long will you be?' And Mama says, `Not long. Just get ready for bed. You'll see.' And Rose starts off to get ready for bed, thinking, `No problem.' And suddenly, there's a ding-dong and a `Yoo-hoo' from downstairs.
(Soundbite of doorbell)
Unidentified Narrator: `Yoo-hoo,' four muscly men said, `Please hold the door. We've brought your supplies from the party store.'
Unidentified Woman #1: I'm sorry...
Unidentified Narrator: ...said Rose...
Unidentified Woman #1: ...but there's no party here.
Unidentified Narrator: `Not yet,' said the men, `but there soon will be, dear.'
Unidentified Woman #1: Mama...
Unidentified Narrator: ...called Rose...
Unidentified Woman #1: ...could I please talk to you?
Unidentified Woman #2: In a minute...
Unidentified Narrator: ...said Mama...
Unidentified Woman #2: ...I'm just about through.
NORRIS: This dilemma of a child begging their parent to get off the phone, did that grow out of personal experience, either, Amy, for you as a parent hearing that from your own two children, or as a child and reaching back to your own childhood and remembering when your mother was on the phone?
Ms. REICHERT: Oh, both. It's completely autobiographical, and the biography of my poor children. I spent my childhood begging my mother to get off the phone. She did lots of volunteer work, and I remember her long legal-pad lists of phone calls that she needed to make. And unfortunately, I found myself, as a mother, doing much the same to my children. I found myself telling them, `Just a minute. Just a minute.' And of course, it's never just a minute.
NORRIS: How important were the pictures in telling the story? We heard about the muscly men, and we see them in the book, and they're outsized and they have gigantic shoulders and big, bulbous arms. How important was that, Alexandra?
Ms. BOIGER: Well, when I read this manuscript at first, I felt like an "Alice in Wonderland." This felt like an "Alice in Wonderland" story to me, because it was, of course, very real, but it also is all happening in her imagination. It goes both ways. And when I started to draw the pictures, I really tried to make that clear. Yesterday, we had a presentation in a school, and a little child asked me, `But where does it take place?' And I thought this was such a good question, because it's not clear where it really happens. It's not clear if it happens in a house that exists or in a time that exists, and so the design of all these characters being sort of old-fashioned, I think, underlines it, helps it.
Unidentified Narrator: Just as Rose was closing the door, more people arrived, lots and lots more. They marched right in. They asked, `How do you do?' They shook Rose's hand. They said, `Nice to meet you.'
Unidentified Woman #1: Wait there...
Unidentified Narrator: ...begged Rose...
Unidentified Woman #1: My mom's on the phone.
Unidentified Narrator: `Don't worry,' they said, `We'll be fine on our own.'
Unidentified Woman #1: Mama...
Unidentified Narrator: ...Rose roared...
Unidentified Woman #1: ...I need you right now!
Unidentified Woman #2: I'm busy...
Unidentified Narrator: ...said Mama...
Unidentified Woman #2: ...you'll manage somehow.
Unidentified Narrator: So Rose did her best to greet each of the guests.
Unidentified Woman #1: How do you do? Nice to meet you, too.
Unidentified Narrator: It's hard to believe that Rose did all that before Mama had finished her quick little chat.
NORRIS: Reading the pages of this book, I'm wondering if there's just a slight admonishment here, a message for parents that maybe you should put the phone down every so often.
Ms. REICHERT: You know, I think I am. I think you're right. I remember as a child--I grew up right by the ocean in San Francisco. And I remember lying in my bed, calling for my mother to come kiss me good night, and she'd say, `Just a minute. I'm just about to get off the phone.' And I'd have this fantasy that the tide would rise, and it would rise and rise and rise, and it would pour--ocean water would pour into my window and carry my bed right out the window, and I would float off into the San Francisco Bay. For some reason, my mom, who was on the same floor, wouldn't float off, but she'd still be on the phone, completely unknowing that I was floating off under the Golden Gate Bridge.
And it wasn't really scary, and I didn't want this to be scary. I didn't want the child to feel neglected. I just wanted to try to capture the real frustration that every child feels when a parent will not get off the phone.
NORRIS: So you approach the phone a bit differently, Amy. You, Alexandra, do you find that you turn the cell phone off a bit more now?
Ms. BOIGER: I will after this conversation.
NORRIS: And I will, too. Thank you so much for coming in.
Ms. BOIGER: Thank you.
Ms. REICHERT: Thanks.
NORRIS: Alexandra Boiger, Amy Reichert.
Ms. REICHERT: Thank you.
NORRIS: Their book is called "While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat".
Unidentified Woman #2: Rose, dear...
Unidentified Narrator: ...called Mama...
Unidentified Woman #2: I'm finally through, and I hope that you've done what I've asked you to do.
Unidentified Narrator: But Rose did not answer. She didn't make a peep, for Rose was in bed and fast asleep.
(Soundbite of music)
NORRIS: "While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat" was brought to life by our NPR colleagues Tom Cole, Kelley Slagle, Kerry Thompson and Marissa Harris. To see illustrations from the book and hear more about the collaboration between Amy and Alexandra, go to our Web site, npr.org.