ANNE WYNTER: (Reading) Everybody in the red brick building was asleep.
OGE MORA: (Reading) Until baby Izzie sat up in her crib and howled. (Imitating baby cry).
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
In "Everybody In The Red Brick Building," baby Izzie's (imitating baby cry) sets off a chain reaction of noises and wakes up several children and a cat.
WYNTER: (Reading) Woken up by a (imitating baby cry), Rayhan tiptoed out of bed to check on his parrot. (Imitating parrot squawk). Wake up.
MORA: (Reading) Woken up by a (imitating baby cry) and a (imitating parrot squawk) wake up, Benny pulled Cairo and Miles from their sleeping bags and challenged them to a game of flashlight tag. Pitter, patter, stomp.
WYNTER: The parrot, of course, makes a loud sound, which wakes up another group of kids, that wake up another kid that wakes up a cat, and the cat unexpectedly makes another noise. And so it just builds to this cacophony. Everybody's awake. It's very loud. And then everybody has to quiet down and go back to sleep. So they listen to the sounds of the city as they drift back off to sleep.
SIMON: The new book for children is written by Anne Wynter, illustrated by Oge Mora, and read with much enthusiasm by both of them. They're the latest participants in our series Picture This, in which we eavesdrop as authors and illustrators talk about their collaboration.
WYNTER: It was cool to hear how you do some of this. And you do a really good parrot.
MORA: Oh, thank you (laughter).
WYNTER: I feel like the more I read it, the more, perhaps, loud I get, the more, like, exaggerated I get. But I do feel like maybe I should start to explore some different ways of saying - I'm kind of inspired by Oge (laughter) and the way you said some of the words.
MORA: I think that was, like, the first time we'd, like, read it together. And so it's just kind of really interesting to see each particular reader's approach to how they bring that book to life, which I think is so much fun.
WYNTER: I do love books that - where you get to kind of perform sounds and get really loud and - or sometimes get really quiet. I think - I knew I wanted it to be cumulative. I think that was probably the first thing. For example, the story that I loved when I was young was "The House That Jack Built." So it's - this is the house that Jack built. This is the cat that slept in the house that Jack built. This is the dog that chased the cat that slept in the house that Jack built. So it just keeps building on itself. And I found that really comforting when I was young. I loved just the rhythm of it, the way you could kind of predict what was coming next, almost. I loved reading those over and over again.
MORA: And the fun thing about this book was playing around with color. So each room has its specific color. And once they wake up, it's a very bright version of that color. So baby Izzie's room is, like, pinkish orange. And Cairo and Miles in the sleepover room happens in a blue. And so there's just, like, this really kind of fun, little rainbow element as you see all the different rooms within this building light up. So I am a collage artist and a paper lover, as I would say. And I just love using all different types of papers and materials in my work. So there are some painted papers that you'll see here that I painted myself and cut in there. There are old book scraps that I've found in my travels to bookstores here and there, estate sales, you name it.
And so I think that's really what I love about collage, is that it just - there are no rules to it, and it just really gives you room to play and incorporate a lot of different materials and styles of working. For one of the kids, I think I used, like - I scanned the material of, like, a tile, so it's like a bathroom tile. And then I used that to make his striped shirt.
WYNTER: I love that shirt. I know exactly the shirt you're talking about because I would like that shirt. I would like to have it in real life.
WYNTER: It's beautiful.
MORA: I think something that I've always enjoyed with people who look at my books is looking in through the pages and trying to be like, how did she do that? Or what material did I use there? I've been told it's a fun game, so...
WYNTER: Yeah, my mom actually asked if there was this - a message in the materials, all the paper that had words on it. You know, the - some of them have, like, text. And I was like, I don't think there's a secret message in the story.
MORA: No secret message.
WYNTER: But you know what? I will admit that I have done that with your other books. Like, what does this say? What does it mean? What might it be from? It's a very cool experience (laughter).
MORA: I think for, like, any illustrator, when you're thinking - or at least for me, when I'm, like, thinking about what book I might decide to sign onto and illustrate, I definitely always look for the manuscripts of the stories where you've left me a lot of room. Or it's like - it's very clear what you're trying to do there, and then you've also left me a lot of room to play with. And so, like, even though maybe we didn't have, like, a one-on-one conversation about what's the vision for this book, I felt like once I read it, I just could be like, oh, this is what she's doing. And, like, I totally vibe with it. So, like, let's do it kind of thing.
WYNTER: Yeah. I think, from my perspective, it's really nice to pass the baton along (laughter) and step away. Like, let me give it to this brilliant person who is going to - you know, imagining wonderful things that I couldn't even conceive of. And then, like, it's wonderful to be so pleasantly surprised at the end of the process when you're like, this is more than I could have ever, ever pictured in my mind.
MORA: That's so nice to hear that. I want to say thank you to Anne for writing this book, and it's just been a joy this entire time working on it. And it's also just a joy working with you. I think it was interesting collaging or working on this book during the pandemic and being so far away from my own family and the things that kind of keep me whole and keep me really motivated and bring a lot of joy in my life. And even though I couldn't be with those people I wanted to be with in this particular time, having this book was just a reminder of - creating this community within this apartment with these different families and these different children and the things they are up to just reminded me of how special those moments that we have with each other are, you know? And just that ending page of baby Izzie just curled up in her mother's arms was just such a beautiful, beautiful page for me to illustrate and also just a real great comfort.
WYNTER: Oh, that's so beautiful. And, you know, that's my favorite spread, too, because I didn't know what each of these groups of people would look like. And so getting to that part and seeing, you know, a Black mother with her Black child who - her child is about the same age as mine was when I wrote it. So I felt like I was seeing myself on the page, and I was not expecting that moment. And I love it. It meant so much to me.
To your point, I hope this book is a comfort. I think that's what I always look for in picture, books especially when you have really young kids, and you've gotten to the end of a long day. And you want your children to feel comforted. And maybe they're snuggling in your arms, but you want to feel that sense of, OK, even if we're all awake in the middle of the night and I'm tired, we will get back to sleep. And we will get some rest. And it will be OK.
SIMON: Anne Wynter, author, and illustrator Oge Mora talking about their new book for children, "Everybody In The Red Brick Building."
WYNTER: (Reading) Back in his bed, Rayhan burrowed under his covers and listened to the shh shh, the plonk plonk, the ting ting, and the chirp chirp of his parrot.
MORA: (Reading) Back in her mother's arms, baby Izzie snuggled close and listened to the shh shh, the plonk plonk, the ting ting, the chirp chirp and the pah-pum, pah-pum, pah-pum of her mother's heart until...
WYNTER: (Reading) Everybody in the red brick building was asleep.
MORA: The end (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.