About the Story
I thought of a story of a ball that went to sea and was found again, and this is it.
It is a story many people have thought of. One example: two years after the book came out, a woman claimed that it was her own story that she had sent to Morrow several years before, but about a red ball. It was only because we had kept correspondence that was dated before her version was received, and I had notes about it in my journal, that we could reassure her that I'd come up with the idea on my own.
My editor, David Reuther, first suggested that it have no words, then thought it might be better with just one or two for each page, for children who are just beginning to understand that words can be read. The pictures are done in chalk, which is very messy to work with, difficult to keep from getting muddy. Even after I coated the whole picture with fixit, chunks of the chalk would flake off, since I layered it so thickly. I do not want to work in chalk again.
Young friends posed for all the people.
The ball was more difficult. It was hard to find a plain yellow ball that summer. Most balls I found were mottled or striped or red or blue, not yellow. I tried painting balls yellow, but the paint would bubble and ripple, and sand would stick to it. Painted balls aren't as luminous as dyed plastic balls. When I did find one that was yellow, I bought three. They actually had a strip of plastic all around them from the mold, and a sort of little belly button where the plastic was finished off, I think, but I ignored these.
The ball was tricky to draw, especially the ball in the air. I wanted to see it all around, not resting on anything, so I glued it to a string and tied the string to a stick. I would be halfway through drawing it when it would come unglued and fall to the beach and get covered with sand. With the ball at dawn, I had the same difficulty, except this time I stuck the glued string to the ball and tied the other end of the string to a rock. Again, I would be part way through drawing when I'd realise that the ball was floating away, and would have to run into the water to get it. The ball seen from underwater was fairly easy, since all I had to do was dive under and look up, but then I had to remember what it looked like. For the ball in the moonlight, the biggest difficulty was finding a moonlit night that was not cloudy and in which the seas were slightly undulent but neither rippling nor flat. That summer, there were two nights like that. The ball actually looks grey in such light, but it looked more "real" to make it slightly yellow. The moon was of course slightly mottled, but only if you look straight at it. If you see it in your peripheral vision, it does glow.
The bridge is taken from aerial views of Cape Cod. The boat was docked in Woods Hole; it's a simplification of a research vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries. I had almost finished drawing it when a couple of fishermen came from another boat nearby to see what I was doing. After talking with me for a few minutes, they left and came back with three lobsters, which I had for supper.