Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Coming Full Circle

Close your eyes and think of those things that make you feel the most peaceful, the most cozy; your heart's desire if you will.  Is it warm sun on your face, being wrapped in a heavy handmade quilt, sitting near a crackling fire, lying on a big, fluffy pillow, the smell of fresh baked cookies, snowflakes melting on your outstretched tongue, the sound of crickets as fireflies spin through the warm summer air, the soft snoring of a much loved pet curled against your body or is it sitting in a special chair reading as rain splashes against the windows and roof?

If you are two friends in the newest title, Hopper and Wilson,  by Maria van Lieshout it might be an endless supply of lemonade or finding a stairway to the moon.

 Hopper, a pale, blue stuffed elephant and Wilson his wee, yellow stuffed mouse friend are sitting on the edge of their dock one day looking over the expanse of the sea wondering what it might be like at the end of the world.  By the time we readers have turned the next page they are leaving in their boat along with their red balloon and its red string bidding farewell to their cactus. 

Sailing through the day and into the night the two dream about what they hope to find and wish upon a falling star for those dreams to be realized.  They awaken to rain, wind and towering waves that threaten their journey.  When the storm subsides Wilson is alone in the boat. 

As Wilson searches for Hopper, asking sea turtles, penguins near an iceberg and a giant fish if they've seen him, we feel his despair and deep sense of loss.  When the two pals are reunited their love reaches out and envelopes us like a warm, soft hug.  That warmth continues to spread as the duo notices that the end of the world seems to be their dock with the potted cactus welcoming them back home as birds perch in the lemon trees along the shore. 

Maria van Lieshout brings much to readers through her watercolors, ink, collage, colored pencil, crayon, a smudge of acrylics and some technology to pull it all together illustrations.  It is in their simplicity that we feel the depth of her story.  We are endeared to her characters through the hand-stitching on their bodies.  We feel a sense of childhood innocence and trust in their boat crafted of newspaper with the single red balloon attached.  Her use of space, size and color coupled with spare text convey the closeness of the Hopper and Wilson, the vastness of the sea, the turbulence of the storm and the sheer joy of knowing that what you have is exactly what you need.

Whether sharing this tale one on one or with a group it offers so much to readers and listeners alike.  Myself, I plan on using it as part of my Mock Caldecott election with my older students.  With my younger students we will be making our own boats from newspaper, writing our wishes on the inside, as we set them afloat upon our imaginary ocean.  I am also envisioning balloons and those favorite stuffed animals brought in for a day.  Yes, I will be going back to my local bookstore to get my own copy because Hopper and Wilson is a rare gem.

I extend my sincerest thanks to Maria van Lieshout for allowing me to share additional illustrations from this book on my blog.


  1. Thank you for this lovely post!
    If your students do make the paper boats, I'd love to see a pic. Thank you for this review!

    1. You are very welcome, Maria. I read my personal copy again yesterday when I was going through my picture book stacks. I will be sure to send you pictures.