Every time I make a discovery in my gardens or while walking along the lakeshore or in the woods, it's when I pause, kneel down and look. When you narrow your field of vision, shrink it to another level, you can see a smaller world within the larger one. Once you've explored like this and found something new, you begin to see it more often. You've developed a different way to see.
You'll start to notice miniature burrows around your yard, spider habitats, tiny spotted green shoots coming through the brown leaves, adder's tongues, or vanishing ripples on a pond's surface, recently awakened frogs playing in the mud. Miss Maple's Seeds (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.) with story and pictures by Eliza Wheeler imagines a very special, tiny person, living in this smaller world unseen by us...until now. Her greatest joy, her work, is an essential element in the circle of life.
On a bright August morning, Miss Maple flies home. She has hurried ahead of the flock to get ready for her guests.
During the summer months when everything is growing abundantly, a small figure has been gathering. All those seeds, who somehow lost their way earlier in the spring, are being found throughout the land. Upon the backs of her feathered friends, bluebirds many, in grass-filled baskets, in all shapes and sizes, they will find a loving home with Miss Maple.
She will learn about each of them, calling them by name. Together they will travel down a stream, through the air and over the fields and forests. During these little journeys she will explain how they need to settle in the mud or dirt; who will help them and who they should avoid.
Like a parent with a child each night she reads them stories. Forest friends come to visit during the windy wintry weather when staying inside is for the best. With the spring rains come dancing lessons .
After eight months of tender loving care it's time to release the orphan seeds into the wild, each filled with a sense of purpose and direction. With farewells murmuring in her mind, Miss Maple settles in for a spell. In time she will be needed again.
This is a gentle tale, a yearly ritual, revealed in two, three or four descriptive sentences on a single page. The narrative has been written with a lyrical pace, a lightness in tone, to the point you can almost sense a kind of music playing. It is the repetition of one particular piece of advice during the story which binds the work of Miss Maple to her seeds. Here are a couple of examples of Wheeler's writing in this title.
In bustling gardens, seeds must take care to stay clear of weedy characters.
Snuggled in each night, Miss Maple reads flower tales by firefly light.
Through a pictorial display spanning across the front and back jacket and cover readers enter the world of Miss Maple as she floats over the fields in her flowery balloon. Opening and closing endpapers, a lively shade of blue, provide the background for scattered buttercup petals and flowers. Eliza Wheeler creates her illustrations throughout with dip pens, India ink and watercolors using hues taken from the natural world awash in glowing greens and yellows.
Infinite care has been given to the details of depicting the miniature world of Miss Maple; the small rosebud tucked into her hat, the door, windows, and steps of her home in the maple tree, her leafy boat and umbrella, and the tiny baskets used to send the seeds into the world by air or on the water. Delicate lines capture the features of her helpers and friends, bluebirds, frogs, squirrels, mice, and rabbits. An entire page opposite Miss Maple giving all her seeds a sudsy bath is dedicated to picturing and labeling twenty seeds. Any of these illustrations are worthy of framing; the smaller insets highlighting text, or her single and double page visuals enhancing her story but my favorite is the one similar to the front cover of her gliding the wind currents, hand outstretched in explanation to the seeds.
I dare say I'll be looking for a wee woman from now on gathering in those forgotten seeds. The debut picture book of Eliza Wheeler, Miss Maple's Seeds, is a charming glimpse into a wonderful world; a world where care is given to the smallest, where encouragement is delivered in loving and healthy doses. This is a small treasure to be shared any time of the year but absolutely perfect for Earth Day. It could be paired with A Seed Is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long or And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Erin E. Stead.
Please follow the link above embedded in Eliza Wheeler's name to her official website. She has printable handouts available for this title. This link takes you to an interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast where she explains her process for this title.