Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Prickly Plan

Being alone from time to time has merit but being lonely is like having a hole in your heart.  Making friends is a bit tricky for some individuals.  A variety of factors can figure into the difficulty in acquiring a circle of companions.

One problem usually not associated with forming relationships is having physical qualities which tend to keep others, for safety reasons, at a distance.  Elmore (Random House, January 30, 2018) written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie, renowned author illustrator of the Toot and Puddle series, presents readers with a member of the forest community who longs for friends.  When you're a porcupine, it's an unusual situation.

Elmore lived by himself in an ancient maple tree.  He loved it there.

Every so often he left the comfort of his home to enjoy a favorite meal in a nearby meadow.  No matter how long you have been alone being lonely is something you simply cannot overcome all the time.  Elmore was lonely.

He decided to be more open about wanting to have friends.  He posted a sign reading:


His heart sank when he heard animals saying he was too prickly.  They were right.  He couldn't help it.  If you got close, you might feel his spiny quills. 

Truthfully, Elmore knew he had a good life living in the homey hollow.  His quills kept him safe.  After a rainy day he met an elderly relative who offered him a compliment and a good piece of advice about his quills.  These two thoughts helped another thought form in Elmore's mind.  He had a plan.

Gathering up all the quills in his home, he tied them in small, separate bundles.  Then this optimistic porcupine hung up another sign.  Days went by with the forest animals coming to Elmore.  He had never been happier.  Wonderful words left by his new friends filled the hole in his lonely heart.

For many readers the idea of making friends is a daunting hurdle to face.  Holly Hobbie's depiction of a porcupine and his solution will resonate with many of them.  Through understanding his real worth from the conversation with his old uncle, Elmore is able to shift his point of view allowing him to address his dilemma with fresh eyes.  With a smooth blend of narrative and conversations, this story unfolds with a gentle truth.  Here is a passage.

The next day his old uncle happened to come shuffling along past Elmore's tree.
"Good morning, Elmore."  A moment later he said, "You don't seem your usual cheerful self.  Is something wrong?"
"I wish I didn't have all these quills," Elmore explained.  "I'm too hard to be around.  I have no friends."
"I'm your friend."  His uncle smiled.
"That's different," Elmore replied.

The image on the front of the opened dust jacket is guaranteed to lodge firmly in your heart.  Elmore and the branch upon which he sits are varnished.  Notice the prickly texture of his name.  To the left, on the back a spring green provides a canvas for a circular illustration framed in quills.  Elmore is reading a newly posted sign on the tree.  His clasped paws and smile are evidence of his total joy.  (I am working with an F & G.)

The endpapers (oh, the endpapers) are in robin's egg blue.  A single birch tree trunk stretches from the bottom of the center of the right side (left on the closing papers) upward.  The spreading branches with pale green leaves supply a cozy niche for the amiable porcupine.  On the title page he is sleeping stomach down on a branch, arms and legs dangling.

Each picture masterfully created by Holly Hobbie takes readers into the forest and into the soul of Elmore.  Image sizes vary from double-page pictures to single page visuals and for pacing small illustrations are grouped together.  Sometimes Holly she will put smaller pictures beneath the text for effect.  The larger images are framed in white.  White becomes a space for text on those illustrations smaller than two pages.

It's the intricate details (and the fine lines) readers will notice in each picture.  You'll want to count the steps up his tree leading to his hole.  A small woven basket rests next to him as he fills it with special food.  Elmore sometimes wears a little coat but his spines stick through the fabric.

One of my many favorite illustrations is at night on a single page.  Elmore stands in front of a large tree.  A lantern rests on the forest floor.  His back is to us as he hold a hammer.  We can read what the newly hung sign says.  Behind the tree and Elmore are trees and shrubs in shadows.  He is being watched, though.  Eyes glow in the darkness.

I have often thought of having a special list of books that when read not once but repeatedly, still make readers want to hug the book.  Elmore written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie is one of those books.  She tackles a timely topic with compassion.  Readers will love Elmore.  I know I do.  You will want to add this to your professional and personal collections.

I recommend you visit the publisher's website to view interior pages.  You'll get to see those delightful endpapers.

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