Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Among The Branches

Decades ago in a tiny community, there was a short little street with a flower shop at one end and a factory at the other end.  On this street was a small house with a small yard but in the back was a giant willow tree.  Its branches were perfectly placed for climbing.

A little girl loved to climb that tree and see the world from its heights.  There were days she wanted to live in that tree.  To come outside one morning and see a treehouse placed among those branches would have been the fulfillment of a deep longing.   Everything You Need for a Treehouse (Chronicle Books, April 10, 2018) written by Carter Higgins (This is NOT a Valentine Chronicle Books, December 26, 2017) with illustrations by Emily Hughes ( The Little Gardener Flying Eye Books, June 1, 2015 UK, August 11, 2015 US) is a song of gratitude for treehouses real and imagined.  It's the fulfillment of dreams across generations.

Everything you need for a 
starts with time
and looking up
and imagining a home
of timber and rafters
in wrangled, gnarled bark.

There is no single tree better destined for holding these abodes;  a solitary sentinel in a meadow or one among many in a lush green forest are equally excellent.  The main characteristic the best trees have is height.  You'll need it to see what needs to be seen.

It is important to have a plan, the proper tools and materials. There are certain steps to take in the construction.  A ladder is a necessity.  For gardeners boxes to hold your flowers are best.  For climbers no ordinary rope will do, it must be sturdy to keep you steady.  For readers, those adventurers of the printed word, bookshelves are a beloved requirement.

Remember to bring to your favorite snacks.  Now is a good time for a close inspection of your sleeping bag.  Is it comfy?

No resident of a home in the lofty arms of a tree should be without a flashlight.  It gives light where there is none.  Remember the suggestion of looking over your sleeping bag, there is another reason this is important.  It has something to do with nighttime sounds and friendship.

Treehouses hold secrets.  Treehouses are for hushed voices and shouts of freedom.  Treehouses are for aloneness and togetherness.  Treehouses are for working and resting.  They begin with us.

With the first words written by Carter Higgins it's as if we already sheltered inside a comfortable dwelling among leafy boughs.  In each group of phrases she's captured those small memorable moments, the wonderful details of youth and hopes and adventure.  At times words will be in italics.  Those words are yours; depicting your conversations.  Here are two passages.

When you get hungry in your hideaway
you'll be glad for the stack of snacks
you stashed in your backpack.

Red licorice and drippy peaches are my favorites
but if you like pistachios, those are okay, too---
the pirates like those---
so we can spit the shells from our perch.

Many people in the United States (maybe other places, too) have been enduring a heat wave for nearly a week but when you look at the opened dust jacket for this book, you are transported to the cool, calm of the woods.  On each of the flaps and the back of the jacket the shape of the tree on the front is replicated; one vertically and two horizontally.  Within those shapes are portraits of children near or on trees.  They are surrounded by liberal amounts of cream-colored space.  And wouldn't you love to join the two children in the treehouse on the front of the jacket?

The book case will prompt gasps from every reader.  On the far left is the truck and leafy boughs of a tall tree.  Pale blue sky covers the remaining space except for a hint of branches by the spine.  These branches belong to another large tree nearly filling the entire front.  A secluded treehouse is occupied by two children gazing at us.

On the opening and closing endpapers there are twenty-one small images of treehouses and items found in trees.  Many of them are framed in rope.  These like all the illustrations are utterly enchanting.  With the exception of fourteen single page pictures, two of those have two small visuals per page, all of the images span two pages.

Rendered by hand in graphite and in Photoshop the artwork by Emily Hughes is intricate, exquisite in its detail. At each illustration you are welcomed and you pause to enjoy the view.  Perspectives shift.  All kinds of children with different likes and dislikes and similarities, too, occupy the pages.  You want to find all of them to see what they are doing.  The designs of the treehouses will leave you breathless.

One of my many favorite illustrations (I love them all,) is the first one.  It's laden with promise.  Spread across two pages are multiple trunks of trees, a grove.  The point of view is of us looking up.  The tops of the trees are in soft shades of green.  On the left a girl is looking to the top on the right.  On the right a boy has his eyes on something on the left.  His dog's attention is on the right.

Written by Carter Higgins with illustrations by Emily Hughes Everything You Need for a Treehouse is an exuberant collection of wondrous possibilities.  Your eyes move from point to point with each page turn running the words through your mind or reading them aloud.  Or you look at each carefully-placed element in the pictures before reading the words.   It's simply beautiful.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Carter Higgins and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website Carter interviews Emily Hughes about her work on this book.  I encourage you to read it.  An interview of Carter and cover reveal appears at All The WondersYou might like to stop at 12 x 12 and Melissa Roske's site for features on Carter Higgins.  Emily Hughes maintains an account on Instagram.  You will learn more about Emily Hughes from watching these two videos.

Emily Hughes - Illustration from CLPE on Vimeo.

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