Tag Archive | Eliza Wheeler

Miss Maple’s Seeds

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Written and Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013

On a bright August morning, Miss Maple flies home.

The plot in a nutshell: A tiny woman teaches seeds how to grow.

Miss Maple has spent the summer collecting orphan seeds that got lost during the spring planting. A flock of birds bring them to her home in the maple tree, where she cares for the seeds and teaches them what they need to know. She shows them the river banks, grasslands and gardens where they will grow and gives them advice. She reads to them at night and teaches them to welcome the rain, which will help them grow. When the time comes, she sends the seeds off to find their new homes and they say goodbye as they part. As she looks out across the land, she muses that the seeds are very small, but the biggest trees were also once tiny seeds. Then she prepares to start the process over again with a new batch of seeds.

This delightfully whimsical story from author/illustrator Eliza Wheeler is sure to be a favorite of anyone who loves plants or flowers. There’s an aura of mystery surrounding Miss Maple because we are never told exactly who or what she is. She may be a fairy, but she certainly doesn’t have the traditional appearance of one and she doesn’t appear to have any magic abilities. She’s small enough to fit inside a leaf and ride on the back of a bird but she dresses and looks very much like a regular woman. It leaves the reader with the impression that anyone can take responsibility for orphan seeds and help them to grow. I imagine some kids will be inspired to try following her lead.

Water lanterns

The little seeds get a free boat ride!

The artwork is done with dip pens, India ink and watercolor, in all the gorgeous colors of nature. One page features drawings of many different types of seeds, with each seed identified. I have to admit that I recognized some of them but couldn’t have told you before that they were seeds, so I really appreciated the inclusion of this page in the book. Of course, it’s easy to draw parallels between caring for these seeds and raising children, which is likely to make you a little wistful when Miss Maple says goodbye to her seeds and muses on their futures.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone benefits from a little education and encouragement.

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

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Written by Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Chronicle Books, 2016

You wanna see my tattoos?

The plot in a nutshell: A father shares the stories of his tattoos.

The father points first to a tattoo of a dragon and tells his son that it is from his favorite book, which his mother read to him many times when he was young. He shows the ‘Be kind’ tattoo on his wrist and tells his son that it’s something he learned from his father that he always wanted to remember. The Ferris wheel on his arm reminds him of the day he met the ‘pretty girl’ who became his wife. He shows the tattoo from his time as a soldier in the Middle East and tells him how much he missed home. Then the boy points to the small heart on his chest with numbers that represent the boy’s birthday. The boy tells his father that the heart is his favorite and the father agrees.

Author Alison McGhee gives us a contemporary parenting story that works on a lot of levels. Looking at the cover, you might get the idea that the book is going to present a modern and hip family, covered in tattoos and living out an edgy ‘off the beaten path’ life. But whether the family is edgy or not doesn’t enter the picture, because the story focuses on the love they have for each other and the way that the father expresses the moments of his life in his tattoos. The book is entirely told as a conversation that we only hear the father’s side of, but as we learn more about him, it’s easy to see that this is a conversation he’s probably had with his son dozens of times.

Baby

Awww…

Eliza Wheeler’s artwork in India ink with dip pens and watercolors is gentle and touching, giving everything in the story a warm and sentimental glow. As we learn about the tattoos, we glimpse into their past and learn more about the man, which is clearly why the son loves to hear these stories. There are little details that tell us more about the family if we look closely, such as Mom working while Dad does the dishes or the beautiful matching tattoos that they both have for wedding rings. It’s a wonderful story with lots of warmth and heart, providing much-needed representation for the ever-increasing number of people who are sharing their art and personal stories through the medium of tattoos.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there are lots of ways to remember important moments in your life and it’s wonderful to share them with the ones you love.

The Grudge Keeper

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Written by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Peachtree Publishers, 2014

No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge.

No one, that is, except old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.

The plot in a nutshell: A town deals with their grudges.

Cornelius is in charge of holding on to all the town’s complaints, which are written on paper scrolls that he stores throughout his cottage. As each person gets angry with someone else, they write out their issues and take it to him for filing and eventually, they fill his entire house. One day, a strong wind blows through the town, making messes and causing all sorts of problems. The next day, everyone is full of new angers and they march up to the Grudge Keeper’s cottage to report them, but they find the cottage in shambles, with all the grudges thrown together in piles. At first they dive into the pile, looking to claim their old grudges back, but then a boy notices Cornelius at the bottom of the pile, dazed from the storm. As the townspeople look through their old grudges, they realize how pointless they all are and they toss them away. Cornelius looks around and sees that the grudges are all gone. The town celebrates a wedding and even when a few things go wrong here and there, everyone just lets it go. Cornelius refills his home with friendliness, smiles and hugs, since he no longer has to save room for grudges.

I hope he has a spreadsheet to keep up with all of these.

I hope he has a spreadsheet to keep up with all of these.

Author Mara Rockliff said in an interview that she got the idea for this story after hearing the phrase ‘keeping a grudge’ and imagining a grudge keeper to be something like a zookeeper or a beekeeper. It’s a wonderful parable about forgiveness that has the feel of a classic folktale, but with layers of modern sensibility that make it seem almost more relevant in today’s age of people getting all bent out of shape over the smallest thing. Ms. Rockliff exhausts every possible synonym for ‘grudge’ in this book, which will likely serve to teach your little one (or you, even) some new words to add to your vocabulary. (I like to imagine a room full of kindergarteners telling their teacher that they are in high dudgeon with each other.)

Contributing heavily to the story’s classic feel is the gorgeous artwork from illustrator Eliza Wheeler, done in dip pens, India ink and watercolor. The characters look like they stepped out of a Charles Dickens adaptation and the whole village has a yellowish tint that gives it the impression of age. My favorite element of the story is in the illustrations, when you see the physical difference it makes in the villagers to let go of their resentment. Their faces go from sour scowls to carefree smiles that are so much more pleasant to see. It’s a good lesson and the book conveys it entertainingly and well.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that grudges serve no real purpose and only take up room where more positive things could go.