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.
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.