“You never know what treasures we’ll find,” says the mom of eight children as they embark on a magical, but also an actual, Depression-era year turning a house into a home. Based on the life of the author’s grandma, Marvel, this picture book recounts the family’s inspiring journey through lovely green-infused watercolors, inconspicuously labeled with general-store items on one page and wildflowers on the next. A generous story of love, with endpapers for those like me who crave more details.
This stunningly beautiful picture book from New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Eliza Wheeler is based on her grandmother's childhood and pays homage to a family's fortitude as they discover the meaning of home.
Eliza Wheeler's gorgeously illustrated book tells the story of what happens when six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mom must start all over again after their father has died. Deep in the woods of Wisconsin they find a tar-paper shack. It doesn't seem like much of a home, but they soon start seeing what it could be. During their first year it's a struggle to maintain the shack and make sure they have enough to eat. But each season also brings its own delights and blessings--and the children always find a way to have fun. Most importantly, the family finds immense joy in being together, surrounded by nature. And slowly, their little shack starts feeling like a true home--warm, bright, and filled up with love.
About the Author
Eliza Wheeler grew up in northern Wisconsin in a family of teachers, musicians, and artists. Some of the strongest influences on her creativity have been the wild Wisconsin seasons, canoeing the Brule River, picking blueberries with her grandmother, and digging through the snow with her brothers. She received the SCBWI Los Angeles International Conference Portfolio Award for her artwork and Miss Maple’s Seeds is her first picture book. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
* “Wheeler’s evocative fullbleed illustrations . . . draw readers completely into each page, creating a sense of personal involvement. The detailed imagery allows for the incredible efficiency of her poetic prose, which always finds the right note—striking a careful balance between melancholy and hope as the family rebuilds their life. Based on the childhood of Wheeler’s grandmother, the story feels warm without being sappy or overly nostalgic, successfully making a bygone era meaningful today.”—Booklist, starred review
* “Wheeler shares a poignant tale, based on her grandmother's childhood, of a Depression-era family's hard times. . . . Lovely ink-and-watercolor double-page spreads, in somber grays, sunlight yellow, and meadow green, evoke both the period and the family's stark poverty. . . . Delicate visual details abound, from the sparkle of evening raindrops to Mum's side-buttoned apron. Marvel's ruminative narration takes occasional poetic turns. . . . A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family's resourcefulness and resilience.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* “This tender tribute avoids sentimentality in favor of honest, child-centered observations. The illustrations . . . cleverly point out details of the family’s surroundings via labels . . . the text’s descriptions are memorably poetic. . . . Wheeler’s precise figure-drawing style captures the difficult aspects of the situation and, using numerous shades of green, brown, blue, and yellow, contrasts them against the beauty and warmth of the natural setting.”—Horn Book, starred review
“Based on the memories of Wheeler’s grandmother, the story follows six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mother. . . . The family’s ability to make do helps them survive the winter and greet the spring. . . . Wheeler’s story champions initiative, self-reliance, and familial closeness.”—Publishers Weekly
“What do families do when times get tough? They work hard and stick together! That is the main theme of this book, which was inspired by the true story of the author’s grandmother’s childhood. . . . The author/illustrator walks the reader through the seasons and shows how the family comes together not merely to survive but to thrive, all through hard work and an abundance of love. The illustrations, done in beautiful watercolors, support this tender story.”—School Library Connection
“Despite all of the hardships, this family built on love and determination not only survived but also flourished. This book will resonate with readers who enjoy reading about surviving despite adversity. . . . Beautifully written. . . . Overall, it is a marvelous story for a class read-aloud. This is an earnest, upbeat addition for any elementary or juvenile collection. Teachers can use this book to encourage children to tell their own family stories.”—School Library Journal
“The story of making an abandoned place into a home and of the pack of kids working together to create sustenance and fun has Little House on the Prairie/Little Women satisfaction. The line and watercolor art evinces Sophie Blackall’s trim, friendly precision in the figures, and they’re set in a verdant natural world of dappled light, interlacing branches, and elegant (labeled) wildflowers. . . . Appealing to youngsters, and they’ll enjoy imagining themselves putting a household together out of little and romping with a pile of siblings.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books