Thursday, June 7, 2012

the best kind of book

you don't need to have kids to relive the best parts of your own childhood, but it just might help. for example, i don't think i would have come across 'Andrew Henry's Meadow,' a 1965 book by the late author-illustrator Doris Burn, and the avalanche of sentiment that followed if not for having the excuse of a young book-loving daughter to buy it for.

we were on a trip in the San Juans with family and popped into Island Studios. the book's iconic green cover with hand-drawn illustration caught my eye. i opened the book and then just stood there, planted in spot, reading it cover to cover – i just couldn't help myself. i knew from page 1 that i was going to buy it (and, by the way, at $12.95 for a hardcover book of this quality? – it's still a no-brainer!).

"Doe's oldest son, Mark Nathaniel Burn, was the inspiration for her first book, Andrew Henry's Meadow (1965), the story of a boy who, ignored by his family, builds a retreat for himself in a nearby meadow. He is soon joined by other children for whom he also builds houses, tailored to their interests and hobbies. Andrew Henry's Meadow won the Washington Governor's Art Award and was a Weekly Reader book club selection. It was reissued in a 40th anniversary edition by San Juan Publishing in 2005." - Wikipedia 
something about the ink drawings demand your full attention. you want to live where Andrew Henry lives. you want to walk through those 'deep woods.' you want to see what Andrew Henry would build for you in his meadow. and then you start thinking about the imaginative worlds you cooked up yourself as a kid – when ditches were bubbling brooks, fairies hid in the cracks of trees, and scrambling over slimy rocks and dodging cow-pies took on magical power because those were the places where adult-free worlds could best be crafted.

Doris Burn lived in a cabin without electricity or running water surrounded by her children on an island without ferry service when she wrote this book. and you can't help but wonder if it helped imbue the book with that 'it' quality.

i watch my oldest daughter now as she exhibits her own imaginative qualities, knowing it's only a small peek at the pops and bursts of creativity that happen in a young brain. she'll find a friend someday with whom she can hunt for fairies. she'll ask me someday to help her build a fort among the trees where she can live (and then come in at bedtime since maybe it wasn't quite how she imagined it would be). she'll continue to get lost in books that take her places, a magical process she hasn't yet begun to analyze and dissect like her momma. for now, i'll just keep happily obliging as she gives me buttercups to hold onto 'for my wedding' and tells me stories that follow no real logic but make all the sense in the world.

p.s. ... there once was talk of a movie of 'Andrew Henry's Meadow' written by Zach and Adam Braff and to be directed by Cory Edwards but Fox turned the project down. a part of me is happy for that. do you think there's too much of a drive to turn books into movies these days? why can't we let good books just be good books? then again, it would be interesting to see how movie-makers translate Andrew Henry's meadow onto screen.

p.p.s. ... whenever we read 'Andrew Henry's Meadow' in our house, an epic adventure of fort-building ensues. stay tuned for future posts about forts. and what would you say to a little contest? who can build the best Andrew Henry-style fort? go out and get that book and have your kids start cooking up their own ideas!

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