Perfect Picture Book Friday Visits a “Home in the Woods”

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Thinking back to my childhood, it seemed any random moment or activity reminded my parents, grandmother, or other relatives of a story from long ago. Cooking raspberries for jam brought back memories of living in Germany, during the time of Hitler.

“You don’t know how good you have it, Leslie. When I was your age, I was sent to a youth labor camp. When the berries were ripe, I was ordered to pick them but was forbidden to eat any. Tasting even one was punishable because the berries were only meant for the people who ran the camp.” 

For the first time, I truly savored a raspberry while I wondered what “punishable” meant.

A comment of having to wait in the cold snow for the school bus brought stories of the days when getting to school meant trudging through deep snow for a mile or more in itchy long underwear and itchy wool socks. My dad used to say,  “Back then, we were too busy scratching to get into any trouble.”

I keep many of these stories with me–some make me smile while others leave me grateful I live now and not then. Although to hear my relatives share their stories, it seemed like growing up without money for toys and other little luxuries gave them the gift of imagination to create their own games and fun. And this leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review of Eliza Wheeler’s beautiful book, Home in the Woods.

Title – Home in the Woods

Author – Eliza Wheeler

Illustrator – Eliza Wheeler

Published by – Nancy Paulsen Books – 2019

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – Single-parent families, Depression time

Opening – This is my family. Dad lives with the angels now, and we need to find a new home.    SUMMER    Deep in these woods, we find a shack all wrapped in tar paper. It’s hot outside, but the shack looks cold and empty, like I feel inside.

Amazon Review  HERE. 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.

Why I like this book— One of the best presents anyone can give me is a story. And if the story is from their “way back when” years, the more details they sprinkle in, to bring me into their memory, the better. This is exactly what Eliza Wheeler gives readers in her touching and beautifully-written story inspired by her grandmother’s childhood. We are taken on a tour of the abandoned tar paper shack the family moves into and shown the previous owner’s possessions: a rusty oven, a potbelly stove, empty crates, box springs, old glass jars, and rags. Despite starting over in this dark and dilapidated place, the family slowly turns the broken shack into a home filled with love. The illustrations can only be described as enchanting.

Q and A with Eliza Wheeler HERE.

Until next Friday.

22 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday Visits a “Home in the Woods”

  1. I just picked this one up from the library & now can’t wait to dig in! Thanks for sharing & for sharing your family memories. I, too, love these look-back-in-time stories, and this one seems like a real treasure.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Eliza Wheeler is so talented! I saw a blurb about this on the net last week. I am looking forward to getting a good look at the illustrations and the story, when the hold comes in. Thanks for a great tantalizing, and thought provoking, review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our elders really know how to put things into perspective, don’t they? I laughed about the itchy socks but shuddered at the youth labor camp. Such a terrible time in our history! I’ve read this book and love it. For the life of me, I don’t know how this mother made it through, though clearly, she had no other choice. Such strength!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The mom in this book had eight children and raised them alone in a little tar paper shack. As you said, I don’t know how she made it through. Next time I hear myself complain about having to load the washing machine and press a button or load the dishwasher and press a button or fill up the blender and press a button, I’ll think about this book and be grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh wow, Leslie…what a beautiful post you’ve written featuring my book! I can’t say enough how much I appreciate every word and comment. While I was trying to write this book, one of my doubts was “Will anyone else care, outside of my own family, about this little family story?”. An unexpected joy post-publication is realizing that this book brings out the reader’s family stories, or interest in learning more of their stories. I loved reading the memories of your grandmother and mother.
    Thanks to you, and to those who commented as well, for all the love for ‘Home in the Woods’.
    ~Eliza

    Liked by 1 person

    • The best gift anyone can give me is a story that transports me to another time and place, and this is what ‘Home in the Woods’ did for me. I’ve renewed your book from my library three times, which I suppose means I need to buy a copy for myself so I can have it to read whenever I please. My memories are filled with stories my parents shared from their childhoods, and I never thought to write them out as picture books to share with others. Now maybe I will. Your book is beautifully written, and the story you shared is quite meaningful. I hope you have plans to write and share other stories from your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Perfect Pairing Stays Home | Wander, Ponder, Write

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