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.