A New Spring
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
April 15, 2023
In 2007 I was gifted the book "Hugo Cabret" written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. With extraordinary imagination, Selznick was able to fold us into his creation, weaving the story about a French train station, an orphaned boy and a mechanical automan holding the key to several mysteries. Selznick's words drew us in, but it was his simple drawings that captured us.
Who would not like the adventure of living within the walls of a great train station? Or making a friend like Isabelle who helps figure out mysteries? Or meeting one of the legendary men that created moving pictures, giving the world the first sci-fi movie ever made titled, "A Trip to the Moon." Even director Martin Scorsese was enamored by the magic Selznick created within the pages of his book, and brought the story of Hugo Cabret to the big screen for moviegoers worldwide. But first came the book.
Selznick, already having a long list of published stories both large and small, went on to tell the story of two children, born 50 years apart in "Wonderstruck." He uses words to tell the story of Ben and pictures to tell the story of Rose. Their quest is to find what they are missing and the reader is brought through the story from both a visionary and verbal viewpoint.
"The Marvels" published in 2015, is also styled with artwork and then prose highlighting two boys. Billy Marvel survives a shipwreck in 1766 and ends up living the rest of his life in the London Theater. Almost a century and a half later, Leontes Marvel seeks refuge with an uncle in London, where he searches for clues about his family history. Selznick leads the reader through a maze of years, where life touches this family with highs and lows. Knowing our roots sometimes opens us up to enlightenment and the ability to face current challenges.
This brings me to Brian Selznick's latest publication, "Big Tree" published just a few days ago on April 4. The title "Big Tree" made me think of the tall poplars outside my windows, void of any leaves through winter. After the last violent winds and snowstorms, they work silently to push their spring buds to the surface of multiple stems and branches. These trees will eventually sway in summer breezes, sounding like the ocean as air pushes past their leafy abundance. This always stirs my heart.
"Big Tree" is written as an allegory, a story that has deeper meaning and can be read in as many levels as the reaching branches, solid trunks and deep roots of trees. As I read, I am reminded that such writing creates many interpretations and responses from each individual reader, and I would be interested to know how others receive this story. It begins in a world of simplicity, where Louise and Merwin are but two of thousands of "seeds in waiting" in a pod on their mother tree. Within the first pages, it is evident that the world they are in is in danger and their adventure will be both exciting and terrifying. Mama tree sends them off with the message of "roots and wings." She explains, "If I've done my job right, you'll be brave enough and strong enough to fly through the air as if you had wings. And then you'll find a safe place to put down your roots...to grow up to be a big strong tree like me."
As any good parent, Mama tree wishes the best life for her children. To find their way and be happy. What Mama doesn't know is that Louise hears a voice calling her from unknown places. The moon? The sea? The reader is taken through prose and pictures as only Selznick can, coax eyes and hearts, giving the opportunity to see deeper and deeper into the mystery that immerse Louise and Merwin. They enter both a dangerous and wondrous world. The seedlings become part of the end and also the beginning and I found great wisdom following their journey.
In this allegory, I am reminded that all life is a gift. And that as much as society tries to pull us apart into different factions, we all hold the same spark of life inside of us. I continue to hope that we find each other. Seeds are little hopes, both real and virtual. We plant seeds every day. And as we open our hearts to one more new spring, may we seed with love.
*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.