Thursday, July 5, 2012

Early Summer with Elsa Beskow

It's no secret that Elsa Beskow is one of my favorite writers and illustrators of children's books. We read these two a lot last month in anticipation of flowers, shearing season, and summer!

Pelle's New Suit is a simple story about a boy who outgrows his clothes and uses wool from his sheep to make new ones.  As the story takes us through the stages of shearing, carding, spinning, dying, weaving, and sewing required to make a suit, we also follow Pelle as his displays the ingeniousness, responsibility,  independence and perseverance required to grow from a little boy (or girl) into a bigger one. 

It is also a book about reciprocity--Pelle asks for help with the steps (most of them) he cannot complete himself, and in return helps those who are helping him.  At the end of the story, Pelle stands tall in his new blue suit, and behind him stands the community that made it possible.  All great stuff, beautifully illustrated and packed into a book suitable for two and three-year-olds! (Although almost seven-year-olds have been known to linger around to listen too...)


Another one of our favorite Elsa Beskow books for summer is The Flowers' Festival.  In this book, a little girl named Lisa sits alone in the garden, wishing she could go to the Midsummer festival, when a flower fairy invites her to the flowers' Midsummer party instead.  The flower fairy makes Lisa invisible and she spends her Midsummer's eve listening to songs and stories of flowers, birds, and bees. 

Elsa Beskow  has many, many seasonal books about different children being given temporary ability to see and converse with fruit bushes, flowers, and trees, and I love each and every one for its ability to imbue children (and adults) with the life that goes on all around us.  With all her anecdotes of the relations between the vegetables and flowers, Beskow magnifies the qualities of all the plants, letting us feel the shyness of the wintergreen, or the hidden beauty of vetch.  We walk out into the world feeling like we know these flowers--not only their names (which she lists as the flowers walk out in there processions...first the meadow flowers, then the forest flowers, then the lake flowers...), but their essence.  And we love them. 

Imagination and reverence...what better way is there to begin the summer?

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