Rooting For Weeds

weeds-find-a-way-9781442412606_hrWhen I wrote about Mary Petersen’s art for the book, DIG IN, by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, a commenter mentioned another book by Cindy, WEEDS FIND A WAY, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher. A picture book that celebrates weeds? How curious! I grew up with a mother and grandmothers with green thumbs, and so, probably like most adult readers approaching this book, I was already coming in with negative associations I had picked up along the way about weeds. The text on the front flap reads, “Love them or loathe them, weeds are here to stay, finding their way into cracks and crevices, fields and flower beds, and maybe–just maybe–into your heart, too.”

The story’s words and art invite you in, and ask you to simply observe.
“Weeds find a way to live where other plants can’t grow.”

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Look closer, get curious. Doubt and skepticism begins to be soothed. Cindy’s poetic prose creates a little crack in the reader’s heart, where the unique and sensory words take root and open up. By the middle of the book, one can’t help but wonder and appreciate the intelligence and tenacity of weeds. Sometimes they are harsh and hurtful;
“Weeds find a way to fight, hooking tender skin with horny thorns, stinging unsuspecting tongues with invisible prickles, and surprising hungry insects with sap so tart, it could turn a tongue inside out.”

and at other times they are sweet and beautiful:
“Weeds find a way to be loved, sending up flares of riotous red, flags of green, umbrellas of the finest white lace, making a place sing with bees and birds, exhaling breath as sweet as sleep.”

This close look reveals nature’s ability to adapt, evolve, survive, and thrive. By the end, you can’t help but root for these little fighters!

Carolyn Fisher’s painterly collage artwork is a perfect pairing for this text — it zooms in and out and all around, showing many angles and viewpoints in a way which beautifully visualizes the journey the story takes. The book ends with a wonderful author’s note “Meet The Weeds”, with more detailed information about what weeds are and how they function, and introduces the reader to a range of different weed plants.

What I loved the most about this book was that it broke down my inherited judgments, and replaced them with curiosity, wonder, and admiration.

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Eliza Wheeler

Eliza Wheeler is the author-illustrator of MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS (Penguin), which debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list. She also illustrated Holly Black’s Newbery Honor winning novel DOLL BONES (Simon & Schuster), Pat Zietlow Miller’s picture book WHEREVER YOU GO (Little Brown), Mara Rockliff’s picture book THE GRUDGE KEEPER (Peachtree), and Tricia Springstubb’s new middle grade series CODY (Candlewick). Eliza received the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Grand Prize Award for best portfolio at the 2011 SCBWI National Conference. Eliza is a northern Wisconsin native currently living with her husband in Los Angeles, California. See her work at www.wheelerstudio.com

31 Comments:

  1. Beautiful words! Thanks for sharing!

  2. A fresh new idea wins every time! I going out to search for me fresh new weed idea!

  3. I love this book! Who knew you could make weeds beautiful, but this book does. . . .

  4. Just goes to show you good writers can write on any subject. True artistry!

  5. This is beautiful on so many levels. The art, language, and info do pull you in.

  6. What a wonderful idea for a book. Maybe now I can quit pulling weeds and just enjoy them!

  7. What a lovely concept! Congrats!

  8. Especially lovely because most kids don’t need to distinguish between a weed and a cultivated plant or flower. It is green and grows, thus it is beautiful!

  9. Oh, my! What a gorgeous book! I can picture teachers reading and discussing this in their classrooms.

  10. I think I need to read this so I can have a better attitude when I’m weeding in the garden. It looks lovely!

  11. This is one of my very favorite books, Eliza. The words are lush and lyrical, and the art suits them perfectly! And the 3rd quote you included is my very favorite from the book! Thanks for sharing it!

  12. Thank you for sharing. I garden and find it hard to pull weeds, sometimes. They work so hard to live and thrive.

  13. I love this book! Thank you for sharing it with others.

  14. Love this one! Every time I pull weeds in my yard, I say to myself, “Weeds find a way!” Thanks for sharing.

  15. Thank you for sharing this beautiful book. I love the words! The pictures are absolutely breathtaking. Even though I’m always busy pulling weeds during the summer, it relaxes me as I enjoy contributing to the growth of the flowers and vegetables that I plant. Weeds are amazing when you see them grow in the tiny cracks of rocks. I wish my plantings would do the same.

    • That’s so sweet to hear Dorothy — it sounds like you have found a way to appreciate weeds as a gardener! I hope to have a garden someday, and have the same attitude that you (and this book) do.

  16. Looks like a lovely book. It certainly puts a different spin on weeds. I think I’ll pick some and make a bouquet! 😉

  17. Love the lyrical language! Will have to see this one. 🙂 Thanks, Eliza.

  18. The colors in these illustrations are so brilliant. They are amazing.

  19. Thank you SO much to everyone for reading and commenting!

  20. Great recommendation, Eliza! Thanks!!!!

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