Author Eliza Wheeler, a personal favorite picture book author/illustrator, brings love and family camaraderie to a story based on her grandmother’s life during the Depression. “Home in the Woods” is lovely and hopeful as it reveals a tale narrated by 6-year-old Marvel, who we meet at the onset, along with her seven siblings and 34-year-old mum.
After the untimely death of Marvel’s father, the family must find a new home. We meet them trudging along a dirt road leading into the woods where they discover a dilapidated structure leaning like a three-footed table.
“It’s hot outside, but the shack looks cold and empty, like I feel inside,” Marvel says — to which her mum replies, “You never know what treasures we’ll find.”
Marvel’s siblings stumble onto gifts the house and surroundings offer, a root cellar with a cistern delivering clear water, fertile ground easily turned to plant seeds they’ve brought along, verdant woods to explore and a pond with frogs to lull them to sleep.
As the seasons pass, Marvel, resistant at first, comes around. Autumn brings the bounty of summer plantings, winter finds the family enjoying stories by the fire and before Marvel knows it spring’s arrived with “the songs of happy birds (echoing) through the trees.”
“Home in the Woods” is a wonder with lavishly, detailed illustrations depicting each family member at work and play, their emotion-filled faces coming to life on pages celebrating glorious nature-filled transformations in the woods where their little house becomes a home.
This is another beauty by the talented Wheeler who gifted readers with “Miss Maple’s Seeds.”