Monday, March 5, 2012

Brambly Hedge!

There are three writer-illustrators of surpassing sweetness and loveliness that Jim and I have been a little obsessed with lately, in a get-everything-they've-done-for-Clementine's-collection kind of way, and I'll post about them all, but first, Brambly Hedge. This one's my obsession. Jim I think *likes* them but certainly doesn't swoon like I do or wish to be a mouse living in one of these little homes. I guess it's a girl thing :-)


Do you know Brambly Hedge?




They are the dearest books, from the 1980s-90s by British author/illustrator Jill Barklem, about a community of mice living sweetly and cozily in the trees and stumps of "Brambly Hedge," a fully realized little niche of the natural world, a kind of coziness paradise of tiny quilts and cakes and charming friends and neighbors. Domestic bliss at mouse-scale. I just adore them. I came across the mini-versions of a few of them in the '90s and bought them for myself, but never really looked further.






They're fairly text-heavy for a small child, but I thought I'd try them out on Clementine anyway, who you could say has been in training for this since the day she was born :-) and I was so delighted that she was delighted with them! I immediately went online and sought out all the rest and purchased them from various dealers as they are mostly out of print (though not expensive). There are eight books that I know of, not including the compendium versions, one of which I purchased even though I already had all the stories because the compendiums are bigger and you can see the exquisite art in better detail.

The art! You guys! The stories are wonderful too, but the art! The cut-aways of the little tree homes make my heart sing. I don't know why. I've always loved tiny things and I have always loved cut-away illustrations, and pictures with tons of tiny details, and these might have been made just for me.

Look!



That's the abandoned cottage that Dusty and Mr. Apple decide to spiff up for Poppy as a surprise in Poppy's Babies, the last book of the series. Here it is pre-spiff.

This (poor quality scan) is a detailed cut-away of the Old Oak Palace in The Secret Staircase, in which Wilbur and Primrose find ... a secret staircase! (When do *I* get to find a secret staircase? Humph.)




Below, a stranger's arm in a photo pilfered from the internets.
Four of the eight books are season-specific (Spring Story, Winter Story etc; this must be spring.)




And ... winter. They tunnel under the snow to connect all their doors!


Besides cut-aways, one of the best things about the art are the well-stocked little mousie pantries.
To die for.




All the baking and busy-ness.






They even have a flour mill and dairy mill (rendered in detail), and a store stump which these industrious rodents fill up with provisions for winter. 




And the highest ceilings, the tallest cabinets, the canopy beds. There's even a sailboat. Sigh.




There's a small cast of characters to know and love. There's a wedding, some births, plenty of adventures, lots of meals and parties. There's not a high level of conflict or danger. There aren't lurking snakes or swooping hawks or any of that. It's just sweetness.






Look at this bedroom. Want.




Know them? Love them? Check them out?

:-)



(The two other author-illustrators we're obsessed with, by the way,
are Holly Hobbie and Gyo Fujikawa!)






More on them later!



30 comments:

Essjay said...

I've inherited some beautiful Brambly Hedge cups and saucers and used to have the books too when I was little. I must try and get a copy of that compendium, I'd forgotten have sweet they are. Thanks for this!

bette said...

I had them for my children - they were absolute favourites. Still are, although they are way to cool to admit it ...

tone almhjell said...

Oh, how gorgeous! You know how I feel about mice :)

The thing about detailed cut-aways like that is they inspire you to make up your own story in those settings. You can have the page up and maybe a little paper mouse or doll or a figurine and move from room to room, or raid the pantries, or sneak up and down the staircase. And then it's not an illustration anymore, but a GAME. The very best sort, too.

I remember I had a book with a spread of an underwater village. I've lived in everyone of those houses. My favourite was the sea urchin shell with many-paned windows.

ryan graudin said...

These really are gorgeous illustrations. They remind me in a way of Mouse Guard by David Petersen (which does have snakes and swooping hawks and the like!). Or Redwall.

Kristan Hoffman said...

These seem vaguely familiar... I probably had at least one of these books as a child.

"There's a small cast of characters to know and love. There's a wedding, some births, plenty of adventures, lots of meals and parties. There's not a high level of conflict or danger. There aren't lurking snakes or swooping hawks or any of that. It's just sweetness."

:)

As much as I love action and drama, I think the world could use more of that.

megwrites said...

So happy to see these books getting some love! I loooved them as a kid and now my kids love them (and my love is still going strong!). My very favorite is the Winter Story. I always wanted to build an underground snow palace like that!

tone almhjell said...

Ryan: I love Mouse Guard, too. I don't know what Cinderella was thinking. Mice over snoots at the ball anyday.

Connie Onnie said...

I always loved looking at picture books with lots of details especially houses you could explore. They are lovely and make the little girl in me want to watch The Secret of NIMH.

Tinker said...

LOVE the Brambly Hedge books. We had a couple of them for my younger daughter. I think I may have loved them even more than she did ;). Can hardly wait till her daughter's old enough for them (at 16 months, she's still pretty much in the board books phase).
*Hoping I can post a comment - have had blogger commenting issues for a few weeks.

Stephanie Perkins said...

I AM OBSESSED WITH BRAMBLY HEDGE. The pantries and staircases! Yes!!!

Love, love, love. :-)

Stephanie Perkins said...

By the way, have we talked about Barbara McClintock before? She does detail-oriented illustrations like this, too. I especially love her Versailles inspired Cinderella and her Parisian Adèle & Simon. SO MANY PRETTY DETAILS. She even did one strange little book with Francesca Lia Block!

Era said...

Oh my gosh, I just love Brambly Hedge! I have so many great memories of my mom reading these books to me when I was little, and afterward I'd fill pages of sketchbooks drawing immitation cut-away mouse houses. xD I was so frustrated that I could never think of enough interesting things to crowd my mouse rooms with.

Anonymous said...

Your mention of wanting to find a secret staircase reminds me of the best Christmas present EVER. (Not my present, just one I heard about.)

A co-worker of mine had 2 daughters in the 4-6 age range, and a 6 month old son. The girls shared a room in which there was an unused door in a wall. The door was so ugly, it was covered up with a nice curtain.

Behind the ugly door was actually a walk-in closet full of junk from the previous owner of the house. For Christmas one year, my co-worker and her husband would sneak in after their daughters had gone to bed, and clear out the junk, and re-decorate as a magic fairy tea party kind of room. On Christmas morning, they were going to say "What's behind the curtain?" and have their daughters discover the magic fairy room that had suddenly appeared next to their bedroom!

I was so amazed at such a wonderful Christmas gift for her daughters, that I excitedly asked my co-worker "And what are you getting your son for Christmas?" She looked at me and said: "A ball."

Stephanie said...

Yea! My 4 girls (now ages 9-18) heard and read the Brambly Hedge stories again and again! We have many books on our shelves along the same line of sweet stories with detailed illustrations. Here are a few (maybe some you haven't discovered yet?) favorites that you might enjoy sharing with Clementine... Town Mouse House- Nigel Brooks & Abigail Horner, Thimbleberry Stories- Cynthia Rylant, Hamlet and the Tales of Sniggery Wood- Maggie Kneen, The Purple Ribbon- Sharelle Byars Moranville, Pelle's New Suit, Woody Hazel and Little Pip, Children of the Forest and Peter in Blueberry Land- Elsa Beskow, Big Susan- Elizabeth Orton Jones, The Shirley Hughes Collection- Shirley Hughes, The Adventures of Hamtaro (series of 3)- Ritsuko Kawai, A World of Flower Fairies- Cicely Mary Barker, The Story of the Root Children- Sibylle von Olfers, Everything by Hayao Miyazaki both in print and dvd! I hope you and Clementine enjoy a few of these as much as we have :) Happy Reading!

Faith Pray said...

Ha! Our littles love the Brambly Hedge stories, but only have two of them. I'm excited to hunt these down. Thank you for sharing your treasures!

Kate said...

I never new mice were so sophisticated! :) So cute! I'll have to hunt these down. :)

Rhian said...

Yay for Brambly love - my childhood was a Brambly Hedge fest, with lots of Hollie Hobbie too. I'm so glad to hear that 'modern' little girls (& their mamas) are enjoying them too.

Lauren said...

Brambly Hedge!!! Ooh how beautiful...My babies are grown but I am going to get the books nonetheless. Thanks, Laini!

Amber said...

Dearest Laini, have you seen this?
http://www.amazon.com/Brambly-Hedge-Pattern-Book-Dolman/dp/0399211942/ref=pd_rhf_se_shvl2
The mice are just adorable.

anne said...

Brambly Hedge is great fun -- I also love the cut-aways, and all the details, the tiny pantries :)
Vaguely reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, without actually being like it, in some ways..glad little Pie is enjoying them w/you!

Dawn said...

The "All the baking and busy-ness" illstration brings to mind a Taylor household at Christmas. :)

Loved these...

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Irene said...

Pretty!

Satnam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emma said...

I love these books! I used to spend hours looking at them as a child, and my mother and I would draw our own houses. For a long time, I truly believed that mice lived in trees and stumps and would leave them offerings.

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Brynn said...

I read these books when I was in elementary school, and while I could still visually conjure up the illustrations, I didn't know the titles or author and thought I would never again discover them. Thank you so much for doing a post about their magic, I can't wait to get my hands on them again!

Tessa~ Here there be musing said...

I love it! That you, the author of a favorite "very-not-cozy" set of books ("Karou"), also appreciates "Brambly Hedge" kind of books.

'Tis the time for "BH", with Autumn knocking on our doors. :-)

Tessa~

Youth said...

Beautiful illustrations

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