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.
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!