Search Results for: the tree house

the tree house/artistic duos

7938740First published in the Netherlands, The Tree House is a wordless picture book by Marije Tolman & Ronald Tolman. They’re a father and daughter duo.

The story here is what you make of it. The illustrations are out of this world. Gorgeous and mesmerizing. A polar bear arrives at a tree house in the sea. Then a brown bear comes along. While they’re reading, water makes way for land and air and a ginormous flock of flamingoes shows up. The whole world looks pink. More animals follow. It’s like a grand and colorful wildlife huzzah. Until the two bears are left alone again. Content with the changing of the seasons.





“We were trying to search for a space, realistic feel, and freedom so that the story would speak for itself, so that readers could make their own stories. We didn’t want to force people to think a certain way.” 

—Marije Tolman in this article

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What I bring to the book, what strikes me as something true about it, is the relationship between the white and brown bears. They’re the constant. They have their big party, their community, but in the end they have each other. Still. And always, at least it seems to me.  It makes me think of my marriage. Other relationships, whether romantic or familial or bonds of friends. Any one that sticks, that lasts, that sustains.

526-1489-image-1Ronald Tolman‘s artwork clearly influences the book. So does daughter Marije Tolman‘s. (I need to explore more of both, particularly the latter’s other picture books.)

So here we have two partnerships. The bears in the book and the father and daughter who created it. Ronald, the etchings and Marije, the illustrations.

And this gets me thinking about other artistic partnerships. How some people pass on creativity to their kin. Some find someone to share it with.

So here are some creative duos that come to mind for me. It’s only a sampling of course, so do add more to the comments!


FATHER/DAUGHTER, like the duo behind The Tree House picture book:


Rashida Jones, Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones and Rashida Jones (image credit: Huffpost). Rashida on music here: ” I have a lot of reverence-slash-fear about music because obviously I have a living legend as my father. Music breaks my heart constantly.”







Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda (image credit: In this photo, Jane delivers her father’s Academy Award in 1982. Jane’s quotes on life here.




Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola (image credit: pure people). Filmmaker begets filmmaker. “My dad was always very charismatic and exciting and doing interesting things and having people over and blasting opera and cooking, and so I have good memories. We did not have a boring childhood,” says Sofia here.



© Copyright 2005 Corbis Corporation

Serge Gainsbourg and Charlotte Gainsbourg (image credit: How cool are they? This Vanity Fair article and interview with Charlotte delves into her father and family’s life. I like this random quote from Serge: “I prefer ugliness to beauty, because ugliness endures.”




Bruce Dern and Laura Dern (image via In 1990, Laura said here: “For the last few years, Dad has been one of my closest friends.” (Also, I’m sad Enlightened was canceled.)




Erin Stead and Philip Stead  co-created the Caldecott-winning picture book, A Sick Day For Amos McGee. (And they made this book together too!) Image from Nicole Haley Photography and her beautiful blog post on these two.




Spike Lee may not be most famous for this, but he and wife Tonya Lewis Lee  wrote the fabulous picture book, Giant Steps to Change the World together.  (image via USA Today by Jennifer Altman.)




Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan (image via Murder Ballad Monday). Waits, here: “I’m the prospector, she’s the cook. She says, ‘you bring it home, I’ll cook it up.’ I think we sharpen each other like knives.”



Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash (image via Nikki Miller-Rose reports here: “The well-known song “Ring of Fire” was co-written by June in 1963, and for many is synonymous with their early attraction to one another. But “Flesh and Blood,” a 1970 single featured in the Gregory Peck film I Walk the Line, is a lesser known (and very sweet) song Johnny Cash wrote about his love for June.”



Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf (image via Smith College Libraries). Oh, Virginia and Leonard. Have you read the heart-breaking suicide note Virginia left him?


(And remember my previous post about a Virginia-inspired picture book?)


Couple Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel  make quirky films with little speaking and lots of movement like one of my favorites, L’iceberg. They call themselves a “burlesque duo.” (image via Filmtage.)


Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (image via Qualia Folk). “They… agreed that a life worth living should include plenty of food, the company of artists and writers, and a general refusal to do the things that did not please them…” and, from the same piece, this makes me smile: “They scattered love notes to one another around their house, signed DD and YD (Dear Dear and Your Dear.)”



Ray Eames and Charles Eames (image via Herman Miller). I daydream about their lounge chair to read in.


Christo & Jeanne-Claude At Home

Co-artists, Christo and Jeanne Claude (image via The Wrapped Trees is just one of the intriguing projects from the partnership.

Do you have a creative favorite father/daughter pair or romantic couple I missed? Do tell in the comments!

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ellington was not a street

ellington-was-not-a-streetEllington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2004).


The words of this book are taken from Ntozake Shange‘s 1983 poem, “Mood Indigo.” And that title is taken from Duke Ellington’s famous song. In the same way, this picture book circles back to the past and brings it forward again.


Which leads us to its title: Ellington Was Not a Street. Ellington was Duke Ellington of course. And Duke Ellington was one of the many influential men who gathered at Shange’s house when she was a child.




The art in this book is by Kadir Nelson, who is a painter’s painter, a master of beautiful realism that draws you in. No matter what’s pictured, it’s the little girl in the blue dress we look for. Her stance. The look on her face. The way she is an observer as well as a part of something bigger.

(By the way, did you guys know Kadir Nelson created Michael Jackson’s posthumously released album cover??)



“it hasnt always been this way/

ellington was not a street”


This book takes us back in time. Back to when the great men of Shange’s childhood weren’t mere remembrances, but were living, breathing, creating, pioneering people. Right in her home as a little girl. I can only imagine the impact such a childhood must’ve had on her. Listening around a corner to conversations about race and struggle. Meeting Dizzy Gillespie at the door.




“du bois walked up my father’s stairs”

“hummed some tune over me sleeping in the company of men

who changed the world”




“politics as necessary as collards/

music even in our dreams”


There is a tinge of sadness to this book because the writer is looking back to a more vital time. She’s asking us to remember, to travel back with her. And Nelson’s illustrations transport us.



I put this book in my “older set” section because there is, of course, a history lesson here. And the glossary at the back with details of the men depicted would be a wonderful starting point to a study of African American history, music, jazz, or civil rights.




There he is at the end of the book, Duke Ellington himself, echoed by the girl on the cover holding his record, her gaze saying, “Come, listen.”












All images from Kadir Nelson’s website

the gumdrop tree + gumdrops are fabulous

thegumdroptreepicturebookThe Gumdrop Tree by Elizabeth Spurr, illustrated by Julia Gorton (1994).


The Gumdrop Tree is told from the first person, so we’re getting this little polka dot girl’s point of view.  She tells the story. And that’s important.







 click image(s) to enlarge.

It’s the story of how her father gave her gumdrops and they looked so sweet and sparkly that she couldn’t eat them. “Because then they would be all gone.”




So she planted the gumdrops in the garden. She’d once planted a peach tree from a seed, so why not a gumdrop tree? Right?!



There’s something so straightforward about this book despite an element of wonder. That there aren’t any contractions is just one example of its straightforwardness. But it’s everything—the language, the story, the airbrush illustrations. It reminds me of a fairy tale that way.

thegumdroptreeIt’s especially fairy tale-like when the girl tells us her gumdrop tree was finally in bloom, with sparkly and sugary candies!



Those gumdrops, the ones she’d grown (wink, wink), she ate. All of them, every single color until they were gone.


And then you’re left with this last wordless page. And it makes you wonder, “What are those strings about?” and “Who could’ve tied those gumdrops to the branches?” Personally, I’d look to the guy in the white sailor hat and his wife, but I’m not the final word on the subject.

As a bonus, illustrator Julie Gorton provided us with this photo of her daughter dressed as The Gumdrop Tree Girl for Halloween in 1995. Handmade costume and rag doll to go with it!  Amazing!

ivy gum drop

My favorite part is her Doc Martens!


Just looking at gumdrops makes me happy. I mean, remember playing CANDYLAND?


And look at those gumdrop people Restless Risa created!!! The gumdrop shoes! The half-gumdrop cap sleeves! I could gaze on these for a very long time and be perfectly content. Glad as a gumdrop even.


There’s a whole gumdrop forest over at Lindsay Ann Bakes. (And there really are gumdrop mushrooms in the wild—they’re gorgeous.)


Artists Pip & Pop made this piece, ‘Bing Bong, Big Bang” in 2011 and it’s made of all sorts of confection wonderfulness (and other stuff).


The most psychedelic candy I’ve ever seen and I love the shapes and colors. Sugar is a staple in all of Pip & Pop’s work.


For the science minded, there’s The Homeschool Scientist‘s gumdrop engineering structure to try.


Or, the chemical elements gone gumdrop at Elaine Vickers‘s blog.

five picture books about trees + cherry blossom tree crafts

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It’s April. It’s spring! It’s Earth Month. Let’s talk about naturey picture books!

Let’s talk about an array of them featuring TREES to start.


weplantedatreeWe Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow, illustrated by Bob Staake.


One family plants a tree. And so does the other. A tribute to the good things trees do for everybody, across the world.

And I love the dedication to Wangari Maathai, aka Mama Miti.



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thetreeladyThe Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry.




A biobook of Kate Sessions who grew up in the 1860s, when most girls didn’t study science. But Kate did.





Kate was distinct. Kate did a lot of surprising things. One special one was planting trees in San Diego when it was dusty brown. That’s how she became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.


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image via Art Julz 




jack-pine-picture-bookJack Pine by Christopher Patton, illustrations by Cybele Young.


“Come meet Jack Pine. You’ll never see,

with luck, a tree less lovely than—

a tree more bent, more squat, more grim

more weird and ugly than—Jack Pine.”





This one opens with an invitation. It’s full of poem and collaged drawings. It guides us to Jack Pine’s true purpose.


JackPine_sspread_img2image via House of Anansi 



househeldupbytreesHouse Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Just thinking about the beauty of this book can bring tears. A house. A lawn. A boy and girl and their father. Wild trees on either side of their shadeless, seedless plot.


Until the house and lawn are left alone.




Hypnotic. Quiet. Beautiful. Magical. Magical trees.


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 image via Gallery Nucleus




atreeisniceA Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, pictures by Marc Simont.


Indeed, a tree is nice, isn’t it? Good for so many things. So many simple, old-fashioned, useful things (e.g. climbing, swinging, napping, filling up the sky).








image via Turtle and Robot



Your turn! Favorite tree-related books to share? 



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Now for the tree crafts. And cherry blossoms in particular because they’re so iconic of spring (and because I’m longing to visit Japan!).


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Black paint, a straw, and pink tissue paper make a 3D cherry blossom tree from Meet the Dubiens.


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These cherry blossom cupcakes by The Baking Sheet!



Amazing, intricate paper kit by Terada Mokei.





This origami cherry blossom ball would be quite a project!


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Did I save the best for last? Incredible (no longer edible) painted marshmallows using markers and food coloring pens from The Decorated Cookie. Squishy, gorgeous, so much fun.



my 10 favorite contemporary classic picture books

picturebooklifeHeather from Tiny Readers asked me for my 10 favorite picture books (and created that cool image), so here goes! She’s going to feature this on her super inspiring instagram feed, which I hope you’ll check out and follow!

It was a (fun!) doozy choosing! I agonized for days over my choices. I had to narrow it down, so these are all published in the last 15 years. (Stay tuned for a classics edition!)

They are books I have a strong emotional reaction to. They are extraordinary in one way or another (or several all at once). They reflect my own personal tastes and obsessions, but they also feel to me like contemporary classics. They are books that have beauty as well as meaning and heart. They are books that will last and are rich when returned to.

Here goes in no particular order (with apologies to all the wonderful and dear-to-me books I’ve left out):

the-red-treeThe Red Tree by Shaun Tan is one of my biggest influences as a writer and Tan is my very favorite creator of the form. This picture book moves me deeply each time I read it. It’s for anyone who feels like they’ve lost their way. It is sad and strange and inventive and full of hope.










Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault combines the real sisters Virginia and Vanessa with an imagined case of the doldrums and the wolfish mood it can (don’t we know it!) create. It’s through art, through a whimsical place Vanessa envisions called Bloomsbury that turns Virginia from wolf to girl, from gloom to glad again. Plus, Isabelle Arsenault.









Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers is most certainly a contemporary classic. And for good reason! Jeffers has been incredibly influential to current picture book fare. And this, one of his first, has so much charm and playfulness and an irresistible duo on that umbrella-boat.






Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, pictures by Christian Robinson. This is a picture book for the older set about the tough, inspiring, dazzling life of Josephine Baker. It lengthens traditional picture book form in order to tell a fuller story from start to finish and has colorful, vibrant, practically move-on-the-page illustrations to make you really stop and look.








Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is by two creators/collaborators at the top of their game. I love the illustrations, the sweaters, the whimsy, the knitter at the center of this fairy tale. But what I love most is the surprise twist and the ending. Oh yes.








Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman & Valerio Vidali is exquisitely illustrated. It’s based on the true and troubling account of Europeans in the 1800s trying to “civilize” someone who had his own civilization he preferred to return to.









The Tree House by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman (a father and daughter) is breathtaking and original. It shows off what a wordless picture book can do. It’s about companionship: the wild huzzahs of a party with flamingoes and the calm, content days spent reading in one another’s company.







Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty, pictures by David Roberts is another incredible collaboration. Wonderful, fun-loving, masterful rhyme. Rich visual details. So much stuff to notice. And at its heart, a talented, solitary woman with a lot of hats and heart to share.













The Lion and the Bird is by Marianne Dubuc, extraordinary author/illustrator. And the pair of characters she’s created is endearing and enduring, the friendship they’ve found as rare as the beauty of this spare and perfectly crafted book. Just look at their matching pink cheeks!







Finally, Swan by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad, a very recent pick. Julie Morstad has illustrated many very special picture books (This is Sadie, How To) and this one is so gorgeous as to make me weep. Same goes for Snyder’s poetic text that so beautifully conveys the yearning, the passion, the calling of dance and doesn’t shy away from that final scene.








Thanks for the opportunity to highlight some of my very favorite books, Heather! Here’s some more about Heather and Tiny Readers:

Heather Hawkins is a Dallas-based photographer, mother of two and a children’s book enthusiast. Recently she started a project called Tiny Readers which aims to share children’s book reviews as well as feature contributing opinions from other parents, in order to bring awareness to childhood literacy and the benefits of reading. You can check out Tiny Readers on instagram here!