My Forest is Green
My Forest is Green
this is my forest.
My forest is tall.
My forest is short.
My forest is fluffy.
My forest is prickly.
My forest is rough.
My forest is smooth.
My forest is wide and narrow and heavy and light.
My forest is big and small and dense and sparse.
My forest is crispy and soft.
So begins this delightful picture book written by Darren Lebeuf and illustrated by Ashley Barron. The spare text (only 147 words) describes, in a feast of adjectives, a forest area in an urban setting. The action of the story is carried in the brilliant illustrations. The illustrations provide a pictorial example of the wonderful colours described in the text, but they also show readers the young boy who leaves his mother and sister in their high-rise apartment each day to visit the forest down below. Each day, he carries a backpack with pencils, paints, a journal, and a camera to the forest where he observes nature and collects leaves, small rocks, and bits of branches. He brings these home and uses them in artworks.
As a reviewer, I wonder about the relationship between the author and illustrator. Does an author send their spare text out into the unknown hoping the illustrator will understand their vision? Does the author have a choice of illustrator? Does the author send, in the case of a very spare text, a more verbose explanation of their vision of the work? In whose vision does the boy, our main character, appear first?
Whatever the method, this partnership between Darren Lebeuf and Ashley Barron is very successful. Barron uses a mixture of media (cut-paper collage, watercolour, acrylic, and pencil crayon) to magically generate the forest outside the main character’s apartment window. Lebeuf’s spare text is deceptively simple, building momentum page by page.
The young boy explores the forest in all seasons and weathers. He is never supervised, always alone. His independence is remarkable. His home setting is also warm and welcoming. My wish would be that everyone had such a lovely place to lose oneself in nature. (I would also hope that, in this day of overprotective parents and over-programmed children, no one calls social services to complain that the mother is irresponsible.)
From my daughter with a BFA in painting: The illustrations are immaculate, flawless, stunning and add an entire additional dimension to the story.
Rebecca King, now retired, was a Library Support Specialist with the Halifax Regional School Board. She thanks her artist daughter, Elizabeth A. King, BFA, who helps her with the analysis of the illustrations.