Thursday 23 February 2012

Picture a Tree

Barbara Reid visited Brantford Christian School today as part of their Book Fair.  As a volunteer at the book table, I got to listen in on her presentation to the students.  And what a presentation it was!  Barbara started by giving the kids some back ground on her various books including Two by Two (about Noah's Ark), The Subway Mouse (she lives on the Danforth in Toronto, just above the subway), The Party (about her two little girls going to a birthday party), The Gift (about a lady travelling the globe looking for the perfect present), Have You Seen Birds?,  Fox Walked Alone, Read Me a Book, Sing a Song of Mother Goose and Perfect Snow (her girls building a snow fort at school).

She told us that designing a picture for a book using plasticine was like making a pizza.  As a chef begins with a crust, she begins with a piece of cardboard.  Then bit by bit she adds different colours of plasticine just as a chef adds the toppings.  She explained how she used certain instruments to show texture in her pictures like the end of a paintbrush to poke holes in the moon or the tip of a pencil to make a hole in a cow's ear. 

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Barbara spent a lot of time discussing her inspiration for her newest book, Picture a Tree.  For instance, she has a dog named Ruby that she walks each day and she notices the trees as she strolls.  Here are some of her observations.  For instance, an early picture contrasts a black tree against a winter-white sky.  Another picture shows how a cloud behind a tree can make it look like it has hair.  The author features a tree-lined street that looks like an archway, using brilliant colours to form the old Toronto houses.  A busy high rise apartment building serves as the backdrop for a large tree which provides a bird's eye view of the goings-on of the tenants (the tree has a busy beehive to mimic the lady in the window who is multitasking).  "Some trees are sun umbrellas" says the caption above a busy street scene on the Danforth showing kids eating ice cream on a sweltering summer day.  Barbara shows the different generations as she contrasts an old twisted tree with a grandfather examining it and a baby tree that is just starting to sprout beside an infant in his bouncy chair  Fall foliage in full bloom is what the author calls "a wild goodbye party".  Snowcovered trees mimick children in snowsuits.  White blossoms signal spring.  The final scene shows her dog, Ruby, to whom the book is dedicated.

Photo courtesy

I rushed to Lynden Park Mall and bought the last copy of Picture a Tree in town and then had it autographed by the author.  The next time you visit a bookstore or library, pick up a Barbara Reid book.  They are amazing!

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