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> Tree Hugger, picture book, 6 to 8 year olds
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Posted: 26-Nov-2005, 09:53 PM
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This is a story that is intended to be a large-format picture book for 6 to 8 year olds. It is formatted the way it is supposed to be for submission. (The author's descriptions of the pictures for the artist are included in italics). I wrote it 2 summers ago as an exercise for a class in children's literature. After this discussions we have been having lately on spirituality in other places on the boards, I think that it has some subtle "old religion" elements to it, in the person of the aunt -- who is more than a little like me. smile.gif The thing is coming along, but it has a deep proportion problem I would love some feedback about. The old historical conflict (between the child's new aunt and her father) does not have enough breadth or depth, or enough energy in the resolution. The main problem is that the picture book format has severe constraints as to length, and this one is about as much as the market will bear. I can cut some of the other homely detail, especially the development of the relationship between the child and her newly discovered "magical" aunt, but I hate to. I can ditch the picturebook format and just make it a story with occasional illustrations instead, but I'm afraid I love the weaving of the message in words and pictures too much now to give it up easily. You'll see what I mean about the conflict not having enough weight, so the resolution is too "easy".
Please let me know what you think.

Tree Hugger

p. 1 text There was company coming for the weekend, someone Mandy had never met. Mom told her that the lady was grandma?s younger sister, and that meant she was Mandy?s ?great aunt.? She was an artist, and she had been living in Australia since Mandy was a tiny baby. Now she had come home to Vermont to stay, and she had bought a small farm about twenty miles away.

p.2 text They looked at Australia on the map in Mandy?s geography book. Mom said that was the part of the world where December is the middle of summer. It sounded strange and exciting.

p. 1-2 graphic spread. From left, spreading over into right: Mother and Mandy sitting at kitchen table with the book open in front of them. Mother (left) is talking; Mandy, seven years old, (right) is looking at the book, with her chin in her hands. Upper right corner: map of Australia in a blue sea, above Mandy?s head, as if she is visualizing it.

p. 3 text. When Mom said Mandy could call her ?Aunt Amethyst,? Daddy made a funny sound and looked over at Mom with his eyebrow raised.

?Amethyst, is it?? he said.

?Well,? said mom, ?you know that?s what she?s called herself for twenty years.?

Daddy turned away, shaking his head, and went back to bringing in the groceries from the car.

p. 3 graphic. Mother and father are looking at each other. Mother is speaking. Close up enough to see both facial expressions and read them.

p. 4 text. Mandy went out to help him. The sun was just setting and it was chilly in the shadows of the big maple trees beside the house. Most of the big red and yellow leaves had fallen, and the ground was covered with great heaps of them that Daddy raked and Mandy jumped in when he pretended he wasn?t looking. There were still hundreds and hundreds of the winged maple seeds Mom called ?nosies.? She picked one up and peeled it back, and stuck it first on the end of her finger, and then on her nose.

p. 4 graphic. Outside the house, next to the driveway. Trees and shadows, just as described. Mandy has a maple ?nosie? on her nose. She is knee deep in leaves and talking to her father; they are smiling.

p. 5 text. Daddy handed Mandy a grocery bag and she moved toward the door, peeking into the top of the crumpled brown sack. Cans, mostly, probably vegetables. But there were still some bags in the car, and one of them had to contain big jars of the snack Daddy and Mandy both loved: APPLESAUCE! She carried her bag into the house and plopped it on the kitchen table, where mom was putting all the food away.

p. 5 graphic. In the kitchen . Mandy is putting a bag on the table; mother is stretching up, putting away things in cupboard.

p. 6 text. ?Where?s the applesauce?? she asked.

?Oh, it?s here somewhere, Mandykins. I?m sure Daddy didn?t forget it.?

She turned to Mandy, and then she sang out, ?Nosie, you?ve got a nosie!? They both laughed, and Mandy forgot about the applesauce.

p. 6 graphic. Mother and Mandy close up, face to face ? really laughing hard (squinted eyes, open mouths). Mandy?s ?nosie? is still on.

p. 7 text. After supper Mandy brought out her books and did her homework. At last even the arithmetic was finished, and Daddy checked it and said with a proud smile that all the problems were correct. She hugged him quickly, and then she opened her geography book again to look at the map of Australia, and the pictures of the people and animals there.

p. 7 graphic. Close up of map of Australia, with koalas, kangaroos and aborigines.

p. 8 text. ?Mom?? said Mandy. ?Does Aunt Amethyst look like these people??

?No,? said mom, ?she?s just like grandma, except younger.?

Daddy, sitting in his big chair, snorted from behind his newspaper. ?Your mother wouldn?t appreciate hearing that, my dear!? he said to Mom. ?Don?t tell her she?s just like her sister Annabeth the tree hugger!?

p. 8 graphic. Father in his chair, looking out from behind newspaper, with amused but critical expression on his face.

p. 9 text. ?Tree hugger?? said Mandy, surprised. ?What?s that??

?Her name is Amethyst, and you shouldn?t say things like that about her,? said mom firmly, glancing at Mandy. ?Mandykins, she?s coming early in the morning. It?s time you went to bed, so you?ll be all fresh to meet her when she gets here.?

p. 9 graphic. Close up to Mandy?s face. She is surprised and puzzled.

p. 10 text. Mandy climbed slowly up the stairs to her room, wondering. A tree hugger? She tried to imagine someone just like grandma, except younger, with her soft, round arms wrapped part way around one of their big maple trees.

p. 10 graphic. Mandy climbing stairs. Thoughts in upper right: grandma trying to hug a big maple tree.

p. 11 text. Mandy woke up to hear a big, wide laugh in the kitchen that definitely didn?t belong to Mom or Daddy. She tumbled out of bed and into her blue robe and furry slippers, and down the stairs she flew.

?Is she here? Is it Aunt Am? oh!!?

The big laugh stretched into peals of mirth. ?It?s baby Amanda! A baby no more! Come and let me look at you!?

p. 11 graphic. Left, close up, Mandy in robe and slippers running down stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the front door of the house opens. Right, distance, the three adults are standing there.

p. 12 text. And the tall woman swept her into a warm hug, then held her at arm?s length and studied her with large, deep brown eyes that glowed behind small clear glasses.

?Amethyst,? she said. ?Amanda, my name is Amethyst. Just Amethyst.?

p. 12 graphic. Medium close up of two faces, aunt looking down into Mandy?s face.

p. 13 text. Mandy looked and looked at her: at her strange clothes, her red cheeks and her long gray hair that was coiled in a thick braid around her head. Amethyst wore a long skirt made out of blue jean cloth with designs in red and blue and green sewn all around the hem, and a long, loose green sweater with a deep hood and silver buttons down the front. She had on tall brown boots, and a long tweedy wrap of many shades of green, brown and gold was wound about her shoulders. Around her neck was a beautiful purple stone on a silver string. At her feet was a wicker basket of big, round, deep red apples, and on top of the apples lay a wide-brimmed hat made of leather with a braided leather band around the crown.

p. 13 graphic. Portrait of aunt in doorway, full length, as described. A tall woman in her early 50s, with old-fashioned rimless glasses.

p. 14 text. ?Oh, Amethyst,? Mandy?s mother was laughing, ?you shouldn?t have brought all these apples! We have so much food already here!?

Amethyst laughed again, the wide, happy laugh that filled up the whole house. ?I?ve got a big Winesap on the new farm, the biggest old apple tree you ever saw. It?s still covered with these beauties. Last of the crop! Of course I?ve brought you some.?

Daddy was standing behind her, politely, but with that strange little smile on his face again. Mom caught his eye and gave him a warning look. Mandy saw it, and wondered again: what was a tree hugger? And whatever it was, why did Daddy think it was so silly?

p. 14 graphic. Three adults, half-length, positioned as described. Aunt is smiling and talking; Mother faces aunt smiling; father is behind aunt with eyebrow cocked.

p. 15 text. But Amethyst?s warm voice filled Mandy with a feeling like a big, deep breath of air, and she forgot about Daddy?s look. She couldn?t take her eyes off this tall, laughing woman. She wanted to walk all over the yard and up the road scuffing in the fallen leaves and sticking on nosies with this new member of the family ? not really new, because she was grandma?s younger sister, but so strange and so beautiful! And more than anything, Mandy wanted this new aunt to call her Amanda because no one else did, and when Amethyst spoke her name, it sounded like music.

p. 16 text. Mandy helped Amethyst carry her things up to the guest bedroom, and before another ten minutes had passed, they had a sack full of sandwiches and they were walking all over the yard and up the road, scuffing in the fallen leaves and sticking on nosies, and talking about fine points of art, arithmetic, Australia, and applesauce.

p. 15-16 graphic spread. Mandy and aunt, on road in distance, both kicking leaves. Picture is mostly beautiful fall landscape.

p. 17 text. When they finally came trooping back in, trailing a few red and gold leaves into the kitchen, Mom met them looking a little sad.

?Oh, Mandy,? she said. ?I?m sorry, but Daddy did forget to buy the applesauce. But we have so many other things to eat for dinner. Won?t it be all right anyway??

Mandy?s face fell, but she didn?t want to pout in front of Amethyst.

p. 17 graphic. Close up of Mandy?s face. Eyes down; disappointed but brave.

p. 18 text. Amethyst looked at Mandy for a moment, then she smiled. ?Tell you what, Amanda,? she said, turning to Mandy. ?We will take these Winesaps and make our own applesauce. May we?? she asked Mandy?s mom, taking off her wrap and pushing up the sleeves of her sweater.

Mom swept her arm around the kitchen and said, ?It?s all yours, Amethyst. I won?t need to start cooking dinner for a few hours yet!?

p. 18 graphic. Whole kitchen. Mother, aunt and Mandy standing by kitchen table and smiling. The basket of apples is on the counter ? aunt is pointing at them. Mother?s arm is extended in a welcoming way, and she is smiling.

p. 19 text. Amethyst asked for knives and spoons, and a big pot. Mandy found the sugar in the big round sugar-tin, and Amethyst chose some spices from the rack.

p. 19 graphic. Kitchen. Mandy is taking a big tin from the counter that says ?sugar? on it; aunt is standing in front of a wall-mounted spice rack selecting little jars. There are already knives and a cutting board -- and the basket of apples -- on the table.

p. 20 text. And they started to turn the beautiful red Winesaps into applesauce.

p. 20 graphic: close up of their hands over the table, working. Pieces of apples in a bowl, a pile of peels and seeds, and the apple basket, now half empty, on the table.

p. 21text. Amethyst peeled the apples in long curls. She handed one to Mandy and said, ?Throw this over your left shoulder without looking! If the peel forms a letter, that?s the initial of the man you will marry!?

p. 21.graphic Mandy, looking puzzled, throwing a peel over her shoulder.

p. 22 text. It fell in a perfect circle. ?Well, I guess it will be somebody named Oscar,? Amethyst said. ?Oscar the Grouch? Hope not!?

p. 22. text. Peel on floor, in a perfect ?O? shape.

p. 23 text. When all the apples but one were peeled and sliced, Amethyst said, ?Want to wish on a star?? Mandy didn?t know what she meant. But Amethyst seemed to have no end of ideas, so she nodded.

?The heart of every apple is a star, Amanda,? Amethyst said. ?I?ll show you.? She cut the apple crosswise, and handed half to Mandy.

p. 23 graphic. Aunt handing half apple to Mandy.

p. 24 text. The seed cases were arranged inside in a perfect five-pointed star, just as Amethyst said. Mandy?s half held five plump, glossy brown seeds.

p. 24 graphic. Close up of inside of half apple in Mandy?s hand.

p. 25 text. She looked at Amethyst, her eyes wide. ?I wish ? ? she started, but Amethyst reached out a hand and stopped her.

p. 25 graphic. Mandy, a little in awe, looking up into aunt?s eyes, over the half apple, which is held up near her face.

p.26 text. ?Shhhh.. Not out loud! I?ll make a wish with you.?

Mandy wished that Amethyst would come often to visit, and that she could go and visit the old farm and the apple tree. She looked up. Amethyst?s smiling brown eyes were watching her, and Mandy knew her wish was the same.

p. 26 graphic. Aunt is smiling down at Mandy. Mandy is making a wish, eyes and lips closed tight, concentrating. Over her head, upper right, as her thoughts, the vague shape of an old, gnarled, spreading apple tree begins to take form

p.27 text. They put the apples into a big black kettle, with water and sugar, and lots of cinnamon and other spices. ?Here is my secret that I don?t tell anyone,? whispered Amethyst, and she dropped a few drops of vanilla into the pot too. ?Now it?s your secret too.?

p. 27 graphic. Mandy and aunt standing by stove. Aunt is dripping vanilla into a big old black pot on the stove, as Mandy watches, holding the big cooking spoon.

p. 28 text. The apples cooked and cooked for a long time, and the whole house smelled wonderful. Then Amethyst put the pot outside the back door to cool and made them some peppermint tea. Mandy thought it would be a good time to ask the question that had been in her mind since last night. Amethyst and Mandy didn?t see Daddy standing in the other doorway, sniffing the wonderful apple smell.

p. 28 graphic. Whole kitchen. Aunt and Mandy sitting at table, drinking tea and talking. Daddy?s head stuck in slightly at the door, with a pleased expression, nose high.

p. 29 text. ?Amethyst?? she began. ?Did you ever . . . um . . . hug trees??

p. 29 graphic. Close up of Mandy?s face, a little abashed, eyes down. Looks right across page.

p. 30 text. Amethyst looked puzzled for a moment, then she smiled knowingly. ?Somebody called me a tree hugger, huh??

Mandy blushed, but she nodded. ?What does that mean, Amethyst?? she asked.

p. 30 graphic. Parallel picture of aunt?s face, knowing but smiling a little ruefully. Looks back to left, as if at Mandy.

p. 31 text. ?It?s what some people call folks that love and protect natural things, like trees, and wild animals, and rivers and fields. A long time ago, I used to belong to a group of people who worked hard to keep other people from cutting down old trees. Lots of birds and animals live in those trees, you know. Sometimes they can't live anywhere else." Amethyst sighed. "So we used to stand all the way around the trees and join our hands in a circle to protect them.?

p. 32 text. Mandy said, ?But that was good, wasn?t it??

?We sure thought so!? said Amanda. ?But some other people didn?t, and sometimes what we did was even against the law! Your very own dad was a young lawyer in those days, Amanda. He was the one who was supposed to stop us.? Suddenly she laughed merrily. ?Once I sat up in a tree for two days, to keep them from cutting it. Your dad was so angry! That was before he married your mom. He married her anyway, even though she had a crazy tree hugger for an aunt.?

p. 31-32 graphic spread. Middling distance: old growth forest, with owls in tree. Ring of people with joined hands around a big tree, off center toward right. Younger looking version of aunt is sitting in the branches above the ring of people. Owl sits next to her, with its head turned to face her. There is a news camera truck, foreground right. Young man in suit and briefcase stands in front of truck, looking angry.

p. 33 text. Daddy came in and sat down at the table. He looked at Amethyst, then at Mandy, and he sighed.

Daddy said quietly, ?Amethyst, you made a lot of trouble and you broke the law.?

?But we saved the trees!? Amethyst answered.

?All of them?? Mandy asked.

Daddy and Amethyst both spoke at once: ?Some of them!? ?No, not all of them!? They both looked at Mandy, then at each other, and sighed.

?Everybody got their way, a little,? Daddy said at last. Amethyst made a funny little snorting noise. Then Amethyst and Daddy both shrugged and smiled.

p.33 graphic. Daddy, Aunt and Mandy sitting at table, which still has apple peels, utensils, spices, basket on it..

p. 34 text. Amethyst went out the back door and carried the cooled pot of apples inside. She handed Mandy a wire strainer and a big spoon, and showed her how to push the mushy apples through the mesh. Mandy saw a little beard of applesauce forming on the back of the strainer. Soon there was enough for all three of them to have a taste.

p. 34 graphic. Close up of strainer with rosy-brown applesauce oozing from the bottom over a teacup; two more teacups and a few spoons are nearby.

p. 35 text. Daddy scraped the last bit of applesauce from his cup with his spoon. He said: ?Well, Amethyst. What about that apple tree on your new property? Is it in good shape??

Amethyst answered: ?Oh, yes!? She smiled at Daddy. ?Needs pruning, though.?

p. 35 graphic. Daddy and Amethyst, looking at each other. Pax.

p. 36 text. Mandy fixed a little more applesauce for all of them.

p. 36 graphic. Mandy?s hands, with the spoon and strainer, over a teacup.

p. 37 text. When it was time for Amethyst to go home, she turned at the door and hugged Mandy hard. Mandy was wearing Amethyst?s beautiful purple stone on the silver string, and now Mandy knew what the stone was called: it was an amethyst, the same as her great aunt?s name. ?You?ll come soon and visit me, Amanda. At Christmas, OK? And we?ll bake bread, and make more applesauce, and walk in the snow.?

p. 37 graphic. Mandy and aunt at the front door. Evening outside. Aunt has arm around Mandy?s shoulders and is looking down into her face; Mandy is wearing the amethyst stone.

p. 38 text. Mandy looked at Amethyst, her aunt, the tree hugger. She said, ?When I come, there is one tree I am going to hug, no matter what: the tree that grows those apples!?

p. 38 graphic. Close up of Mandy?s face, smiling, eyes wide and dreamy. Layout same as p. 26 graphic, except the old gnarled tree is much, much clearer, and it is full of deep red apples.
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Posted: 26-Nov-2005, 10:23 PM
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Hey dear! Thanks for posting this! I haven't had a chance to read it yet - kinda in the middle of somthing just now - but I promise I will read it soon and give ya some feedback!

Sln agus beannachd,
Allen R. Alderman

'S i Alba tr mo chridhe. 'S i Gidhlig cnan m' anama.
Scotland is the land of my heart. Gaelic is the language of my soul.
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Posted: 26-Nov-2005, 11:27 PM
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Just finished reading smile.gif Something I can see people asking is, is this about applesauce or about Amathyst? Also, perhaps a bit too deep on the explinations. Maybe I'm not giving your intended audience enough credit, but I'm thinking they may not be quite able to keep up with all the details in the text.

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Posted: 27-Nov-2005, 06:18 PM
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Can you point to more specifics? I know there are proportion problems. Cut down the description of cooking, OK. . .

Is it too many issues to have the child's relationship with new aunt developing, and the conflict between aunt and father shown, at the same time? I think of it as where the energy is coming from -- with 6 to 8's you need a clear conflict that resolves cleanly without much in shades of gray, but it can have some intensity. I think it might be easy for the child to simply side with her father, if she were not becoming so captivated with the aunt and the new viewpoint that she brings.

The explanations of "rogue" environmentalists and what they try to do are OK for 6 to 8 (road tested smile.gif ) but might need to be distributed less densely -- but the actual conversational substance of the conflict between aunt and father as it still stands is harder to work in. This is where the problem is. I need to shake it up.

Got a 7 year old? smile.gif
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