Friday, July 31, 2009

Where the Forest Meets the Sea ~ Guest Post by weheartbooks

Last but certainly not least, are my favorite Australians, Katie and Lou. Now, that's not totally fair considering they are the only people I know (kinda) from Australia. I know someone in New Zealand but she says they are sort of like "the other Canada" so I don't think it counts. Regardless, these mommies/small business owners/bloggers/read outlouders are excellent at highlighting great children's picture books both new and old on their adorable blog, weheartbooks. They started up around the same time I did, so I guess you can say we are nurserymates! For this reason, they will always hold a soft spot in my heart. Spotlighting books and book-related goodness, all their reviews are sorted by age appropriateness, so it's a great resource for not just the book connoisseur but the literary parent as well. Plus, they have a super cute shop. Today, let's welcome Katie who is giving us a glimpse onto the childhood bookshelves of thousands of Aussie 20-somethings. ~ Scribbler

The invitation from Scribbler to write a guest post was a little paralysing. On the one hand, I was nervous - Lou and I are continually so inspired by Scribbler’s dedication to daily blogging, her AWESOME taste in vintage books, and incredible knowledge… On the other hand, I was restricted, having written about many of my favourite books of childhood on our own blog through a regular feature we call ‘When We Were Little’. The solution, I figured, was to find something not just Australian, but a book that we have missed so far on We Heart Books.

I finally found the perfect book: Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker. Jeannie was born in the UK, but is a long-time resident of Sydney and published her first book in Australia in 1975. Where the Forest Meets the Sea (1987) is a tribute to her love of Australian wilderness and fierce commitment to protecting it from destruction.

The story follows a father and son, who know a special piece of rainforest. The father says it has been there for over a hundred million years. The boy goes for a walk into the forest, imagining its past, discovering its secrets. He finds an ancient hollow tree and climbs inside, and wonders if aboriginal forest children once played there, too. The book cleverly combines a real world and an imagined world; Jeannie incorporates elements of the imaginary through hidden details or just-discernible overlays to the illustrations.

I have always loved Jeannie’s illustrations – she is an absolute master of the medium of relief collage. Her illustrations are constructed from a mixture of natural and artificial materials and the result is an incredible rich and detailed 3D effect. You really feel like you could reach out and touch the tree bark, the moss, the sand.

Jeannie says about her collages:
Whenever I can I use the real material … because for me that gives the result I am wanting. For example, if I want to show an area of sand in my picture I’ll use real sand, my birds will have real feathers stuck on them. For tree trunks I will often use paperbark tree bark or thin slices of other types of tree bark from a dead tree trunk.

What I find most amazing in this book is Jeannie’s ability to capture the light and shadow of the exposed beach and forest hinterland. Apparently, she worked for three years on this book. On field trips to the Daintree Rainforest, she was disappointed with the photos she took for reference material. You can imagine why – the windows of light and dark like those in the contrasting environments of beach and forest always seem to be better captured by the eye than the camera. Which makes Jeannie’s ability to do this with collage even more amazing.

A powerful set of double-page spreads on the last two pages of the book show first the stretch of beach where father and son cook their freshly caught fish and then the same stretch of beach as it could be imagined overrun by development and tourism. The second image is one that is all too recognisable – and delivers the message that the rainforest is unique and precious. And that we have just one chance to protect it.

A short film was also made of this book, and you can view a short clip of it on Jeannie’s website.


Pilgrim Lee said...

oh! i'd forgotten about this book - how did that happen? I remember at school, it seemed to permanently be checked out of the library, because you'd borrow it and spend days and days pouring over each page. The collages are so beautiful.

Thanks for reminding me of a book my son definitely need in his shelf!

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

I love her books! My very favourite is Belonging. That book for some reason always makes me cry. xx

Susannah said...

Just saw this link on Facebook and couldn't NOT comment. Oh how I adore this book. I have loved Jeannie Baker's work since I was a kid. If you ever get a chance to see any of her work in person it is just as fascinating as her books! There was also a documentary years ago showing how she made things. Thanks for helping me remember!

Susannah said...

ooo just realised the doco I saw might be what you have linked at the bottom of your post. Fabulous Thank you so much!! said...

Thanks for the kind words, Nurserymate! It's an honour to be here!

Antmusic said...

That art is intriguing and amazing! Thank you for sharing it!

Nan said...

The art, the technique, the message - all so beautiful. I hadn't seen her books before - what a wonderful discovery.

nylon said...

Home in the Sky is my favourite book of hers, it some how captures NYC in the mid 80s so well.

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